Sunday, July 24, 2011

Dall's Porpoise on Grand Day Tour July 6

The Grand Day Tour takes kayakers out to Aialik Bay's Holgate Arm in a small tour boat. Along the way it is common to view humpback whales, orcas (killer whales), Stellar sea lions, puffins, and the fastest marine mammal, Dall's porpoise. This porpoise is named after American naturalist W. H. Dall, averages 6-7 feet long, weighs approximately 300 pounds, and can reach speeds of up to 35 mph. Here they are playing in the bow wake of the Stellar Explorer on our way out of Ressurection Bay.

Holgate provides a humble retreat for a group from Japan

The end of July spelled the beginning of rejuvenation for six adventurists from Japan.  A small travel company brought their company owner and an outdoor chef that is renowned in Japan.  All brought years of paddling experience to the cockpits of our new fiberglass boats.  Audrey and I had a workout while the six of them styled every stroke.  After moving in to Holgate cabin, the group joined Audrey and I on an evening paddle up to Holgate glacier (see below photo).
The water was calm as glass and every creak, growl, and moan of Holgate and Surprise glaciers could be understood in Japanese as much as every language.  We had a late evening meal and arose the next day to spectacular weather!  The water was flat and only small patches of bristle thin clouds found their way into our sky.  Shortly after rounding into Aialik bay, a "kuma" (bear) appeared on a beach.  We watched the solitary black bush stomper clamber its way up a scree slide and disappear into the alder patch and continued to Pederson Lagoon.  Entering the lagoon shortly before high tide gave us time to enjoy our picnic lunch in the sun with wonderful views all around.  There were tracks from a black bear that were perhaps left shortly before we had arrived.  With bellies full, we entered the ice-sanctuary where Pederson glacier spills into the lagoon (below).
Our progress was glacial as we sat and observed the wonder of bergs and seals.  As we left the land of incandescence we passed four other parties ready to crowd what we experienced humbly to ourselves.
The next day was too windy to paddle so we enjoyed resting and exploring near the cabin.  We had an adventure to find water and found over 20 bear scats.  Chocolate lilies and chipmunks brought us some fascinating observations.  The final day was again serene.  Our early morning paddle took us across Holgate arm to find oystercatchers, auklets, and lots of ice floating in the placid waters.  Once we found ourselves as near the face of the glacier as safety allowed, we sat in awe at the calving and rumbling resounding between the narrow fjord walls.
After cleaning up camp, the sun allowed us to relax in warmth on the beach as we waited for our pickup.  A few of us tested our ability to float in the frigid waters and bath in the sun in just our shorts.  Just to top off the day, and the trip, we had a show from the AK pod of resident orca on the ride back to Seward!  All said and done, the trip was a relaxing and brisk rejuvenation for everyone involved and excitement for the next trip has already set in for the entire group.  Domo arigato goazaimasu Alaska!

Drought Makes Fox Island Seem Tropical

Upon arriving in Seward, all the word was "the rain is coming...the rain is coming...are you prepared?"  I have to admit, I was considering calling NASA to see what they use to stay dry.  As it has turned out, the weather in Resurrection Bay has been warm and sunny, allowing Sunny Cove to stand up to its name.  I had heard many people on the Fox Island trips comment on how Tropical the spit appeared.
        A view of the Fox Island spit / Paddle talk on Fox Island (right)

August is nearing and the weather for the moment has returned to the typical Seward drizzle, and yet people are still loving the adventure of our three hour trips!