ALASKA: LEG 1- CULPEPPER LAGOON TO BISHOP BAY HOT SPRINGS | NW Explorations

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ALASKA: LEG 1- CULPEPPER LAGOON TO BISHOP BAY HOT SPRINGS

Heavy rain fell throughout the night and continued in fits and spurts throughout the day today. Waterfalls surged off of every cliff as we left Culpeper Lagoon on a low slack tide. The low clouds caught in the fjord hid the tops of the mountains and made it easy to imagine the shear walls carrying on upwards forever.Slowly, the passage opened, and after one last constriction at Heikish Narrows where Harbor seal pups played amongst kelp fronds in the currents, we sailed into Princess Royal Channel and the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest. It isn’t called a rainforest on accident, and the rain still fell at times, but now interspersed with sunbreaks which glittered on the wave tops spilled warmth through salon and pilothouse windows.The scenery remains unrelentingly beautiful. The emerald green forests are studded with jagged white snags and in places rent by landslides, where the thin soil has given way and tumbled into the sea, leaving great striped of exposed bedrock- the bones of the earth showing through. At a crook in the channel sits the tiny and mostly abandoned outpost of Butedale, where a rotting cannery and its outbuildings sit roofless and moss-blanketed on the banks of a thundering waterfall. After the advent of artificial refrigeration, it was more cost effective for fishing boats to sell their catch to suppliers in ports who could market fresh salmon across the country and the world, and most of the canneries are long abandoned and melting slowly back into the forests.
Dall’s porpoises led the way for the fleet into Bishop Bay, where we rafted the boats together and tied our sterns to the steep shore. We spent a lovely cocktail hour on Ajax’s aft deck where we feasted on the Dungeness Crab that Todd caught yesterday and toasted Joyce’s birthday before we headed off in small groups to soak in the hot waters that flow into the little man-made pools just above the high tide line. Unlike many other hot springs, the water here is crystal clear and has no odor. The shed roof that protects the pool from the rain and snow has been adorned with the names of the myriad fishing and cruising boats that have stopped there to rest their weary bones over the years and a gorgeous primeval forest surrounds the pool on three sides. The sun shone brightly all through the evening as the sun sank slowly in the western skies.  The hooting of Spotted Owls heralded the twilight and the end of another full and thoroughly enjoyable day.

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