ALASKA: LEG 1- STEDMAN COVE TO WARM SPRINGS BAY | NW Explorations

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ALASKA: LEG 1- STEDMAN COVE TO WARM SPRINGS BAY

Another glorious day of blue skies and sunshine to wake up to here in Alaska. Our group gets underway just before 0900 with our destination being Red Bluff Bay on Baranof Island. We are graced with the presence of sea lions and otters as we steadily make our way into Frederick Sound – Deception leading the charge. We are due to arrive early in the afternoon and while the men take turns at the helm, I take up my permanent residence on the flybridge. This has been my “office” for the last several days as I take photos of the fleet, videos of our breathtaking surroundings…and quite possibly, a nap or two. With my feet up, the sun on my face, and the stunning snow-capped mountains ahead of me…I had not a care in the world. I looked around me and various boats had crew up on the flybridge as well and I am sure the grins on their faces were as big as my own.We had more humpback sightings…better seen with binoculars.  Frederick Sound has some of the world’s largest concentrations of humpback whales, and I was certainly not missing this opportunity! As we get closer to Red Bluff Bay – the scenery gets even more astounding, which seems impossible, but is true. We enter a seemingly small cove, but then this opens up to a small channel where we lay back on the engines and gently cruise, or stroll…if you will, along this waterway with huge trees on either side, watching 3 bald eagles soar and dip and squawk. The words of Don come back to me from Meyer’s Chuck, ”It is like I am in National Geographic”. Words that are appropriate everywhere we seem to go here on this journey! As we get deeper in to the bay we realize that we need a special permit to enter. Captain Brian makes the quick decision to continue on to what would have been our destination tomorrow – Warm Spring Bay.We are all appreciative of being able to visit this bay, however brief, and continue onward. The sun makes me drowsy and so I lay my head down and take a wee snooze. I wake up shortly after with a slight sunburn on my cheeks. A sunburn, in Alaska, in May. I packed long sleeves, hoodies, hats, and jackets…but not sunscreen. Word to the wise future flotilla members…pack the sunscreen. Even if every instinct tells you that there is no way you need it: pack it anyway. I make the logical choice to head back down into the salon and hang out with the rest of the crew…when it happens: humpbacks, and just starboard to Deception! We cut the engine and Jon and I both bolt out to the railing and watch as two humpbacks swim by – their backs appearing and disappearing as we listen to their breath when they break the surface. This is absolutely incredible and I know that if someone were watching me right now my grin was literally from ear to ear. We radio to all the boats to keep their engines down and eyes out as the pair make their way down the row. After a few minutes we start up the engines, but then immediately shut down as Jon points to more headed our way. This time I get several great shots as they meander by – being so massive yet so graceful. This day really could not get any better!

We pull into Warm Spring Bay mid-afternoon and raft up again to the small floating dock. Just when we think our locations can’t get any better…bingo! All of our boats have a view of a thunderous waterfall. It almost makes you chuckle in disbelief. I could just pinch myself – it seems almost dreamlike. Just up the ramp and to the left is a large hut with three individual bathing tubs. Each room has its own lockable door, stool, hooks for your clothes, and a curtain to pull across the open window for privacy. The tubs are continually fed water from the hot springs…something I may just have to experience before we leave! Further on is a small boardwalk that continues straight to a lake and hot springs we will explore tomorrow – so I follow it to the left as it continues past 6 cabins. At one cabin, a husband and wife are painting outside so we talk for a few minutes. They own a 32’ Grand Banks Tarka which is tied up on the opposite side of Deception. They remember meeting our group in 2014 in Whittier when they too, cruised through Prince William Sound. They had actually been down to our homeport of Bellingham, WA when they were looking to buy their boat…a small world it is, indeed! They live here May through August and have one of the most spectacular views in the world, in my humble opinion. The falls here provide power to the small community while pipes flow under the cabins to allow the hot spring water to flow through and heat the floor boards in the winter. A sea plane can be called to take you across the island to Sitka, or if you have your own vessel you cruise to get your provisions and supplies. The rest of the residents are hidden away during our visit and I wonder how many actually live here year-round and brave the winter months.

I run into Anita and Dave from Koa Lanai who were just at the waterfall and came across a mink. This area houses many otter and mink dens and I am quite jealous of their encounter. I continue on and when the boardwalk ends you walk onto large rocks that sit at the base and side of the waterfall. The thunder of the falls is really quite humbling and I sit awhile, mesmerized by the dancing water as my mind empties and I am just here in the moment…in a little jewel of Alaska.

The Deception crew had the honor of being invited over for dinner by Judy & Todd of AnamCara. Todd whipped up a fantastic meal of pork chops, herb-roasted potatoes, and homemade applesauce. The wine was poured, stories were shared, and laughs were had…topped off by ice cream (which seems to be a recurring theme here on Deception). As the evening wore on, everyone began their nightly routines of a movie, reading a book, or playing games. All of a sudden the crew of Hele Mai came over the radio – a humpback was here in the cove! Everyone scrambled like ants on a hotplate to their flybridge. Sure enough…across the cove was a humpback, moving across the edge of the cove. Per Greg, this fellow (or lady) was lurch feeding – pushing the fish into one location for easier dining. To get a better view we crossed over the aft deck of Ajax and to the port railing ofPatos rafted alongside. We were all in awe as the whale playfully obtained its dinner and slapped and waved his pectoral fin out to us all. Photos were taken, inhalations of joy were had, and the awesome experience was felt by everyone. We held our breaths momentarily as the whale seemed to be edging closer and closer to our rafted fleet. With our senses on edge, and our breath held, we continually scanned the water expecting an up and close encounter at any second. Alas, our whale buddy had actually swum underneath the fleet and was seen on the other side headed back out of the inlet. It was quite a show!

Just when I thought the day couldn’t get any better…it had! There is that old saying: “there is no place like home”. I always thought this was true. Everywhere I have traveled has become something special to me, and added something to my life and the person I am becoming – yet I still held home deep in my heart. Something different is happening to me here on this trip…Alaska is rooting itself deep in my heart and will forever stay.

There truly is no place like Alaska.

Signing off from a whale-of-a-day,

Christina

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