ALASKA: LEG 2 – LONG BAY TO SIWASH BAY | NW Explorations
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ALASKA: LEG 2 – LONG BAY TO SIWASH BAY

June 15, 2016

By eight o’clock in the morning the sun has been up nearly six hours already and is very high in the sky, which gives one the perennial feeling upon awakening that you’ve overslept horribly and the day is half gone. However, a quick glance at the clock reveals that it is actually in inhumane hour of 5am, the feeling fades away quickly and the two most restful hours of sleep of the night follow soon after.

The trip around the peninsula into Unakwik Inlet goes quickly and smoothly, our wakes curling away smartly across the flat calm water.  We pass the large salmon hatchery at cannery creek where millions of pink, silver, and king salmon are released every year, and cross over the bar on the approaches to the Meares Glacier.  We do our very best to give a wide berth to the harbor seals and sea otters rest warily on the ice with their pups. The young are very vulnerable in the first weeks of their lives, and to force them into the water before they are ready could be fatal.

The ice here is not as thick as at the Columbia Glacier, and with Deception bumping the larger chunks out of the way with her hardened bow, we soon enter the clear waters at the glacier’s face. It presents a gorgeous, chaotic face to the world, and loud booms and reports issues from it regularly. As if thrown, pieces of ice succumb to unseen pressures and rocket off of its surface to land with a splash far out from the face. We idle to within a half mile of the glaciers face, which stretches down more than 500 feet below the water’s surface and sit outside in the sunshine to watch the show. On occasion larger flakes of ice of several hundred tons slump off and slide with a roar into the water. Only one other boat shares the view with us, and it isn’t until we leave that a single curious floatplane roars overhead.

Later, in the anchorage at Siwash Bay, a handful of us decide to attempt the scramble up the unnamed 1700-foot peak to the south of the bay. Few trails exist in this remote country, but trails be damned! We know the top is at the top, so uphill we go! We climb for more than an hour up through the steep spruce forest, fighting through the underbrush until at last we emerge on the bald ridge that forms the western flank of the peak. Another hour of climbing brings us to patchy snowfields, where we stop in the shade of a few stunted trees that grow this high on the mountains to cool off and take in the stunning views of the boats looking very tiny in the bay below us and the grand tapestry of mountains spread out to the horizon. We are able to see a lone humpback whale swim happily amongst the boats, and folks aboard are able to spot us high on the ridge. We leave a small snowman to mark our uppermost progress and head down slipping and sliding through the trees to arrive home just in time for dinner.

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