Today we woke to perfect conditions for our scheduled hike this morning at 10:00. No rain, not too hot or too cold. Since we had never been here before, Chris, Jane and Annie traveled up to the trail to check the conditions. After hiking in about a mile, we decided the trail was in decent condition for anyone in the fleet who might be interested in participating.
We returned to Deception and made plans for ferrying everyone over to the trail head. We took a group photo on the gravel beach and started out. One group liked to hike at a brisk clip and the other preferred a more leisurely hike, so everyone was comfortable at their chosen pace.
The trail winds along the salmon filled creek through wilderness forest composed of a mixture of massive spruce, hemlock, and a few yellow cedars. Schools of salmon can clearly be seen in the creek below us. Moss covered branches adorned with long strands of lichens and various types of ferns line the path. After a mile and a half, we came upon a few fallen trees, slippery wooden walkways and other obstacles that slowed us down, however, the trail was obvious and so we made our way around. An orange bellied newt on the path was gently handled, photographed, and moved off the path to safety.
Through a break in the trees, a black bear was spotted walking along the same side of the creek we were on. We all paused and silently watched the bear from our natural blind. The bear followed the waters edge and then decided to cross over to the opposite side by walking along fallen trees, swimming for a short stretch and exited up another fallen tree into the forest.
We were all thrilled to see the bear and we continued to a detour sign to Karta Falls. After a short board walk, we came to angular black rocks that blocked the stream and created falls and pools where salmon struggled up from pool to pool. There were half eaten salmon carcasses here and there… obvious that the local bears were well fed and choosing only their favorite bits. As we watched the salmon struggle, a black bear ambled down to a pool on the opposite side, took a quick swipe, snagged a salmon in its jaws and wandered back up into the woods to eat in peace.
We marveled at the acrobatic salmon expending all their remaining energy to make their way up the falls against so many odds. We returned to the main trail, continued up to Karta Lake where we found another forest cabin, rowboat and fire pit overlooking a serene flat calm green lake partially covered in lily pads. Numerous tiny froglets were in the grasses near the water, had they recently metamorphosed from their tadpole phase?
After traveling 2.2 miles to the lake, Trey, Annie, and Nicole decided to continue to Salmon Lake a few miles further. The rest of us decided to return to the boats so we divided up our bear spray, made sure each group had radios and went our separate ways.
The report from Salmon Lake group was that it was much bigger than Karta Lake but the trail maintenance needed attention and numerous areas with downed trees were challenging. The hike left us all filled with reverential respect for nature, and we all felt very fortunate to be in the wilderness and witness the perfection of this balanced ecosystem. This was the perfect ending toa complete Southeast Alaska adventure.
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