2022 Alaska Flotilla – Leg 5, Day 5 – Sunburn Canal to Thomas Bay | NW Explorations

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2022 Alaska Flotilla – Leg 5, Day 5 – Sunburn Canal to Thomas Bay

As planned last night, Annie and Hal from La Vida, and Andrew and Dan in “Red” left at 6:00 a.m. in their dinghies for the head of the estuary. They returned in time for the departure with reports of having seen a black bear and her cub, and a Moose! What a way to start the day! As we all departed Sandborn Canal, a humpback whale was feeding inside the entrance to the canal. It was moving slowly as it fed close to the surface and gently lifted its flukes for a shallow dive.

Later in the day we cruised past lonely Five Fingers Lighthouse built in 1935 on an isolated island in the Five Fingers group in the middle of Stephens Passage. Built with Art Deco design typical of the 30’s and reinforced concrete to withstand the harsh climate of winter storms it almost glows in the sunshine.

Although the entrance to Thomas Bay seems plenty wide, the canisters and buoys tell another story. Similar to Tracy Arm, this bay was also once filled with two glaciers which since have retreated onto the land, the Baird at the northern end of the bay, and Patterson at the southern end. They still contribute plenty of glacial flour, so the bay is turquoise blue.

After anchoring and rafting at the south end of Ruth Island, plans are made for a hike up a well-maintained trail to Cascade Creek to see the waterfall; while Mary, John and Jane went for the more adventurous option of bushwhacking into a beaver pond said to have plenty of “blueberries and wildlife.” The second option did prove to have plenty of blueberries, but the bushwhacking was a bit more difficult than we anticipated so we abandoned that plan.

The creek hike was successful and the crews from Bonum Vitae, MOJO, La Vida and Thea all enjoyed walking through a temperate rainforest to experience the huge spruce trees, mounds of moss that cover every surface and the occasional colorful mushroom. The trail is well maintained with cut blocks of granite steps, a sturdy wooden bridge and large tree trunks with steps cut into them and ropes to help with balance.

Once we all returned to our boats, we had time to socialize, laugh and share stories. Two eagles’ high-pitched voices that belie their great size and stern expression could be heard in the trees above our boats. We wondered if they had a nest hidden from our view and were attempted to voice their discontent at our anchorage choice but they eventually settled in as we all did, for another quiet evening.

P.S. Is Alaska on your bucket list? We can take you there! Email us to reserve your spot on our 2023 Mother Goose AK Flotilla. charters@nwexplorations.com 

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