Although it was an early start this morning in order to time our passage through the currents in Peril Strait, everyone had spent yesterday provisioning and was excited to start their SE Alaska adventures. Sitka is a beautiful city with reminders of its Tlingit and Russian influences throughout town including impressive totem poles in a wooded park and a Russian orthodox church built, literally, in the middle of the road as a roundabout.
Once underway, not far into Peril Strait we spotted our first humpback whale and, a bit further along, a small group of sea lions swimming together. Later in the journey, in the quiet and narrow channel, we spotted a momma brown bear grazing on the grass with her young cub nearby. “Brown bears” are the name used to distinguish coastal grizzly bears from inland ones. We learned right away that color is not a useful way to distinguish “brown bears” from “black bears” as we noticed that her cub was black, and she was brown. Further along we spotted Sitka black-tailed deer on the shore. I don’t think anyone expected to see so much wildlife on the very first day, but it put everyone in good spirits.
After arriving at Appleton Cove, we dropped our anchors and many of us ventured ashore for a walk on an old logging road that runs parallel to the shoreline. It is a relatively clear and flat trail through a forest with peek-a-boo views of the estuary at the head of the bay. We saw wildflowers, ferns and Sitka spruce and western hemlock trees and ate some delicious salmon berries that were at the height of perfect ripeness. We came upon a pond with a beaver dam blocking the water and creating the pond. After walking about one or two miles, we turned around and headed back to the beach where Nate picked us up in “Big Red” to ferry us back to our perspective boats. This is done because the tides are quite extreme and leaving a dinghy on shore for a few hours can be challenging. We looked for bear prints in the muddy estuary but only found deer tracks.
It had been a long day so once we returned to our boats, everyone was ready to settle in for dinner and an early evening. We all agreed that we would save the kayaking for our next destination tomorrow. The first day had surpassed everyone’s expectations with wildlife sightings, sunny weather, beautiful scenery, and calm seas…what more could we ask for.