As promised, I am back and ready to let you in on the kayaking and False Island portion of the trip. In the next few days, I plan on posting pictures in addition to this short breakdown of each day.
Friday, June 29: The first day of kayaking consisted of most of the group learning how to pack the boats best, to kayak using the paddler’s box technique, and to tie a trucker’s hitch. This knot is the best to set up a tent and rainfly so that we stay as dry as possible. The entirety of first day it rained, and we began learning how to keep ourselves warm and dry, which would continue to be one of our biggest challenges throughout the trip.
Saturday, June 30: The second day was even wetter. We woke up early and kayaked about 7 miles. The weather was not ideal, but it was good enough to paddle. Each day, we got more efficient at packing the boats and setting up and dismantling tents, but it was still a slow process at this point, and we got really wet. We saw our first harbor seal on this day. The scenery was breathtaking, and I think that is what kept our spirits up. The large amounts of hot cocoa helped, too!
Sunday, July 1: On Day 3, the weather was slightly less rainy, and we kayaked about 9 miles. The group started kayaking with better technique, and we started averaging 3 nautical miles an hour. We learned how to set up tarps to cook under trees and downed branches. It required learning to tie a clove hitch. Our campsite was really scenic, and it inspired half of the group to run into the 50-degree water for a swim! There will be pictures to follow.
Monday, July 2: On Day 4, the weather conditions and sea conditions were the best we had encountered yet. As we got to our campsite after a long day of kayaking, the sun came out. It was the first day of the average 1.5 days of sun per week in Sitka. Most of us took out a lot of our damp things to dry a bit. For dinner that night, we picked wild asparagus to add to our pasta — and for the adventurous, I, along with a few other students and our guide, gathered limpets and cooked them into the pasta, too. It was a delicious meal!
Tuesday, July 3: On Day 5, we kayaked another 10-ish miles and stayed at a place with a really long beach shore. Everyone was excited about the site, but also very tired. We decided to stay two days at this campsite so people could rest up and so we could learn about the tides and forest ecology the next day.
Wednesday, July 4: Day 6 was our second day at our site. Many woke up early to look at the intertidal zone. They found two octopuses, which was really exciting for everyone. Later on, we went on a hike and learned about forest ecology from our guides, Scott and Adam. Adam told us about some Tlingit history on the use of Sitka Spruce. They would cut into the trees so that the sap was easier to get out. The sap is very flammable. We ended up harvesting some to start most of our campfires. Another thing that happened on that day was the celebration of July 4th. We talked about how strange it would be to not see any fireworks this year. For many of us, it was the first time going without them. Earlier that day, we had seen a boater check crab pots (used for trapping live crabs) about 50 yards from our campsite, and some members of our group went over to him and bought seven of his crabs to eat that night. It does not get any more local than that! In addition, Scott, Adam, and Nic had been hiding s’more-making materials from us to surprise us for the Fourth. We made our first campfire and it was a great night of feasting!
Thursday, July 5: On Day 7, we headed back out on the water for a long trip to the next site. During the trip, we came upon a giant colony of harbor seals and spent some time watching and photographing them. During the night, we had a lesson on solitude, and each took about an hour having our own solitude time to think about why wilderness is important to us and whether or not it should be protected.
Friday, July 6: On Day 8, we went on a hike — first to an old logging road that was logged about 40 or 50 years ago. The logging road was especially interesting because its rehabilitation has been really successful on its own. Often after heavy logging in old-growth forests, the trees that grow back become very tall and their canopies enlarge. This is called the stem-exclusion stage — or “dog hair stands” — because the trees grow close together. Because of this, there are drastic limits on the amount of light that reaches the forest floor, and many plants do not survive. Many of these plants include plants that are especially important for black-tailed deer survival, an essential subsistence animal for Southeast Alaskans. Contrary to this, the old logging road we visited had rehabilitated itself very well. At night, we had discussions about why wilderness is important to us and discussed what we saw earlier at the old logging road.
Saturday, July 7: Day 9 was a short day of kayaking of about 4 miles. We had expected to do about 12, but a front was coming in, and the weather made the sea conditions dangerous for us to continue.
Sunday, July 8: We had a lovely 15-mile kayak to False Island Forest Service Site on our last day of the kayaking portion of the trip. We set up camp on the tombolo, a word that describes when an island is attached to the mainland by a small piece of land. This land can disappear and become an island at high tide. We made a lot of pancakes to celebrate our last day, most of us eating them for dessert and for breakfast the next day.
More about our time at False Island Forest Service Site tomorrow!