Anchored to the west of a tall mountain peak rising vertically from sea level, the sun is up and filling the bay, but not quite touching Yahtzee. Rowing towards a sun-splashed beach, we soon feel the warm sun rays and scurry ashore to bask in the morning light. In a flurry of excitement, the boys find the beach teeming with life and are quick to discover creatures and treasures galore. “Look over a here, a huge sea star!” “Whoa, do you see all these urchin!”
With the tide nearly 15-feet out, the beach is basically a massive science laboratory for us to explore. Crabs, geoduck, clams, mussels, urchin, limpets, sea stars and more, all fill the tidal zone, while four species of salmon jump just feet from shore. Above the high tide line, a grassy meadow of verdant greens stretches towards the base of a mountain and a trickle of spring water snakes its way down through tall conifers and past huge randomly strewn boulders. I climb atop a particularly flat one and scan the meadow for brown bears before doing a bit of yoga with the sun in my face. Damn, this all feels so good.
This summer in Alaska has truly been one for the books. The weather has been downright amazing, with long stretches of sunshine and warm weather gracing each of the three months we’ve been cruising, and short periods of rain in between to keep everything vibrant. If there ever was a summer to be wandering this incredible place by boat, it’s certainly this one…and it’s going to be hard to leave.
We’re over a week out of Sitka at this point and finding our cruising groove has come easier than ever before. Reminiscing on the past seven days alone has me thinking we’ve done and seen so much, and I guess it’s true. While rounding the top of Baranof Island, we stunningly happened upon a brown bear swimming across a narrow expanse of Peril Strait. Soon after, we watched humpback whales feed close to shore, and at our anchorage in Appleton Cove we feasted as well. A known hotspot for dungeness crab, we baited our crab trap with the remains of a decent sized ling cod and Porter caught nine huge crabs that kept us fed for days. We even shared the bounty with our friends Bill and Donna from SV Denali Rose over a beach fire that was, of course, accompanied by s’mores.
Pulling ourselves away from Appleton, Denali Rose went north and we split south towards one of our favorite places in all of Alaska, the glorious hot springs at Warm Springs Bay. En route we came across more whales, a female orca with what looked to be two calves, and more humpbacks always in search of a meal. The bath house and natural pools at the hot springs sang their siren song and we took every opportunity to soak our sailor bones in the warm water between fishing excursions near the huge waterfall in the bay or up at the picturesque alpine lake.
After one final morning soak with sunshine filling the bay, we finally pulled ourselves away from the hot springs and meandered south towards Red Bluff Bay and Gut Bay, our final stops on Baranof Island before crossing Chatham Strait. Only 10 miles apart, these two bays weave directly into the mountainous heart of the island with two- to four-thousand-foot peaks and glaciers hanging above. Steep rock walls grace the sides of the inlets until the scant few anchoring spots reveal themselves and beckon to be explored. Being here, we get a strong sense of the true pristine wilderness we’re in, and try hard to hang on to every moment we’re experiencing together. Alas, this glorious Alaskan summer won’t last forever, so we’ll enjoy it while we can.