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Kluane & Juneau 1996

May 21, 1996



Dear all;

            Well, another trip has been taken and survived.  As usual, with these ventures, there were times of doubt, but they did not seem as likely this time as they have in the past.

            Several months ago Trey called me, telling me that he would be finishing law school this year and that among other trips and adventures that he was going to do in order to celebrate this occasion, he wanted to come to Alaska and do some water adventures... specifically kayaking.

            Why not?  I thought, and we made plans.  He would come, I would borrow a kayak for him and we would set out for the water-ways, islands and shores of the Inside Passage.  It seemed pretty simple to me.  Of course, his coming in early May meant that the weather would still probably be a bit cool, the ice not totally gone, the mountains still heavy with snow, and the water frigid... but what did those things matter when it came to an adventure?

            The exact dates were not settled until just a couple of months prior, and in the meantime, the diocesan preists retreat got scheduled for the same week that Trey was going to be here.  That was all right, I had already decided to skip it since the retreat director (some Bishop) was, according to my sources, dull.  I always find the retreats here rather painful... the majority of the priests spend most of the time talking about retirement, and when the retreat master is of no interest, it makes it all the more painful.  So, I informed the others that I would not be on their retreat, that I would be retreating on my own.

            One month before the planned arrival, another change was made... Trey was going to bring a buddy up.  Well, that changed things for me.  I was able to borrow one other kayak, but not two.  I decided that since his buddy would not be here as long as Trey had intended, that we could spend the first week back-packing and the rest of the time (after his friend left) kayaking.  This meant I had to do some leg-work.  Find a decent place to do some long term hiking and figure out how to get there.  Although Juneau has lots of trails, there are no several day treks.  The longest one they have is touted as a two day hike, but I usually do it in 9-10 hours.

            I pulled out my maps and charts and books, and decided that we should go to Kluane National Park Reserve in the Saint Elias Mountains of the Yukon Territory of Canada.  This would mean a ferry ride to Haines, Alaska and then a drive along the Haines Highway, through the Chilkat Pass of British Columbia and the Alsek Mountain Range, connect with the Alkan Highway and into Kluane.  Not too bad...the ferry ride would be about four or five hours and the drive would be another 3 or 4.  That would give us one day of driving and 3.5 days of hiking with one more day of transport and I would still be back in time for the weekend masses.  It was going to work.

            But things change.  Trey's friend backed out.  He had heard about my reputation for death marches and decided that this might be a bit too much for him.  But, I had already paid for the ferry and made all the arrangements... if it was a trio or a duet, we were going back-packing.

            Trey got in on Friday night, May 3rd.  I had another visitor here as well.... Fr. Paul Nourie, the provincial in charge of me while I am part of the Alaskan mission team.  He had come several days earlier to make the perfunctory visit and checking up on the men here in Alaska and would be leaving on Sunday.  The plane ride here from Texas can be a rather long one, and considering that he left home only a day or so after taking final exams, Trey was beat.  That was all right, we got something to eat and then sent him to bed.  It was good to have him here, and I was excited about beginning the adventure.

            The weather here had been bright and beautiful.  The skies were clear blue and cloudless, the sun was bright and the temperature was in the mid 60's.  Really gorgeous weather.  It had been that way for the week prior to Trey's coming and looked as though it would keep it up.  My hopes were high that this trip would not be a slog through the rain as our last outing together was.  I was really getting excited.

            I think the jet-lag was catching up with Trey... he was just sort of sitting around most of Saturday.  In fact, as I was leaving for the retirement home at 9:30 in the morning, he was still in bed.  It was probably good for him, given the hectic schedule of finals and his getting here.  I think that he went downtown and looked at the museums and stuff in the morning, but was back by early afternoon, where he sat around the rest of the day and watched television and just sort of sat in a daze.  Poor guy, it can really catch up with you though, I know that all too well.

            My time was being spent at my usual weekend chores.  Practicing my homily, mass at the retirement home, a mid-afternoon memorial service, confessions and the evening mass.    The memorial service was kind of interesting.  The family was of mixed faiths, and that was apparent in the lack of responses to the prayers that were said.  It was intentionally short, the family simply wanted time to gather for some prayer and to say good-bye.  I was more than happy to accommodate them.

            After the prayer service, one of the young boys came up to me.  I am not sure who he was, related somehow... maybe a grandson of the deceased and came to me and said.... "You're a good reverend".... that really sort of touched me in a way, and I had to come back and share it with Paul and Trey.

            On Sunday, there were the morning masses to attend to, and the Jr. High mass in the afternoon.  I managed to get through all them, despite the fact that my mind was more on getting out of town than it was on prayer.  But, I managed to pull myself together for each of the liturgies, and actually pray them and not just say them... that is sometimes quite an effort.

            Since Trey had gone to the Saturday evening mass, he was out on the trails near the Mendenhall Glacier down the road from the church here. 

            After the masses, Paul and I spent some time catching up with all the Oblate news and simply enjoying one anothers company.  It then got to be time for him to leave, I drove him to the airport, sent him home, and came back to finish some work that needed to be done before I left.

            Trey and I cooked up a supper for the evening and discussed our trip.  We were looking at a trail that is marked as a 4-6 day effort, and we decided that we could do it in 3 if we did a 18-20 mile a day pace.  Yes, it was a nutty plan, but they usually are, and we felt confident about it all.


            Our ferry was not due to leave until about 4:30 Monday afternoon.  Though, they wanted us in line by about 2:30.  This gave us most of the day on Monday to pack and get things ready.  I dragged my back-pack out and all the different camping supplies, and packed, un-packed, re-packed and finally packed for good.  It was the usual sort of process, and it has gotten to be rather routine.  A bit different from the days of packing weeks in advance, and still re-packing the day before.  I guess the fact that this was going to be a rather short trip also helped the matter.

            I had purchased a combination walking stick / camera monopod several months ago, and when Trey went hiking on Sunday, he had borrowed it.  He liked it so much, that he decided that he should have one of his own.  So, we went to the mall, bought a walking stick and several other things we needed (especially Moleskin... for blistered feet) and completed our packing process.

            Trey had borrowed an internal frame back pack for the trip.  It looked more like luggage pretending to be a pack than it did a real back-pack.  After loading it up and trying it on, Trey discovered a basic truth about internal frames... that they are more person specific and really need to be fitted to the wearer.  His wasn't.  I made some inquiries among some of the parishioners about getting him another one, but no one seemed to have one available, so it was going to be one of those things that he would have to put up with... oh well.

            We got to the ferry on time... which meant that we had a two hour wait before boarding.  It was not too bad.  There were many people that I knew also waiting to get on the ferry, so I was able to pass a lot of the time visiting with people and the wait was made more pleasant because of it.

            We were finally loaded on the boat and then headed straight to the bar in order to officially begin the vacation.  We spent the 4 hours of sailing time walking all over the boat... going from deck to deck, room to room.  We had dinner on the boat, and in the middle of our eating the captain announces that there is a whale visible from the deck.  Trey hurried out to see it, and I missed it all together as I cleaned out table... I just could not bear leaving a mess on our table.  He was not able to see the whole thing, but did manage to see the tail as it went under the water.  The rest of the trip was spent playing a dice game that we had bought in the ferry gift shop.

            We arrived in Haines and off the ferry a bit after 9.  Since it was still light, and we wanted to be in place the next day to begin our journey as soon as possible, we decided to drive on through to Haines Junction in the Yukon and so be minutes from the trail head that we had decided upon.

            The drive was pretty mellow.  The drinks at the bar and the long ferry ride, as well as the late hour kind of quieted our enthusiasm and so we had a scenic but quiet drive through the snowcapped mountains.  Thank God that I had filled the gas tank prior to our departure, because there was definitely no gas available on the road.  The road took us through the mountain tops of the Chilkat Pass (about 1065 kilometers high).  It was really quite majestic, as the road went through the mountain tops, so the barren snow covered tops were on either side of us, and all was quiet and ruggedly beautiful.  The glow of the evening reflecting off the ice and snow, giving that preternatural glow to everything.  We drove along listening to the country tapes that I had brought along and just taking in the sights.

            We arrived in Haines Junction a bit after midnight (the speed limit was not being checked too closely) and found a hotel, checked in, cleaned up, went to bed - intending to get a very early start in the morning.  It did not work... we did not wake up until 7 that morning (Alaskan time).


            The brochures all made it quite clear that we were to check into the ranger station before heading out on any of the trails, and we located the station.. But it was closed.  We spent the time getting something to eat at the local grocery store, bought some water, and were prepared to settle in for a couple hours wait before the rangers showed up.  In the midst of the waiting, I was hit by an idea, and checked it out according to the map.  I was right, we were on a different time zone.... it was actually an hour later than we had thought.  That shortened our wait quite a bit and when we returned to the ranger station, there was someone there to help us.

            We had a specific trail in mind, but we decided to see what he would recommend.  We asked if he could point us to a trail that would be a good 3 or 4 day hike.  He claimed, that this early in the season, there were only 2 such trails that were really open...neither of them were the one Trey and I had planned on.  He described the trails to us, we decided on one, he gave us the permits, provided us with bear boxes in which to store our food and we headed out.  His warnings about bears ringing in our ears... but we were going to go for it.

            We headed out the road to find the trail head.  After a couple of false attempts, we ended up at the proper place.  We were heading out from a place called Sheep Mountain.  We were told by the ranger to try and not disturb the mountain sheep as this was their birthing season and that we were to give them wide berth.  We saw quite a few sheep in the mountains, and that added to the excitement of our beginning.

            The weather was over-cast, but not threatening., there was some mist in the air, but we were not going to be put off by it.  It was quite a bit cooler though, so at the trail head we changed into long pants, filled our water bottles, strapped on our packs and at 10:30 in the morning, we headed out.  Just as we headed out, we were pelted with ice... it was hailing.  Nothing too severe or pounding, but if Trey was thinking anything near what I was thinking, visions of our week long trek through the Canadian Rockies came to mind... and the fact that it rained every day that we were on that trail.  The hail soon quit, and we both decided that hail or snow was better than rain, and so we were not deterred.

            Because it was so cool, we were both wearing several layers of jackets and shirts, that, as we got under way, were slowly removed.... it gets hot with a 50 pound pack on your back.  Due to the bear warnings, we were trying to make noise as we went along, calling out quite often "Bear", but as happens, we got into a lull, and most of the trekking was done in relative silence.  Much of the trail went through open country and so that was not too bad, and we did manage to remember to make noise when we came to those places that were more wooded or took us around ridges and moraines where we were blind to what was on the other side.

            We were hiking a trail called the SLIMS WEST TRAIL.  It is recorded as 19 miles in length - one way.  It is estimated to take 3-5 days for a round trip and is marked as difficult.  The highest point it would take us would be 7,000 feet with an elevation gain of 4400 feet.  Most of the trail follows the Slim River and our end point would be at the foot of the KASKAWULSH GLACIER.

            The area we were hiking in was pretty barren and flat for the most part, though quite muddy a great deal of the way.  We were spending most of out time in sparse alpine meadow, marsh and floodplain.  And, as the ranger told us, this is prime sanctuary for everything from Dall sheep to grizzly bear.  The muddiness was due to what the ranger referred to as the "fanning" of the river.  The overflow of the water due to the great deal of ice that poured out into the surrounding land and made it wet and messy.  Also, there were ice fields that we had to cross where the water had frozen.  Small rivers of water an underneath quite a bit of this ice, and we were never sure if the land under the ice was 6 inches away or 6 feet.  It made for some cautious (but not too slow) crossings of some of this area.

            Kluane, as it turns out, is one of Canada's newest National Parks - established in 1972.  The sight was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979 because it is such a fine example of the northern coast mountains.  The word "kluane" is of Indian origin and means "place of many fish."    We didn't see many fish... probably because the river we were following was mainly ice.  Feet, and feet of thick ice, with the main river and creeks cutting troughs through which the water flowed.  In places, the ice had broken or where the water had cut through we were treated to the sight of the icy, almost unreal blue that comes with glacial ice and its being so tightly compressed.  This was ice from many, many years, not just the one winter.  It was incredible.

            There was one point where we had to cross a river, and there was no place to do that.  So, we did what any sensible hiker would do... took off our shoes, hitched up our pants and walked through.  It was not a frozen portion of river... mainly rocky.  I was a bit concerned about the hurt of the rocks on naked feet, but that was no problem.  The water was so cold that the second they were plunged into the water, they were frozen and you couldn't feel anything.  Of course, that made keeping my balance a bit tougher, but it was not bad.  It was so cold though that it burned.  Luckily it was not a long crossing, and actually, my hot feet sort of appreciated it.  We took a break after crossing and changed socks as well as mole-skin.

            We never did see any bear on the walk.  I was half-way hopeful that we would, but I think that was in direct contrast to Trey's desires.  So, we continued to call every now and then - to keep them away or invite them to us, I was never quite sure.  We would be especially vocal when we came upon bear tracks... and there were a lot of them... and they were big ones.  Of course, now and then we would find the tracks of deer, goats, wolves and other creatures, but it was the bear tracks, and the holes their claws would make that really intrigued us... and kept us looking.

            The trail was not real clearly marked, and the map we were given was rather rough.  The trail markings consisted mainly of posts planted in the middle of nowhere, about every 3 kilometers or so.  Sometimes it was hard to pick them out against the terrain.  There were also the occasional rock cairn, but these too were intermittent and far between.  The terrain was mainly flat... along the valley floor, and was more arctic desert than Alaskan greenery.  The area was littered with the rocks and "glacial flour" (finely ground rock dust) left behind eons ago as the glacier made its way through the area.  It was all very rough and dramatically strong and awesome in its own right.  Quite an area to walk through.  There were times when we had to walk along the tops of rock and sand ridges, and that was kind of interesting. Loose rocks causing mini landslides, the spine of the ridges covered with loose rocks that caused us to watch our step a bit more carefully than usual.  It seemed as though every mile or so we were walking through some other sort of terrain and land-type.  It made it anything but a boring hike.

            At one of our rest points, when taking off my backpack, one of my shoulder straps broke.  The grommet that attached it to the frame had rusted through, and I did not have any replacements with me (that's what I get for not checking my repair kit before starting out).  But, we had the universal tool with us.... duct tape!  I taped it up the best I could, attaching it to the frame.  It was never comfortable for the rest of the trip, and it did sort of put it off balance and cause for some sore shoulders, but it worked, and the pack was not too heavy, so I continued on.  And the tape managed to keep it together for the remainder of the trip.  If that was going to be the worst of the entire adventure... it was not going to be too bad at all.  The nice thing was, for me, that was the worst.  It made for sore shoulders, but not so bad that it ruined the trip.  It did mean though that I took more care in putting it on and off, not throwing it on my back as I was accustomed to... rather, Trey would help hoist it on my back so I could most of the weight on the waist belt.

            We were able to follow some footprints of someone who must have slogged through the area at a wetter time of the year, as the prints were deep and they were still there.  One set of prints were accompanied by what looked like wheel tracks, as though the person who made the tracks was pushing or pulling some sort of wheeled device.  Of course, the trouble with following foot-prints is that one must assume that the person who made them knew more about where they were going than we did.  But, I figured, anyone dragging a cart or whatever he had, had to know more than we did... otherwise it seemed a very stupid thing to do... but I guess they could have been as crazy as the guys following the tracks.

            The nice thing about it though, and the reason I was not too concerned about the lack of markings was the fact that we clearly had to follow the river to some degree, there were mountains to the other side of us, and so there was not much else to do but keep going through the valley.

            Of course, following the river meant walking through some rather wet and muddy areas, slogging through some water filled areas, and over boggy tundra grass that was more water than dirt.  At several points we had to just walk on the ice that went around dense wooded areas that we could not pass through, except by walking on the water around them.  A few times we heard some cracking, but it was never too bad.  Some of the ice fields also had a more melted topping, and so that made for some wet crossing as well, but none of it was too bad.

            The hardest part seemed to be the last couple of miles when we began to ascend.  There were some rather steep inclines to make our way up, but then they would level off, and we just knew the campsite we were heading towards would be just around the corner, and then another ascent would be encountered.  We kept going, and despite coolness of the air, the occasional drizzle and even snow fall, we were both sweating pretty heavily.  As the day wore on, as the campsite drew closer (it had to be just around the next corner) the trekking became more difficult.  But never totally bad or unpleasant.... just a lot of work.

            All day long the skies went from gray to blue, from warm sun to chilling shade, as the clouds moved in front of the sun and then away.  The wind would howl for a while and then stop altogether, and the silence would be profound.  It was a wonderful experience.

            We did finally make it to the campsite.  It was nested in the trees at the foot of a mountain, with some flatter areas in which to pitch our tents, and a primitive outhouse.  It was not too far from a tributary of the river, and on the other side of the trees we could look out across a boggy plain at the flood-widened river as well as the glacier and ice fields that were our goal.

            We made good time.... we arrived at out campsite about 6 that evening, having walked (according to the mile-marker that identified our campsite) 22.5 kilometers (13.5 miles) through bog and ice and wetlands and rivers and inclines, etc.  It was not the kind of pace that would have taken us on our original route in time, but it was all right.  As Trey pointed out... not having to do as many miles, we did not really push ourselves as hard as usual, and we did take more frequent and longer breaks than I would usually allow.  I hope I am not becoming a wimp (after all, that is less than 2 miles an hour).

            We settled in, looked over our campsite area, pitched tents, gathered fire wood and then settled in to some blackberry brandy, more of the dice game we had brought along from the ferry, got some water (a process, because the river was still half frozen, made for extremely cold hands), and ate a hearty freeze dried meal, then sat around the fire and cured all the problems of the world as well as discussed Trey's upcoming wedding and the speech he would be giving at the graduation.  Life really does not get any better than that.

            With roughly 16 hours of sunlight, bedtime was not especially dark.  But it was welcome.  Though, as the sun sort of disappeared behind the mountains, the cold settled in very quickly.  I am sure it got below freezing each night that we were there.  It did not help that both our tents were sort of spring weather tents... with lots of screened area, and not much to keep the cold out... thank God for the rain flies that covered them.           


            I woke up this morning at 4 and then 5 and then finally, for the last time, at 6.  I slept fairly well, most of me fairly warm, except for any part of my body that would accidentally stick out of the sleeping bag.  When that happened, it was like placing my flesh directly on a block of ice, and would cause me to quickly retreat deeper into my bag.

            When I did finally get out of bed, I dressed quickly and went out and got the fire going again.  I watched the sun slowly make its way up over the mountain, the skies had cleared, with only spotty clouds, but it seemed, as the day progressed, that the clouds would grow, and spent quite a bit of time covering up the sun... which would make it very cool and caused for jacket zippers to be pulled up to my neck.  We were given occasional relief when a break in the clouds would allow the sun to shine forth in all its glory and quickly warm us up again, until the next time that the clouds took over.

            Trey eventually joined me in the land of the awakened.  We decided that we would spend this day hiking to the glacier and atop a mountain that was called Observation Mountain.

            We set out about 8 in the morning, and I thanked God for the movement.  I had lost my gloves somewhere along the trail and my hands were icy cold.  With the movement and occasional sunshine, they did eventually thaw out.

            This day hike was not going to take us through any forested area, but rather through worn, sandy, rocky, ridgy glacial wipe-out.  Littered with rocks rounded by the ice moving over them, wet with the water overflow, the ice in the river even thicker than it was the day before, and getting even thicker as we got closer to the actual glacier. 

            The glacier was black with the blowing dust and dirt.  It did have the white, icy blue that people usually associate with glacial ice, but it was covered with the black dirt, and the ice showed only in those places where it had broken, or was protected from the winds that blew the dirt around.  If you didn't know better, you would think that you were looking at  mountain crags rather than dirty ice.  Though there were several places where the blue glistened through like jewels and the sun would reflect back glaringly from bare spots.  WOW.  The further up the glacier, as it entered the mountain peaks and ice fields, where the dirt didn't seem to quite reach was a vision of what would "typically" be thought of as glacier. Again, there is a rugged beauty to this sort of thing that is truly all its own.

            There was no real trail to follow... though there were some rock cairns, but they really did not always lead us to where we thought we wanted to go.  We did have to trek through some more ice fields and then somehow cross a river.  The river was actually flowing through and under the ice, breaking through at various points, disappearing again under the ice, and then reappearing again further down the way.  We found one area, where the water was diverted under the ice, so we were able to jump down into the ravine and out the other side, and keep dry.

            We made our ways through ridges and over hills, along ridges.  When we weren't walking on rock or ice, we were making our way through silt, which slowed a person like walking through sand.  It was incredible and desert like right there in the midst of all this ice and mountains.  Finally we made our way to a spine that led up into the mountains, and walked that ridge, which took us higher and higher, the ridge getting quite narrow at times, the trail becoming only inches wide.  At a certain point we were several hundred feet above the river, and the rocks that would fall down the side would cause really neat landslides that took quite a while to stop or hit bottom.  To slip down these sometimes completely horizontal banks would be quite dangerous, and in certain places would probably be quite deadly.

            Trey seemed to have a bit of a problem keeping his balance all through the day.  I don't know how often he slipped or tripped, luckily, at the more treacherous points, he stayed on his feet quite well.

            We finally reached the mountain we were hoping to, but it was slick and bare.  It looked as though the sheep and erosion had taken care of most of the vegetation, and there was evidence of quite a few landslides.  It was rather steep and would have required going up and around several small cliffs, and with the slick mountain side, it was a bit more of a challenge than what Trey was willing to risk, so we gave up our goal of reaching the top of the mountain.  We decided to head back.  We were back at camp by about 2:00 that afternoon.  A good 6 hour jaunt.  It made it all the easier that we were carrying only water bottles and fanny packs (as well as our walking sticks).

            Well, I was not willing to settle down yet, so I convinced Trey, after a little bit of a rest to go up a rounded hill near our camp to look over the territory.  We got up there and took a series of photos, and looked over the plain.  The wind would blow the sand and it looked more like blowing clouds than rock dust, but it helped explain how the ice got so black and dirty.

            I left Trey on the top of the hill and decided to hike along the trail that we had taken the day before... a bit more casually this time and without a back-pack so that I could enjoy the sights a little more fully.  I was gone for a couple of hours and returned to find Trey collecting wood and getting a fire started.

            We cooked another freeze-dried dinner, decided it was not enough and cooked another.  It seemed to get colder quicker on this night, and we had collected plenty of good big wood, so we had a great fire going.  We finished off the blackberry brandy and started in on the bottle of bourbon, while I tried to teach Trey some basic poker games.  We then played several Alphabet games (going down the alphabet naming certain items in a specified category) told jokes, talked some more about his speech and future, and simply enjoyed one another's company.  Another very good day.

            In the course of the days hike, one of Treys shoes started to come apart, and we pulled out the duct tape and cured that problem as well.  "Tool-Time" would be proud of us.

            The first night we had place our bear can filled with our food atop the sign post that marked the kilometers near our camp.  But, there did not seem to be an animals around, we had not seen any all day, and so this night we got a bit bolder.  We put the food in the bear can and then placed the can in the outhouse... probably not the smartest thing in the world, but neither of us were feeling real endangered.

            Another really fine day.


            We had another really cold night.  I think that it was the coldest night yet.  I was fine until I got out of the sleeping bag, and then the cold got in really quick and my limbs were feeling it intensely.

            I was up by 5 and had my tent dismantled and bag rolled up by 5:30, the metal tent poles burning my hands as I handled them.... I really could have used those gloves that I had lost.

            Trey got to moving about 5:30 and had his campsite dismantled and we were on the trail by about 6:45.  We were passing his gloves back and forth as we completed breaking up the camp.  The sky was crystal blue, there was nary a cloud in the sky as we headed out.  The sun, when it did finally peek over the mountain tops was bright and actually quite warm.  It was going to be a good day for a hike.  I did not take the time to properly place my stuff in my pack, and with the shoulder straps being somewhat off, it was a more painful and difficult burden on my back, but I thought I could put up with it for the days hike... and I did, though it would have been smarter to have stopped and readjusted.

            We were more confident on the walk back, and somehow managed to go in straighter lines.  We had grown confident of the ice and our route, and so we were less cautious about our crossings, and took a more straight route rather than the more meandering path we took on the way in.  It made for some great time.  In fact, in thinking about it, we may have taken a much longer route on the way in, and so added some mileage to our trek and may in fact have actually walked further than we thought.  The mileage posts seemed to just fly by.

            The bear tracks were still big and heavy, but we still had not spotted one.  I was really sort of looking forward to seeing one, but that was not to be... at least, not while we were hiking.  I think that Trey had spent too many years behind a school desk, he was practically covering his feet with moleskin... I wonder if they make mole-skin socks.  But, it kept him walking and so that was not too bad.

            In order to lighten our loads, we did not take much spare water with us, only our canteens, figuring that there was enough water along the way to refresh our store along the way.  Well, the pace we were setting, the hills we ascended and the bright sun all combined to drain us pretty quickly.  The river we followed was clearly filled with water, but a lot of it was brown with the glacier silt.  I did not think that it would be ideal water to drink, despite the purifier.  Eventually we found a tributary that looked clear.  We had to break the ice to get to it, and the water that would leak from the pump burned the hands, but the water was well worth it.  There were points along the river where the ice was breaking up, and small chunks and plates of ice were floating along, breaking up more ice, sliding over other plates of ice, and making that noise which is so distinctive to that sort of phenomenon.  Pretty awesome.

            We came to our river crossing again, and Trey decided not to remove his boots, but to find a way across via rocks.  As he began his crossing, he was very quickly in the water, boots, pants and all.  He got across and encouraged me to do the same.  I figured I would take the time to remove my boots.... that way I would not have to walk in wet shoes.  We sat around after crossing the river, throwing rocks, letting our feet dry off and allowing Trey to put a fresh layer of moleskin over his feet.  We also took the time for his migraine medicine to kick in, throwing rocks and ridiculing one another as we waited.  We were feeling pretty good about it all, surprised at the speed of our progress, and just enjoying the day.  It was nice.

            We were feeling confident enough and fast enough that we were taking a few more breaks along the way, and even with the breaks, managed to get back to the car in about 6.5 hours total.  It was amazing.

            Getting back to the car, we changed clothes, packed up the car, took a few smokes and then headed out.  We were both walking a little funny with the removal of the packs from our backs and walking on flatter ground.  It was all sort of funny.

            Back in the car, it was time to get a diet coke, take back our bear boxes and then drive to Haines where we would spend the night.

            The drive was pleasant enough, not much traffic at all, and the scenery was spectacular.  It was in the car, on the road back to Alaska, that we finally saw a bear.  A rather large grizzly bear along the road.  Well, we could not pass it up, so we backed up and tried to get some pictures.  I kept my foot near the gas pedal, ready to take off in case the bear charged us, but that never happened, after a few seconds of looking at us, the bear decided to take off. 

            We got to Haines around 5 that evening, checked into a hotel on the water, showered and found a restaurant where Trey enjoyed a rather large portion of prime rib and I had the buffalo steak.

            We then walked around a bit, returned to the room, settled down in front of the television with a drink and then fell asleep.  Another marvelous day.           


            Haines is the southern terminus of the Haines Highway and the upper arm of the Lynn Canal, it boasts a population of about 1500 people.  The original Indian name of the town meant "end of the trail" (Dtehshuh).  It was a trading post for the Chilkat and Interior Indians.  The town became an important outlet for gold mining and marked the beginning of the Dalton trail, which crossed the Chilkat mountain pass to the Klondike gold fields in the Yukon.  In 1902 an army base was established in Haines, the only one in Alaska until WW2.  The base was closed in the late 1940's.  It boasts one of the 2 year-round roads linking southeastern Alaska with the interior.

            Haines is a busy little tourist town during the summer, and there are quite a few art shops and souvenir stores there.  We were talking to one artist, and he claimed that just a few years ago Haines was noted in the United States as having the most artists per capita than any other place in the U.S.

            Trey and I spent the day wandering around the town, stopping in at the local health food store for coffee and soda, visiting all the souvenir stores looking for gifts for him to take home with him, and simply wandering around.  We lunched at a local pizza parlor, enjoying their sourdough pizzas.  We then headed over to the local bar in order to play some pool.  We spent our time in that way, and trying to decide who the women in the bar were looking at - me or him.  Finally, it was time to show up at the ferry station and check in for our trip back.  Like the trip to Haines, we were to be there 2 hours early.  The ferry was scheduled to depart at 4:30, but we never did actually get under way until about  6:30.  There were hundreds of bikes near the ferry station, and lots of kids.  It seems that one of the Juneau junior highs had a field trip to Haines that day, and had brought their bicycles with them.  I dreaded the thought of the ferry loaded down with all those young people.  Many of them knew me, and so I knew that there would be no sitting in the bar on this trip.

            At the announcement of the first delay, we decided to drive down the road and look at one of the local state parks.  We returned to the ferry station and told of a further delay, so we went to the other end of the road to look at the state park there.  On the way out, Trey spotted an eagle in a tree near the river.  He grabbed the camera and went to take some photos, I waited in the car.  He took some rather dramatic shots of the bird as it swooped down from the trees, and became quite excited about getting the photos developed, he really felt he had taken some prime photos.  We will see.

            We were on the smaller of the ferries on this trip, and with more than a hundred tired teens on the boat, it seemed even smaller.  We began the trip on the outside solarium deck, but after smoking a cigarette or two, decided that that was not going to be such a good idea.  The wind off the water was rather cool, and the kids on the deck were rather loud.

            We then went to the enclosed observation deck, found some seats.  Trey found a book to read, I was feeling antsy, and could not sit for long.  I left Trey to his book and spent my time walking around the boat.  The chaperones for the kids were paged over and over again to get the kids to stop running, quit fighting, and not abuse the furnishings on the boat.  I was so happy that that was not my job.

            In order to keep the kids amused, the purser finally dug up a video of E.T. and put that on in the television room.  It was tough to find a seat, but I did manage to settle in and kept myself entertained that way.

            In the meantime, Trey was among a group of people that saw a pod of whales.  After he found me to tell me about them, I heard the captain announce another sighting, and I was able to get out in time to see it this time.  Finally!

            We got back to the house after 11:00 that night.  Unloaded the car and had a drink.  It was so good to crawl into my own bed that night.  It was a good trip, and Trey was pretty excited that we had actually completed a trek (most of ours have been cut short for one reason or another), and we simply reveled in our adventure.

Saturday was spent cleaning and putting away gear, as well as my taking care of all the weekend duties.  Trey and I had planned on kayaking and spending a night or two out on the islands in the area.  But, given the work that had piled up over the week and stuff like that, we decided that day trips would be all right.  We picked up Trey's kayak from the man I was borrowing it from that morning, and started gathering some of the gear that we would need for the trips. 

            While I was attending to my parish duties, Trey went downtown to shop for more souvenirs and he also bought some head-set walkie-talkies.  We though that this would be a good way to keep in contact with one another while we were out on the water.  It turned out that they did not work too well, but it was a great idea, and they were cheap enough that it was no great loss.  Trey did the cooking that night, and we watched the movie YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN... something that had been missing from Trey's life and that I decided that he could not live without for many more years.           


            I did the masses this morning, including a group of first communicants.  After the masses, Trey and I loaded up the boats... I originally thought that I would be able to get both of them on top of my car, and could have if I wanted to mess with the racks a bit... but we were anxious to get going, so we took the easier route and loaded one of the kayaks on the other car.

            I was supposed to be directing a private retreat for a woman from Ketchikan (Agnes) who had come down for the weekend and would stay most of the week, at the shrine, to do this private retreat.  We would have to drop her off at the shrine, I would get her started with the retreat, and then Trey and I would hit the water... it meant a little delay, but that was all right.  This was meant to be more of a "break-in" sort of outing anyway.

            The shrine is a small collection of log cabins and a chapel built on the coast.  It is a shrine dedicated to St. Therese.  It was built by the first bishop of Juneau.  The chapel is a popular place for weddings because of the beauty of the site.  The chapel was built on an island just off the shore where all the other buildings are located.  When it was built, the people also built a causeway from the shore to the islet and have thus connected the islet to the rest of the facilities.  We use it as a retreat center, meeting center, etc.  Many people come to the shrine to visit, fish and just wander around.  The facilities are rather primitive, but not completely uncomfortable.  They also rent out some of the smaller facilities for doing what Agnes was doing... making private retreats and get-aways.  It is one of the big tourist spots in the area as well, and during this time of the year there are many who come to simply wander around the property and visit the chapel.

            The sun was pretty good this day and the weather was rather pleasant... not too cold at all, though there was some wind.  It was not too bad at all until we got into the water.  First of all, I had some problem getting into my kayak.  I had helped Trey with his and sent him on his way, and then I tried to get into my own.  Well, I turned over on my side and filled my cockpit with water.  Agnes was right there on the shore to take pictures of it all, and the water was not nearly as warm as the air.  Well, I sat in water for a little while, my shorts, shirt and all the stuff... including the sweater I had brought to keep me warm in case I got wet, were also soaked.   And I felt the chill.  We paddled on over to an area between two small islands, and we pulled over and I pumped out as much water as I could from the cockpit.  It was a pain, and being wet, with the wind that was coming off the water, was not exactly the most pleasant thing at all.  Oh well, that is life on the ocean I suppose.

            We continued paddling along the coast, stopping now and then, looking around, hoping for signs of life.  Neither of us took any photos, and both of us just sort of enjoyed being out on the water.

            We tried using the walkie talkies that we had purchased, but the one I had was hurt by the water I think, and so I could not hear Trey, but he could hear me... for a while... until something happened with his.  I did enjoy the ability for a little while though to be able to comment to him, talk to him, and not have him able to really talk back, and I continued to make all sorts of comments to/about him.... not all of them the kindest remarks, but it was sort of fun.We paddled on over to Eagle beach, fighting waves and wind along the way, our only relief coming when we paddled between the two small islands earlier.    We were making pretty good speed, Trey was not as strong a paddler as I suspected that he might have been.  He kept falling behind.  We passed an eagle in a tree along the shore, and there were a multitude of ducks and sea birds sitting in the water as we got closer to the beach.  It was interesting to watch them bob up and down with the waves, seeing them and then not seeing them as the waves rolled on by... sort of interesting, and a rather big gathering of birds.  We got to the beach, the wind was picking up, the water was getting a bit rougher as the sun was beginning to go into its later phases.  And so, instead of heading on over to the Benjamin island as we had been thinking to do, we decided to turn back.  With the waves heading in the same direction, the paddling was a bit easier, though still an effort that comes with being a bit worn from our trip out.  I was more thankful than ever that we had decided not to camp out that night.  We headed back to shrine island, deciding to put in at the other end of the island, and that was rockier and even further from our cars, and with arms already worn out by paddling, we had to lift the kayaks up above the rocks and haul them up to where our cars were.  We got them up, and I was freezing from walking in the water, from being so damn wet, from the effort.  It was a chore, but we did it.  Nothing too bad, just some effort.

            We emptied them of water, loaded them on the cars, I changed into dry clothing and then we headed back to the house.

            We got home, I threw the wet stuff in the washer, and then took a shower.  We then walked across the way and ate.  Then we came home, watched some television.  Trey went to bed fairly early given what he has been doing, and then I passed out in front of the television... not even finishing my drink, and then I went to bed as well.           


            This day started rather early for me this morning.  I had to get one or two things done prior to our taking off for the day.  It was the birthday of one of the church employees, and I had to quickly find some gift for her.  She often talks about wanting a massage, so I went to the local health club (thank God they are open early in the morning) and got her a gift certificate for a massage.

            After getting my work done, Trey and I loaded up again.  I stopped in at the shrine to spend some time with Agnes, and then we headed over to Eagle Beach where we would pick up where we left off the day before.  The skies were clear and it looked like it was going to be another beautiful day on the water.

            The water was high, and we had a pretty good put-in place.  It was nice.  The sandy beach was fairly easy to enter into with, and we set out.... mainly interested in seeing whales and seals.  We headed north, going to go up the coast a bit and then cut on over to Benjamin Island, where there was supposed to be a seal rookery? And all that sort of thing. 

            It was a pleasant day, bright sun, some breeze and some waves... but not too bad at first.  Of course, when we would get out of the protection of islands and such, there would be more wind and waves, but it was all pretty pleasant, really.  As we paddled along, we went through more gatherings of ducks and birds as we had the day before, but this time we managed to see several flocks of puffins.  They are a black bird, with colorful short, pug like beaks and make a rather odd whistling sound as they fly away.  That was pretty cool, I had been hoping to see some at some time.  We are at the pretty far end of the area which they inhabit, and so I was not always so sure that that would be possible.

            We had to cross a rather wide area between the shore and Benjamin Island of open water, and that always worries me a bit.  Not being an exceptionally strong swimmer and stuff like that, I always like to stay within grasp of shore, when possible.  But the water and all was good enough where I did not feel real bad about it, and Trey and I stayed within minutes of one another, so I thought that that would help if something did go wrong.

            We moved over to the south end of the island, and as we got there, we noticed some sprays in the distance, whale sprays, but no sightings of the animals.  I thought it was simply the spray of the water off the rocks... but it wasn't...  At that end of the island, with the island blocking the wind, and a sort of cove being present from the shape of the island, the water was very still and very clear, really quite beautiful.  It was a pleasure to paddle through, though I find that it seems, but it is an optical illusion, harder to judge if you are actually moving or not on real still water.  It is sort of an unusual sort of visual effect, kind of throws you off.  As we moved clock wise around the island, we began to sight seals.  They were swimming off shore, and as we passed and caught their attention, some would draw closer and give us a look, others would simply stay where they were and just watch us.  Trey would whistle at them, trying to get them to come closer.  I was interested in finding this rookery that I had heard about, expecting to find a number of whales laying on the rocks and stuff like that... it was an image that kept me looking at the shore, sometimes missing the seals in the water, but we never did find the seals on rocks.

            There were a few times when the seals would raise their heads high above the waters, stretching their necks much higher than I thought they could, and look us over.  Trey and I tried to alert one another to their presence as we say them.  As we rounded the western side of the island, the wind and the waves really picked up, and most of the time we were heading right into them, and that was a good thing, sometimes, it was a bit difficult to keep the prow of the boat in the right direction, given the cross winds, the waves off the shore, and stuff like that.  The waves would get pretty big at times, and there were some real heart-stopping moments, but nothing I was really too concerned about, given the fact that we were still fairly close to shore, and I thought that if the worst happened, at least we would not have a huge journey over to the island.

            We got to the north end of the island, and so hit the wind head on, and that always makes the paddling a bit more difficult, but, again, it was not the worst of things, we rounded the north end and came up along the east side of the island, heading in the general direction back to our cars, but not yet. 

            We did pull over on one rocky beach and sat for a while, having water and cigarettes, and doing some resting.  We also pulled out our cameras and got ready to take some photos if we did run across anymore wildlife.  We did see some eagles along the shore, flying over head and on the island... but at this time we were seal and whale hunting.

            We got back to the south end of the island, and decided to move again to where we first saw the seals and see if we could not get some photos.  We got some of one another in our kayaks, and that should be pretty good.

            Well, we did not see any, and I think both of us decided that we did not want to go all the way around the island again.  But at the south-west end of the island, not too far away, was another small island with a light house on it (light house island is the name of it.... duhhh).  And so we decided to go around that once as well.  Well, we started heading to the northern end of it and found ourselves moving into some very rough and choppy waters and heavy winds.   There were white-caps in this water and it was choppy and unpredictable.  It was very difficult to keep the kayaks in the right direction.  We were not able to move directly toward the island, as the waters would hit us broadside, and that was not good.... tipping a kayak in that water would not have been a very good idea at all.  I found myself shifting my weight time and time again in order to keep it upright and steady.  We had to move at a angle toward the northern end of the island, cutting a path fairly angular, toward some rocks off the northern end of the island.  It was really scary water, and I had visions of us tipping over and losing it all, and our direction kept taking us further from the island, further into the wind and open water, and closer to the rocks, but there was no way to turn around, not in that crazy mix-master of waves and wind, and so we just kept going.  Finally we got close to the rocks, they broke some of the waves, offered a minor shield to some of the wind, and we were able to turn around and headed up, around the rocks and along the west side of the island back towards the direction we needed to go... the wind now at our backs, and the waves a bit calmer closer to the island, but still offering a roller coaster ride that was exciting and somewhat fearful.  We were both able to admit that that was a rather scary ordeal. 

            We moved along the island, saw no more seals, but we did see one rather large sea-lion, and that was kind of neat.  We headed across the open water to the beach where we started.  After fighting those waves and that fear, we probably should have stopped and rested, but we were guys, and so we kept on going.  This was not so bad, the waves were still big, but rolling, and they were coming from behind us and so it was good.  After we got behind the islands again, it calmed down a bit, but the waves helped move us along in our direction, so it was not too bad.

            I decided to bee-line straight for the beach.  Trey was going to go around a sand bar that he felt we would have to deal with if we went in my direction.  He went his way, I went mine.  I think it was the furthest we had been separated in these small boats since we did this whole thing.  He had gotten a pretty good distance from me, and as I was traveling along, I saw another one of those sprays that we had seen earlier.  That was sort of surprising to me, in that I was still sort of convinced that what we had seen earlier was spray off the rocks, but this time I saw a big black back as well... it was a whale.  I yelled for Trey, and we were able to hear one another pretty well given that the water and wind were sort of calmed at the moment.  I then saw another spray and a tail, and right on top of that, another spray and another tale.  It was great.  The first time I really saw whales while out kayaking.  It was glorious, and even took the edge off some of the fear of the previous passage in the rough waters.  It was glorious.  Well, of course, that keeps one looking, but I really did not see anymore, and eventually turned all my concentration to getting to the beach..... and getting there before Trey. 

            I figured that if there was a sand bar, and no way around it, I could easily portage my kayak over the sand and into the water and still beat him back to shore.  Well, we eventually did reach the beach.  And it was low tide.  Trey did not get there, and I did not get there.  When we had left, the water was no more than 10 feet from our car.  Now the water had to be at least half a mile from the car, and there was no way, by water to get any closer. 

            I really thought that Trey had found a way round, so I got out of my kayak, dragged it back into the water and dragged it through the water toward his direction, and then realized that he had not found a way either.  We were both dry-docked. 

            Well, there was nothing to be done but pick them up and move them.  We hoisted the kayaks with our tired arms, rested them on our shoulders and laughed at the stupidity of it all, and carried the kayaks to the shore.  They were pretty heavy, especially mine, and we would lay one down, go back and get the other, bring it along, and lay it down and sort of just relayed them to the shore.  Finally we got pretty close, and I sent Trey to get the car, see how close he could get it, and I went back and dragged my boat along.  I had not wanted to drag Trey's since it was a borrowed boat, and did not want to scratch it up too much.  Trey was able to get the car to a high spot over the beach, but not any closer, and we decided that it would be better to just take it to the far end of the beach park, which was really not all that much further than the distance to where he had parked, and it did not entail going up the embankment to the road.  We moved the kayaks closer and then got into Trey's car and he drove me to mine and then we went to the end of the park and picked up our boats, loaded them and headed home.

            At the time that we approached the beach, it was only about 3:30 or so, and I had visions of getting home a bit after 4.  Well, we finally got back around 5:30 or so.  We had both decided that we probably would not be kayaking today... the weather was supposed to take a change, so we cleaned up our boats and supplies, left them around to dry, and decided to do supper.

            Trey made some french fries, I went after hamburger meat, and we settled into a rather hearty, and too big meal of hamburgers, fries, beans and some baklava that I had picked up.  It was a good day.  Since Trey did so much of the cooking, I decided to clean and then to make the rhubarb pie from the fresh rhubarb that Agnes had brought for me and given to me on Sunday night.  I did that, and it still turned out wet.... like so much of them do when I make those pies.  I don't understand it.  Trey had been very interested in it, and so I cut him a hunk of it while we watched TV and had our drinks.  It was a good night.

            It was another incredible day.

Tuesday was spent just sitting around the house.  The skies had clouded over.  We were both sore from our carrying of the kayaks, and the high energy activities of the last week or so had seemed to have caught up with us.   I spent a good part of the morning taking care of parish duties and office work, Trey took care of sleeping.  We did take some time to wander around downtown and hit the tourist shops again.  We played some computer games, ate and watched TV.  Talked a lot, and just spent the day enjoying one another's company, talking about the future and cleaning and packing.  It was a pleasant way to end an exciting time together.  The next day Trey would fly out on the early flight.  It was delayed to a low fog that caused the plane to make several attempts at landing and then circling around the airport.  It finally landed, Trey got on, and with a pain in the heart and tears in my eyes, I bid him a safe flight and told him I would see him again soon, to be there for the adventure of his life-time... his marriage in November.  What a trip.