Sunday, July 29, 2012

Day 56-Ruth Island Cove to Cascade Creek Bight

Another spectacular morning!  No clouds, sunshine, calm winds, relatively warm temperatures…  It’s always nice to have all the windows and door open and still be comfortable!

With the beautiful weather I figured it would be a good time to check out Baird Glacier, on the northern end of Thomas Bay.  It’s not a tidewater glacier, but it does swoop down close to the water and it didn’t appear to be a long hike from shore.  Ominously, the guidebook indicates that there’s nowhere to leave a boat unattended at anchor in the area.  Since I’m alone, that wouldn’t work.
Baird Glacier from the water
Getting to shore did prove to be a bit of a problem.  I tried to anchor in a little bight on the western shore, about a mile off the mud flats.  Eventually I got the anchor to set, but I swung in too close to shore.  I could have remedied the situation with a stern tie, but that seemed like too much of a hassle.

After attempt number one failed, I started heading in towards the mud flat that lies off the glacier.  The trouble with maneuvering in shallow waters near glaciers is that the water is totally clouded in silt, limiting visibility to mere inches.  To add to the trouble, the depth sounder was giving wildly varying readings and the charts, of course, can’t be updated as quickly as the shoals move.

Anyway, I got the bow into 20 feet of water (or at least that’s what the sounder said) and dropped 200 feet of rode.  The water deepened quickly from where I dropped the anchor and the wind was blowing pretty strongly away from the beach (typical for wind to blow of glaciers), so I wanted to make sure I had an excellent set.  I didn’t, and quickly dragged into water more than 100 feet deep.

So I hauled the anchor back up (thank god for the windlass!) and started poking around in the mud flats.  This time I broke out the kayak paddle and periodically sounded the water manually.  When I got into a spot with just a few feet of water, I dropped 150 feet of rode and powered down hard.  No movement!

With the anchor set I hopped in the kayak and paddled into shore.  This was actually harder than I expected since a fresh breeze was blowing me away from the beach and a strong current from the outflow river from the glacier was also pushing me away from the beach.  This river was also flooding the area with fresh water (a taste test confirmed the surface water was fresh) and the glacial silt making underwater visibility non-existent.

On the paddle to shore there were a ton of seals.  They were awfully skittish of me, but fun to watch nonetheless.

Finally I got into shore, but since the tide would be rising for the next 6 hours or so, I needed to haul the kayak waaaaay up the beach so it wouldn’t drift away.  Like a half mile, through glacial strewn boulders and unbelievably sticky glacial muck.  Luckily the kayak is lightweight!

When I did find a suitable spot to leave the kayak, a group of perhaps 10 kayakers were already there.  I talked with them for a but and it turns out they’re a bunch of high schoolers from a summer camp in Wisconsin paddling from Ketchikan to Juneau.  What a great way to spend a summer!

Then I was off for Baird Glacier.  The walk was easy except for a stream crossing.  The water was slow moving so it didn’t present much of a hazard, but I did dunk a boot in the water, which made the rest of the walk a bit uncomfortable.  Going barefoot would have been a better choice.  The area around Baird Glacier is spectacular.  It looks like what I imagine the moon looks like.  Lots of gray, everything from silt up to semi-truck sized rocks.  A bit further away plants are reclaiming the land previously scraped bare by the glacier.  It’s definitely worth the trouble of getting up here to see it, especially on a gorgeous day.
Bird footprints in the glacial muck
Baird Glacier from land, with the river that must be crossed
Luckily the river flows slowly 
The view from the moraine 
The moon!
Wildflowers recolonizing the ground where the glacier once stood
Getting back to the boat was easy.  The tide had risen somewhat so I didn’t have to haul the kayak far, and then the wind and current did most of the work of getting me to the boat.

After Baird Glacier I motored through Scenery Cove, which is, indeed, scenic.  There seemed to be a few spots to anchor, but they looked marginal and I didn’t want to worry about dragging during the night.
Entrance to Scenery Cove
The USFS has a cabin located along Cascade Creek in Thomas Bay and they claimed good anchorage just off it.  The charts looked encouraging for the area, so I headed in that direction and found a nice spot to drop the hook.  I paddled around a bit in the kayak, ate dinner, and relaxed until sunset.  Another great day in paradise!
Last light
16.1 nm today and 2,069.4 total

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