Staring out at the turquoise water surrounding Ticket to Ride here in the Tuamotos, it is nearly impossible to believe the contrast of landscapes we have experienced in the last year alone as we travel on our sailboat.
Scanning the horizon of these atolls which have a maximum elevation of about 10 feet, I recall anchorages of Alaska with their tree covered, mountainous heights. Neither scene is more beautiful than the other; they both have unique qualities that call to different activities and personalities.
Rather than allow our travels in Alaska to fall away without being journaled, I plan on adding occasional, out of order posts about our experiences there. Because we covered so many miles in a short time, I will “cherry pick” the areas I cover. This blog is about a couple of our stops in the Misty Fiords National Monument Wilderness….
We upped anchor at 5:30 am on August 20, 2021 to allow for a leisurely 6 hours, 55 nm motor to arrive in an area called Punchbowl. We had hoped to snag the one mooring ball available in the cove but the only other boat in the anchorage beat us to the “punch.” (Hehehe)
Instead we spent some time traversing the steep banks and looking for a reasonable place to drop the hook. In this case, we found an adequate spot in the southeast corner of the head of the bay. We dropped anchor in 100 feet of water!
Punchbowl is surrounded by tall sides that alternated between forested greens and towering granite. We introduced ourselves to the one other sailboat in the anchorage; a lone man with a broken arm was on board. We learned that he was watching the boat while his friends were scaling one of the granite faces. Needless to say, he was extremely disappointed that his injury prevented him from ascending the mountain with his friends. Try as we might, the cliffs were so large that even with excellent binoculars, we could not find the small specks that were the men climbing up the granite face!
We also met two really nice adventurers from Bend, OR who were on a two week kayaking trip. Mitch and Steve were self supporting their trip and alternated between staying in their tents or in the National Forest cabins available in Alaska. We offered them some ice water and a cold beer or two before they paddled to shore…. I think those beers were the equivalent of striking gold for Mitch and Steve!
We spent the first afternoon exploring the cove, then hiking a trail through the woods and upward in elevation. We had heard there was a National Forest cabin at the top of the trail and Mitch and Steve confirmed that they hoped to stay in that cabin the following night.
The next morning we packed a picnic lunch and planned on making a full day of hiking the trail to the upper lake. We had heard there were canoes available to anyone who wanted to use them at the lake and we hoped they would be seaworthy enough for us to use.
The trail was intensely green and had a hallowed peacefulness. The sounds we heard were the twittering of birds, the crashing of water tumbling from high in the mountain, our own steps across carpeted greens and fallen branches….. oh, yeah, and the old time rhythms of Motown!
While hiking, we had seen plenty of “calling cards” left by bears and Frank and I had long since grown tired of our own singing to alert all bears of our presence. We began carrying a small speaker on our backpack and playing music during our hikes through bear country.
We definitely did turn off the music and absorb the quiet and beauty of our hike now and then. We both prefer the hush of the forest, but we didn’t want to surprise or be surprised by a bear, especially one with a cub or two.
The hike to the upper lake took about two hours. It wasn’t an easy hike but it wasn’t arduous either, except where a small tree slide covered the trail. Climbing around, under and through the tree trunks and branches was a little challenging. With my vivid imagination of having to ride a tree continuing its slide down the mountain, I was motivated to hurry across that area!
The path wove through a variety of picturesque terrain, but when we reached the lake and found the canoes and paddles seaworthy and free for anyone to use, the already gorgeous day became even better. The lake was stunningly beautiful!
Frank was transported back to his youthful days of canoeing in Scouts and immediately took control of the paddling. I was happy to sit in front, soak up the intense beauty and take photos.
A few rain clouds with showers moved in, so we found a little outcropping of rock with tree covering where we could sit out the rain. Protected by low lying branches, we shared a picnic lunch and watched the rain dance across the lake.
The rain only lasted a short while and left a funny, flat rainbow in its wake.
After the rain, we packed up our picnic and explored the lake a little longer. Mid afternoon, we returned the canoe and meandered back down the trail and home to TTR.
After two nights in Punchbowl, we moved to Walker Cove, another area of Misty Fiords. We didn’t think it was possible, but the surroundings of Walker Cove anchorage were even more dramatic than Punchbowl!
Behind Ticket to Ride, a river appeared to wind through the trees and Frank and I knew we had to find a way to explore it. We weren’t sure how far or deep the water would be.
This time we pulled out our paddle boards to explore. We paddled up a stream that soon became very shallow and was filled with salmon!
Frank and I stopped the boards in about six inched of water and sat on the SUPS with our feet rooted in the rocky river bed. We stayed for over an hour, watching nature’s show of the salmon swimming upstream to reach their spawning grounds.
We had seen many streams of various intensity with salmon swimming and jumping up the waters to achieve their destination. This was the first time we were in the middle of the stream and could actually have reached out to touch the salmon. We observed that the fish were not in the best of health. Clearly the effort required to find their particular river and swim against the stream had taken a toll. Many of the salmon had patches of discoloration where they had lost scales and several seemed to be at the end of their energy. We actually saw a few expire as we watched. Their movements ranged from energetically swimming up stream around and over rocks to those that apparently had already spawned, then gave up swimming and slowly ebbed down stream with subtle tail swishes that eventually stopped completely.
I found it a bit sad to watch, but also interesting to see the cycles of life we all learned about in elementary school unfold before our eyes.
Frank and I fully expected to see a bear or two come to the stream and harvest dinner while we were balanced on our boards. So many lethargic salmon would make for an easy bear feast. But no bears arrived during the hour we watched the salmon.
Later that afternoon we took Day Tripper out to explore our surroundings in Walker. There were many waterfalls high on the mountains, creating valleys between trees or sliding down slippery granite walls and splashing into the water.
The sheer magnitude of the fiord was mesmerizing. We spent well hours skimming along the shoreline, staring at the contrast and beauty of the smooth rocks and forested slopes. Occasionally, Frank would expertly maneuver Day Tripper up to some of the waterfalls that had leveled off and gently cascaded into the water.
The whole area was like a feast for our senses where our eyes ingested the immense beauty and our souls absorbed the serenity and power of our surroundings.
SMALL WORLD COMMENT:
A week after leaving Punchbowl, Frank and I were in Ketchikan where we had spent the day in the library, catching up on internet communication, hiding from the rain. On our way back to TTR, we stopped at the Bar Harbor Ale House and ordered wine before dinner. When our waitress delivered our drinks, she informed us that our drinks were compliments of the folks at another table. We turned to thank our mystery benefactors who turned out to be Mitch and Steve – our kayaking friends from Punchbowl! Of course we asked them to join us and we exchanged stories of our adventures over a delicious meal. We were so happy to hear all about Steve and Mitch’s trip and the adventures they had.
How fun it is to know that this giant world is also quite small.
Thanks so much for reminiscing with us about our travels in Alaska. It is truly a magical and magnificent place. Even though it is a bit confusing to bring up blogs out of sequence, Alaska deserves to be recorded and recalled… Wishing you good health and fun adventures.