The Crossing of Admiralty Island: Part 5

Admiralty 5 - Saltwater Marsh Camp to Angoon Labels
Route from Salt Marsh Camp to Angoon

It’s a beautiful feeling waking up knowing this is the last time you’ll have to sling a kayak over your shoulder then stomp through the woods

Happily, I opened my eyes on one of the last days of the trip with an old spruce towering over me. I watched from inside my tent as the squirrels chirped and ran along the massive moss covered branches. I wasn’t sore, nor tired but I could feel the end of the trip coming so I took time to let the morning creep by. Ravens would squawk and dive through the trees while other animals sounded off. It was a surprisingly active morning.  This was the first time I’d used my tent without the rain fly. It was awesome to lay there and see the forest all around me and not have to deal with the mosquitoes. I grabbed my broken camera and snapped a shot.

01 tent face
Waking Up to a Moon Roof Tent With a View – David Reed

Our gear was basically all packed up since we stayed on land. With no booze, we made quick work of breakfast and began our last portage. At this point it was all routine. We grabbed the bags and took off down the trail. It seemed that we had left the Gauntlet behind us and could easily make our way through the trail. We gradually made our way down slope on the path to sea level. We started noticing more man made sections of the trail – little planks across mud, a few steps here and there, and finally a bridge.

02 Brandon hiking behind devils club
Hiking to the Ocean, Our Last Scouting Trek – Inua Blevins
03 broken trail steps
Old Trail Work Getting Swallowed by the Forest – Brandon Hauser
04 three hikers surrounded by rainforest
Finding the Trail Down Through the Thick Vegatation – Inua Blevins

What we started to come across looked like some forgotten piece of a large camp, just a flurry of civilization beginning then quickly fading into the woods. The rainforest had begun reclaiming the land. Moss covered large sections of wood. Some bridges had trees growing off the thin planks. Staring down at the water I wondered if I could make it to the other side. The bridge bowed and wobbled beneath me, I couldn’t wait to hoist a kayak across this circus. Once safely back off the bridge, we came across another obstacle – we need more bridges as the area was flooded. Given that we hadn’t experienced any rain, it was strange that water was everywhere. We slogged through only to find more ancient looking trail work, but soon enough we found ourselves looking at salt water. The strange thing about seeing the ocean so far back through the inlet is that it was calm just like a lake. It didn’t seem any different than all the lakes we’d crossed. Except you could see where the tideline was pulling away from the shore. We sat and marveled at our success. We’d left the ocean on one side of Admiralty and crossed through the Fortress of the Brown Bear to see it again. The muggy air and sweat coated us, giving reason to relax a bit longer before going back for the real test.

05 POV bridge
More and More Signs of Trail Work – Brandon Hauser
06 flooded trail with bridge
The Bridge Leads into the Middle of a Pond – Brandon Hauser
07 walking old wooden bridge over creek
Might Be Safer to Just Slog Through the Water – Inua Blevins
08 POV bridge over flood
Ancient Bridge with Obstacles – Brandon Hauser
09 Broken steps
Taking the Stairs – Brandon Hauser
10 twisted tree with three hikers
Going Back Uphill Gets Us to Dry Land – Inua Blevins
11 back at saltwater
First View of Ocean Water – Brandon Hauser

Not far off shore stood a small Island we gathered was South American Island, based on our map. We’d traveled together long enough and worked hard enough that strange jokes took our minds off the heavy lifting and long walking ahead. Strange markings on our map indicated South American Island potentially had a Forest Service Ranger’s Station. This got us excited as the British guy we’d met at Seymour Canal had repeatedly told us of the beer that the rangers had shared with him. Since we’d been off alcohol for at least 24 hours the thought of an ice cold beer pushed all of us further. That and joking about the island being named after all the South American woman that inhabited its small acreage had us galloping back for our boats.

12 kayak on trail
Hilarious, Sea Kayak in the Woods – Brandon Hauser

All we could do is laugh at this point. Seeing those damn sea kayaks stretched out on the trail was a real sight. In no time they’d be back in the Pacific where they belonged. Sure enough we got them there. The portage was short but a real pain in the ass. Trying to dodge small trees while on a plank four feet above a pond was a true test. As we made our way through the flooded area we began to find large mud holes threating to swallow our boots. It took a lot of cursing but eventually we laid the second kayak on a bed of barnacles and kelp.

13 carrying kayak devils club
Picking up Foliage While Portaging – David Reed
14 carrying kayak
Always More Obstacles – David Reed
15 map and piss
Double Checking the Map While Relaxing – David Reed

Just being near the ocean gave us all an extra charge. For the most part we’d done it. We’d tackled Admiralty Island portaging from Mole Harbor all the way to Kootznahoo Inlet. All we needed to do was survive the paddle into Angoon through protected waters. The only catch was that we needed to pass through The Narrows. As the inlet moves further inland long stretches of island stack up, one after another cutting off the flow of water creating very narrow passage ways. The main passage to Angoon gets to point that is a little over 200 feet wide. With millions of gallons of water flowing at each tidal change, The Narrows become a rushing river creating currents that appose each other, whirlpools and all manner of water navigation trickery. Before leaving Juneau we’d heard countless stories about boats having big troubles when trying to pass through outside of slack tide, skiffs had gotten stuck and some sunk with the power of The Narrows whirlpools. So we were home free, as long as we could make it through. We’d cultivated a strange energy reaching this far into the trip. With one more day of wilderness ahead we decided to give one of our bear sprays a quick test. Brandon reached out to get a sense of wind direction. I stood back a bit and watched as the safety clip came off the black container for the first time this trip. With a quiet hiss, an orange plume burst from the nozzle. This rapidly grew into a large orange cloud. We marveled until with wind grabbed it and began pushing back towards us. Bryan and Inua looked on from the water, laughing. Brandon dodged its sickly touch and we both went directly to our kayaks.

16 near american island
Nice Beach on the South Side of South America Island – David Reed
17 on american island
Finding Sun on the Beach – David Reed

It felt good to get back on the water. Now my boat could carry me. South America Island was at the head of our cove. We had plenty of time to kill while exploring the area, unless we ran into South American Forest Service rangers with beer. We cut around the east side of island until we found a large sandy beach on the south side. I gave a whoot! still high off the feeling of no more portaging. The sound of my voice circled around me and came back seven or eight times. We all looked at each other wide eyed and gave a yell. It was crazy. A single sentence could wrap around the entire area, layering on top of its self over and over until it became noise. Then I found that if I paddled out away from the island a bit, I could make my voice boomerang around even more. It took a while to get tired of generating a cacophony of swear words but once I looked behind me and saw everyone sitting on the beach, I headed in. South America Island is an interesting spot. The south beach is a great spot, trails lead into the woods for some nice camping spots. If there ever were Latin woman there, they didn’t leave much behind, a nice large wooden table sat under the trees with a hard hat on top. No beer was visible. As we stretched out, the thought to make camp here was on everyone’s mind. It was a fine little island but we decided to stick with our plan and push to Diamond Island. That way we’d be a few miles closer to The Narrows. I wanted to be as fresh as possible going through, just in case something unexpected came up.

18 South america Island table with contruction hat
Signs of Life on South America Island – Inua Blevins
19 maps and echoes
One Last Check of the Map Before Heading to Diamond Island – David Reed
20 kayaks and tent in grass
Setting Up the Last Camp, Diamond Island – Inua Blevins
21 shoe soles around fire looking at map
Doing Laundry – Inua Blevins

We made easy work of our last paddle of the day. Diamond Island is a small narrow strip of land slightly off the north shore near the end of The Narrows. From experience, we knew to be on the lookout for bears. We made camp on the west end of the island. A camp fire was our first priority with a ring of boot and shoe insoles drying. Having no rain for the entire trip we found mass amounts of dry would. Soon our fire was blazing. At this point getting everything set up was second nature. In no time we had nothing left to do. As the sun began to sink lower the island was suddenly awash in an orange glow.

35 group along water
Out of the Woods, Feeling the Glow of the Sun. End of the Uncivilized – Brandon Hauser
22 setting sun through trees - 2
Watching the Sun Drop Through the Diamond Island Woods – Inua Blevins
23 two hikers across diamond tree fall
Walking in Sandals on Soft Moss Covered in Broken Branch Traps – Brandon Hauser

Everyone took out their camera and decided to explore the far end of the island, make sure we didn’t have any neighbors, and see what lay beyond camp. What we saw was a savaged island. Half the trees and been torn down and broken apart. Apparently the wind could storm through Kootznahoo Inlet. I picked my steps carefully as my shoes were still drying by the fire, sandal cruising across logs and branches wasn’t all that fun but Diamond Island looked beautiful. We pressed on finding nothing scarier than old bear scat. As time went on the island seemed to turn more and more orange, it felt like the perfect last night to spend in the wild. At the end of the island a smooth limestone structure stared down at us. Climbing it proved impossible in sandals so we stuck it out on the beach. Off in the background we could see the peak of Mount Distik. It felt like a month ago that we were near its base, walking near Hasselborg’s settlement. Our time on Admiralty had been dictated by the sun and the tides, which could seem endless and too short at the same time. We watched the sun drop behind the trees, realizing we hadn’t brought a headlamp we pulled away from the view and swiftly made our way to the last fire of our trip.

24 two hikers in treefall
The Forest Floor was Covered in Fallen Trees – David reed
25 brandon taking pic of sunset glow on trees
Sunset Glow Made for Unlimited Photos – Inua Blevins
26 tree roots in sunlight
Exposed Roots and Debris Cover a Rock – Brandon Hauser
27 trees withsunlight
A History of Heavy Winds Made Getting to the East side of Diamond Island a Real Challenge – David Reed
28 fireweed sunlight
Small Orchid/Fireweed-like Flowers Were Everywhere – David Reed
29 hiker on rock formation - diamond island
Our Destination, An Interesting Rock Formation at the Far End of Diamond Island – Inua Blevins
30 fireweed sunset
Fireweed and the Fading Sun – Brandon Hauser
31 hiking rock formation
Navigating the Rock Formation to Find the Shot – David Reed

32 sunset fireweed - diamond island

33 chilling by rock formation
Watching the Last Light – Inua Blevins
34 view back towards portages
The Path Back to Seymour, Mount Distik of Mole Harbor in the Far Distance – Brandon Hauser

Talk drifted from things we’d do back in civilization to The Narrows and highlights of the trip. Even though we had a day and a half before the ferry took us to Juneau, it felt like these were the last moments of our crossing of Admiralty. We all agreed that we could keep going. If, for some strange reason there were more miles and more days to travel – we were ready. The endless traveling had become ordinary. It’s what we knew and none of us wanted to change that. But our destination loomed ahead. We were close but not done. We would have to settle on completion instead continuing our nomad existence.

35 tent towards narrows
Camping with Tomorrow’s View – Brandon Hauser
37 fire and a head - diamond island
Relaxing by the Last Fire – Inua Blevins
38a wood as coals
Hours of Staring Into the Coals Enjoying Our Final Camp Fire – Brandon Hauser
39 fires glow on tree branches
The Night’s View – Inua Blevins

The fire burned for hours before the last of us called it a night. Out in the early morning light the entrance to the Narrows was taking shape.

40 reflected clouds towards narrows
Looking for The Narrows Somewhere Between the Islands – Brandon Hauser

Per usual, the tidal changes favored us hanging out until noon. Unlike the rest of the trip we now spent our lazy morning under a cloudy sky. After all the sun we had, I pulled out my rain gear just in case we came into a South East Alaskan down pour pay back. The trickiest part was being sure about our location as we paddled. There is a difference when looking at the map then looking up. We didn’t want to go between the wrong islands or hit The Narrows too soon. So we slowed down, double checked the map and confirmed with the GPS. However, it became obvious soon enough. Up ahead the water rippled, picked up, and flowed like a river. We could see the river get tighter as the path swung around the corner about a quarter mile up. We had given ourselves about 40 min of extra time to check the area out and get into position for a slack tide paddle through the whirlpools and crosscurrents. To the right there is a cove, that’s where we planned to wait out our time and watch the water slow down.

41 view of narrows
Building Flow of The Narrows on the Left – Inua Blevins

It was amazing to see the difference between The Narrows and the cove. While The Narrows pulled water like an open drain the cove was flat calm. We made ourselves comfortable on the beach snacking and napping. As everyone did there thing it dawned on me that this was the end right here. Ever since day one when we hopped off Arnold’s boat we were on our own, far enough removed from civilization that we really had only ourselves and each other to count on. As soon as we passed The Narrows we’d be back. Regardless of how small Angoon was, we wouldn’t be in the wild anymore. So I hopped up from my life jacket chair and pulled my cracked camera out to capture the moment. I put the crusty viewfinder up to my eye and took a shot. It would be interesting to see what I’d been able to shoot with a busted camera. I reclaimed my seat and waited for the tide to slow.

42 calm waters beside narrows
Protected Cove Next to The Narrows, Glass Calm – David Reed
43 landing before narrows
Waiting for Slack Tide On Our Way Out to Angoon – Inua Blevins
44 everyone waiting on the tide
Capturing One More Photo Before We Head Through the Narrows – David Reed
45 resting before narrows
Completely Relaxing Before Imminent Whirlpools – Inua Blevins

From our vantage point we couldn’t see down The Narrows but there was a definite change in the water. It wasn’t rolling through like mild river rapids anymore. The time matched our tide book table. We hopped in our boats and swept wide around the point to check downstream. Everything looked good so we paddled on. Even as we cruised through I could see currents going in opposite direction and in a few spots debris would be floating along with us only to get caught up and begin a wide slow circle, speeding up and tightening at the center. The whirlpools must never leave, just slow and wait for the tide waters to rush back through. We didn’t waste much time marveling at The Narrows. We’d been told by several people to pass during slack tide, don’t mess around, and just get through. So we paddled, not saying much and keeping a steady speed. Land on either side pushed closer and closer as we quietly moved along. It was crazy to think just how much water moves through here every day. I decided to pick up my pace.  

The Narrows stretch for about 1.5 miles and it was hard to tell how far we’d gone. Halfway? More? We’d just have to get to the end. All four of us watched the water, looking to dodge whirlpools and anything else catching the current. As the tension continued to build someone spotted movement on the beach. A deer made its way into the water and began swimming. We tried to keep from laughing as we watched the deer flutter to keep its head above water. Surprisingly the zodiac’s kicker didn’t seem to phase it. We continued on through The Narrows watching the deer ahead of us, seeing how close we could get. For whatever reason it finally looked over and spotted us, got nervous and turned around. At this point the deer was about 3/4 of the way across and was now going all the way back. Shocked, we watched as it struggled to make it back to the beach. We could see that the deer was exhausted as hoofed back onto the beach. It turned and stared at us paddling by. We busted up laughing.

Then the rain started. A few drops fell to my hands and I looked up. The grey sky had darkened, soon the rain was coming down steady. The landscape took on a mythic shape. Clouds lowered into the trees and created wispy trails through the air. This all led to the grand view of exiting The Narrows. It seemed that the land masses on both sides towered up into the clouds like some sort of gateway back to modern day, or maybe protecting Angoon from the fortress of the bear. I reached for my camera. This would be my best picture of the trip. My chest pouch was empty. I blinding grasped behind my seat. I couldn’t find it. I twisted and lifted trying see if it had fallen somewhere. Nothing.

Before long we began to see signs of life. Old buildings weathered and falling apart were being reclaimed by the forest. In the distance we could see the outline of a small fishing village. We eased our pace. We were out of the Narrows and on our way to Angoon. The rain began to slow with us, turning to a light sporadic drizzle. As we made our way to the dock I couldn’t help but feel cheated from victory. I’d made it all the way across Admiralty Island, then at the last possible point I lost my camera. Bryan and Inua jumped out of the Zodiac onto the dock. I grabbed the wooden edge but sitting so low in the water it was a bit tricky pulling myself up and out of the kayak without tipping over.

46 landing in angoon
Welcomed By Our First Rain Showers While Docking In Angoon – Brandon Hauser
47 looking for a ride to get camera
Lost Camera, Wondering What To Do About It – Inua Blevins
48 looking at angoon
Looking For Fisherman to Journey Back Through the Narrows – Inua Blevins

We celebrated with a high-fived and a whoot! I searched my kayak one more time with no luck. We all agreed that I must have left my camera on the beach while we waited for slack tide. I began to work myself into a mood, feeling really pissed that all my documentation of the trip was just sitting there waiting for the tide to swallow it up.

Beyond the camera, we were somewhat in a haze. Being back around people, airplanes, and boats felt strange. Plus, we didn’t really have a plan after getting to Angoon. We had 24 hours before the ferry arrived. A look at the map and we had a couple miles to portage our gear. Shit! The rain picked up again as I started grabbing gear out of my kayak. I reached into my backpack and went to a pocket I hadn’t used since Juneau. I grabbed my wallet and pulled out the cash. I decided I was going to ask the first fisherman who pulled up to take me back through The Narrows. Looking around, I didn’t see much going on. A few boats had left the area with no one to take their place. The other guys were getting ready to leave and find food. New food sounded amazing but I needed to beat the tide.

A small skiff made its way to the end of the doc, I walked over with cash in hand. Two native fishermen were arranging gear. I introduced myself and told them what had happened. I’d give them all my cash if they could cruise me back up through The Narrows so I could look for my camera. They looked a bit puzzled – I imagine I must have looked like shit and was trying to get them to taxi me out. Bryan and Inua came over and offered them the rest of the gas they’d brought for the kicker. We all talked for a minute. My new acquaintances took the gas and we were off. The skiff cut across the incoming tide a hell of a lot faster than my kayak. In no time I was back in The Narrows.

49 going back for camera
Leaving to Cross Back Through The Narrows – Brandon Hauser

As I buzzed off into the distance the guys removed the rounds from their weapons and packed them away. Turning to head into town they see a brown bear sow and her cub walking straight towards the dock. Both dropped into the water and swam straight towards my friends. As they moved to get a little distance and better photographs, they could see that both bears cared little for what the humans were doing. Soon they made their way back to the beach, with the cub trailing behind. They strolled down the beach never looking back. Guns were unpacked and reloaded.

I missed the best bear viewing of the trip chasing down my camera.

50 brandon pictures from dock
Taking Pictures, Heading Into Angoon In Search of Food – Inua Blevins
51 bear in water
Close Encounter With Bears Immediately After Putting Guns Away – Brandon Hauser
52 bear out of water
Brown Bear Cub After a Short Swim – Brandon Hauser
53 bear by boats
Walking Through Derelict Boats – Brandon Hauser
54 bear cub boats
Brown Bear Cub Catching Up to Mom – Inua Blevins
55 bears and boats
A Quick Dip, Then Back Into the Woods – Inua Blevins

Now, I will say I was hesitant to get on the boat. The general public, myself included, do not really know much about life in a village. There is a lot of false information and prejudice that color how people perceive small fishing communities, especially native communities in Alaska. This was my first time in a small, mostly Tlingit town. People had told me to “watch out” and “be careful” but they had as much experience as I had in this type of situation. So I had a little bit of reservation hopping onto a stranger’s boat and asking him to take me back into the wilderness. Aaron and Frank didn’t say much as we made way. I looked out over the landscape I’d just paddled noticing the rain had stopped. The day was looking better.

Soon I had to pay attention and started directing Frank to the beach. I looked out over the familiar break spot from about 2 hours earlier. From the boat all I could see was kelp. I jumped out and walked up the short rocky beach. Sure enough, right where I had sprawled out, my black Lowpro case sat in the dirt. I waved it in the air as I headed back to the boat. Frank and Aaron got a kick out of that. We struck up a conversation on the way back and soon all my “anxieties” and misinformation about small town Tlingit fisherman were left in the wind.

56 heading back to angoon with camera
Third Pass Through The Narrows, Now With My Camera – David Reed
57 aaron boat help
Aaron, Point Man On the Skiff – David Reed
58 Frank boat help
Frank, Skiff Captain – David Reed
59 looking worn on the skiff
The Salty Passenger – David Reed

The boat pulled up to the beach under the store, the only place in town to buy stuff. I thanked Frank and Aaron and they asked how we planned to get to the ferry terminal. Before I could start, they offered to get their truck and shuttle us over there. Not hauling my kayak another two miles was an amazing relief. I gladly accepted their help. With renewed energy I bound up the hill to find food and tell the boys the good news.

60 dropping off at grocery store
Aaron Getting Ready to Stop the Skiff At the Shore – David Reed

The boat pulled up to the beach under the store, the only place in town to buy stuff. I thanked Frank and Aaron and they asked how we planned to get to the ferry terminal. Before I could start, they offered to get their truck and shuttle us over there. Not hauling my kayak another two miles was an amazing relief. I gladly accepted their help. With renewed energy I bound up the hill to find food and tell the boys the good news.

62 grocery store
Angoon Supply & Grocery Store – David Reed

After ten days in the wilderness my gut reaction to the food available was a little crazy. We didn’t have many options as the store was a very diminished grocery/needs-of-a-fishing-town store. But the glowing feeling I got from chugging a bottle of Pepsi, mowing down a hostess apple pie and eating a banana stands the test of time as one of my best meals.

Sitting outside, finishing the banana, and trying to understand the layout of Angoon was where the overall accomplishment and success of the trip finally washed over me. I had my camera, I’d just eaten some junk food, and was now sitting outside the Angoon bait and grocery wondering what’s next with my friends. We took a group picture. I’ve never felt as happy while looking like complete trash.

61 group shot at grocery store
Happy Group Picture After Food – Inua Blevins

We walked the half mile back to the dock to get our gear ready for Frank and Aaron only to find all our gear and boats had been brought up onto the beach near the parking lot, a very nice surprise. Soon we were strapping a kayak and the Zodiac onto a small trailer. Bryan and I grabbed a seat on the tailgate and took off. It was a funny feeling watching the pavement blur under my feet. For a while I’d been traveling at the speed of a kayak or worse, portaging speed. It was a bit of a rush.

63 Angoon houses
Small East Side View of Angoon – Brandon Hauser
64 the narrows
View Back Into The Narrows From Angoon – David Reed
65 walking back to dock
Walking the Main Road Back to the Dock – David Reed
66 only street sign
How to Get Around Town – David Reed
67 waiting for a ride on the beach - faces
Hanging Out, Waiting for Our Free Ride From Frank and Aaron – Inua Blevins
68 trailer arrives
Frank On the Trailer – David Reed
69 loaded boat and kayak
Stacking Boats – David Reed
70 hitching a ride to ferry - boats on trailer
Hitching a Ride to the Ferry Terminal – Brandon Hauser
71 crusing with boats
The Fastest Portaging – David Reed

The ferry terminal had seen better days. We looked around and decided to relax on the pavement outside the building. Aaron took the truck back to grab Brandon and Inua while Frank chatted with us. We learned a lot of cool stuff about the area and the way they lived. Frank did a lot of subsistence fishing to not only feed himself but also several of his family members, including his grandfather and grandmother. Both were passed their fishing and working days.

76 trashed ferry building
Condition of the Angoon Ferry Terminal – Inua Blevins

With Aaron and the boys back with us, we all hung out and talked for a while. We figured on camping at the ferry terminal and just kind of relaxing. Both Frank and Aaron didn’t really like that idea. The garbage dump was nearby so we were likely to be in close proximity to bears desensitized to humans. Plus, the ferry terminal was where the younger kids would go to act up. Frank told us to find Dick Powers. He ran the fishing lodge on the island right off shore. If we caught up with him he might take us over to the island and give us a place to stay. It seemed like a sweet dream but we’d have to find him.

72 brandon tailgate
The Joy of No More Portaging – Inua Blevins
73 brandon camera while crusing
Plenty of Time to Experiment Without a Kayak on Your Shoulder – Inua Blevins
74 dump truck dump
Passing the Angoon Dump – Brandon Hauser
75 burning dump
The Angoon Dump is a Prime Bear Viewing Area and Close to the Ferry Terminal – David Reed

We sat around and b.s.’d for a while longer until Frank and Aaron had to leave. We thanked them over and over as their truck pulled away. The sun began to break through the rain clouds and soon we were hiding in the shade of the dismembered terminal.

77 chilling outside the ferry building
Killing Time at the Old Ferry Terminal Building – Inua Blevins

I woke from a deep sleep, half confused. I’m in Angoon. I’m at the ferry terminal. Everything is good. I could see Bryan across the parking lot talking to a short stocky older man. Brandon lifted his head from his mat telling me we’d found Dick Powers. When Bryan made his way over he grinned and gave us the plan. He told Dick our story and in turn Dick told him a story: the original trail that we had taken was created in the early 30’s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. By the 1960’s it had been in pretty bad shape so he was hired to fix up the trail and shelters. He spent several months with a collapsible canoe traveling from lake to lake doing maintenance. Dick was thrilled that people were still actively using the trail. First he offered Bryan use of his truck. When he said he didn’t really have need of it, Dick offered us a place to camp. Before we could put our boats in the water he brought his boat over to load our stuff. I tried to wake myself up a bit more to understand the turn of events. However, I didn’t have much time. Before I knew it, we were hauling everything down to Dick’s boat.

78 sleeping
Sleeping Outside Because the Ferry Terminal’s Inside Had Been Wrecked – Brandon Hauser
79 kayak down gangway
Hauling a Kayak Down to Dick’s Boat – Inua Blevins
80 Dick Powers boat
Dick Powers Giving Us a Free Ride, Room and Board at Whaler’s Cove – Inua Blevins

On Killisnoo Island we passed a fish processing plant on the docks as we moved our kayaks to the shore. Dick owned a full-on fishing lodge with all the amenities. He pointed up where we could set up our tents, then the showers, and told us dinner would be ready in about an hour. We all looked at each other is disbelief. Dick took off and we happily set up our tents. The thought of a fresh cooked meal was driving us all out of our minds.

80a dicks fish camp
Whaler’s Cove Fish Processing Dock – David Reed
81 set up camp on Killisnoo
Setting Up Camp Safe From Bears On Killisnoo Island – David Reed

With our tents set up we made our way to the lodge. There we met the two guys we’d passed on the trail, laughing as they had found Inua’s sunglasses. A couple of the employees came out to join in our banter and soon we were swilling coffee and soda, trading stories about Admiralty while trying to come to terms with our good fortune. Angoon is a dry town but in celebration of our travels someone procured a bottle of whiskey. Things just kept getting better. After a lot of laughs the call for dinner sounded.

82 outside with coffee and soda
Hanging Out Swapping Stories Outside the Lodge With Free Soda/Coffee – Inua Blevins
83 in the lodge with drink
Warm Inside, Getting Ready For Dinner With Booze – Inua Blevins
84 picking up dinner
All You Can Eat Buffet of Fresh Caught Seafood and Steak – David Reed

What we thought was a pretty quiet and somewhat empty fishing lodge quickly turned into a bustling parade of hungry people. Guests seemed to come from everywhere. The large dining room was filled, only a table in the corner, for employees, remained. The cook motioned for us to come on through. If anything could trump my Pepsi and hostess apple pie meal from earlier it was definitely the four star meal laid before us. The lodge used fresh fish that had been caught that day along with all kinds of beef and shrimp dishes, pastas, fruits, desserts, steamed veggies with sauce, rolls, all topped with an unlimited supply of soda. Oh my god. We sat in silence eating our food, our plates welcoming us back to civilization. As much as I loved our nomadic adventure, this meal was fighting to take over all joy in my life. An all you can eat buffet of delicious food is the proper way to end eleven days of portaging kayaks through the untamed wilderness of Admiralty Island.

85 dinner face
Dinner Face of a Man Who’s Been Eating Camping Food For 2 Weeks – David Reed
86 dinner crowd
Dinner Crowd Standing Up to Share Stories – David Reed

Huddled over my plate I gave an ear to the proceedings of the lodge. Dick’s son led the crowd through the day’s stats – the largest salmon and halibut, the most fish caught, and so on. The person responsible for the catch would stand and everyone would clap. Other people would stand and tell fun stories from the day. The lodge seemed to turn from a collection of separate families on vacation into more of a community sharing their experiences in the wild. As I cleaned my third plate Dick Powers had a special announcement to make. He told the story of building the portaging trails across Admiralty and the fun he had spending his time in the old growth forest. Over the years he’d seen, heard of, and sent groups out on the trail with varying results. Sometimes groups made it back with little to tell. Other times, people couldn’t push themselves through the hard work and had to stay out on the trail, somewhat trapped, for weeks, finally making back to Angoon half-starved, emaciated and all cut up from bushwhacking. So it was with great pride that he could see a group of Alaskan men make their way from Juneau and have such a good time on a trail he rebuilt 50 years earlier. At some point the four of us had stood, as Dick was addressing us directly. By the end of his story the entire lodge of doctors, lawyers, fisherman, and families were giving us a standing ovation. So there we were – un-showered, grizzly looking, gluttonous, and completely spent with an entire lodge cheering our accomplishment. Even now it’s hard to grasp that moment clearly as it is truly one of the most surreal moments in my life.

87 lodge after dark
Taking a Walk After Eating Our Weight in Shrimp – Inua Blevins

We left the lodge a bit stunned. An after dinner walk was in order. The fish processing dock was now quiet so we explored the area. We could see that the ferry terminal was alive with action, fireworks erupted while people laughed and hollered. With full bellies, we were happy to be standing an Island away from the commotion.

88 lodge dock after dark
The Fish Processing Dock at Night, Might As Well Investigate – Inua Blevins
89 whalers cove catch
Epic Catch – Brandon Hauser
90 fish processor
Closer Investigation of the Fish Processing Dock – Inua Blevins
91 lodge compound tent view
Walking Back to Our Camp – Inua Blevins

We woke early our final morning to the sound of a loud jet boat. Whaler’s cove gets going before the break of dawn. All we had to do was make it a few hundred yards to the ferry terminal by noon and our trip would be over. With our tents away and gear piled up at the lodge, we ate another delicious meal, swapped stories with employees, and wandered the woods of Killisnoo. Somewhere along the way we befriended a smart little dog. He helped us kill time by being quite an animated dog searching the tide pools. As the five of us looked down through the water for moving hermit crabs, the Le Conte, smallest ferry in the fleet, chugged its way into the harbor.

101 breaking down camp
Breaking Down Camp For the Last Time – Inua Blevins
92 morning in civilization
Breakfast With the Chef – David Reed
93 real breakfast
What’s left of Breakfast – Inua Blevins
94 whalers cove lodge sign
Everything Here is Handmade – Inua Blevins
95 whalers gove  couches
Lots of Unique Character – Inua Blevins
96 whalers lounge library
Cozy Lounge to Wait For the Ferry – Inua Blevins
97 lodge net
Lots to Look at – Inua Blevins
97 more lodge stuff
Plenty to Wonder About – Inua Blevins
99 lodge wall of guns
Museum of Rusty Rifles On the Lodge’s Outside Wall – Brandon Hauser
100 rusty saws
We Had Endless Time to Examine Everything – Brandon Hauser
102 walking the kilisnoo woods
Time to Explore More of Killisnoo Island
104 end sign
Can’t Go To Far – Brandon Hauser
105 walking the dirt road back
Back to the Lodge – Inua Blevins
106 dog exploring low tide with bryan
Found a New Friend to Keep Us Entertained – Inua Blevins
108 ferry coming
Ferry Making Its Way to Port – David Reed

The ride over to the terminal would take less than two minutes. A worker told us Dick’s son would bring us over as soon as he came back with the jet boat. The ferry had to be unloaded then reloaded before we could get on so we killed more time hanging out in the lodge. A few of the Whaler’s Cove staff were on break so we sat with them. After talking a while I began to get nervous. The dock was a 1,000 feet away. We watched as the last of the Juneau supplies were taken off. I looked around for any sign of boats making their way. Nothing. Not many people were leaving Angoon, making the line of cars real short. When the staff started to question whether we were going to make it, I began to lose my cool.

107 waiting for ferry
Getting Frustrated Watching the Ferry Finish Loading From 1,000 Feet Away – David Reed

It would take a few minutes to get our kayaks packed with our gear but the zodiac wasn’t really ready to be put back in the water. After all we’d been through we weren’t going to make the ferry home. Our collective bitter laugh was cut by the faint scream of the jet boat. Dick’s son pulled up and wondered why we were waiting until the last second. We half smiled and jumped in. With no time left we held the bow lines of our kayaks as the boat raced over to the terminal. The rope burned my hand as the kayak bounced through the jet boat wake. At the ferry terminal we quickly hauled everything into the belly of the ferry. By the time we walked up to the back deck the lines were tossed and the Le Conte was heading for Juneau.

109 brandon holding kayak rope
Hauling Ass at the Last Second to Get On Board – David Reed
110hand towing kayak
Not Even Enough Time to Tie-up the Kayaks – David Reed
111 Whalers Cove
Paradise on Killisnoo, Whaler’s Cove – David Reed
112 bryan silouette onto ferry
Boarding the Haul of the Le Conte – Inua Blevins
113 kayak onto ferry
Last Ones On the Ferry – Inua Blevins
114 back ferry chairs
Great View, Time to Lounge, No More Stress – David Reed

The wind kept other people off the back deck, which worked good for us. The way we looked and smelled could have had something to do with it too. We lounged in the sun and watched Angoon trail behind the massive wake of the ferry. I kicked off my sandals, looked down and had to laugh. Those were the feet of some primitive cave man. I brushed my hand over my ankle. There was no swelling, the pain was pretty much gone, and I didn’t need the mud-covered brace stinking up the front hold of my kayak anymore. As I reach my feet, however, it was a different story. The dirt, scabs, and sores were all good indicators of the adventure we had.

115 relaxing
Relaxing – David Reed
116 sleeping on ferry ride
The Home Stretch – David Reed
117 adventure feet
Adventure Feet – David Reed

What started as a conversation in a cubicle turned into one of the hardest, most fun, and ridiculously beautiful trips of my life. The twist of staying at Whaler’s Cove was a nice touch, too. I flexed my toes and stretched my shoulders, still feeling the endless hours of travel. For all my talking and wanting to keep going, I was happy to be headed home. Still, all of us looked out across Chatham Strait. Not far and wrapped in clouds, Chichagof Island called out to us.

118 new islands
As We Travel Home Chichagof and Baranof Island Lurk in the Clouds, For Another Time – David Reed

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