Arriving in Skagway saw the completion of Phase 1 of the Chilkoot Trail expedtion..it also saw Richard complete his 5,000 th mile of expeditions. It seemed quite appropriate that this milestone was reached in Alaska, the amazing setting for so much of our adventures. The 100 mile paddle from Auke bay, Juneau took 3 days with Matt and Richard working quite hard. Day 1 in the diary room was a late start since the Kerosene based fuel they had purchased did not work in the Trangia's. We eventually discovered a fuel anti freeze substance called HEET that worked well (and was available in the garage adjacent to Above and Beyond Alaska kayak rental all along :( )
We were off, the usual experience of 'oh my god' these boats weight a tonne as experienced as we launched from Auke Bay and we were away paddling across the bay to turn up Lynn Canal. Progress was good but accompanied by solid rain the whole day. It brought back memories of the first part of the Inside Passage in 2009 where is rained solidly for 4 days. Surely lightening wont strike twice! Our journey was punctuated with the appearance of plenty of Humpback Whales and a few dolphins. We were heading for Berner Bay, a large inlet and area of stunning beauty (despite the bets intentions of mining companies to "punch roads" through there. We arrived bedraggled and rounded the corner as the weather changed to glorious sunshine. This was the Alaska we had been waiting for.
In the corner was a small forest service cabin. We beached and wandered up to find two lovely ladies and their dog Copper already in possession. We were invited to join them and then the small world theory kicked in. One of the ladies turned out to be "kayak Debbie", who Richard has met kayaking on the Inside Passage almost 2 years before. The evening was spent swapping stories and catching up, once we had dried out. The cabin was fantastic and we slept in the loft space and left our hosts with the downstairs area. The sunset and light on the water was amazing. We watched various whales pass, eagles stand watch on the rocks and trees and even saw a family of otters swim past.
Day 2 was an earlier start with miles to make up. We set off aiming to make it close to Haines allowing a final day into Skagway. Again the journey was accompanied by lots of whales, most of which were pretty close. Hopefully we managed to capture some of this on our video. Today was sunshine all the way with a following sea and wind of steady Force 3 up to Force 4 at its strongest. We had lots of fun catching waves and surfing to increase our speed. The mountain ranges on either side were amazing. Our path saw us Island hop past a string of smaller islands along the channel. We stopped at the lighthouse on route and did a bit of exploring. Now abandoned but rumoured to be due to conversion to residential it was a pretty impressive structure and bit of history. The lighthouse was perched on a small rocky island with various buildings, a helipad and also atrack system for resupply. We pushed on and made it to the main peninsula just South of Haines. We landed on a beach there and made camp on a grassy spit overlooking the channel. Without checking the map the day was about 37 miles so we were pretty goosed (tired). We ate our rations and grabbed a Mountain Fuel recovery drink. We then lit a small fire and rounded off a perfect days paddling. Rich who has the ability to fall asleep anywhere was soon dozing next to thewarm embers.
Eldred Rock Lighthouse, Lynn Canal
Day 3 was filled with a sense of purpose, the final 25 miles into Skagway. We were on the water pretty early and heading up towards the main final inlet. We had been told that the cliffs were high on both sides so to use any rest points wisely. To be fair we mainly kept paddling and didnt worry about this aspect. The snow capped mountains were well into their thaw and consequently the paddle took us past some towering waterfalls. Often we would hear them before we saw them. We experienced that last mile octopus thing again with the final paddle to Skagway dragging somewhat. I tried to remind myself to enjoy the moment rather than picture hot food and drinks and dry kit. Rounding the final turn to Skagway was a great feeling, 5,000 miles in the bag and stage 1 complete. Skagway is a quaint town of circa 800 people that almost daily grows to 9000-10,000 people was the monster cruise ships unload. We were simply dwarfed by two of these ships as we made our way into the aptly named "small boat harbour". We cruised in and wondered where to stash 2 x 17ft kayaks. The harbour master was helpful and provided advice and relieved us of `10 bucks landing fee. next to the Harbour the world famous White pass train was heading out.
We stashed our kayaks and tried to repack all our kit into our rucksacks to head into town. Impossible it was simply not going to fit. Worse still how were we going to carry all this kit into Canada over the Chilkoot trail. We got a llift into town (although later rewalked the same stretch). The next day was spent on a mission to reduce pack wieght asnd kit. We boxed up our VHF radio, deck pump, EPIRB's and various other elements of kit and sent that home. Potentially worse still we reduced our rations to the bare minimum. Our down day in Skagway was spent doing media stuff, thinning kit, buying a few essential items and of course socialising, eating and drinking. We picked up our passes for the trail from the wardens office and we were set. About 5pm Connor from Above and Beyond arrived. His mission to retireve the 2 sea kayaks and take them back to Juneau. We spent the evening having a few drinks in the Red Onion (originally a brothel at the time of tjhe gold rush) and in our favourite watering hole, Olivia's Bistro which serves amazing food and a mean drink!! We rolled in much later than planned...not the ideal preparation for the 9 mile walk to the trail head and the Chilkoot Trail...
This morning Phase 2 begins..Forest Gump Style...I just kept on walking!