Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Whales, seals and night kayaking
Rejuvenated, whew! Satiating the adrenalin void is always a fun challenge in creativity, particularly with many obligations. This was a great trip, 62 miles of kayaking in 26 hrs of some very potentially treacherous and desolate ocean.
Occasionally, things go smoothly- not often but this was one of those times. I ended up leaving a day later due to some strong wind patterns and trouble finding a flight. Monday morning I hopped on Bering Air and flew to Golovin. Just as Thomas mentioned, the boat was where he indicated and in really good shape. I missed my traditional kayak and it was nice to see it again.
I left Golovin around 10:30 am and shot straight across toward Rocky Point, the NE wind picked up heading towards the cape. Except for the typical turbulence next to cliffs, interesting breaking beam waves and a few hairy moments at the cape the strong offshore winds made gloriously calm water next to the coast. Lots of seals, birds, cliffs and beluga whales, even one that went under the boat that was more than a little freaky. I had forgotten how much of a rush it is to paddle next to cliffs and the enormous feeling of kinectic power. I can always tell when I need to be on edge as I approach a volatile section. First I hear thousands of screaming birds then comes the pungent dank fishy smell and then the clear water under the hull becomes black from depth. Pay attention but don't look down you just might see something below. The playful seals pop up in all directions to check me out and the heart rate increases exponentially when a whale breaches close by. As much as I want to linger I want to get past the section as fast as possible. I gave up long ago trying to take pictures of marine life, anyone who tried knows what I'm talking about so landscape is all I managed- even that was a struggle.
Since the water was flat I wanted to make it past topkok cliffs, the last section of 5 mile rock before the final 10 mile beach. I needed to get to the stretch of beach to camp in case the weather or wind shifted. I had my sights set on the Topkok shelter cabin (also the iditarod shelter cabin) immediately after the cliffs. I was weary but the luxury of the cabin kept me going. I ended up paddling well after dark and right when I was going to pull in to shore I turned the headlamp on to make the sure the shore was clear of bears. Two sets of eyes stared back at me. I yelled and the bears took off but it was a bummer because I had to keep moving. Eventually I pulled in another 5 miles further. The rain made it difficult to start a fire but once I had it going I loaded up the wood for roaring blaze.
The last 7 miles this morning were uneventful. When I pushed the help button on the SPOT around noon, to notify Sarah to pick me up at Nome's Lost Train, I was pleasantly rejuvenated. Another great kayak trip.
Posted by Phil Hofstetter