After leaving Sitka, we transited Sergius Narrows and the rest of Peril Strait to arrive on the east coast of Baranof Island on Chatham Strait. Southern Chatham Strait is, incongruously, more scenic and ice-covered than northern Chatham Strait, and we enjoyed the snowy peaks and hanging glaciers en route to Red Bluff Bay.
|S-curves in Peril Strait: our wake
|Hanging glacier in southern Chatham Strait
Patrick has already eloquently described our setting in Red Bluff Bay, easily our favorite spot on Baranof Island. To his description, I will only add a few pictures and some of my first impressions.
As we entered the narrow entrance to the bay, protected by a series of small islets, I was overwhelmed by the vanilla-scent of yellow cedar. Going back deeper and deeper into the bay was like going back into time primordial.
|High peaks and red bluff at the entrance to Red Bluff Bay
|Dry waterfall inside Red Bluff Bay
|Cascades in Red Bluff Bay
|Ode to Green: the temperate zone's equivalent of the shades of blue we saw in the tropics
|Eagle overlooking Red Bluff Bay
|Seal in Red Bluff Bay
The only drawback to Red Bluff Bay was that even in a remote, spectacular anchorage such as that, small cruise ships and National Geographic Eco-Adventure ships did enter. They didn’t anchor overnight, but they came in to show their clients the magnificient waterfall, sweeping down one of the granite faces like the grand staircase of a ballroom. They unloaded a flotilla of inflatables or an infantry of kayaks, just as the brown bears we had been patiently watching and waiting for all day came out in the bear meadow for an extended feeding period. In a whirlwind, they left again.
|Base of the waterfall in Red Bluff Bay
|Cabins falling downhill in Baranof
|The hot springs and waterfall at Baranoff
|Part of the community at Tenakee Springs
|The Post Office at Tenakee Springs
Landscaping is done with a splash of whimsy: a pink bicycle in a garden bed with a basket full of flowers, rainboot planters, decorative benches placed here and there along the walk through town that don’t seem to be public or private property. And the hot springs in Tenakee take the form of a public bath---where you bathe first and then soak---with separate hours for men and women. A mural from The Wind in the Willows decorates the outside wall of the bath house. I regret that I never saw the inside, because I was at the drippiest stage of a cold when we arrived in Tenakee Springs.
Our next stop was Hoonah, a Tlingit community on Chichagof Island that is surprisingly well appointed compared to the other communities we visited on the east coasts of Baranof and Chichagof. The harbor had both a Travel lift and a tidal grid, and the grocery store was the best stocked since Sitka. Unfortunately, we were there over a weekend, so we didn’t get a chance to visit the carving shed. Cruise ships do go in and out of Hoonah, and they are thriving on the tourist trade.
In Icy Strait, we whale-watched at Point Adolpholus (in the
company of whale-watching tour boats) and visited Dundas Bay in mist and rain.
We did not visit the boardwalk communities of Elfin Cove and Pelican, nor did
we visit Glacier Bay. We will have to visit them on a future trip. We
realized that we were running short on cruising time, and that we were going to have
to leave some destinations off our itinerary. The best way to save time was to cut out some transits up and back long inlets. Along with Glacier Bay, Lynn Canal and Haines, as well as Endicott Arm, also hit the cutting room floor. We retained planned stops in Tracy Arm and Misty Fiords. In addition to running short on time, we were
tiring of the cold, rainy, and foggy weather that had plagued us since our last
day in Red Bluff Bay. We decided to cut our losses and head south for better
weather. We headed for
Juneau to begin our trip down the Inside Passage in earnest.
|Tidal grid and transient dock at Hoonah: The angle of the blue cover over the pedestrian ramp indicates the huge tidal fluxes in Alaska
|Cemetery on Pitt Island
|Whale spouts and fog, Icy Strait