We woke on day 5 sore and tired from the previous evening’s bushwhack. I was experiencing more than just the normal soreness from a tough hike though. I had an unusual pain in my upper right thigh that I’d never experienced before. That shooting pain lingered off and on throughout the trip, and beyond. I’m guessing that I pulled a muscle or something while we were bushwhacking.
Sunny skies improved our mood though. We spent most of the morning lounging on the beach, which made up for missing out on that opportunity the previous afternoon. It was nice to indulge in the pleasures of another 5-star campsite.
Eventually we packed up and enjoyed a fast, easy paddle down the bay. We actually saw other kayakers (from a distance) at the mouth of the Reid Inlet. We paddled on, stopping 3 miles farther on at a beach with an incredible view. The vista from here is even better than from Ptarmigan Creek. There is a direct view up the bay towards the highest peaks to the northwest, including Mount Fairweather, the highest mountain in the park.
After lunch we enjoyed more sunshine as we cruised down to the entrance to the Scidmore portage. We had considered continuing down the main bay to reach Blue Mouse Cove, but Christy wasn’t crazy about paddling that stretch and I was eager to see Scidmore Bay under clear skies. This time we had the luxury of waiting for high tide before starting the portage. We lounged near the entrance for an hour or so, taking in the views of the mountains and waterfalls across the bay.
The portage was easier at high tide, though we still had to carry the boat and our gear through some stretches. Still, thanks to the extra water, we finished it in 45 minutes, which was a considerably faster than the 2 hours it had taken us the first time. We met another group of kayakers here too, heading the other way. They were the first people other than rangers that we had directly encountered during our trip. They reported seeing a bear and hearing a whale in Sicdmore Bay.
We finished the portage and paddled to the southwest end of Scidmore Bay. I spotted a fantastic campsite on a beach bordered by alder and fireweed. The beach featured a small stream and a great view of across the bay towards the Scidmore Glacier and the higher peaks beyond the main channel. That evening we were treated to a colorful sunset. I stayed up until the last of the color finally disappeared from the wispy clouds overhead.
Our final day was similar to our first – overcast with occasional light rain. I wasn’t inclined to complain after the glorious weather of the previous two days. If anything, the conditions would make it a little easier to leave.
We got up early for a change and got started at 8am. We didn’t have far to go, but we were supposed to be there by 11:30. The boat would arrive between noon and 1, and we needed to be a little early so that we were ready to start loading when they arrived.
We paddled south out of Scidmore Bay and into the Hugh Miller Inlet. Along the way we spotted otters and porpoises. We continued south, and explored the mouth of the Charpentier Inlet, another exciting fjord. We didn’t have time to continue though, and views were limited by low clouds.
We turned for Blue Mouse Cove, but found the cut-thru impassable due to low water. It was still 2 hours early for low tide, but there was no way to pass without portaging. Instead we headed southeast, around a large island. We circled it, but found the passage on the far side blocked by low water. That meant having to paddle out into the main channel. Once there, we encountered rough water, a strong headwind, and an outgoing tide. Progress was extremely slow as we forced our way against the current.
We passed one more island and into the relative shelter of Blue Mouse Cove. We were 30 minutes late thanks to the detours and conditions, but there was no sign of the boat. We paddled over to the pickup point, where we met 2 other kayakers that were being picked up. We unloaded our boat and organized our gear with plenty of time to spare before the boat arrived.
We loaded up at 1pm, right after 4 people and 3 kayaks were unloaded. This boat was very crowded, but the crew was very welcoming. They provided us with leftovers from lunch, and Christy and I purchased beer and wine. One of the crewmembers was actually from near Charlotte and a former student at my Alma Mater, Appalachian State. She had been living in Asheville, but was thinking about moving to Seattle or Portland.
Shortly after we departed the captain announced that there was a whale breaching alongside the boat. I ran to the window and saw a mama orca (killer whale) and baby arcing gracefully alongside us. Sadly, my camera was still packed away in a dry bag. I managed to get it out in time to get a couple of photos, but I never had a chance to switch to my zoom lens. At first I was disappointed – it really was the One That Got Away. But then I realized that I was missing the point. I wasn’t unlucky that I didn’t get the photo. I was lucky that I got to see something so magical.
We returned to Bartlett Cove and unloaded. We had a couple of hours, so I suggested doing the hike to the Bartlett River that we’d missed earlier in the trip. Christy wasn’t interested, but offered to repack our gear while I was gone.
I did the hike solo. It was ok, though the trail was rooty, rocky, and muddy. The hike was mostly in the rain forest, though there were some nice marshy tidal areas and the river itself. I was hoping to see a bear or a wolf, but had to settle for a handful of sea otters.
Christy and I had dinner at the lodge. We had burgers, fries, salads, and a couple of drinks each for $115. Yikes! It was worth it though. Then we caught our taxi back to the ferry terminal. We boarded at 10:15 and found the boat mostly full. We ended up rolling out our sleeping bags and sleeping on the floor. We arrived in Juneau at 2:30. I made one smart decision before we arrived. I called for a taxi from the boat. While everyone else was trying to get a taxi, we had one waiting for us. Our taxi took us back to the Hotel Juneau, where we crashed after a long but rewarding trip.
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