"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Monday, May 31, 2010

Why on Earth???

Why on earth would anyone go to the surfing capital of Alaska if that person can’t even swim, much less surf?

Why on earth would anyone go to one of the greatest steelhead and salmon fishing sites in Alaska if that person isn’t taking fishing tackle?

Why on earth would anyone go to a place that averages 145 inches of rain a year if that person lives in a place where she doesn’t see direct sunlight for three months of the year?

And, last, why would anyone go to a place where huge brown bears live when that person has a huge, profound, totally ingrained, healthy and unhealthy fear of bears?

Why, I ask you. Why?

Because the phone rang the other day and someone invited me to go. That’s why.

And it has ever-so-much possibility for adventure. That’s also why I’m scurrying around trying to locate the things I’ll need. Things like bear spray, mosquito headnet, hip boots AND chest waders, and so on. Doesn’t that sound like a fun camping trip?

So, when I could find neither my bear spray (and trust me, it doesn’t have anything to do with styling a bear’s hair) nor my net that covers my whole head to keep out mosquitoes and black flies, both of which bite, I headed off to Seward to replenish the supply.

All my gear is spread out on the dining room table and I’m hoping it’ll fit in my backpack. The hip boots and chest waders and Personal Flotation Device will go in a tote rather than the backpack. I’m taking wimpy rain gear and serious macho rain gear. Already I feel like I’m going for a month rather than eight days.

Here’s the deal: I’ll board the state ferry Kennicott at midnight in Whittier, which is accessed by driving through the longest tunnel in the world that is shared with a railroad. I’ll tell you about that later.

Twenty-two hours later, after the ferry crosses the Gulf of Alaska, we disembark in a little town called Yakutat, pop. about 500. If you look at a map of Alaska, Yakutat is on that eensy bitty strip of land that connects the main portion of Alaska to Southeastern Alaska.

We get in late, so probably the next day we’ll climb in a Beaver (it’s an airplane), fly up the bay, and land on a beach. Then we have to cross a stream and hike a quarter mile to our reserved cabin, which is a National Park service public use cabin. And my friend J.J. and I will be all alone out there--except for the bears.

All of this is in the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, a 13 million acre park where three mountain ranges meet. I’ll tell you all about that later, too. With pictures.

But here’s the thing: in order to get to Yakutat, we have to cross the Gulf of Alaska. I’ve been motion sickness-free for several years now, but if this isn’t tempting the gods of mal de mer, I don’t know what more I could do.

I’ll leave you with some links and some photos near Yakutat:

A link to a surfing pix:


Link to fishing pix:


Link to rain pix:


Link to bear pix:


In the meantime, some photos I took on my way home from Seward today.

In a week or two, this pond will be covered with yellow-blooming lily pads.

Gotta go pack. Bye.

PS: not a word to Pablo, okay? He's getting suspicious, but hasn't yet caught on to the fact that he and the parrot sitter will be spending time together.


  1. Safe trip, ya' hear! I'll be looking forward to reading all about the grand adventure on your return. Bear spray??

  2. You are an amazing woman J.F. I used to think of you as the typical Alaskan woman, but you're much more than that. I envy your extreme passion for everything you do but I'm happy to let you have the adventures then share the stories and the photos....without the mosquitoes and black flies.

  3. You are very brave, Gully. May I ask if J.J. is a girl or a guy friend? I think I'd feel safer with a guy in such a remote area.

    On the other hand, if your co-adventurer is a girlfriend, I imagine she knows the ropes and between the two of you, you'll survive quite marvelously.

    Do be careful, though. I don't want any delays in getting a report on your trip!

    Go get um, Gully.

  4. J.J. is a woman about my age, a retired teacher who has hiked all over Alaska. She also is a writer and photographer. So, we are two old gray heads off into the wilderness with bear spray and jingle bells on our packs to summon the bears to dinner.

  5. PS: The bear spray is pepper, you know. It's for seasoning.