Alaska Inside Passage

The Wrong Way Around

Saturday, June 13, 2015S.V. CAMBRIA

Less than 48 hours after arriving in Ketchikan, and we were off.  Our plan: circumnavigate Revillagigedo Island and spend some time in Misty Fjords National Monument on the mainland.  Most people do it from south to north, but we’re not most people . . . at least David isn’t.  Besides, to go south we were looking at a 42-mile passage (a seven hour run) against the current.  But if we approached the park from the north, we would shorten our day to 21 miles.  Not only that, but the current would be in our favour for the following legs.  The decision was made: Naha Bay would be our first official Alaskan anchorage.

Naha Bay is a narrow, intimate inlet surrounded by low hills and forest near the former site of a cannery called Loring.  At the head of the bay, there’s a public float where boats can tie up and access a trail to Roosevelt Lagoon.  I imagine the dock is normally a busy and social place; but when we arrived Thursday afternoon, it was empty – the first time we’d been alone in two weeks.  The only sounds we could hear were the birds chirping and water rushing out of the lagoon – all of which was backed by the deep, musky smell of earth.  It was heavenly!  And just what we needed to help put Ketchikan behind us.

We weren’t in any hurry to explore.  In fact, just the opposite.  The two days we’d spent in Ketchikan had been a rush of activity:  It was time to sit back, relax and take it all in.  So we did.

Naha Bay was recommended by a friend because of the trail that runs along Roosevelt Lagoon – walks are hard to come by in Alaska and Richard spoke highly of this one.  The gangway from the dock must have been knocked out in a recent storm, so we launched the dinghy the following afternoon to get to shore and followed the trail to lagoon.  The weather’s been beautiful lately and it was hot outside so we didn’t go very far – exploring by kayak would have been a better option, but we’d missed the opportunity to enter and exit the lagoon rapids safely.  Maybe next time.

On Saturday morning, there were several visitors at the dock, one of whom brought a change of plans:  A state trooper stopped by for a chat and told David about a trail leading to hot springs in Bailey Bay.  He said there was a park mooring people can use and added that it wasn’t an easy trail, but it was only a mile long.  David hates hiking, he doesn’t see the point, but soaking in a hot spring was too much of a temptation.  So, I pulled out the Douglass cruising guide for more information.  Nothing. 

We decided to go based on the trooper’s word alone.

It took some doing because it wasn’t in its charted location, but we found the mooring and tied up.  From the boat, we could clearly see the trail marker, but it was too late in the day for a hike.  Besides, if there were any bears in the area, they’d be coming out soon.  So, we decided to launch the kayaks and explore by water but, before we could do that, it started to rain. 

The next morning I heard voices, so I looked outside and saw three people rowing to shore.  They were from a fishing boat anchored in a bight just down from us and most likely local to the area, at least more local than we were.  They were going to the hot springs and were carrying a gallon of water, a reusable grocery bag full of items, a rope and backpacks.  The rope caught my eye first – what had we gotten ourselves into?  It was a good question, and one I probably should have asked more than once.

We kept waiting for them to come down so we could have the pool to ourselves but finally gave up after lunch and went to shore.  There was an old sign posted on the trail that read distances:  Lake Shelokum – 1 mile.  Shelter – 2.3 miles.  Before the word shelter, somebody had lightly scratched “hot springs”.  It was 2.3 miles each way.

I’ve been hiking for almost 20 years, and I absolutely love it.  I’m not an expert, but I can handle just about any strenuous hike that doesn’t put me out on a ledge (I’m afraid of heights).  David, on the other hand, won’t walk to the corner store if he can drive so I was surprised when he didn’t even bat an eye at the distance.  Clearly a testament to the power of a good hot spring!

It wasn’t a bad trail.  It had its moments but, overall, the climb in elevation was gentle and it was easy to follow with good footing.  The worst of it came when we had to cross a creek lined by waterfalls on one side and a sheer drop-off on the other.  But we made it through, albeit with wet feet.  The real problem was that it was muggy and once we got near the lake, the bugs were out in full-force.  We were dripping with sweat and covered in gnats – we must have swallowed dozens of them.  It wasn’t long afterwards that we both agreed it was time to turn around – at that point, a hot soak didn’t sound the least bit appealling . . . but a cold shower did.  We were probably within a half mile of the hot springs.

Later in the day, after we’d cleaned up and cooled down, David said, “The next time I have a bright idea.  Don’t listen!”

I don’t think he has anything to worry about.
 Note: This blog was originally written on Sunday, 24 May, 2015.

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