The water stands as still as a mirror, set in electric tones of silver, gold and black. I feel the slight breeze catching the stern of my Eskimo Style Kayak, that seems to want to wonder with each breeze. S'plook... My paddle catches the next wave as I causally correct my drift, eyes fixed on the setting colors of the sun as it fades out over the NW end of Tongass Narrows. Like the contentment of the evening fire's glow, this sunset caps. A beautiful two days here along the waters of Ketchikan. A glimpse at spring grows the hear towards the future. Knowing that three systems are working their way across the Gulf from the Aleutains, everyone has been soaking up the sun as it has brought warmth to these rain drenched forests. Tonights after dinner paddle is no exception, what seemed like a sleepy little Alaskan town has awaken from it's rainholes, to bask in the glory of the sun.
I make my way south along the pilings that make up the front of Ketchikan. A city so connected to the sea, it is built above it's very edge. Now at low tide, it towers 25 ft above my little kayak. Each piling plastered white and beige by columns of barnacles, while below great flowering anemone and sea cucumber forest the creosote beams below. Keeping just out from the traffic of fisherman heading out for an evening troll, the snowy cap of Deer Mtn rises above the Narrows
reminding e of the chilly nights of early this week. But tonight they catch the alpenglow with electric intensity, making a first-ring of the ridges cornice line, with glittering avalanche tracks descending below.
For the last week, we have been moored at port, cleaning and passing time. Between openings, as it seems again waiting is the ever constant variable in fishing, that seems not to make it to the action packed reality shows. But ever constant as time fades by. Each day had brought a deluge from the sky, keeping a man inside his wheelhouse perched above the Narrows looking out to a gray world. With 200 inches of rain a year, my old home has nothing on this place. But a midweek hike out to Shelter Cobe shown, 15 feet in diameter Yellow Cedars are common place. Pulling you in to their temple green glow, almost like sturdy beams of Tlingit Longhouses, holding up a roof of lichen and moss. Enough wonder to keep. Man going to the next break in the clouds revealing the mountains that had been lost from sight for days. But during these
times, work, books and conversations keep you occupied. Mulling over thought and ideas brewed in a vat of the most recent chapter or bar tale. It is the nature of this place, and part of it's people I have learned. Yet warm spring days as recent seem to remind the heart of the Alaskan spell that weaves itself deep.
As I turn back to paddle towards my floating home, I feel the great movement of air behind me. Whoop.....whoop.... whoop... And as though a large silent plane were about to land upon me an Eagle glides but paddle reach above me. I first catch his fanned out white tails feathers, displayed like a geisha dancer before me. Then with a mighty sweep 9 feet of wing span flowing down with a whoop of the air. Yellow talons reaching out, he plucks a herring out of the water in front of my port-side before climbing into the air without a splash. Time seems endless in these moments, and as I watch him rise, I feel the wilderness of this place, even if the town is but. 1/4 mi away. His silowet rises against the glow of the setting sun. The power of the sublime creating it's own temple out of the moment. This is what the tourest of yesterdays cruise ship missed, caught in the limited time of a four hour Port of Call. The time to just let Nature show her skirt
to you, and lead you away within the moves of her dance. Memories that cannot be bought at Trinket shops or admired on dusty shelves.
Before rounding into the cannery, I see the long V lines of migrant birds moving their way north to the Arctic. Tomorrow, we'll move north as well, towards the Fjord of Taku, the Glaciers of Turnigan Arm, and the protected tide flats of Seymour Canal. Yet another Herring Cycle will begin again, here in Inside Northern Waters...
From the waters of the Inside Passage,