Underwater Exploration

**These next two posts are a little late, and the final installations of our Alaskan adventure, so bear with me.  Its not easy to keep up sometimes.  Going on, and experiencing two adventures, then writing about them, selecting the pictures to upload and then posting them at the same time you are preparing for another adventure (I’ll have that up in another week or so) becomes difficult with so-so WiFi and especially when other aspects of life get in the way.

Anywhoo…

We spent our day in Skagway wandering around looking at things we don’t need.  We did however purchase two Chilkoot trail specific t-shirts, and Chilkoot Trail Pale IPA pint glasses from the Skagway Brewing Co. (If you are ever there you have to also try their Spruce Tip Ale…it’s amazing).  The other place to spend time at in Skagway is the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park Interpretive Center.  Be sure to catch the movie, and the Ranger talks.  Other than that we did a lot of people watching and hit every bar in Skagway, the final stop being the Red Onion Saloon (once an apparently well visited brothel), but according to the bathroom graffiti may still be in operation.  IMG_20170809_145508125 (1)This place was packed.  They offer tours of the upstairs historic “cribs” for $10.  The bartenders and servers of which were predominately women dressed in 1897 “barmaid” bustier attire.  While saddled up to the bar, I had a spirited debate with the bartender about which came first, the Red Onion in town, or the “Red Onion” in Canyon City.  canyon2I surmised that either one may have been the first “franchise”, on record, of which she became indignant, telling me there were “No such things as franchises back then!”.  She obviously did not get my humor. Unfortunately our ferry back to Juneau was extremely late leaving, so getting into Juneau at midnight, turned into 2 am, and our “buzz” which we intended to enable us to sleep on the ferry had completely worn off.  Our ferry that next morning to Angoon, for the second half of our Alaskan adventure (which included A LOT of fishing) was set to leave at 7am, which now left little time for any quality shut-eye.

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Six hours of sleep in our tent on the ferry terminal lawn was now reduced to 4 hours.  We did our best to sleep on the ferry, but it was not as restful as we had hoped.  The weather was still superb, and a rarity in Southeast Alaska, so we basked in its sunshiny glory and extremely calm seas.

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After a short stop at Tenakee, we shoved off toward Angoon.  As my father was in the midst of an active bite, fishing with his best friend’s son Clifford , Major John Quinn of the Salvation Army, met us at the dock (which we completely understand).  John and his wife Cathy operate the Eagle’s Wing Inn, where we would be staying at for the week with my father.  They operate the Inn as a means to serve the people of Angoon as “soldiers” (actually Majors) in the Salvation Army.  My father has been fishing in Angoon for several decades and stays for at least a month each summer.  For the past decade or so, he has been staying at the Eagle’s Wing Inn, so John and Cathy, who by the way are the kindest people you will ever meet, are practically family by now.   Their hospitality is splendid.  John made sure we had fresh popcorn (movie style…very addictive) every evening and Cathy kept the cookie jar full of freshly baked cookies.  We even took a run with John into Mitchell Bay to check his shrimping hole.

He even shared his “spoils” with us.  A word of warning…Once you have had absolutely fresh shrimp, there is NO going back.  Sadly now, I will only eat shrimp in Alaska, having been exposed to what shrimp is actually supposed to taste like…without sauce.  As the unusually nice weather continued to hold, we joined Joann George for a guided sea kayak trip.

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We paddled to the shore where an ancient bear trail lay, where nearly six inch deep depressions marked the comings and goings for generations of bears.  Further up the trail was a “scratching post” wherein the claw marks of a bear at least two feet taller than Paul “stretched” leaving a lasting mark, and the innards of a tree completely shredded.  This was a little unnerving, but Joann assured us that we would be safe as most of the bears were gorging themselves in the streams right now. Just in case, after having announced our presence and intentions to any bears still remaining in the area, she carried her kayak paddle. She shared her knowledge of the flora and fauna and her love for Alaska and specifically Angoon.

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She told us of a Tlingit saying, “When the tide is low, the table is set”.  How true it was we came to find out.  As we paddled back, we navigated the tidal change which in Angoon is significant and creates some amazing eddies.  We had a splendid time.  We learned a lot and got a great workout to boot!  It wasn’t until we returned and spoke with my father, that we learned she was a famous Alaskan artist.

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That evening we motored over and dined with my father and Clifford at the Whaler’s Cove Lodge which is located on Killisnoo Island.  Inside the Lodge is this photo below showing what the area looked like in the 1800’s.  Of course it looks nothing like that now, but all the same Whaler’s Cove Lodge is a splendid place.

IMG_20170811_174510644 (1)Their food, service and accommodations are certainly 5 star worthy.  Upon our return to the “main” island (Admiralty Island) we were treated to an amazing “sunset” of sorts, considering it would not really get much darker for most of the night.

The weather and fishing was amazing our first day on the water, and to my father’s chagrin we would have been more successful had we not been so “rusty” getting the Salmon actually in the fish coffin.  Eventually we smoothed the kinks out and worked out a system that maximized putting fish in the box.  Paul and my dad baited the lines.  No matter who hooked them, I generally reeled them in and Paul netted them.  My father of course put us on the fish, and “supervised”…”KEEP YOUR TIP UP!”

Where we were fishing at Danger Point, the Humpback Whales were particularly active, and as such we were graced with being able to watch Humpback Whales bubble netting.

We also saw a pod of Orca, which was a little disconcerting whilst reeling in a large halibut.  Even though the weather did not hold, and we were soggy wet by the time we returned to the dock each time we were able to safely go out an fish, we caught our fair share of Coho Salmon (aka. Silver Salmon), a few rock cod, and over 350lbs of North Pacific Halibut (which trims out to about 180 lbs of fillets).  As luck (I prefer to call it skill) would have it, I caught the lion’s share of halibut, and the largest, I might add.  Paul couldn’t figure out how if our lines technically were only 8 feet apart, how I was the one always with the halibut hookup.  “Ya just got to have the right touch, and know how to talk them onto your line”, I told him.  To be fair, Paul was the one reeling in most of the Salmon.  I dubbed myself the “Halibut Queen” and Paul the “Silver Prince”.  My father chuckled and shook his head.  Okay back to halibut.  When halibut fishing you really don’t want the monster size “barn door” halibut.  The reason being that halibut over 100 lbs are generally considered “breeders” and in order to continue to successfully fish these waters we want them to keep breeding. In the event you catch one, you measure it (alongside the boat) and then set it free.  Because they don’t have swim bladders, horsing them to the surface generally will not kill them like other deep water fish, especially Cod (which I like anyways).  Additionally, halibut that size are also really hard to reel in and even harder to get them into a boat.  Anywhere from a 30-60 pound halibut (which are usually the males, as they generally don’t get over 60 lbs) are the best eating anyways, and we call them “Chickens”.  We did however keep what I call a “Turkey” as it was a little over 55 inches long (4.5 ft tall) which translates to  about 80+ lbs .  In order to get it into the boat, my dad took over, I filmed, and Paul wrestled it into the boat.

In no way would it fit in the fish coffin, so it had to be hog-tied along with two others.

That day was an epic halibut day as evidenced by the pictures below.

Just prior to leaving, our friends Larry and Vicky of Winthrop Washington who trail angeled us during our 2014 thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), joined us in Angoon at the Eagle’s Wing Inn .  They spent the next two days after we left, fishing with my father.  Successful as well, they went home with a 50lb box of Coho Salmon.  We boarded the ferry with two boxes in tow, 50lb of Coho and 50lbs of halibut, as that was as much as our freezer at home could hold at the time (we have since cleared room for another 50lb box of Coho that is soon to arrive via air freight).  As the weather was damp and cold, we spent the bulk of the uneventful ride back to Juneau inside, dining on the rest of our freeze-dried meals and snacks from our Chilkoot adventure.  Once we arrived in Juneau, we were picked up via shuttle by the Driftwood Hotel where we were staying for the night before we were to catch our flight home the next morning.  We have added the Driftwood Hotel as our “go-to” lodging while in Juneau for three reasons:(1) Can’t beat the price, (2) The Sandpiper Café has probably the best breakfast food in Juneau, (3) They have freezers (for no extra charge) in which to keep your fish nicely frozen until you go home.

Time to head home and prepare for our next adventure.

 

 

 

This entry was posted in Alaska, Angoon, Chilkoot Trail, Juneau, Skagway, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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