A day long adventure beginning in Valdez, headed to Prince William Sound, where we visit Glacier Island, Storey Island, Peak Island and Naked Island.
We were planning to packraft Wortmanns Creek, but the day before Eric had gone on a fishing charter and was getting the itch to take his boat out. That night we came to the conclusion we'd set out at 5am to go explore some islands of Prince William Sound, and possibly include some fishing in the mix.
4:45am rolls around and my alarm goes off. Amongst other things I had stayed up until midnight and then spent an hour on the floor of my daughters bedroom trying to help her fall back asleep. If it wasn't going to be a good adventure I probably would have kept hitting snooze. I crawl downstairs, check my e-mails and business messages before I'm off the grid all day and sent Eric a text message to confirm that he too was awake and everything was good to go.
"Putting on my pants
Be there in 10"
Sure enough he pulled up in 10 mins, I grab my packraft, dry bags, camera bag, life jacket and hop in his truck. We get to the harbor load, get gas, and are heading down Port Valdez by 6am.
Looking north up Valdez Narrows.
Columbia Glacier Iceberg.
The seas were calm though picked up a bit as we exited Port Valdez and entered Valdez Narrows. But we move a little closer to the shore and make our way out to Glacier Island. The water to the North of the island is littered with icebergs that have floated out of Columbia Bay off the Columbia Glacier. We move towards the blue floating islands to gawk.
A sea otter sits on an iceberg near Glacier Island.
Jackson Hole, Glacier Island, Prince William Sound
Looking back at the boat in Jackson Hole, Glacier Island.
We noticed what appeared to be a seal on one of the icebergs so naturally we maneuvered over to go see it. It turned out it wasn't a seal but a large sea otter. He slid off into the water and disappeared after allowing ample time to photograph him. We continued on through the icebergs to Jackson Hole, an inlet to Glacier Island. The far end of the inlet was smooth enough to beach on.
Salmonberries and blueberries.
Looking for a trail head.
Eric hopped off and tie up the boat, me not bringing boots jumped on his back and he took me the remaining 4ft to shore. The approach from Jackson Hole there is no defined trail you just head to the back of the inlet and head up along the small stream into the woods. Immediately at the brush line there were tons of salmonberries and blueberries ready to eat. We minorly gorged ourselves on berries before making our way into the forest and across the island.
Making way through the forest.
Eric looks back longingly at the boat.
At the top of the portage pass.
Sun breaks behind Jackson Cove.
Jackson Cove, Glacier Island.
Eric walking back to Jackson Hole.
Sun breaks on the portage pass.
Eric stuck in a log.
The boat in Jackson Hole.
We walked through the small forest a short distance before it opened to a spongey mossy field. There was a well-enough defined trail in the moss. We followed it up over the pass (elevation 220ft) and back down to Jackson Cove. The tide wasn't fully in, so we walked a ways down the inlet, before heading back over the portage. On the way back Eric got caught in a log, it was quite humorous.
Mother sea otter and her pup.
Sea lions at Bull Head.
We headed back out Jackson Hole and around the west side of Glacier Island, across the south face and back in to Jackson Cove. Upon entering the cove we found a mother sea otter grooming her pup, as well as a curious seal that followed us around, but like most seals was camera shy. We left the cove andheaded to Bull Head to look for sea lions. There were a couple sunning themselves, but not the numbers we expected, so it was on to Storey Island.
Elk Head Point on Peak Island.
Rocks noted as Balmy on topo maps, Peak Island.
On the way across we managed to pick up some dall's porpoise, but they're tricky to photograph with how fast they are and just skimming the surface. They're now on my list of photography goals. When we got to Storey Island we tried fishing off the northern point but no success. So we moved around to fish Liljergren Passage. Still no luck so we headed around Peak Island to McPherson Passage but we didn't catch anything there too. So it was around to East Point. All I have to say is; we must have been the worst fishermen in Prince William Sound that day.
We continued around Naked Island to Bass Harbor we came upon a humpback whale. We watched it for a little while hoping for a show. It did a few rolls, spouts, and flukes. But being on the exposed side of Naked Island, the waves made it difficult to keep the telephoto ready to go while not getting thrown overboard. So the few glimpses it gave us often ended before the click of my shutter. So on to Bass Harbor.
Anchoring in Bass Cove.
Eric packrafting to the beach.
Bring the packrafts up shore.
We ran up the inside of Bass Harbor with the intention of doing the portage to McPherson Bay. When we reached the beach we were met by rocks to large to pull a fiberglass boat on to. So we ran up the shore looking for options. Finally settling on the choice to anchor off the beach and float in with our packrafts. We hooked up the inflation bag, blew them up, hopped in and paddled on in with the tide. We had to hop out before hitting the rocks. Barnacles aren't the kindest on a packraft.
The lagoon naked lagoon.
The look Eric gives when walking about bears, and him without his gun.
Trying to push through the salmonberries.
We hauled up the packrafts, stashed them in the grass, weighted them down, and then Eric suggested we let some air out of the packrafts cause it was a hot day. Sure enough when we got back they were fully inflated again. On the other side of the grass there's a lagoon that looked like it fills with high tides and waves. There's remnants of structures in and around the lagoon. We made our way around the back of the lagoon and into the brush. It wasn't long before we came upon one of the many game trails that lead towards McPherson Bay. There were plenty of berries in the woods to eat along the way. The trail we picked ended in a thicket of salmonberries along the beach. I pushed through them, but turns out if we went a little to the east the woods open up to the beach.
King Eric of Naked Island.
When we got to the other side it was clear that McPherson Bay is where you want to anchor. We goofed off celebrating that we just crossed naked, doing two island crossings in one day. Nothing too technical, but still a cool thing to knock out in a day.
Eric packrafting over the waves.
Eric lost at sea in a packraft.
After trekking down the beach a ways we jumped back on a game trail and headed back to the lagoon. By the time we got back to the beach the waves were higher. Nothing scary, but it made us wonder how we were going to get out without shredding up our packrafts, and if we would be able to paddle out past the waves without getting pushed in. Eric went first so I could photograph him when he ate it. Sure enough it made it over the waves and out to the boat no problem. I packed up my camera gear in my dry bag and got to the shore, timed the sets, went out kneed deep, hopped in, closed up my spray skirt and made my way out to the boat much easier than I expected.
We pulled out of Bass Harbor out into Prince William Sound and headed back to Valdez. The waves in the sound had picked up quite a bit, and all the fishing charters had returned to port since it was now almost 6 o'clock. So there we were in a med-size flat bottom boat in the middle of Prince William Sound, all alone. Eric did a great job of handling the boat, there were a couple times where the waves caught us turning us 90° and rolling us up on the port side a bit. Which made me a bit concerned in those moments. Figured worst case scenario I grab my packraft as we roll and inflated it and get blown towards home. Till the tide changed... Anywho.
We made it across to Reef Island and headed up into Jack Bay. Eric had another fishing hole he wanted to hit up. It was a goldmine! He caught a yellow-eyed rockfish and a black rockfish. Both about 10 inches long : ) So it was getting late and we packed it on in and continued back to Valdez. On the way up Port Valdez we found a dall's porpoise. We got back to the harbor, drove home, and called it a night. It was a fun full day from 5am-10pm.