Thursday, January 29, 2009

from myspace ..kayak island trip 2004

Saturday, September 15, 2007
kayak island trek 2004Current mood: contemplative
in 2004 i got a group together to check out a lighthouse on kayak island. this island is about 60 miles from cordova. you can only get there by air or sea. to arrange this trip i had to work with the group that has taken over the lighthouse to preserve it. they let you camp out at the boathouse. the lighthouse still functions and is maintained by the coast gaurd. nobody lives there anymore, but in it's day it was one of the most treachorous lighthouse assignments. the water constantly crashes on the shore, making boat landings very difficult. the lighthouse is called st elias lighthouse.
i arranged for us to be flown out there. it was 2 little planes a mom and son pilot team that flew us out there. they were super nice folks. the mom is featured in the smithsonian institute. something about female pilots of the bush of alaska. the day we flew out we got a late start as the wind was really blowing. we never asked, but we know it was probably a bit sketchy as to whether we really should have been flying out there at all. our pilot, steve, was very excited about us going though as he and his family spend a great deal of time on this remote island and he is one of the people who is involved in preserving the lighthouse. it's his passion. we circled our landing field 6-7 times...we landed on the sandy beach at low tide....he needed to find a landing area with less rocks. a bit tricky. the wind was really blowing...we later surmised it to be over 50 miles/per/hour...we experienced gusts of much greater than that on our hike. when steve did land he booted us out of the plane quickly as he needed to get back in the air before his tires would sink into the sand and ground him. as we jumped out of the plane we were hit by the power of the was crazy!! we took off for shore and awaiting the other 3 from our group to land with his mom on her plane. he circled above to make sure his mom landed safely and got off okay...what a sweet son. so deb spring, scott johnson and lesley were on the mom's plane, me, sue and stephanie were on the sons. once we were all together we began our walk to the's just over 2 miles to the lighthouse from this beach. it was the most difficult 2 miles i think i have ever walked. we mostly traveled over boulders and log jams that were all damp as it wasn't just windy it was wet and rainy...early spring. as you would lift a leg to attempt another step, the wind would knock you over. it took us 3-4 hours to do that short 2 miles. we had pretty full packs i think too as we had all figured, it's just 2miles....HA . this island is in a location that makes it a dumping ground for all that is lost to sea. so we had to also deal with thousands of old ropes, floats, shoes, balls...several containers fall off barges and those can be used to track worldwide currents. the barges that we saw samplings from including a barge that had carried little plastic animal toys, i found 6 of those. i've read articles about how scientists have used those to track currents and wrote one of the more involved ones and let him know what we found after we returned. there was a container of nike sandles, sports balls, sleep mats.... we also found several of those glass floats.
when we rounded the bend and saw the lighthouse, our destination, we were thrilled. luckily some kind folks had left a bit of dry wood and even though it took a bit to get that fire started we soon could feel the warmth and dry out. we then collected wood and waited for scott and deb to get in. deb has some knee issues and it took her a bit with all that wind. i thought she would have some choice swear words for me when she got to the lighthouse, but she was so happy to arrive. i have been lucky on all these trips in that the people have all been great to travel with. nobody ever complains and they are all just happy to be in these amazing places.
you looked out from the boathouse to see a huge rock called the pinnacle. to the left of that hundreds of sea lions were hauled out. the scenery is just beautiful on the island and the tidepools were awesome. we spent much of our time beachcombing. it's so remote there are all sorts of stuff laying about. never collected, like whale bones....too big for us to carry out too. there is a helipad that the coast gaurd uses and i have heard they may have tried to do some clean up on the island shores to get the larger floatsam up...especially those gigantic ropes. thousands of dollars worth of rope and floats.
many of the rocks on the island must have been formed from volcanic eruptions. many of the rocks looked like heads of cabbage. there were also small ones that seemed perfectly round, like cannon balls.
there are supposedly grizzley bears on the island, luckily we never saw any...perhaps because it was so early in the spring. we did enjoy the sea lions and one day we were able to sit and watch them and all the grey whales who passed by. apparently, every migrating grey whale passes the point there. they are far out, but we could see spouts all over the place as they passed. it was a cool sight.
of course, we had to explore the lighthouse and climb up inside. on the walkway around the actual light that was our only way to contact the pilot. our cell phones occasionally worked from up there. the buildings there are in a state of disrepair, but still fun to explore the history of life in this remote region. the old house had a pool table in the main room....scott found a few beers on the beach...see you can find anything here!! so we had to crack the beer of unknown age and play a round of pool. lesley went to dust off the table, but we decided it was probably laden with lead filled paint dust so we'd just play with the dust.
scott was best at locating those glass balls, i had better luck with the little plastic animals. we all came home with some beat up sandles. we took turns for our main dinner meals and those were really fun and delicious. before we left cordova we discovered sues pack was only 25 pounds....we loaded her up with liquor so we could imbibe. helps keep you warm too. the boathouse is loaded with stuff, everyone who comes obviously leaves a bit behind. the stove and fuel is provided which is great. the bunks were reasonaly comfy.
on the hike back we didn't have the wind and we all found good walking sticks so it was a bit easier. we didn't have to wait too long to meet the planes. again the pilots scouted out the area to find the best "runway". the got the plane in ready position for take off before we were allowed to board. then we boarded and the plane took off quickly, again to prevent us from sinking in, especially now that all our added weight was on board. planes up here are very diligant to weigh your gear and you to make sure they don't carry to heavy loads.
a few of us stayed a day extra to explore cordova, a few had come early. scott ended up looking at jobs and homes while he was there and moving there. he's still there. it's a very small town. we couldnt' get down the main road far enough to see the bridge that millions have been spent on and that leads to nowhere. crazy government!! the birds were starting to collect. so were the birders and photographers....big bird festival apparently. we had yet another successful and fun trip.

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