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Aug 23, 6:00 a.m.

Yesterday (Wednesday), I awoke to clear sunny skies. The sun was streaming into the forest in back of my tent and I spent an hour walking around taking pictures and just absorbing the warmth and beauty of the forest. A thick blanket of moss covers most everything in a hundred different shades of green.

By the time I broke camp and got underway, it was 11:00 a.m., packing the kayak is always a bit tedious as there is just barely enough room for all my gear and it has to be broken down and stuffed into every available nook and cranny. I also have to plan ahead so that everything I will need for the day’s paddle is where I can reach it in the cockpit, lunch, cameras, raingear, etc.

Leaving behind the less steep-forested hills of outer Tracy Arm, my days paddling took me past miles of huge stone faces rising straight up out of the water 2,000 feet or more. Streams of melting ice from the peaks above cascade through steep gorges and I could see mountain goats feeding on the rugged terrain high above me.

I came across one particularly beautiful set of falls and I stopped to take some pictures. The afternoon sun is just right and lights up the clouds of spray rising from the pounding water. As I am shooting the falls, a large sailing cruise ship with 4 masts and sails unfurled comes around the bend, so I take a shot of the ship with the falls and trees in the foreground and sheer cliffs and blue sky as a backdrop, thinking to myself if ever there was a photo made to sell scenic cruises, this is it.

I continued paddling against a headwind until arriving at a potential campsite I was told about. There was a good place to pull out and a flat rock to pitch my tent on, but there were hundreds of gulls and other birds hanging out there and the entire area smelled of bird shit. It was about 4:00 p.m. and I still had 4+ hours of light left, so I decided to continue on and hopefully find a better spot further on.

An hour later, I came upon a big valley sloping down between high mountains. A large river ran through the middle, it was close after high tide as I approached the shore. The river split to form a good-size island near its mouth. It looked as if the tide had not submerged it and it was covered with grass, so I decided to check it out as a possible campsite. I found a place suitable to put up my tent. On extremely high tides this spot would be submerged, but according of my tide chart, the next tide would be lower than todays and todays didn’t quite reach my tent site. I looked around for bear signs and found a good-size pile of bear shit near some brush about 30 feet from my tent. It looked to be a few days old and I hoped he was no longer in the area.

After pulling my kayak up onto the Island and setting up my tent, I pissed on the rocks and grass around my camp to help let bears know I was around. After cooking my dinner, I stored all my food and cooking stuff on a large rock in the middle of the stream. As the tide went out, the rapids around my island stretched further and further out into the arm and, as the water level went down, the growing rapids grew louder and louder. The sound was pleasant but unsettling because it would mask the noise made by a bear snooping around at night. My tent is also downwind from where he would come from so my scent wouldn’t reach his nose until he was right on top of me. Before retiring, I emptied my bladder once again on the grass and rocks around my camp and climbed into my sleeping bag feeling I had done my part to prevent an unpleasant bear encounter, the rest is up to the bears.

I set my alarm for about 2:00 a.m. so I could get up and check on the incoming tide to make sure I was camped high enough.

I got up with the alarm and went out into the chilly night air and was overwhelmed with the light show in the sky. The northern lights were running wild below a blanket of stars. Brilliant, playful, ominous, mysterious, they looked like phantoms and spirits dancing across the heavens. They shot up from all directions seemingly coming out of the mountaintops, which framed my piece of sky. I stood there spellbound in the frigid night air for more than an hour meditating on the lights. I wonder what the natives of this region make of these lights? Our own scientific explanation of electromagnetic forces and so on seems to fall short of describing the scene. They seem so alive and vital, like some primal spirit forces communicating in a language we have all but forgotten. The range of emotions I felt looking at the changing patterns went from pure joy and elation to melancholy and deep fear and back to wonder.

The tide was starting to go out as I went back to my sleeping bag, the water level had submerged the lowest part of the grass-covered island but stayed a safe distance from my tent.

I awoke this a.m. about 6:00. Blue-sky overhead and sunlight reflecting off the ice fields on the mountaintop at the end of the valley, I can’t quite believe how good I feel. My attitude toward my journey here has changed or shifted somewhat. I feel less control over my actions, as if I’ve surrendered my will to that of this place. Yesterday, I felt as if I were discovering the wonders of Tracy Arm. Today, I feel that this place is opening up and revealing itself to me. My experiences are not treasures taken from the landscape, but gifts received from it.

It’s about 11:30 a.m. now. Low tide was at 9:30 a.m. – getting off of this island would be very difficult right now. The fjord is hundreds of yards away with slippery rocks and rapids in between. In a few hours the water level will have risen enough for me to leave, but for now I’m just happy to sit and watch the shadows creep down the steep mountainside to my right.