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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

TRACY ARM WILDERNESS - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time by Robert Glenn Ketchum

TRACY ARM WILDERNESS - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time by Robert Glenn Ketchum

To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act (#Wilderness), this new blog focuses on a wilderness area in the #Tongass rainforest of southeast Alaska. This is the tale of a 10-day kayak trip - a testament to WHY wilderness is important, by world-renowned Conservation Photographer Robert Glenn Ketchum.




Tuesday, June 28, 2016

TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #97
TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #97: The rain has stopped. The sky is clearing. The tide has come back in, and the birds have gone. A stunningly glassy calm has settled upon the water and wisps of dense fog drift by. Mountains, glaciers, trees, and shoreline disappear and reappear through the passing veil. Occasionally a curious seal pops up wondering what strange things we are, and my mind drifts. Wilderness Forever! Quite soon our pick-up boat will arrive, and tonight in Juneau we will dine on fresh food, take showers, and sleep in beds... but I would just as soon be here. While this is the last image for this blog post, it is certainly NOT my only remarkable kayak adventure. So if you enjoyed this journey, follow my forthcoming blog: "Icy Bay, bowing at the foot of Mount St. Elias," which will be part of several NEW BLOGS we are launching in the following weeks. As this journey into Tracy Arm has been intended as a celebration of the 50th Anniversary of The Wilderness Act, Icy Bay will celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the National Parks as Wrangell-St.Elias is our largest. I hope you enjoyed this "trip," and you will join me for others. Bring your friends.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd @Wilderness #Wilderness #Tongass

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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #96
TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #96: We are exhausted. The loaded boats are heavy. The tide is dropping. Rain squalls are blowing through. AND, we are so out-of-here! We just spent the last ten days during a maximum tidal period "recreating" nearly 30-miles into one of the deepest coastal fjords in North America. Our paddle took us back in geologic time quite literally, and our camps were some of the most inventive and dramatic in my entire life of outdoor adventuring. It is important to note that there are a very few trips I have made that I can say this about, and they ALL have occurred in ESTABLISHED WILDERNESS AREAS. These "explorations" into wilderness have shaped my thinking as an artist, and my awareness as a human being. Never have I felt more in tune with the planet. For me, being in these places was a privilege, protecting and creating more places like this is a moral obligation, and so is passing on the enjoyment of them so there will generational defenders.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd @Wilderness #Wilderness #Tongass

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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #95
TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #95:  I am sure we all thought the invading cruise ship was our pick-up boat coming way too early. Regardless, we were all now awake so we arose to investigate camp and have our last pre-packaged breakfast. The tide was running out, the spit had reappeared, and the birds were everywhere once again. Our gamble had paid off and we survived the tide quite comfortably. The camp log served as the perfect bench for the gear and kitchen and as an anchor for the boats. In this shot by Carey, Russell and I have just finished cleaning up camp and loading the boats, and we are donning our life vests and spray skirts. The boat coming to pick us up from Juneau gave us an arrival window of about two hours, depending on weather, but just standing around waiting you get cold, so we thought we would man the boats and mingle with the birds until they arrived. We also wanted to get in the water before the tide went out too far and we would have to carry the boats further. 
photograph(s) © copyright, Carey D. Peterson, 2016
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd @Wilderness #Wilderness #Tongass

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Tuesday, June 7, 2016

TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #94
TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #94:  Our camping gamble was at play - the tide was charging in, swallowing up the huge spit that had been created by its retreat. Back at camp we began stowing gear and getting things above where we thought tidal waters might reach. By the time we finished it was dark and the incoming lap of waves had reached the rocks near us. Where once we were surrounded on 3-sides by what appeared to be a landscape, it was now all water and just looked like the open sea had come to the foot of our kitchen. AND, IT WAS STILL COMING! We retreated into the grasses and our tents, and fell asleep to the sound of the water creeping through the reeds around us. A good tent in Alaska has a GREAT rainfly system and waterproof floor with HIGH sidewalls and no floor seams. At about 2 a.m. I knew the tide was peaking, so I slipped on my boots and went for a walk to check the camp. When I opened the tent flap and stepped out, water covered my boot to the arch of my foot, but our tent remained dry inside. I slogged to the log and checked the gear under the tarp. The water was a good way up the log, but it was clear the log would never float. The boats WERE definitely floating, however, as we expected, they remained secure. I felt relieved and returned to the tent and my sleep. Then about 5a.m. I could hear distinct waves again and a strange low humming noise. Looking out of the tent I was stunned to see a major cruise ship had used the high tide to cross over the bar and enter Endicott Arm and now it was quickly retreating to get back into the deep channel before the outgoing tide made the passage to shallow.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd @Wilderness #Wilderness #Tongass

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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #93
TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #93:  The rest of that evening went very "quickly." So much was happening, this is the only image I made. The tide started falling before our arrival. By the time we set up camp and began dinner, the outbound tide was RAGING. There were riffle waves forming over the submerged glacial moraine bar at the mouth of Tracy Arm, and the bar was growing exponentially longer and wider as the minutes passed - LITERALLY THE MINUTES! The more exposed shoreline, the more birds. Thousands and thousands of them, and many different species - huge shoreline flocks of oystercatchers scoured the exposed rocks and rafts of scoders lay like vast black mats on the surface of Holkham Bay. The spit now ran out hundreds of yards and was too inviting not to walk out onto in the middle of bird paradise. By now it was getting dark (about the time of this rainbow) and the three of us were in a kind of "Animal Planet" daze. We were A LONG WAY from camp the spit now extended so far, and in the twilight we could hear the relentless splashing of the feeding birds. Then Carey realized, that noise wasn't just the birds, the tide had turned and was sending incoming waves onto the spit. We would now need to walk briskly back to camp to stay ahead of it.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd @Wilderness #Wilderness #Tongass

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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #92
TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #92:  Well, this is our gamble - we are playing against the highest/lowest tide of the year. At the moment, the tide is running out as the area directly behind the blue tarp IS A BAY and all you can see now is the seaweed covering the rocky bottom. The camp we have chosen has many positives: there are big rocks that won't be washed away that we are using as anchors for the kitchen tarp; the big log had water half way up during last nights tide, BUT DID NOT FLOAT, so we are hoping that will also be the case tonight. It is the ONLY high and dry spot for our gear, besides repacking the boats. It also makes a great kitchen service ledge, and if you have not noticed, it is now the anchor for our kayaks. We KNOW they will float tonight, we are trusting the log does not or they will all be gone in the morning. The tents (just visible in middle, left) are as far back into the dense reeds as we can pitch them, but even there we can see seaweed wound through the grasses, so we know SOME water will reach us, the question is how much? Stay tuned for the answers at 2 a.m.!
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd @Wilderness #Wilderness #Tongass

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #91
TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #91:  The tide had dropped quite a bit by the time we reached the northern shore of the spit. Even here, however, the dense thrash of trees came clear to the high water mark. We began to wonder if we would find a dry campsite, and then this. In post #87, I said the day would begin and end with a totem, so as we slowly cruised the rocky tidal shore, I saw a large grounded iceberg. I wanted to get out of my boat and stretch anyway, so I decided I would observe it more closely and just walk around a bit. Birds in large flocks had begun to arrive from all directions, and as I wandered towards this, a huge log surrounded by some grasses came into view, and I spooked a dozen geese that came out of the grass near the very tip of where the forest ended and the spit began. I walked through the reeds to investigate and found a large “nearly” dry circle of crushed-down grass where all the birds had been snoozing. If we pitched wall-to-wall here, there was room for two tents, and the tide MIGHT NOT reach us. Home!
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd @Wilderness #Wilderness #Tongass

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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #90
TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #90:  Now, to give that map a water-based POV. We are currently paddling down the eastern shoreline of #TracyArm, headed for the the large glacial moraine spit that has formed where Tracy meets #EndicotArm. That spit is to the left in this image and directly in the foreground you can see the small islands at the mouth of #HolkhamBay which will (hopefully) be our boat pick-up location sometime tomorrow. At the moment, however, more weather is rolling through off the #Pacific (to the right) and we just want to get to the spit in hopes of finding a campsite that won't be inundated by the coming equinoxal high tide that is due to arrive at about 2 a.m. So far the shore has offered nothing but bush thrash and steep rock, but we remain hopeful the topography of the spit will offer us something.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd @Wilderness #Wilderness #Tongass

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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #89
TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #89:  I am bringing you back to this map to give you a better sense of what we are planning to do. Sometime during the next day, we expect to be picked up around those islands in #HolkhamBay by a boat that will take us back to #Juneau. Tonight, however, we will experience one of the greatest tidal fluctuations of the year and we are hoping to camp somewhere on that prominent spit that separates #TracyArm (upper body of water) from #EndicotArm (lower body of water). At the moment we are slowly working our way down the shoreline (upper, right side of the fjord) of Tracy Arm, and from our perspective the rock and forest come clear to the edge of the water and offer no refuge, so we just keep paddling our way toward the point. Remember (my early posts) from the tip of that point, a VERY SHALLOW bar extends across the mouth of Tracy Arm. Another shallow bar exists across the mouth of Endicot as well, extending between the spit you see emerging from the bottom left and the point that may prove to be our camp. (If you look carefully, you can see both of these bars as the leave a darker shade of blue on the map.) When we hit low tide late this evening these exposed bars will become the dinner table for the greatest collection of birdlife I have ever witnessed.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd @Wilderness #Wilderness #Tongass

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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #88
TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #88:  Tonight we would experience the fall equinox and the most extreme tidal flux of the year, probably +/- 20-22ft. We planned to camp on or near a spit of land where #TracyArm meets #EndicotArm. We felt certain we would find some forest or beach in that direction that would be high enough to keep us dry through the incoming tide tonight. The next day our boat pick-up back to #Juneau was due to come for us. Considering the the distance we paddled yesterday, we did not have far to go today, and we indulged ourselves with a lazy morning at the forest camp, waiting for the tide to turn so we could ride it in the direction we were headed. By the time we pushed off our beach it was midday and more weather had rolled in off of the #Pacific. We were regularly pummeled by passing rain squalls but they would come and go and the cloud show was terrific. We crossed to the other side of the fjord and followed the forested shoreline toward the sand spit point. As we paddled we were also "scouting" for any possible camp sites along the way, and it was clear the dense forest came right to the water's edge and offered us nothing.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd @Wilderness #Wilderness #Tongass

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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #87
TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #87:  18-miles or so of paddling, warm food and clothing, a LOT of aspirin, and the gurgle of a creek that would not rise during the night and sweep us away = LIGHT'S OUT! While we slept, some weather moved in and a light rain began to fall. The forest added dripping sounds to the melody of the stream. The next morning we rose slowly and enjoyed our setting for awhile before breaking camp. Again, I wandered back into the forest where I found this. To me, this is signature #Tongass #rainforest. It is not just the trees, it is all the other amazing "stuff" as well. The mosses and lichens are pretty great here, but it is really the tree coming out of the rock that knocks me out. I did not know it at the time but my day would begin and end with strange totems, and this one seem to bode well for the rest of our morning. We only have a few miles to paddle for the next (and last) camp and the tide will not turn in our favor until mid-day so we just stayed on our beach watching the weather blow through and pondering what we had just done and where we had just been.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd @Wilderness #Wilderness #Tongass

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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #86
TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #86:  Being in some suspended state of purpose, exhaustion, and rhythmic timing of my strokes I don't remember much about the remaining paddle. I was being disgorged from a narrow crack in the earth into the opening sky and broadening channel. I was riding an ocean tidal current. We rounded the small rock point that sheltered the cove and beach at which we hoped to camp around 8:30 p.m. We had been paddling for 12-hours! We were all tired, but camp set-up and food prep were so routine they took little time, and once we got a first round of edibles into us, we began to settle into the pure LUXURY of our new spacious "lodging." Grateful for the presence of a maturing rainforest, I wandered back into it just to enjoy the lush diversity. Sitting here, I pondered how, in time, this growth would claim the bare rock we had been exploring up-fjord, OR the ice would return here and scrape all this away. Whew! Hopefully not tonight.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd @Wilderness #Wilderness #Tongass

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Tuesday, April 5, 2016

TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #85
TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #85:  Away from the convolutions of the fjord shoreline, and out in the middle of the tidal current, Carey and Russell forged ahead. Since we were NOT stopping at Black-Bear-Beach, the cove and camp we hoped to reach were a straight-shot down the arm, by several miles. At this point in our journey the fjord was also widening, and after 10-days of being "up-in-the-arm", the expanse of sky and open water was breathtaking. As you can see in this image, our presence was quite small, and we were a good distance from the shore. It was from this same POV in the last post when I used a telephoto lens to place a 35-foot cabin cruiser in perspective against the big walls. Using the lens in this shot, it would have been hard to even see the power boat, as it would appear so small against these astounding escarpments. Where DO these side canyons go?
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd @Wilderness #Wilderness #Tongass

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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #84
TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #84:   Just before our snack break on the rock shelf, we had been in a bay with VERY dense ice. It didn't appear that anything was going to slow us down if we continued paddling, because there wasn't much in front of us except for a few big bergs. SO, we got back in the boats! We found a current that actually had riffles in mid-channel, and we rode it as it was looking like an 18-mile-plus day, and we needed all the help we could get. The weather seemed to favor our decision, and the skies began to clear as we moved down-fjord. Then, after 9-days by ourselves, we saw this strange sight - a boat! Scale check: a 35-foot boat, with 8-10 people aboard.  And from our POV, we almost missed seeing them because we were so focused on our paddle. And they were SO SMALL! This is a considerable telephoto lens I am using to get this shot. WOW! Now I REALLY feel like a flea on a giant.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd @Wilderness #Wilderness #Tongass

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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #83
TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #83:  TRACY ARM WILDERNESS – An Alaskan Kayak “Trip” Through Time, #83:  Still pondering floating down the #MercedRiver through #YosemiteValley, the big walls of #TracyArm drifted by quickly as we rode the outflowing tide. Then we rounded a bend in the fjord. The weather seemed to be opening up, and there was #HalfDome? Seriously, this scale from a kayak POV is just AMAZING! Just as amazing, we could see "Black Bear Beach", and it was only mid-afternoon. We were much further along in our paddle than we expected to be. Riding the tide made a significant difference in our travel time. As we approached our campsite destination, we were still on the opposite side of the fjord, and we came up on an approachable ledge. I suggested a break out of the boats before crossing to the beach. And as we sat there stretching and snacking, the same thought occurred to all of us:  the tide was still flowing out, the Alaskan daylight would last much longer, our proposed beach site had a black bear that we had already encountered once, AND "just" another 6-8 miles down the fjord, there was that lovely forest camp with a beach, a stream, and no bear encounter. Go with the flow!
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd @Wilderness #Wilderness #Tongass

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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #82
TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #82:  Most athletes that do a repetitive exercise like running (or, in this case, paddling) go some internal place in their mind when they are in the middle of their workout. This paddle to "Black Bear Beach" took the entire day coming in; working against the tide part of the time. At one part, we were moving with the tide in a very accelerated flow, and the paddling seemed effortless, so my thoughts drifted. I found myself passing the hours by soaking-in the visual perspective of this amazing place. For those of you that have visited #YosemiteNationalPark (@YosemiteNPS), and floated down the #MercedRiver in an innertube, imagine if that water had been wall-to-wall! In #TracyArm, the flooded "valley" seemed more narrow than Yosemite, and the walls seemed even higher. There is plenty of granite though, unfortunately it is almost always wet and slimy.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd @Wilderness #Wilderness #Tongass

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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #81
TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #81:  Walls and waterfalls passed by to the steady splash of the oars. The weather moved in and out, yet was never miserable. There was an amazing syncopation in each of us, between our paddle strokes, and our breathing; a kind of fluid, nearly effortless motion that propelled us forward quite rapidly. We were making great time. We also discovered the ebb-and-flow of the tide had caused some sections of the fjord to have greater, or lesser, concentrations of ice. It was clear ,at one point, that the reason we NEVER saw anyone else while at the end of the fjord, was that the tidal ice-jam down-fjord had completely blocked larger boats from getting through. For us, however, like tiny ants in a big world that hardly notices them, we stayed in the current right next to the towering walls, and simply slipped by the blockage.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd @Wilderness #Wilderness #Tongass

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Tuesday, March 1, 2016

TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #80
TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #80:  "Black Bear Beach" was an all-day paddle, as we knew from the journey-in. However, the outflowing tide was in our favor part of the time. We also had just spent more than one week paddling sizable distances EVERY day, and we were strong AND dialed-in. Leaving camp in the early morning, we reached the huge "juncture" bay, maneuvering around ice clusters carried by the slowly dying incoming tide. The bay itself was remarkably ice-free, so it made for a very direct crossing, after which we stopped for a "snack" break, and some stretching. We all agreed that we felt GREAT, and we were in the rhythm of the paddle, so after a short break it was back into the boats, and then into a state I can only describe as a "zen flow." The tide turned, flowing outward, and with each oar stroke our motion became like an act of existence as surely as breathing. There was a stunning silence except for the splash of our oars, and the surrounding water cascades. As the tide picked up, we started riding subtle currents around bends and long walls that made it seem as though we were flying. Smooth, effortless, and sliding right through one of the planet's most beautiful "cracks," carried by the water of a vast ocean, reacting to the gravitational pull of the moon. Yeow! We WERE flying!
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd @Wilderness #Wilderness #Tongass

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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #79
TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #79:  A break in the weather -- like the one we had yesterday -- is pretty rare in the Tongass RAINforest. So it was no surprise to us that during the night the gentle (or not-so-gentle) patter of rain began to fall on the fly of the tent. Breakfast the next morning was UNDER the blue tarp, yet the rain wasn't hard. And it was kind enough to abate, so we could more easily break down our camp (TY!), and load the boats. Back in our kayaks, and headed down-fjord, rain squalls occasionally rolled over us, but for the most part, it seemed to be a very decent day for what we expected to be a long paddle as we were headed back to "black bear beach." At the moment, however, we were unaware how LONG a day of paddling it would really be.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd @Wilderness #Wilderness #Tongass

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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #78
TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #78:  In case you read this blog, and are wondering why my friends and I would choose to go camping in this extreme -- and very often exceptionally wet -- environment, I would say it was to have a day like the one that is now just passing. A beautiful break in the weather; an amazing day of paddle exploration (even if it had been raining); several unexplainable events occurred; AND sun-bathing on a rock island at the juncture of two glacial arms while surrounded by ice-filled fjord channels. Now we were back in camp, having welcome food, and watching this show from our favorite boulder-bench. Seriously, why NOT do this?! Oh yes, and we have not seen anyone else in this amazing wilderness during the entire week we have been in here. Here is to the next 50-years of #TheWildernessAct - I hope some of my younger followers have the good sense to explore it in person and NOT just with Instagram drone shots! 
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd @Wilderness #Wilderness #Tongass

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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #77
TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #77:  As we had hoped, on this day the peak tide carried our boats well above the kelp and mussels surrounding the island, and afforded us a great access point on to clean granite. At the crown of the mount there was no vegetation, nor was there much of a breeze. It was HOT in the direct sun, so-much-so that we did a little nearly-naked sunbathing. I mean, who could resist in such a location? Once the tide shifted, however, we had to get into our boats and launch to avoid being stranded "high-and-dry." Back in the water, and headed toward camp, Carey was watching the sea life emerging on the wall of the island as the tide droped. Get the "stranded" part? Camp / home was to the far right, at the base of the dark rock wall. The #SouthSawyerGlacier is in the distance, and both are MUCH farther away than they look! 
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd @Wilderness #Wilderness #Tongass

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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #76
TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #76:  Our fjord was in deep shade, and we grew cold drifting in front of the glacial face. The tide was approaching its high point, so if we expected to have lunch on the island, now was the time to head back that way. The vegetation slowly returned as we paddled toward the juncture of the two arms, and then this “seep” caught my attention. This entire wall was trickling water, and I'm guessing that was some MOST UNUSUAL lichen adding the red color, however from where I am, I can't really tell. The binoculars are no help at this point either, as looking through them has little to do with reality, so once again I stare for a while with my mouth open. Russell also acknowledges this is a “strange” little part in the wall, and we both decide it's best to catch up with Carey, and get to the island for some lunch and sun warmth.
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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #75
TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #75:  We fell silent, drifting ever closer to the face. Several waterfalls contributed “water noise,” yet at regular intervals we could also hear the creaking and groaning of the ice. Lots of small calvings occurred, however nothing threatened us as some of the more recently dropped chunks floated by. Again I found myself looking “into” time. The bluest ice is the most dense and compressed, and to get that way it has been “under” other layers for a very long time. MUCH of what we were seeing being thrown off the current face of the retreating #Sawyer glacier was deep, DEEP blue. We were drifting among some very ancient remnants of a passing glacial age.
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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #74
TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #74:  Tidal flow was incoming at this moment, and we were all just drifting, taking in the spectacle. Even with our many days paddling and camping in these fjords, scale still defied comprehension. Our drift placed us about the middle of the fjord when the low clouds lifted and spots of sunlight streamed in, adding greater dimension to our view. We were a good distance from the walls on either side, and the glacial face was still a long way away. Given the huge calving we witnessed when we were exploring the other arm, however, we weren't taking any chances by getting much closer. This was because there was far less ice between us and the active face, and little to dampen any wave that might be generated by a big piece of ice dropping off. Around us, new streams roared down across raw stone landscapes, just recently ice-free. Have you noticed the considerable rock wall to the left with the raging waterfall? It is without vegetation up several hundred feet because less than 10-years ago that entire dome was BENEATH the glacier. 
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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #73
TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #73:  Uh oh! We have apparently arrived at the intersection of crystal, multi-colored bergs and trippy walls. Once again I also have the sense that I am literally paddling back in time and witnessing the emergent earth from beneath the ice cap, before life becomes established. Amazingly to me, as surely as this rock succumbed to the ice, now it will succumb to the establishing vegetation and flowing water. All this energy I was feeling heralded our approach to the glacial face and very shortly, up ahead, we will round a slight bend in the fjord and the #SawyerGlacier will come in to view. Drum roll!!!! 
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Tuesday, January 5, 2016

TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #72
TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #72:  Almost immediately upon entering the north arm of the #SawyerGlacier it became apparent how recently the ice retreat had occurred. Here you are looking at several hundred feet of “new” rock that has NO plant life of any kind. The torrential rains have yet to even wash away mud debris left from the melting glacier – check the conical mounds above the falls. This side canyon formerly had a small glacier in it that fed into the Sawyer at this point, but that has since retreated out-of-sight and the Sawyer is still some considerable distance in front of us. 
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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #71
TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #71:  We've been paddling in the more vegetated sections of the fjords, where this is the typical look of a wall. In past posts you can clearly see when we were exploring the south arm of the #SawyerGlacier the day before. We transitioned into a part of that fjord only recently, out from under the retreating ice, and with hardly any growth at all. Now as we approached the NORTH arm of the Sawyer Glacier, we were coming into a fjord that is more recent, and has had an even more rapid retreat. In my next post we will “turn-the-corner” at the red-rock sunlit point and start into a world REALLY just now emerging from beneath the ice, and it is stunningly RAW (and weirdly beautiful). 
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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #70
TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #70:  As time and the angle of light passed, so did our collective “rainbow crystals” event. We had reached a section of the fjord that was nearly ice-free. With no weather, no wind, and no further quacking, all we could hear was the sound of our paddle splashes. In these glassy conditions our kayaks seemed to fly, and after an hour or so of paddling, we approached the island. We hoped to have lunch on the island later, however it was VERY steep, and the rock shoreline offered no access at low tide because it was covered with kelp and other marine life. Carey was gliding slowly on the tidal drift past the rock face, looking for any point of access that might be offered up later. The dark band on the rocks at the waterline marks the tidal zone, which at this moment was far too slippery and wide to traverse. We continued on to the tip of the red rock in the sunlight. Then we turned right into the fjord formed by the retreat of the north arm of the #SawyerGlacier. If it looks “small” or “narrow” to you in this shot, wait until we turn the corner and you see what is ACTUALLY there!
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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #69
TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #69:  I was in the double-kayak with Russell this morning, so he had also seen the suspicious crystal shooting out rays. Carey had mostly been paddling quietly, enjoying the solo kayak, but suddenly she began to meander cross-fjord doing a lot of undecipherable quacking as her voice echoed around the walls and off the surface of the water. We heard something about, "rays, rainbows, and jewels," so we turned to see if we might understand what she meant and where she was headed. As I sat trying to adjust my eyes and wrap my mind around what I was seeing, I heard Russ exhale heavily and say, "WTF is going on?" Immediately I felt better because I realized he could see it too:  this may be less obvious on-screen, but every piece of ice that lay behind us was shooting off rainbow sparkles. Carey was paddling toward a stunning concentration of bergs glowing in a dazzling array of colors. Russ wanted to know if the camera would record what we saw, and I assured him that IF it was really there, the camera would record it. So, you tell me, what was going on? Given that moment of the day, that angle of the sun, and that clarity of sky, we were getting perfect light refraction prisms from the sun shining through the ice. Apparently we had paddled into some sort of amazing point-of-light-wave reception that didn't occur at any other position in the fjord. Well, that's the theory anyway. 
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Tuesday, December 8, 2015

TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #68
TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #68:  In the quietude of the morning the light and shadow-play on the walls made us dramatically aware of the scale of the landscape surrounding us. Some of the sheer faces were greater than 2,000-feet straight up! The paddle down-fjord was a good distance, as well, because at this moment we thought we were getting nearer to the island, when in fact we weren't even close, and it would be more than 1-hour before we are actually "on approach." In the meantime we had to navigate this small choke of ice. I wasn't so concerned about getting through this, as I was about finding more of those ray-shooting crystals floating in stealth among the "normal" bergs! From this distance, the island seemed to be pulsing slightly also -- a kind of subtle vibration -- like all the vegetative cover was breathing in-and-out. Whew! This could prove to be ever more curious-er as we get closer.
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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #67
TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #67:  With each paddle stroke we became more “on” to our morning. The deep shadows up against the wall were actually welcome relief from the hot sun, yet periodically I wandered elsewhere to investigate something or other. The brilliant morning light was still at a very low angle because we got started so early, and at one point this floated past me. Against the depthless black of the shadowed fjord, this piece of ice was more like a massive CRYSTAL than a berg. More importantly, because of the way it was being struck by the sunlight, I fairly soon believed it to be internally illuminated. When it began shooting out little microburst rays and beams, I thought it best to paddle a way, not mention it to anyone, and just continue on with our meandering adventure as we hoped to "scout" the island and paddle into the north arm of the #SawyerGlacier.
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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #66
TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #66:  We are definitely OFF! Our plan was to head down-fjord toward the island and the big bay formed by the juncture of the north and south arms of the #SawyerGlacier. It was also an opportunity to explore the opposite shore in the other direction from our previous day’s paddle adventure. The weather had not only cleared, it was actually HOT! And there was not a whisper of breeze so the tidal waters were glassy, and our kayaks seemed to cut through the surface like knives. The greatest density of ice had been pulled completely down-fjord by the massive, approaching maximum high / low tide. And most of the ice had been sucked beyond the junction bay, so the arms were remarkably ice-free, making them (for the moment) simple to navigate. Carey is clearly enjoying the solo kayak and the rain-less skies.
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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #65
TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #65:  Condition, BLUEBIRD:  not a cloud in the sky! This was our fifth day of our trip, and we didn't yet realize that the tidal ice flow down-fjord was so massive that it kept tour boats from getting into this part of the arm. So we NEVER saw anyone on this trip, and we had the entire bay, and both #SawyerGlaciers, to ourselves. With the stunningly sunny day -- it was our first without rain -- so we cooked a big breakfast, packed lunches, collected our gear, and got ready for an “all-day” adventure. Sometime right after my tasty freeze-dried sausage and mushroom omelet, I was sent scrambling for my cameras as this amazing blue “thing” drifted into our morning. I could see these were going to be some VERY interesting hours ahead, and we were not even off the beach as yet! By the end of the day, I would actually view my kayak as an extension of my body, and getting out of it to once-again scramble around our camp took “adjusting.”
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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #64
TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #64:  I slept restlessly all night, always partially awake listening to any change of sound in the water flow that might suggest that it was getting bigger and coming closer. In another sound layer over that, I could hear the torrential rainsqualls sweep through, pounding down on the rainfly of our tent, leaving me to wonder how that was feeding into the volume of the river? Waking groggily every time the roar of a new downpour started, I fidgeted in-and-out of consciousness in my sleeping bag until about 5am. THEN SOMETHING AMAZING HAPPENED! Notably, even with the river still roaring, there was a kind-of dead silence because the rain had stopped. It was still too dark to tell if the sky was clearing, however now relieved over concerns about rising water, I fell back asleep until we were both startled awake about 7am by Russell yelling to us that we had to wake up and see THIS!!!
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Tuesday, November 3, 2015

TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #63
TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #63:  When we finally got a sightline on our beach, we could see the tents and kitchen tarp were still standing. Clearly, however, there was A LOT MORE WHITEWATER around Carey’s and my tent, so the question was:  had we been cut off from it, or could we still ford the rushing water? When we reached the beach, Carey and I scrambled up the rocks to check the crossing before we even secured our kayaks. We both wanted to be in a warm sleeping bag inside the tent tonight because the rain showed no signs of stopping although it was more intermittent. The water WAS much higher and faster, but not impassable and the tent “beach” was still high and dry (so to speak). The mainstream of the river was raging, and the roar of water around us was loud enough to make conversation difficult. The rise and fall of the water sounds would make for some interesting “white noise” as we would try to sleep that night!
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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #62
TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #62:  Admittedly, because we had declared it a “rest” day, we got started late on our paddle adventure. Then in the daze of the "painted" wall and the glacial face, time just slipped away. Because it rained most of the day, it remained gloomy at best and outright dark much of the time, so we didn't notice how late into the afternoon we had “drifted.” It WAS Alaska in fall and in several days we would experience an equinox high tide of epic proportion, yet at the moment, as we were picking our way through the ice and trying to cross the fjord to get back to camp, IT WAS GETTING DARK! The gods were kind, and we found openings, so we progressed quickly.  And because most of the time it was raining so hard I couldn't even get my camera out of its waterproof float bag, we seldom stopped. It was time for drier clothes and warm food. That is, IF camp is still there!
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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #61
TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #61:  As we picked up momentum paddling with the tide, we soon passed out of the recently “uncovered-from-glacial-retreat” part of the fjord and the "stoney" wall disappeared beneath rainforest vegetation. At the moment, that vegetation was “feeding” because this rainforest was REALLY raining. Surely with the microburst squalls we were probably seeing 1”-2” an hour falling out of the sky. Every leaf and moss frond dripped, bare rock glistened, and waterfalls filled any vertical crack available. It was an amazing spectacle to be in the middle of, however I began to wonder what was happening to the water volume in the river back at camp....
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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #60
TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #60:  The rain came through in torrential waves. Water was flowing off our hoodies as we took each paddle stroke. Even with a visor, my vision was constantly blurred by dripping and blowing rain. The tide had turned with us and was now outflowing, so in the most intense squalls, I would just lay forward on my kayak, protecting my face and neck opening and letting the storm pound down on my back while I drifted on the current. The rain was so intense it produced a “roar” of noise splashing off me, the surface of the water, and the rock... SO, in one of my “drifts” when the roar stopped abruptly, I looked up. A squall had passed, the rain stopped (briefly); and when my eyes cleared this appeared... WTF! We drifted past this entire wall “flowing in” to the glacial face and NEVER saw this! Now, going back out, THIS appeared out of the rain. Equally weird: WE COULD’T FIND ANY OF THE WALL FACES WE SHOULD HAVE RECOGNIZED FROM FLOATING IN!!! One of us proposed that perhaps the wall was actually morphing, at which point it seemed to me we should probably be headed back to camp before we had any further “discoveries” along that line of thought!
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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #59
TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #59:  Scale! Scale! Scale! Scale is EVERYTHING! I know I've repeated that many times in this blog, BUT CHECK THIS OUT! Referencing the last post, the rock wall and the blue glacial face in that image are in the lower left of this picture. If we were in this shot in our bright yellow kayaks we would be so small you couldn't see us. LOOK CAREFULLY at this, however, because just to the right of the blue face there is a boat floating on the water. That boat is over 50-feet in length and there are 16 people aboard! Welcome to the #SouthSawyerGlacier and #TracyArm!
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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #58
TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #58:  We hit slack tide – the transition between it coming in and going out – just as we rounded the point. So without paddling we silently drifted into view of this. My next post will put this POV in perspective, but believe me, between the scale, the blueness, and our immediate proximity, we were all speechless, not even a quack! Within seconds, a very large calving of ice came off the other side and sent out a huge wave. It didn't threaten us, HOWEVER that was because it happened on the opposite side of the bay. We were all quite clear that if it happened in front of us it would be more "challenging," so we took-in this amazing momentary position as best we could, shared some snacks, and then retreated back behind the rock point. Perhaps it was time to return to camp anyway, as we intended this to be a “rest” day. We had come farther than we expected to, and now it was really raining hard....
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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #57
TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #57:  The fjord wall became virtually sheer with few ledges or terraces. The rain brought out the colors of the polished rock like some gemstone display at a state fair and the wall kept drawing me closer, challenging me to “read” the geologic hieroglyphics. With no offense to #JacksonPollock and many other great painters, GO FISH! Not in your wildest dreams! This is more like the paintings of Pollock meet the sculptures of #Michelangelo who are then both introduced to #TimothyLeary. The tide was nearly at peak; we were definitely at peak, and somewhere just up ahead, we are going around a point that should put us “relatively” close to the face of the #SouthSawyerGlacier.
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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #56
TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #56:  Uh, oh! Maybe I don’t really want to get TOO close, because I'm not even certain this is a rock wall any more! It seems to be pulsating and writhing. Not exactly clear what the glacier had to do with THIS, however it's MOST amazing. There's quite a bit of quacking from our threesome as we drift slowly past this spectacle of granite with the incoming tide. The ice around us at the moment was just small shards and brash, however it was apparently just the correct size to make musical notes when they bumped together, or so it seemed! I sensed we were being "pulled" towards something very powerful, and the wall grew increasingly stranger as we got closer.
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Tuesday, September 8, 2015

TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #55
TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #55:  Personally I view glaciers as one of the most powerful forces in nature, and sense their dynamic physical presence when I am near them. Most of my tidewater encounters with glaciers have been in larger boats at a “safe” distance, in case of an epic calving. Now, at kayak level, this is a WHOLE NEW POV! As we progress along the wall, it begins to change, and I can “feel” the approaching glacial “presence.” We are paddling into geologic time, and have entered a part of the fjord that has only recently come out from under the ice of the retreating #SawyerGlacier. There is very little vegetation, and the rock shore has been “polished” by the ice. This particular section, the last length of wall before we round the point, has some seriously weird striation going on that clearly needs closer inspection...
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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #54
TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #54:  Right up against the wall  it was VERY open, and relatively ice-free, all the way down to a bend. This bend we expected to find ourselves in front of, and relatively close to the #SouthSawyer glacial face. As you can see in this image, there is a narrow band on the rock between the water and the moss “line.” The peak tide is is not quite all the way in yet. We are goin’-with-the-flow! Speaking of which, because of all the paddle activity, the surreal vertical walls, and the equally unreal ice configurations, we are all in a pretty interesting “flow.” This was just the first of a series of encounters we would have with “the wall” next to where we were paddling. As we progress up-fjord this wall will get MUCH weirder. That's why they call it WILDerness! Happy 50th Anniversary Wilderness Act! As I slipped between the iceberg and the rock, I think I passed through some kind of invisible portal... kind of diving off into geologic time.
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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #53
TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #53:  As always, the scale of environment was deceptive. The paddle cross-fjord took a surprising amount of time, and the still-incoming tidal flow swept us closer to the glacial bay choked with ice in front of the #SouthSawyerGlacier. It was raining and cold, however we were all coming-on to breakfast, and actually sweaty because of the paddling. As we approached the opposing wall, once again the actual shoreline was more convoluted than it appeared from camp. There were many small coves that were quite ice-free, and NOT as greatly affected by the current. We hoped this more 'open water' would be an opportunity to get closer to the glacial face than we were able to the evening before. At least the tide this time was drawing the ice out of the bay as we went in, rather than pushing it in all around us.
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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #52
TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #52:  We slept well, although it rained hard all night long. In the morning the river had clearly come up, however not threateningly. We had breakfast under the tarp, and the day remained cold and drippy. We were still tired, and all agreed that this was an “off” day, so nothing epic was planned.  HOWEVER we also knew we should go out and paddle around to stay warm, and to learn more about our immediate area. After a protracted drinking of coffee, and munchy-eating, we assembled some lunch, our day gear, and launched the boats. We decided to cross the fjord, and tried to work down the wall on the opposite side to see how close we might get to the #SouthSawyerGlacier. We were at the height of the inflowing tide, so the bay in front of the glacier was choked with ice that had been pushed into it by the flux. We were hoping some of that ice might open up against the far wall, when the flow turned in the other direction and started "out."
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2015, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd @Wilderness #Wilderness #Tongass

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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #51
TRACY ARM Wilderness - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time, #51:  Perhaps this photograph makes our position more clear. Carey and I have our tent just out-of-frame, to the immediate right, situated on the “island” of rocks and sand built up in the MIDDLE of the river. The greater flow of the water bears to the right as well, becoming a turbulent set of falls and pools as it cascades into the fjord. However, there is still substantive flow on this side of the dome. While not as forceful, it is still slippery, and some of the pools are fairly deep. The question is: If the river remains like this, our camp is high and dry and our traverse to the kitchen is doable. BUT, how much rain might bring the river up and change that? AND, how quickly might that happen? As it had rained for all three days of the paddle, and rained especially hard during parts of this day, we gambled that the river was already "high" and that we would be safe. We were sore and tired from 3 continuous days of paddling, and that soft sand floor beneath our tent was going to be a welcome destination.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2015, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd @Wilderness #Wilderness #Tongass

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