Posted on Friday, August 10, 2012 by Peter Knego
Peter Knego continues his deluxe Alaskan expedition on board American Safari Cruises MV SAFARI ENDEAVOUR.
All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2012 unless otherwise noted.
Thursday, July 26, 2012, ctd.
As we enjoyed yet another tasty lunch (tomato basil soup and fresh-baked focaccia with turkey and Swiss or hummus), SAFARI ENDEAVOUR made her southerly way from Red Bluff Inlet across Chatham Strait to Saginaw Bay on the western edge of Kuiu Island. Surrounded by magnificent scenery and weather, the ship dropped anchor for an afternoon of activities.
We joined a kayaking tour that would take us through kelp beds and underneath limestone sea cliffs where a Tlingit pictograph of the sun defied the elements and time.
Expedition leader Matt took us to the edge of Chatham Strait, stopping to explore some colorful grottoes before we oared out into a slight chop that carried us back to the ship.
We paddled along SAFARI ENDEAVOUR’s sunny port side, then clambered back on board.
Braver guests took advantage of the temperate weather to take a “polar plunge” off the ship’s EZ Dock launch platform while I adjourned to the ellipticals.
Following dinner, as we motored through Frederick Sound, the sun dipped behind the snow caps of Admiralty Island.
Friday, July 27, 2012
After two magnificent days of sunshine, the weather gods had apparently had decided to return Southeast Alaska to its more typical “wet” format. We ate breakfast, then zodiac-ed ashore at the end of Thomas Bay (just off Frederick Sound) on the Alaskan mainland with a small group of adventure-seekers. I would later discover that seemingly pastoral Thomas Bay is known for two rather dubious things: a massive landslide in 1750 and sightings of “devil-like” creatures in 1900 — the latter would certainly add a unique twist to the ever-growing “fauna sightings” list!
Morning options included an easy hike along the shore, a full day’s hike totaling eleven miles, or, our choice, the “arduous” hike along Cascade Creek, totaling some five miles but getting us back to the ship in time to enjoy a hot lunch.
Fed by melting glaciers and occasionally heavy rain, Cascade Creek was living up to its name.
Typically, the easy part was going up. Slippery rocks, roots and felled trees are less of a challenge when maneuvering against gravity. According to our fearless expedition leader Melina, we set a new distance record before turning back.
There would be plenty of mud to scrub off our rubber gear when we returned to the EZ dock.
Emboldened by our seamless “arduous” morning hike, I opted to join a rather fierce five-some in single kayaks on a “power paddle” to the mouth of Thomas Bay for a view of distant Baird Glacier. I was waaay out of my league, watching fellow paddlers PF Bentley (yes, the ace photographer mans a mean oar), my companion Mike (who knew?) and Mark glide effortlessly ahead as I clunked along at a floating snail’s pace. I lingered under the watchful eye of gracious expedition leader Matt, who could have done figure-eights around my lurching-but-determined craft. One of the zodiacs even buzzed up to see if we (more specifically, I) wanted a lift back to the ship. Politely declined by all…
Suffice it to say, there was not much time for photo-taking but I had to pull the camera out as I made my final approach to the SAFARI ENDEAVOUR in a downpour. Although I am no speed demon, I was able to complete the nine-to-ten mile trek through the inlet, albeit 20 minutes behind the rest.
After dinner, we wandered up for a quick bridge visit as SAFARI ENDEAVOUR prepared to hoist anchor and diesel her way on a very slow course to nearby Endicott Arm. The “un-cruise” was going by all-too-quickly.
Saturday, July 28, 2012
Our final full day of activities began in Terror…Ford’s Terror, that is. The place is named for the leader of an 1889 expedition whose dinghy got caught in the terrifying rapids caused by an influx of water over its narrow, shallow entrance at high tide.
An offshoot of much larger Endicott Arm, Ford’s Terror is likened to Yosemite for its exquisitely carved granite cliffs, multiple waterfalls and gushing streams. As we were there under a half moon and normal tidal conditions, the waters were glass-like, allowing our zodiac to buzz from one spectacular spot to the next.
Zodiac driver Ben ultimately took us to the far end of the majestic, mist-shrouded fjord.
At one point, we maneuvered along a sheer wall where each of us were afforded a chance to “Touch the Terror”, the Alaskan equivalent of kissing the Blarney Stone.
Each cliff face had its own distinctive feature, some seemingly with eyes, others with teeth.
We returned to the ship dazed by all the beauty but the day was far from over. There was lunch in the warm surrounds of the dining room as SAFARI ENDEAVOUR weaved gently through a gradually thickening flotilla of ice bergs in Endicott Arm. On either side of us, the rugged coastal range, draped in hanging glaciers, scraped away at the cloud cover.
Our final excursion was a zodiac ride into the ice field of Dawes Glacier.
Noses, cheeks and ears stung by the frosty air, we sped to the right side of the glacier and watched from a safe but still electrifying distance as Dawes calved away, sending house-sized chunks of blue ice tumbling into the turquoise waters.
On the other side of the channel, a lone boulder lurked at the edge of a precipice.
After our glacier expedition, there was still time for a final run on the ellipticals and packing before dinner, during which, Captain Kendra introduced the ship’s stellar crew. We wrapped up the night in the Lounge where there was a slide show recap of the week that had been skillfully assembled by our expedition leaders.
Sunday, July 29, 2012
We disembarked after breakfast to find the crew lined up to bid each of us goodbye. It was time to return to a world of airports, crowds, time changes, cell phones, and, yes, the internet.
End Of All-Inclusive Alaska On The SAFARI ENDEAVOUR Sea Trek
Very special thanks: Page Saurs, Sarah Scoltock, Matt, Terry