Lake Eva and Chatham Strait

Aug 19, 2017 - National Geographic Sea Lion

This morning we disembarked at Lake Eva on Baranof Island, where we fanned out for hikes through the old growth forest and kayaking through the salmon- and Dungeness crab-filled estuary.  My group devoted all morning to the long trek up to Lake Eva itself, along the way pausing riverside to watch salmon swirl in an eddy under the roots of old growth trees they help nourish.  These pink salmon (aka “humpies”) are making their way up their natal stream – remarkably, after hundreds or even thousands of miles journeying through the North Pacific Ocean, salmon return to the very stream where they hatched in gravel beds 2-7 years before.  Now they will never to see the ocean again.  Done eating, they are using every ounce of stored energy to fight the current upstream to spawn and usher forth the next generation, their final act.  Farther up the trail, we encountered a grove of huge old-growth Sitka spruce.  We craned our necks upward, and wondered at their antiquity.  Speaking to the group about the history of logging on the Tongass National Forest, I guessed this tree was at least 500 years old, having germinated before the English language was ever spoken in western North America.

After climbing back aboard (returning half-an-hour late after losing track of time on our splendid hike!) we cruised southward toward our final destination of Sitka, along the way hearing naturalist Zach speak about global climate change and naturalist Carlos speak about bears in Alaska.  Perfectly timed between the two presentations, humpback whales joined us in scenic Peril Strait.  At first it was simple blows and flukes – but then the display turned spectacularly acrobatic.  Some whales launched bodily into the air, while others turned on their backs, slapping the water’s surface with their giant pectoral flippers (from which their genus gets its name Megaptera – “big wing”). 

Saying goodbye to our new friends and our home-away-from-home will be tough, but the Tongass National Forest and the rich fjords carving it into an island maze have made an unforgettable impression.

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About the Author

Zach Brown


Zach Brown grew up surrounded by the wilderness of Southeast Alaska.  With parents in the National Park Service, Zach had ample opportunity to explore Glacier Bay and the Tongass National Forest as a boy.  These experiences gave him a lasting love of the natural world. 

About the Videographer

Sarah Culler

Video Chronicler

Sarah was raised on a multi-generational family dairy farm, established circa 1815 in Lucas, Ohio. Consequently, her first paying job was milking cows! Rewarding as it was to get paid for the first time, she found her passion behind the lens of a camera. Growing up on the farm gave her not only a strong work ethic but also the love of nature and being outdoors. 

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