We woke this morning to see the sun rising over the gentle hillsides surrounding Sitkoh Bay on the final day of our voyage from Juneau to Sitka aboard National Geographic Sea Bird. We knew that our expedition leader wanted to make the most of our sunny day by offering a full range of activities, so as we waited for the ship to find her anchorage we began watching for wildlife from the fore deck. It wasn’t long after we entered Sitkoh Bay that we saw a young female Sitka blacktail deer at the water’s edge.
After breakfast, we boarded our Zodiacs and landed on the beach where we were to embark on a variety of walks: one that included lessons in photography and another that included a mile-long excursion to the back of the bay, where we found a mother brown bear resting with her cubs in the tall grasses of a saltwater marsh. Olive green and pale cream banana slugs lined the path that we walked, and we stopped occasionally to touch velvety thimble berries that were just beginning to ripen in patches of sunlight that reached the forest floor. The path we were on was a former logging road that offered an enjoyable way for us to stretch our legs in preparation for the afternoon’s activities.
After lunch we anchored in Hanus Bay. We crossed through a shallow tidal flat full of colorful algae and mussels that formed dark patches under the cool green waves, and we allowed the flooding tide to wash us to shore. For those of us who wished to continue a mariner’s experience on this hot summer day, colorful kayaks to paddle Hanus Bay awaited on the beach. For those of us who wished to explore the respite of the sheltering forest, a hiking trail to the dark tannin waters of Lake Eva lay in invitation. Salmon were beginning to school in the stream leading out of Lake Eva, and we allowed our kayaks to come to rest in the rapids where the rising tide would eventually bring these fish back to their natal spawning grounds. We marveled at the giant western hemlock trees growing out of the shallow soil of the forest, and the evidence lay in the roots of a fallen hemlock draped like tendrils around small rocks that this mighty giant had pulled out of the ground when it fell.
We were tired, hungry, and fulfilled when we re boarded the ship for our nightly cocktail hour, recap, and supper. Today we experienced wonders that we will never forget.