Most of us would “venture” to say that today was a perfect encapsulation of what makes Southeast Alaska such a special place. The morning began overcast and early under sleepy, rainy skies in Iyoukeen Cove. This broad, L-shaped bay was created by the “slender-but-determined” Iyoukeen Peninsula throwing itself triumphantly into the broad channel of Chatham Strait.
With coffee and freshly baked muffins in hand, we watched as a dozen humpback whales worked to corral a mess of baitfish into a behemoth’s breakfast. It appeared the baity-brunch was somewhat elusive, with whales surfacing haphazardly and the young whales seemingly confused as to what the adults were up to. One boisterous little scamp decided to “help” by breaching fully into the Alaskan sunrise, much to the amusement of those on board. This was likely less amusing for the adult humpbacks trying to get food into the bubble-table…
Invigorated by the earlier action in the water, we tried our paddles after breakfast with a kayak and stand-up paddleboard adventure to Freshwater Cove, a tranquil body of water bathed by surrounding streams, rivers, and reef-drenching waterfalls. We explored exposed, low-tide reefs flanked by dense temperate rainforest alongside a merry band of harbor seals. The waters rose nearly 16 feet, setting the scene for the evening’s festivities.
As we approached the nearly subtidal shore of Pavlof Harbor, an extra-wet landing led us past spent salmon carcasses and a tannin-filled river to the famed Tax’áas Waterfall and a motley crew of coastal brown bears hunting for salmon. A weary mother and two spring cubs wandered the shore, while a duo of siblings did their best to avoid the ire of an ornery male as he hoarded the best fishing grounds for the chum and pink salmon making their way in from the sea. We stood in awe for the better part of two hours, watching the bears do what they do until our own dinner bell called us back aboard the ship. It does not get much better here in Southeast Alaska, and all of us are looking forward to reliving these moments anew in the forests of our dreams.