This morning the National Geographic Quest headed towards Kuiu Island and dropped the hook in Security Bay. Dropping all of our toys after breakfast, we prepared for our chosen activities: kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, or hiking. On the water, perfect calm conditions and a gorgeous coastline made for smooth paddling and some of us had good sightings of harbor seals and sea otters.

In the forest, hikers were blown away by the beauty of the enchanted temperate rainforest. HUGE Sitka spruce and western hemlock trees left us in a state of “WOW.” If only these trees could talk they’d have quite the stories to tell.

Our landing area, from where all activities commenced, was very close to a spot called Retaliation Point. An intriguing name with a story of dire consequence. Northern Kuiu Island is part of the traditional territory of Kake Tlingit. Security Bay was heavily used by these native people prior to 1870. In 1869 two white men were killed by Kake Tlingit, presumably to avenge the shooting of one of their people by an Army guard. In retaliation a Lieutenant Commander Meade, commanding the US steamer Saginaw, burned and destroyed three villages, including the one here at Retaliation Point. Poking around the forest we found some indentations in the earth and wondered if these could have been old house sites from the village that was burned.

While the island is home to the two largest known trees in Alaska, it has seen its fair share of logging. We found evidence of that industry in the woods: huge stumps, cables and a yarder used to pull the trees out of the forest with a winch. Old fishing boats and a mysterious barge were also encountered on the shore.

In the woods we found scat, evidence of moose and bear. Kuiu is home to one of the densest black bear populations in North America with up to 4 bears per square mile! As we head further north to the ABC islands we will leave these two species behind. Moose and black bear populations on Kuiu arrived here by island hopping from Mitkof and Kupreanof islands after swimming across from the mainland.

While it was a wet day in Southeast, Alaska, we made the most of our layers and rain gear and were “WoW’ed” by the incredible forest and coastline.