Our final full day of expedition began with a sail through Freshwater Bay to Pavlof Harbor. Classic Southeast Alaska weather of drizzly liquid sunshine and cooling cloud cover greeted us as we made our way to shore for a hike or kayak. Pavlof Harbor translates to Paul Harbor, named in 1849 by Captain Tebenkov. This scenic landing is located on Chicagof Island, the C of the famous ABC islands of brown bear habitat. Signs of recent bear activity were everywhere, reminding us to let the bears know we are there even if we can’t see them. The plan for the morning was to either hike into the rainforest or enjoy a paddle around the harbor.
The hike highlights began right onshore with an interesting cave of gypsum. This calcium sulfate mineral is yellow in color with spectacularly beautiful, elongated crystals. The walk followed a river to a stunning waterfall flanked by a fish ladder. This structure was initially built in 1935 and then updated to the current setup in 1986. Fish ladders facilitate the upriver migration of salmon and other fish. This location sees salmon runs of 4 of the 5 types of Pacific salmon found in Alaska. As we made our way deeper into the wilderness, wildflowers of chocolate lilies, Alaska paintbrush, and villous cinquefoil were seen in full bloom. Pacific banana slugs oozed along all sides of the trail. This species lives on the floor of coastal rainforest and can grow as long as pencils. These creatures transform their food into earthy fertilizer and produce a sticky slime that falls somewhere between a solid and a liquid.
As we made our way along the north shore of the lake, we encountered a beaver lodge. There is no dam as the lake already existed so there was no need for the beavers to build a dam. Beavers are the largest rodents in North America reaching up to 60 pounds. The lodges built by these animals are impressive feats of engineering, the entrances are underwater, and the inner chamber is vented at the roof. The hikers made their way to Pavlof Lake and then headed to the beach.
The afternoon was spent onboard sharing photos, listening to the legendary Al Trujillo lecture, and watching breaching humpback whales. Despite the windy conditions, guests packed the bow to watch two humpback breach and tail slap repeatedly. A perfect ending to an amazing trip through Southeast Alaska.