It’s hard to believe that today is already the last full day of our expedition here in Southeast Alaska! After journeying south through the night, we woke to an overcast but calm morning at the east end of Peril Strait. We dropped anchor just before breakfast in Hanus Bay, on the northeastern corner of Baranof Island. From here we set off for shore in Zodiacs one more time and landed on a beach near the mouth of the Eva River, an important spawning watercourse for four out of five of Alaska’s Pacific salmon species. On casual, moderate, and long hikes, we explored sections of temperate rainforest that included some impressive old growth spruce and hemlock trees. We were impressed to observe the aftermath of some recent windstorms, which had toppled and snapped old trees as if they were matchsticks.

Paralleling the course of the Eva River, some of us made it all the way to the shoreline of beautiful Lake Eva, passing a small waterfall where bears congregate to hunt salmon. A few people were treated to a black bear sighting on trail, which surprised the naturalists since Baranof Island is known to only be home to brown bears. While the hikers explored the forest, two rounds of kayakers paddled as far as they could into the estuarine lagoon where saltwater and freshwater mix, surrounded by jumping salmon and soaring eagles on the lookout for an easy meal. Our morning activities highlighted the ways in which salmon form a critical connection between the ocean environment and the rainforest ecosystem. This was a fitting way to bring our terrestrial explorations to a close.

Back on the ship, our appetites were ready for a lovely lunch before we headed out into Chatham Strait again, where we were on the lookout for humpback whales. Later in the afternoon we gathered to map out our voyage and enjoyed one more happy hour and evening recap as National Geographic Venture made its way towards Sitka, following the twisting path of Sergius Narrows. After dinner, Gemina, our Certified Photo Instructor, shared the Guest Slideshow with everyone in the lounge, which was an amazing celebration of our experiences this week. It’s been an unforgettable expedition, and our hearts have been touched by the wildness and raw beauty of this stunning corner of Planet Earth.