Planning your trip

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Kayaking Chichagof Island



Planning your trip
How to get there

 You can do this one of three ways. First is by vehicle up the Alcan Highway, coming finally into Haines. From there you can take the ferry to several ports of call on Chichagof — Tenakee Springs, Hoonah, Elfin Cove, or Sitka. Be aware that some of these sailings occur on a weekly basis. Sitka can be reached somewhat more readily.

Secondly, you can take the Alaska Marine Highway's ferry from Bellingham, Washington, a couple of hours north of Seattle. This is the grand boat that will deliver you to Sitka after a couple of days sailing north through the Inside Passage. If you want to begin your trip at one of the smaller villages on the island, you will have to either take a ferry from one of the larger towns in Alaska — Ketchikan, Petersburg, Juneau, or Sitka — or a float plane. A hybrid version of this option is to drive into British Columbia to Prince Rupert to rendezvous with the ferry (providing there are no demonstrations by B.C. fisherman blockading the port, like there were in '97).

Or you can fly, then ferry hop, per above. Of course, if you want to take your own boat it'll have to be a folder or blow-up. As I recall, both the ferry and a plane were about the same price ($200-$300). What you gain in time on the plane you will miss in an unforgettably bon vivant atmosphere on the ferry. Camping out on the solarium of the ferry with new friends was absolutely one of the highlights of my trip. There are also state rooms, but unless you've got a honey and a need for seclusion, why bother? The ferry is prepared for kayakers to carry their boats aboard, and it has secure stowage for boats and gear on the car deck.

When to go

The decision on when to go is a function of weather if you're kayaking. High pressure typically associated with a more southerly latitude, like B.C. and the Washington coast, is not a given here. Weather changes hourly. May has the most sunshine; August is iffy. Anything in between in your best bet.

What to bring

Besides your regular kayak gear, you'll have to go prepared for rain. Generally, it will not get much cooler than the 50s in summer; even with a steady rain that's a comfortable temperature. When it monsoons you'll want respite, and that means a good tent. A good night's sleep is my recipe for thriving in the wild (or anywhere). You'll need the tent for bugs, too, so make sure it's got good netting.

As for paddling, I'd recommend a Farmer John wet suit at all times. And have a rain/wind shell close at hand. That way you're prepared for conditions ranging from sudden submersion to a week of rain. Hypothermia should be your first concern. It is better to be a little overheated than dangerously cold and getting colder.

A cap or visor to shield your face, and glasses, are important. I took along a couple of Oakley Pro M frames with a half-dozen interchangeable lenses. Their yellow, or persimmon, lens put a refreshing face on an otherwise dreary scene. They were also the hot item on the bridge of the Icy Bay for the evening watch because they extended our viewing hours.

If mosquitoes and tiny biting bugs drive you nuts, take along some XXX repellent, and maybe even a mesh head net. I did not find a lot of insects but I was probably lucky.

Depending on your plan and route you can mail packets of food to post offices along the way. Usually they're willing to hold it for a while; write on the box to hold for a kayaker passing through on or about a given date. Make your best guess as to your ETA for these little outposts because they don't always have a lot of room to stash a bunch of extra stuff.

Take a complete set of nautical charts. A scale of 1:40,000 is good for outside waters; smaller scale is adequate for much of the Inside Passage. Topographic maps are helpful, too, especially if you're going to be doing much inland exploring.

Highlights

  • The volcano on Kruzoff Island, rising to about 7,000 feet, just out of the harbor at Sitka. Mount Edgecumbe lends a Fujiesque mood to the scene. Camp on the beach near the trail head, or reserve the rustic Forest Service cabin on the banks of Fred's Creek. The trail wanders through Alaskan muskeg and steepens severely at the base of the mountain. The view from the rim of the cone, clouds willing, is stunning.
  • A fun "two-minute parade" on the fourth of July at Tenakee Springs
  • Humpback whale pods off Point Adolphus
  • The Myriad Islands, on Chichagof's western coast
  • The exposed and rugged Khaz Peninsula
  • Hot springs at Tenakee and White Sulfur

Information

Hoonah Post Office
Hoonah, AK 99829

Pelican Post Office
Pelican, AK 99832

Tenakee Springs Post Office
Pelican, AK 99832

Sitka Post Office
Sitka, AK 99835

Alaska Marine Highway
(800) 642-0066

For cabin inquiries

Forest Service, Sitka District
(907) 747-4220

Forest Service, Hoonah District
(907) 945-3631

Kayak outfitters

Alaska Kayak Adventures
Michael Colliver
P.O. Box 1302
Sitka, AK 99835
(907) 747-5963

Pelican Paddling
Linda Frame and Lindy Dickson
P.O. Box 308
Pelican, AK 99832
(907) 735-2455
KayakAK@aol.com

Lodging

Tanaku Lodge
P.O. Box 72
Elfin Cove, AK 99825
(800) 482-6285





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