Family Vacations, Summer 1996
WHITTIER TO BLACKSTONE BAY
Critter Factor: Orcas, minke and humpback whales, porpoises, sea otters, harbor seals, and sea lions are likely to surface. Some of the black bears are habituated, so cook away from camp and hang your food. You'll see more birds than you can keep straight, including three kinds of terns, sea ducks, and trumpeter swans.
Route: Take the shuttle from Anchorage to Portage, then the train to Whittier. Put in at the town dock and head out to the east, passing cliffs where a colony of black-legged kittiwakes have set up shop. Hug the shore and camp at the small, protected cove at Decision Point eight miles out-or at Shotgun Cove, five miles out, if you get a late start. The next day, round the point and head southwest into Blackstone Bay. Here you have a two-mile open-water crossing of the bay to Tebenkof Glacier. Two miles up is Thirteen Mile Beach, with a waterfall you can paddle up to at high tide, good hiking, and usually a lot of sea otters around. Protected forest camps at Seventeen Mile Beach are four miles farther on. Spend two days here, doing day paddles up to Blackstone Glacier and around Willard Island. Returning the way you came, curse yourself for not bringing more film.
Hired Help: North Star Alaska (800-258-8434) runs four-day trips for $950 and five-day trips for $1,200; Anadyr Adventures (800-865-2925) offers a range of trips, from overnights for $275 per person to ten-day trips for $2,750.
Resources: Alaska Backpacker Shuttle ($30 round-trip; 800-266-8625) goes from Anchorage to Portage. Take the Alaska Railroad train from Portage to Whittier ($16 round-trip; 800-544-0552). Trails Illustrated puts out a good map of Prince William Sound ($8.99; call 800-962-1643 to order). Prince William Sound Kayak Center in Whittier rents boats (907-276-7235). Alaska Public Lands Info Center (907-271-2737) and the Chugach National Forest (907-783-3242) are also good sources.
STONINGTON TO ISLE AU HAUT
Critter Factor: Harbor porpoises, harbor seals, ospreys, auks, endangered roseate terns, and eider ducks can be seen, as well as mink, raccoon, and deer on some islands.
Route: Put in at Stonington and head southeast toward Russ Island, a mile away. From here, head east to Camp Island, then southeast to Devil Island, a paddle of about an hour. Just on the northwest side of Devil is Hell's Half Acre, a flat, secluded island with pine trees and good camping. In the morning, you've got an easy three-mile paddle as you weave south between Buckle and Coombes islands, past Wreck Island, and on to Harbor Island. The western point of Harbor has a big, open field and, in season, loads of raspberries. To keep a low profile, make camp up in the woods. It's an hour's paddle the next day to the town of Isle au Haut on the northwest part of the island, where you can pick up basic provisions at the store (closed Sundays). The island is heavily wooded, with 18 miles of trails. Pack a picnic lunch and hike down along the coves and inlets of the west side as far as your legs feel like carrying you. From Harbor Island back to Stonington, it's an easy three-mile paddle.
Hired Help: Maine Island Kayak Company (800-796-2373) charges $450 for a three-day trip to Isle au Haut. Maine Sport Outfitters (800-722- 0826) offers a four-day camping trip for $425 per person, six days for $650, and also rents kayaks ($35-$50 per day).
Resources: The Maine Island Trail Association, 207-594-9209; the Bureau of Public Lands, 207-287-3061 (ask for their brochure, "Your Islands on the Coast"); Acadia National Park, 207-288-3338.
Critter Factor: Look down and see starfish; look up and see bald eagles. You'll also find river otters, sea lions, and kingfishers, mink scavenging the shore, and seals and orcas cruising the waters.
Route: Take the ferry from Tsawwassen on the mainland, or from Vancouver Island, to 18-mile-long Galiano Island (population 700), then drive to Montague Harbor Provincial Park. Camp here for the night, then paddle up the coast of Galiano and west to Wallace Island. It's a five-mile paddle, only the last mile of which is over open water. The two-mile-long island, with no permanent inhabitants, is the site of a provincial park and plenty of flat, grassy areas to camp. Base yourself here for three nights, sparing yourself the daily chore of loading the boat. Take day paddles around Wallace and nearby islands. Walker Hook, southwest of Wallace, has a sandy beach, and Thetis Island, a five-mile paddle west along the chain of islands, has a pub where you can stop in for a hot meal and a shower.
Hired Help: Gulf Island Kayaking (604-539-2442); SaltSpring Kayaking (604-653-4222) rents kayaks for $45-$70 per day and runs four-day trips for $350 per person; Sea Otter Kayaking (604-537-5678) runs four-day trips for $320 (20 percent discount for kids) and rents kayaks for $15-$30 per day.
Resources: B.C. Ferries sails from near Vancouver or Victoria to five of the Gulf Islands, including Galiano; call 604-386-3431. Contact the British Columbia Tourist Office at 800-663-6000.
NORTH CAROLINA'S OUTER BANKS
Critter Factor: You'll see osprey, terns, kingfishers, gulls, hermit crabs, and horseshoe crabs. Alligator River has otters, mink, and red wolves.
Route: Camp for two nights at the Colington Island Campground on Colington Island, a fishing community, and buy some fresh tuna at nearly world-famous Billy's Seafood. You can do a day paddle around the islands up and down Albemarle Sound and Kitty Hawk Bay, which surround Colington. The next day, stop at Roanoke Island for lunch and visit the North Carolina Aquarium, a sleeper attraction with great hands-on exhibits for kids. Stop by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife office in Manteo for maps of Alligator River and continue 12 miles on North Carolina 64, then three miles to the end of Buffalo City Road. Put in here, and explore the 15 miles of paddling trails at the refuge. In the morning you can move camp to the National Park Service campground, 20 miles southeast at Oregon Inlet, where you can do day paddles out to Duck Island, two or three miles out in Pamlico Sound, and see the 1,142-pound world-record Atlantic blue marlin on 24-hour display outside the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center.
Hired Help: Kitty Hawk Sports (800-948-0759) rents out sea kayaks ($28-$52 per day) and runs overnight trips ($99 per person).
Resources: Colington Island Campground, 919-441-6128; Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, 919-473-1131. For information on Oregon Inlet campground, call the Cape Hatteras National Seashore (919-473-2111).
Critter Factor: Parrot fish, yellowtail snappers, sergeant majors, and occasional green and hawksbill turtles are below water. Brown pelicans, herons, and Caribbean martins hang out above.
Route: Fly directly to Tortola-or ferry over from St. John (a 15-minute trip)-and set up at the Brewers Bay campground (809-494-3463), on the island's north side, for a six-day trip. Spend a couple of days here for the excellent snorkeling and day paddles out to uninhabited Sandy Cay (take the botanical walking tour) and Sandy Spit. Half an hour's paddle south along the coast is Cane Garden Bay, where there's a gorgeous beach with snorkeling in the coral gardens and along a drop-off wall. When you're ready, pack up and head west, with the wind at your back, to Jost Van Dyke, five miles away. Spend two nights on Jost, a rugged little island with a good beach at White Bay. Your next move is a two-and-a-half-hour paddle south to St. John, where you stay for two nights at Maho Bay Camps, an ecological showplace with 114 tent cottages on platforms ($60 per night per couple; $10-$12 extra for kids; 809-776-6226). Snorkel and hike the park, then paddle to nearby Trunk Bay and take the Frett Shuttle bus ($4) into St. John's main town, Cruz Bay. Morgan's Mango restaurant serves a great "voodoo snapper" (blackened fish smothered with fruit salsa).
Hired Help: Windsurfing Tortola rents kayaks ($30-$35 per day; $150-$175 per week; 809-494-0337). Arawak Expeditions (800-238-8687) runs trips year-round (five days, $750; seven days, $925).
Resources: Virgin Islands National Park, 809-776-6201; British Virgin Islands Tourist Board, 800-835-8530.
QUEEN CHARLOTTE ISLANDS
Critter Factor: Family harmony requires multiple sets of binocs for the seals, salmon, sea lions, orcas, otters, the highest density of nesting bald eagles in western Canada, and the world's largest population of Peale's peregrine falcons.
Route: To minimize commuting time into the best areas, hire an outfitter to take you 40 miles south into Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and the fine gravel beach on Kunga Island, where you can camp. A ten-minute paddle away is Tanu Island, site of an overgrown former Haida Indian village. Spend a couple of days working your way down the sound between Moresby and Lyell islands, camping at Lockeport, an abandoned copper mining town. Head east the next day to Murchison Island, a ten-minute paddle from Hotspring Island, where you can bathe in the natural hot spring pools. Reverse the route and meet your outfitter back on Kunga Island.
Hired Help: Moresby Explorers Ltd. (800-806-7633) rents kayaks for $145 per week; Pacific Rim Paddling (604-384-6103) offers one-week trips for $855-$995 per person (two- week trips cost $1,580); Ecosummer Expeditions (800-465-8884) runs one-week trips for $1,155 (two weeks, $1,875).
Copyright 1996, Outside magazine