Within an hour of stepping aboard the David B and receiving our boat safety lecture, Jefferey had the maps out to show us the planned itinerary for the week and was cruising south through a narrow channel between the mainland and Douglas Island, and out into the network of watery highways of Southeast Alaska. We were underway!!
But first, lunch. Each day lunch featured a delicious soup, salad, and bread freshly baked in the wood oven, followed by fresh baked cookies or brownies. Or even homemade strawberry sorbet! Coffee and cocoa were always hot, ready, and delicious. Christine worked with a local roaster to create a couple of blends just for them.
John and Al introduced us to a regular feature of our days on board – our photography lesson. Today was a fascinating and eye opening presentation with John and Al showing us their style of photography, many photos taken from the places we would visit this week.
For example, Alan was exploring macro photos of natural objects such as leaf veins and finding their echo in photos of the curves and undulations of famous architect Frank Gehry’s works, such as the Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. Really fascinating!
John has lately been experimenting with minimalism as an approach to his subject matter and framing of images. I was quite taken with several of his landscapes and decided I’d attempt to push myself to get a few photos in the same vein — I generally feel success in my photos if I can see great detail, so minimalism would be a major shift for me. But this was certainly the time and place to give it a whirl!
We reach our first stop at 1430 — Taku Harbor on the eastern shore of Stephens Passage that was formerly home to a major cannery. This afternoon we explored the ruins of a once vibrant community and a public day use cabin named after a famous hermit. Much of the land around the bay is now part of a state park, or historic landmark.
For three hours we explored and experimented. Weathered and barnacled pilings stood as stark sentinels guarding the memory of the once thriving community that lived and worked here. Abandoned machinery parts and cannery materials are scattered across the site. Some washed daily by the tide, others placed on pilings as art on a pedestal commenting on the transience of man and the resilient nature of the earth to reclaim what was once its own.
Moving into the forest
Happy and a little tired from the exertions to get to Alaska and meet the boat on time, the (happy) stress of nerves in wondering who we will meet and what will the trip be like, the mental energy in looking, assessing and finally pressing the camera trigger, followed by the eager anticipation of returning to the boat to get a first look at what photos we did capture, we discovered Christine had prepared a tasty treat for our return.
And so at 1730, we broke out a few bottles of wine, filled our plates with delicious cheeses, smoked fish, or fruit and settled down in the lounge to peruse the treasures we came back with, carried on camera memory cards. I took 1119 photos today.
We remained in the harbor for the night with soft pink clouds wishing us sweet dreams.
Each morning Jeffrey wrote the Plan Of The Day on a chalk board for us. I say plan, because a few times it changed — usually the anchorage changed due to side distractions which meant we would reach it after dark, finding out other boats were already in our planned spot, or we could only make two knots against a strong current that day.
We now find ourselves within the Tongass National Forest, the largest, intact coastal rainforest in America.
We hugged the mainland shore and navigated through the narrow fjord of the Tracy Arm to Wood Spit, a gravel bank pushed up by a glacier before it receded back from the sea. With no pier to tie up to we learned to exit the skiff gracefully and splash our way ashore — the slop boots proving their worth. There were plenty of barnacles, sea weed, and muscle shells to examine and photograph. Then we walked to the spot where the spit met the mainland, pushing our way through the shoulder high grasses and brush to find ourselves in a darkened cathedral of an uncut, unlogged forest.
Our feet could sink three to four inches into the thick mats of moss carpeting the forest floor. It reminded me of being naughty and walking on my bed’s mattress as a child, finding the unsteadiness of my footing a fun experience. The thick canopy overhead defied the sun’s ability to penetrate the leafy curtain and allow light to fall as far as the forest floor. Making the deep shadows and spotlight effect of the sun’s rays, a challenge to capture a photo that was not too black lacking any detail, nor too bright and washed out.
One exercise that was fun was to pick a spot to sit and soak in the atmosphere of the forest, and photograph what we could see from our little spot. A bit of nature journaling with a camera instead of pen and paper. I had a zoom camera, so most of what was fun and close to photograph was too close for my lens. So I played with my phone’s camera and pano capabilities — and quite liked the images I captured. Sadly, I discovered I sat in some tree sap, which never did wash out of my pants. Oh, the price we pay for our art!
By two o’clock we were ready to head back for lunch and a look at what we captured, while Jefferey guided the boat through waters that held hints of the glaciers that fed them. Guests in the pilot house joined the captain on Iceberg Watch.
With photographers in mind, we were supplied with custom lap desks, cut just wide enough to accommodate a laptop and mouse. We could get so engrossed in surveying our photos and choosing our five favorite images to develop and refine for the evening’s Show and Tell, that we would forget to look up and admire the view out the plentiful windows. Margaret and Hillary were not photographers as such, so this trip was a bit more like a cruise vacation for them. We took up so much room with our computers and battery chargers that they often found themselves in the pilot house, admiring the view from there. They were handy ice watchers.
Around 3:30 a bus-sized iceberg hove into view. Fortunately for us, we were having very un-Alaskan weather of sunny blue skies and pleasant temperatures in the sixties. The benefit being that each time we were alerted to something worth our notice and maybe a photo or two, we didn’t have to don our coats and hats before leaping up and racing for our favorite lookout spot along the boat’s rail. The other benefit being that the sun lit up the iceberg like it was a cathedral stained glass window, the ethereal blue a glowing heart beating at the center of the ice.
Again, it is to our great advantage that the captain knows what we photographers want — and obliges by very slowly and carefully making a full circle of this iceberg so that we can all take photos of the intricate texture of the ice and the amazing colors on display. Thank you Captain!!
Just before six we anchored at the entrance to Fords Terror. So named by a naval crewman named Ford that paddled up the fjord at low tide and didn’t appreciate the riot of rushing water, whirlpools and shifting icebergs the rising tide would create to block his exit — hence his terrifying’ hours waiting for the tide to reverse so he could leave.
Here, the water has changed color to a shade of blue green that fairly vibrates with the intensity of its hue. The sapphire blue of the morning has shifted to a rich milky jade; the opaqueness coming from minerals ground by glaciers and added to the tidal water by towering waterfalls. Light does not seem to reflect off the surface, but rather rise, glowing from the depths of the still waters. We are in a magical place. We sleep very well.