While in the previous capital of Russian-America (Sitka, AK), we took two full days to kayak 14 miles through pristine SE Alaskan islands, backpack 14 miles (3000 ft) up the Mt. Edgecombe volcano and explore the new minted (10-15,000 years old) volcanic shore with rock still frozen in pillowing lava flow.
From the harbor to our first break two hours later we saw one dozen sea otters up close from the kayak. More than I’ve ever seen in my life! Bald eagles would commonly fly low overhead between the small evergreen island forests standing despite brutal winter ocean storms.
Eight miles down from modern Sitka we encountered a shower of the increasingly frequent moon jellies 3-4 inches in diameter lapping at the surface and the back of a small four foot long harbor porpoise (dolphin family) shortly after.
Hiring the record extent anyone has ever kayaked on a full day trip with Sitka Sound Ocean Adventures, we caught a small Martin (weasel family) scurrying into the tall grass from hunting on shore. Our last stop was to check out a very “organic” Alaska float house that looked abandoned from far away except for a few large solar panels. On closer inspection, a green house, skiff and potted plants definitely marked it as an off the grid habitation.
At 4pm we shed the kayaks upon pickup down the Sitka coast and were ferried over to Mt. Edgecombe near the Forest Service Fred’s Cabin. The stream here can host as many as 15 bears in competition when the salmon is running.
The trail started out in a thick, jungle tunnel but quickly entered a peaty bog with twisty, stunted trees. The civilian corps built the trail here and it was of fantastic quality. Despite the swamp, constant boards, stairs, gravel and stone ensured we never pressed a shoe tread into the muck, if we were paying attention.
We over nighted at the Forest Service shelter 4 of the 7 miles to the dormant volcano. The shelter was more like a cabin missing a wall with its stove, abundant split wood, clean bunks and cooking area, campfire ring, ample bear bag contraption and littriene. It was fit for a king!
Sadie and I use our remaining energy making a fire, splitting wood carving a spoon and crafting a 110 lbs max stump chair.
The next morning we hiked up the trail into a true forest as the grade picked up.
Then finally emerged at tree line into a tundra/alpine-styled scrub mat. Hiking on no trail whatsoever to avoid erosion paths we soaked our pants and socks as they absorbed the water droplets collecting on every piece of plant life present in the damp environment.
As we hiked further into the cloud layer, we lost sight of the ocean and eventually, each other on the steep 2000 ft ascent. By the top we had only 20 ft of visibility between us on the rim of the volcanic cinder cone as we stopped for lunch, clouds surrounding us.
The way down we could barley make out the next four foot tall visibility post from the last until we descended out of cloud layer back to the shelter and then the ocean in under four hours.
At the beach early, we had three hours to kill before Captain John picked us up so Sadie kicked my boots to get out for some tide-pooling and beach picking. We hit a treasure trove on black volcanic beaches showing sign of recent pillowing lava flow and break out lava mounts / fissures.
The best finds included an industrial sized, double Sasquatch hammock constructed of beaches fishing nets.
A bald eagle nest. Of the dececated bald eagle skeleton, we were told by captain John was most likely due to drowning. If an eagle takes on a fish too big or misjudged their flight so they land in the water… they have to swim breast stroke and can only make it a few hundred feet before they exhaust themselves.
We also found an 8 ft diameter stump, a boat cooler, a captains chair, a 2.5 ft diameter barrel, a bunch of tools and a couple floating souvenirs were were going to hang off the car.
To cap everything off we saw a 12-member sea otter group from a broken up otter raft and a humpback whale on the ferry back to Sitka. So much fun, athletic activity was crammed into two days that really cemented how wild Alaska is.