By Kelly Yelverton
Editor’s Note: Lyons resident Kelly Yelverton recently graduated from Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon. To celebrate her accomplishment, she and a friend have decided to paddle their sea kayaks on a 1200-mile journey through the Inside Passage to Alaska. She will be sending updates and photos of her adventure throughout the summer.
1. A view or vista.
2. A mental view or outlook
3. The appearance of objects in depth
4. The relationship of aspects of a subject to each other and to a whole
We made it to Ketchikan on July 21, after having paddled over seven hundred miles in fifty-two days. From our previous campsite we had decided to make the thirty-mile
push to town in just one day. Skeg difficulties and crosswinds made the paddle seem particularly long, and led to long stretches of silent crossings. With ten hours of boat time on a regular basis, there was plenty of time for Brooke and I to have conversation crossings as well as “alone time.” Fifteen miles into the day, after one snack break and three ibuprofen, a float plane buzzed overhead and got me to thinking about all the different perspectives people have had throughout history, and are still having today along the Inside Passage.
My charts include tidbits of information about various locations we’ve passed and often remind me of the people who have sailed, motored, or flown in these parts. Exactly two hundred-twenty years to the day, before Brooke and I entered the Grenville Channel (and in the same bay), Captain Vancouver and his men spent “a very uncomfortable night” just as we did. They too, had scanned the steep shorelines and seen the waterfalls through the rain clouds (It was also somehow comforting to know that they were pretty miserable at times as well).
In the early 1900’s canneries were in full swing all along these channels. We made a trip out to one of the last remaining intact canneries just outside Prince Rupert. The North Pacific Canadian cannery company has been converted into a fascinating museum complete with original machinery, buildings, and great walk-through information. Hundreds of native and immigrant workers came to these canneries for fishing season. Today, all that remains of most of these sites are disintegrating dock pilings and dilapidated buildings already partially digested by the dense coastal vegetation.
Some ruins, however, are more of a mystery. The beach we’d selected for camp the night before, led to a floorless structure with what appeared to be train tracks running into the woods. As I sat beside a giant hulk of rusted machinery, I tried to imagine what the people here before me might have had on their mind while looking out at the same islands.
The people in the plane overhead were surely getting a spectacular view of the deeply carved inlets and passages. Most likely they were headed to the Misty Fjords. I caught myself briefly envying their mode of travel as they crossed over the pass it had just taken us all morning to traverse.
People traveling by Cruise Ship also get a very different perspective of these waters than we do. After arriving in Ketchikan we walked through blocks of jewelry stores and souvenir shops full of people who had gone to bed in Vancouver and woken up just outside Alaska. With one day to spend ashore, they had to choose between shopping, a zip-line, a kayak tour, or staying aboard their floating city.
Since Brooke had worked the summer of 2010 at an outfitter in town, we ended up leading sixteen people off a cruise ship on a two and a half mile kayak trip around a small island in Clover Pass. It was fun to give them a new perspective from water-level; quite different from their bedroom windows seven stories above. And, while they were only on the water for two hours, I like to think they all got a little taste of this place on a more personal level. The seven-year-old girl wearing a wolf hat certainly did, as was clear by the look of wonder on her face when she reached out and touched her first purple sea star.
There are many advantages to “cruising” this area, one of which is simply the convenience of fast travel. For a family with limited vacation time, spending a week on the Diamond Princess is actually more affordable than ferrying to various ports and finding accommodations and food, not to mention more logistically feasible. In my opinion, however, the perspective from a kayak traveling at three knots and just a few feet above sea level (or occasionally below) far outweighs any birds’ eye view. The only proof I needed was in that little girl’s smile. It’s hard to spot a sea star from two hundred feet above the water.
Watching our slow progress through the thick stack of charts we have, is occasionally demoralizing. We average half a page per day, and they’re double-sided sheets! I guess after almost two months of being on the slow move, we’d be ready to move faster and the days would blend together. Sometimes it seems like that. Frustration creeps in at first while looking up at a plane for a moment, or at a cruise ship speeding by. But, then I think back, and realize that I can remember at least one amazing moment, scene, creature, or event from every single day we have been on the water. If we were moving any faster, or traveling any farther above the water, we just wouldn’t have that perspective.
Sent from somewhere north of Portland.