Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Gigha - via Alaska - Ping 1

Up high, way up high!

It seemed ages ago when David said Alaska! and I said Oooh!
After some to-ing and fro-ing, the time had come to head for the airport. Bags packed, car loaded and boats on the roof - yes, boats were on the roof  and yes, we were going to Alaska! and no, we were not paddling the whole way!
Our group of 8, David, Paul, Graham, Susan, Elaine, Fiona, Ken and myself met up for the flight over.
Out shopping

We were met at the airport by Turnagain Kayaks' Levi, he then took us to REI to buy our gas, then onto the supermarket for 10 days food. That would be all well and good, except, buying food in a strange supermarket at the equivalent of 4am in the morning, having been on the go since the crack of dawn the previous morning is no fun. We did eventually emerge, managed to find a pizza for tea - or was it breakfast, possibly supper - who knows? After we'd been driving for a while we passed a huge moose with a young one - our first Alaskan wildlife! A little further along, there was a black bear wandering along the road, next thing we turned off the road. We had arrived in Hope at our chalet for the night, right next to the bear!
A gathering of Ikea bags!

 Now it was time to unpack everything, just to repack it all for paddling. I spent a while re bagging food into meals and portions. Last thing I wanted was to run out of food miles from civilisation! Don't think Ken would have been too chuffed either!
We eventually made our way to bed, knackered but completely out of sync with local time. Surprisingly I managed up the next morning as usual (which means - feed me and give me coffee!). All the bags were loaded into the trailer. We had picked our boats (mine was a Cetus, happy with that), brought our own BA's and paddles and we were ready for our adventure.
It was quite a distance to get from Hope up to Whittier, the journey included an interesting tunnel. The 2.5 mile Whittier tunnel is shared with trains, with cars driving along the tracks,  but is just single tracked so it's run on a timetable, there would be nothing worse than meeting a train head on!
Eventually all boats were loaded, just one last thing to do before setting off. Whittier is a tiny end of the line town, with not alot there, however, there was an extremely good icecream shop so that's where we headed!
Icecream!!! Yum!

Me 'n' He

Fully filled with icecream, off we set. The weather was a bit overcast, but not cold, perfect paddling weather! It was great being out with snowcapped mountains all around and the Learnard Glacier behind us on one side and Whittier glacier on the other.

We made our way out to Decision Point, passing the first of many bald eagles, before cutting over to Pigot Point where we spent our first night. We were greeted here by the first of our sea otters - lovely!

An otter or two

 We were soon to find out that getting campsites was not going to be as easy as in Scotland.  We were travelling in spring tides, so by the time that was taken into consideration, there wasn't much/no beach above the tide line. There was just a small strip of grass before extremely dense vegetation. The area is a rainforest, the trees were all thickly covered in moss.
Even the trees have fur coats

 We camped on the thin grass strip when there was a "ping". One of our tent poles had snapped!!! New sleeve over the pole, all was well again. We then went to try tying our food bags up to keep them away from bears. We were soon to find that was easier said than done! Nothing quite like being on a learning curve! Pulleys would have been handy! So tents up, boats parked neatly along the grass verge, it was time for dinner, it was really late by now and what with time differences, I was dead beat and couldn't be bothered cooking, so out came our first dried meal, it was also our last, don't know how Paul lasted on them for every meal.

Neat parking

Friday, 27 October 2017

Magical Loch Coruisk

The locals seem to be complaining about too many folks on Skye. Well last May we added to that with a club trip up to the island.
A quick dip with the Fairies

Feeling on top of the world

 Ken and I went up a bit earlier giving us the chance to go up and see the Fairy Pools along with everyone else on Skye that day! We also had the chance to have a clamber up Blaven, quite spectacular!
 All this before the other paddlers arrived. Once they did and were all set up with their tents we had a quick evening trip out from  Kyleakin, round the corner and in to see the Leopard Man's bothy.

Next morning, well it wouldn't be a trip to Skye without a wee visit to Kylerhea. We spent the day playing there before a group of us paddled back to Kyleakin.

Our next day was one of my best trips, a trip out from Elgol. 

It's not my first trip from here, I've been a few times now. For most of the group it was their first trip. We eventually got on the water and set off along the coast, playing in the rocks as we went. One of the ladies eventually asked what the chances of seeing an otter was. My answer, pretty slim, considering there were 10 of us all chatting away. Next thing we know, a few yards out, there was an otter. It disappeared fairly quickly, however on the other side of us was another otter. I reckon they were both quite young as they didn't seem at all afraid of us. This second one climbed out with a huge fish, sat on a rock and proceeded to devour it. It was not giving up this fish for anyone, not even 10 sea kayakers, all delighted to be watching this at such close quarters.

We carried on across Loch Scavaig and into the heart of the Cuillins. We had decided to go a wee bit further, so hauled the boats out, then working together, lugged them up to Loch Coruisk, further than I seem to remember it being, possibly as I wasn't humphing a boat last time! Once up on Loch Coruisk, we paddled even further into the Cuillins. Paddling up there seemed to make it even more magical. We stopped for lunch, well almost tea! at the far end next to the crystal clear water coming down from the mountains.

 Once back at the top of the Scavaig river, we decided to float the boats back down to the sea. That was quite interesting! The wind had picked up just enough to give us a gentle swell to surf all the way back to Elgol. A rather excellent days paddling!
Lunch spot

Snack spot

Next morning was a tad drizzly, 6 of us set out from Plockton for a fairly gentle plod back down to Kyleakin before the long drive back home.