Alaska Cruise Report: Inian Islands, Elfin Cove and Fox Creek

From the National Geographic Sea Bird in Alaska August 19, 2010

There were clouds overhead and rain drops left footprints on the surface of the sea, as we sailed through flat waters on our way into the Hobbit Hole, our anchorage off the Inian Islands. Bull kelp bordered the shoreline as we departed by Zodiac, the rain stopped, and sea otters popped their heads up to see us pass. One was wrapped in kelp fronds, as if caught still in bed with the sheets pulled close.

As the tide flowed in through Cross Sound, the marine activity increased and Steller sea-lions gathered in gangs off the central rock. These youngsters were gathering courage, strength in numbers, and seemed to dare each other to approach our Zodiacs, snorting and staring bug-eyed, whispering in each other’s ears. Whales were in the vicinity, surfacing next to a Zodiac unexpectedly, to everyone’s startled surprise and joy.

A quick visit to Elfin Cove prompted smoked salmon and hoodie sweat-shirt buys, while the museum and boardwalk had many visitors as well. This boardwalk community has a year-round population of around 10-12 people, though the numbers expand to a couple hundred when the fishing lodges are fully booked over the summer season. The dogs of Elfin Cove moved confidently among us, as did Teresa a.k.a. Supergirl, our local guide of around 5 years old (she left her tricycle parked outside the old schoolhouse).

The afternoon took us to Fox Creek, a small valley with a strong stream, which Scott took a group to pan for gold (no luck). Another long hike bushwhacked through forest, following bear trail over roots and muskeg, while others visited a set of ancient bear prints. Some preferred to paddle their kayak in quiet solitude, listening to the harbor porpoises breathe and follow with their eyes the stipes of bull kelp down into blue-green depths. Sunflower sea-stars were seen among the cobbles in the shallow water near shore.

After dinner we dropped anchor off Gustavus, a small town just south of Glacier Bay National Park. Here, our ranger joined us for the night, as tomorrow we expect to wake up deep inside the bay that once, not long ago, was filled with ice.

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