Alaska

5/26: El Capitan Cave and Week 2 Itinerary

We continued our journey back to Juneau, but we wouldn’t be retracing our steps.  This trip will cover the Western Coves of the Inside Passage.  Here’s a map that shows our route for Week 2::

 

Our journey would take us around Prince of Wales (POW) Island, through El Capitan Passage, and to an anchorage near El Capitan Cave.  This is the largest cave in Southeast Alaska, and those brave enough to climb over 300 steps would be able to take a tour of the cave later today.

 

 

Once again, I was outside by 4am.  We were still cruising towards El Capitan.  The first thing I noticed was the spooky calmness of the water, except for our wake.  It looks like velvet in the photographs.  It only looked like this for a few minutes; as it got lighter, the surface of the water lost it’s velvety texture.

 

The full moon was still out in the sky, and the pre-dawn lighting was strange – starting out pink, going to a golden yellow, and the mountains in the distance began to take on the morning glow:

 

I’d been taking photos for about an hour, when Lou caught me taking a photo of my camera – he laughed and told me I was crazy:

 

I played around for another hour or so, just enjoying the colors in the sky and the reflections on the water. National Geographic won’t be calling anytime soon, but I’ll count this early morning session as one of my best activities for the day.

 

Just after 7am, there was a mad scramble to the aft section of the boat – Orcas !!!  Oops, they weren’t Orcas, but were Dall’s Porpoises.  Much smaller, and quicker.  I was still glad to see them, because they are very fast and we didn’t get any photos of them last week.

 

Just a few minutes later, we saw whales in the distance – that would be the really far distance:

 

We didn’t hang around for long – these whales must have been related to Ernie, because they didn’t seem too interested in taking deep dives.  Several of us tried to get some photos of them, and I’ll show a few more, but these had to be cropped significantly to be able to see the whales.  Plus, the reflections make it hard to see.  That’s why Lou yells at me when I don’t use a polarizing filter …

 

We watched these humpbacks for about 20 minutes before moving on.  We continued to see some humpbacks in the distance – here’s some with a more scenic backdrop. We saw some beautiful scenery as we cruised – strange but beautiful. You might be thinking, “that is a lot of photos of whales from afar.” Trust me, I am just getting warmed up.

 


We also saw quite a few bald eagles flying around, even sitting on small islands in the water.  They were squawking up a storm, so something must have upset them:

 

We arrived at the cove by El Capitan Cave after breakfast. There were a couple of groups going out to hike up to the Cave. Since there were over 350 steps to climb to get to the cave, we decided to pass.

We had an afternoon Skiff Tour, and this one turned out to be a good one:

 

Our driver/guide was Mike – the Chief Mate on the Discoverer. Another very interesting guy – he was involved with the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, working with the boats and stunts. That was impressive, but then Lou told me Chief Mate Michael had a few parts in some X-Files episodes – he is now the Celebrity Chief Mate – although you never know which of these stories from the crew you can believe *smile*.  He was also a good Skiff Driver and Guide.

 

Not long after going out, we saw a sea otter. He just kept popping up and looking at us – so cute.

 

And, as we edged along the shore, we saw more bald eagles.

 

We saw a few more otters and watched them play – getting photos from the bouncing skiff was tough.  We returned to the boat, to see some folks getting ready to test their kayaking skills.

 

Lou skipped the afternoon Skiff Tour; I thought he was resting, but turns out he was spying on some unsuspecting kayakers with the Big Lens.  These folks were from Australia, and rumor was one of them had been on the National Kayaking team. This is how it’s done:

 

Dinner was a choice between pork loin and airline chicken, and it was good. Laurie, one of our expedition guides, gave a presentation on Southeast Alaska. It was almost 9pm, when we had another wildlife sighting.  Even though it was getting too dark to get a decent photo, we tried anyway:

 


We were all quite happy to have topped off our day with a black bear. No complaints today about wildlife – we saw Dall’s Porpoise, Humpback Whales, Bald Eagles, Sea Otters AND a Bear. That may have been more than we saw during all of Week 1 !!! So far we are off to a smashing start.

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