Kayaking the Inside Passage

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The first part of the trip was a kayak paddle from our home town of Juneau, Alaska down through the Inside Passage to Ladysmith Harbor on southern Vancouver Island. Our paddle lasted 93 days, departing Juneau on June 1, 2012 and arriving in Ladysmith on September 1st.

The Inside Passage is a coastal ocean route that navigates through more than a thousand islands on a series of straits and channels connecting southeast Alaska to western British Columbia and Puget Sound.

One of the goals of this trip is to experience how the Pacific Ocean impacts the planet and this first part of the trip was likely our most intimate connection with the water itself. In a kayak there is only a small barrier between one’s body and the elements and this mode of travel gave us a unique understanding of the importance and power that this body of water has.

We had an amazing trip through the Inside Passage graced with beautiful weather, spectacular sights, and lasting connections to people we met along the way. Being raised in the Tongass National Rainforest we expected and prepared for rain and cold. Although this was the summer experienced by friends and family back home in Juneau we seemed to have a pocket of sunshine follow us down the coast. We had three “weather” days where we didn’t paddle or began paddling and promptly pulled over. For us, the days around Bella Bella marked a transition to consistently warmer temperatures, we still would have the occasional cool and rain day, but after that point more days were spent snorkeling than in drysuits.

Donning one’s drysuit was a daily occurrence for the crew during the first month and a half. Although we didn’t have much precipitation the water was still very cold and so was the air temperature (especially in Tracy Arm). The drysuits then served multiple purposes, partially they were an extra measure in case of a capsize while paddling (of which we had 3 during the trip all caused by surfing and sailing and were of no consequence) but more regularly they kept us warm and dry while loading and unloading the boats everyday and while we would be sitting in the kayaks.

During our research before the trip we heard that camping can be difficult in certain sections. We did not encounter this during our trip and mostly attribute this to our tolerance for camping. This does not mean we had big, nice beaches every night; but some of the rockiest, smallest, overgrown beaches turned into our favorite and most memorable campsites. Excluding Tracy Arm (where there are only a few places to camp and land) we never had a day where we felt that we couldn’t stop and pull over. Certainly there were sections that this was the case, but everywhere we paddled within a few miles there would be at the very least some nook that could provide shelter off the water (and for 10 kayaks to boot), For the majority of the trip in the morning we would have no plan of where we were going to camp that night and we couldn’t have been happier. Fresh water was our priority when deciding where to camp, however as we neared the outer coast somehow our priority seemed to shift towards white sand beaches.

Embarking on this trip with 12 people was incredible and rarely felt like we had a large group. The different perspectives and the shared experiences made the trip that much more extraordinary.