Hey all… planning a trip on the inside passage in Alaska for spring and summer 2006- anyone out there that has done it that has any helpful thoughts or advice? Looking for those valuable first-hand accounts!
i will try and find my ole friends email for you. She did it back in the 80’s. She had never been in a kayak until the day she started. It took them 4 months to get to Seatlle.
Inside Passage Trip
You say Inside Passage and refer to Alaska specifically, do you mean that you are only paddling the Alaska portion?
I may be able to cover some information for you regarding the Alaska section and can get rather specific information if need be.
Let us know the route you’re taking. Some places, Chatham Straights for instance, can have some killer winds. My advice there, start early in the morning and end early in the afternoon. Winds are usually from the West or Southwest on the Alaska coast. If you are heading up through Clarence Strait from Dixon Entrance and around Frederick Sound to Stephens Passage you might be better protected from the afternoon winds, at least through the narrower sections, however, the tidal currents can be rather swift in some of those narrower passages. The sunnier days usually have the stronger winds during the summer here.
There are some pitfalls towards Cross Sound and Icy Straight as well. Check the NOAA marine weather site for Southeast Alaska regularly as you go into Spring and up to the point you are ready to depart, you’ll find a lot of small craft advisories in the areas with a lot of exposure. Check your weather and wind often on a VHF if you are taking one as well. Here, as in other coastal places I suppose, weather changes quickly.
I’d like to make the whole trip up from Duke Island at the border to Juneau in one trip, but time is never on my side for long adventures during the summer months. By the way, June and July are usually better weather months in Southeast Alaska. The rain starts getting heavier again by August during normal years.
Good luck and you have my envy.
sent you an e:mail
i think i forgot to sign it though. dan
Ck this site out for info…its an
alaskan site : http://www.kck.org/listserver/rules.html
Myself and three friends paddled the Alaska part of the inside passage this past summer. We started in Ketichkan and paddled to Skagway. It was a distance of just under 400 miles. It took us 25 paddling days to do the trip. It was an awsome trip and the weather really was nice this past summer in Southeast Alaska. We had 2 weeks of no rain and temps in the high 70’s and low 80’s. Quite unusual for that part of the world.
The only place we ran into nasty paddleing conditions was near the mouth of the Stikine River.There are some massive tidal flats in the area and if you do not hit it right you can run into real funky waves and currents. Do your research and get local Knowledge when you can.
The big tide ranges up there can be a pain and we had alot of carrying gear and boats almost every day at least once either departing from camp or setting up camp. You try to work with the tides but sometimes you just do not want to get up at 2 am to catch that high tide. Water for drinking is not a problem in southeast Alaska. Just bring a filter and there was almost always a stream nearby.
We had no problems with bear at all, in fact we only saw two the whole trip. The whale watching was fantastic. We paddled with whales in sight at least 15 of those 25 days. Southeast Alaska is a paddlers paradise so dont pass up that plan to paddle there.
Did part of it last year
We paddled from Ketchikan to Skagway in June. If I remember correctly, weather charts showing average precipitation in that part of Alaska listed April anad June as the driest months. However, "dry" is a relative term. Expect frequent mist/drizzle. It poses no problem for paddling through but it's not exactly wonderful for camping.
Misty drizzly weather does mean fairly calm wind conditions. People told us it's best to go from south to north to take advantage of general wind direction. If there is any wind on the typical misty drizzly days, it's a very gentle one from the south. But on beautiful, clear, sunny days, the wind blows from the north, and it's stronger.
We enjoyed about a week and a half of record-setting heat wave last year, which made for great camping conditions and LOTS OF HORSEFLIES, ARGH!
You will hear suggestions about dealing with grizzly bears. If you go early enough, you might not even see any. The salmon did not start running till the very end of our trip, so we never saw any though we did see grizzly tracks at one potential campsite. (Note that I said "potential".)
Obtaining fresh water turned out to be easy, as we paddled by streams almost every day. Bring a spare filter element, or extra fuel in case you need to boil water.
At night, we slept in extremely warm temps, like 50's. You don't need a mountaineering sleeping bag, but be aware that many days all your clothing and bedding will be damp from absorbing humidity in the air. Even on the hottest heat wave days, as soon as the sun went down the air became noticeably more humid.
Speaking of days and nights--there won't be much night at that time of year! Mostly I loved the long, long days but I do remember one night early on, when I was extremely tired but had trouble falling asleep because it was so light even at midnight.
Tidal currents, which we worried about at first, generally did not push hard enough to matter. However, watch out for timing so that you don't end up stranded on tidal mud flats as we did a couple of times.
Also, AK has some BIG differences between high and low tides, 13 to 20 ft. You'll want the free tide books to help you keep an eye on what the situation is where you camp. We used those and topo maps (good for estimating suitable camping areas).
Oh, yeah--if you worry about scratches on your composite hull, you'll be tearing your hair out. The beaches were rocks (often encrusted with mussels or barnacles), not sand. I used a plastic kayak and it garnered more scratches and gouges in one month than it had in the previous two years.
In reading this post, I realized that I mentioned a a lot of negative things. Make no mistake about it: I was uncomfortable at some time every day. But it was the best trip I've ever done, and not one day goes by without my thinking of something from it or related to it. Paddling there is like being suspended at the transition between water and sky, with a world full of animals slipping below, around, or alongside you.
Dammit! You beat me to the punch
There I was, composing a long reply, while you popped one back 7 minutes earlier.
Forgot to mention that bald eagles in SE AK are like ants at a picnic site.
And that ice cream in Wrangell, Petersburg, Juneau, and Skagway sure tastes good!
Inside Passage Charts and General Info
Chart numbers for Southeast Alaska are 16016 (for a view of SE from Dixon Entrance past Yakutat Bay), 17420 covers Ketchikan and the Cleveland Penninsula, 17360 covers Petersburg and Wrangell (Kupreanof Island), 17300 covers Juneau (Stephens Passage, Glacier Bay, Lynn Canal to Skagway). Sitka and Baranof Island are covered on 17320.
Tidal currents in Peril Straights at Sergious Narrows north of Baranof Island can climb above 5 knots, the Wrangell Narrows at Petersburg can climb to over 5 knots, so currents can present a challenge between the bigger islands.
As far as bears, I have only had one bad incident in over 35 years of living in and around remote areas…that one incident woke me up. Sows with cubs are a major consideration. Otherwise, just do the normal thing and keep all food, toothpaste, and other good smelling things out of camp and out of the tent. Bears like those nice grassy areas along the beaches in the Spring and use the areas where larger streams empty into the ocean as beach access points. In the spring they are always where the first green shoots come out of the ground (beaches and lower areas). By the last weeks of July they are on any stream that has salmon running into it. By August, the pink, aka humpies, and dog salmon are running strong.
Who ever made the point about barnacles in this part of the world was right on, I have a newer Solstice that bears the scars.
If you can get copies of Wild Edible and Medicinal Plants Volume 1 and 2, written by Carol R. Biggs, there are a few decent plants along the beach that will give you a source for fresh greens as well, one being Beach Greens(sea chickweed), the other being Goosetongue (asparagus taste if lightly steamed). Southeast is very rich in steamer clams, etc., although you need a fishing license to dig them. Digging them is easily enough done with a good stick.
Sea Kayaking The Inside Passage
For anyone interested in Sea Kayaking the Inside Passage may I suggest checking out the web site I put together after completing my solo journey in 2008.
The site address is: