Baranof Cross-Island Route


Cohen, Lily

Dates of Trip: 

August 19, 2019 to August 24, 2019

The best laid plans of moose and muskoxen are sometimes met with bad weather. My friend and I wanted to walk across Baranof Island in Southeastern Alaska- a trip that takes about three days and travels across a couple of ice fields. However, as we were scurrying around trying to borrow crampons and a GPS, the weather forecast was not cooperating. Strong winds do not make for pleasant experiences above treeline. While dubiously eyeing our plans, one person asked if we were also planning on bringing a kite. In the end we opted for safety over exhilaration, exchanging our crampons for day hikes and an overnight cabin trip. Thanks to the stunning mountains and waterways around Sitka, we did not have to compromise on awe or beauty.

We took advantage of the the one clear day in the forecast to walk up Bear mountain. The route goes from sea level up to jaw dropping views of Sitka and a seemingly endless span of mountains. As an added bonus, summer offers a fantastic array of hiking trail treats. Along the way we snacked on huckleberries, trailing raspberries, watermelon berries, salmon berries, stink currents, highbush blueberries, lowbush blueberries, and crowberries. Highbush blueberries look tempting but are actually quite disappointing. In contrast, I dream about lowbush blueberries all winter long. And this was a very good lowbush blueberry year. At one point we stopped to take a 20 minute nap on a bed of blueberries because we could not avoid them. We also found chanterelles and hedgehog mushrooms which we brought home for dinner.

The next day, the clouds and rain rolled in so we opted for a sea kayak trip since we would be getting wet anyways. We shoved our overnight gear in the hatches and pushed the kayak off the backyard into the water. The best part about boat trips is that you can bring extra goodies- like an entire stick of butter for a single overnight trip. We paddled the 8ish miles around the Sikta sound through Silver Bay and to the outlet of Salmon Lake. Then we unloaded, carried our boat into the woods for safekeeping from the tide, and hoped that the bears wouldn’t chew on it too much. 

We walked the mile to Salmon Lake cabin along a path with an impressive quantity of bear poo and one sighting of a poo producer. I had quite forgotten how irrationally scared of bears I am until a couple of them wandered up between the outhouse and the cabin. Even though they retreated as soon as we said hello, I had difficulty quelling my panic. My friend wisely sent me off to chop wood- which was both distracting, and created such nice loud echoes that no further wild animal could be surprised to find us there. In the morning we were greeted by the loons calling on the lake. Other notable wildlife sightings included: fat slugs as long as my feet, bald eagles, star fish, jellyfish, so many salmon, bald eagles, sea lions and black tailed deer.

More rain, berry picking, and walking up mountains ensued for the remainder of our visit. I am grateful to the Collier Adventure Grant for enabling this trip.