For the past week we’d been checking our miles, pushing farther than we really enjoy and worrying about timing, which is something we’d so far avoided. We origionally planned to paddle the entire Inside Passage by starting at the small town of Bella Bella Canada, paddling North to Glacier Bay, then taking the ferry back to Bella Bella and finishing the final third of our trip by paddling South. In theory, this would ensure that we “finish” by making it to Glacier Bay and then go as far South as time allowed before I have to return to work. We estimated we’d make it somewhere between Anacortes, WA and Olympia, WA where Jeremy and I live. With this leg nearing its end I had been playing with miles, days, and ferry schedules trying to find the best balance between enjoying myself and my stubborn want to complete the initial dream of paddling all the way to Olympia, WA. Stubbornness usually wins so we’ve been pushing hard and planned to spend just 4 days in Glacier Bay.
The world, however, has no cares for my goals. Upon arrival at Glacier Bay we were informed that the Alaskan Ferry employees, after two and half years of unresolved pay negotiations, have gone on strike. No ferries are running and we have no way to get to Bella Bella, no way to complete the trip. Our dream was cut short by a small comment from a good natured national park employee. We are devastated. Years of dreaming, a year of planning, 60 days of paddling and the final third of our trip is just gone.
We looked at each other, our minds churning, trying to come up with alternative plans. We decide on this: we have 14 days worth of food and we are in one of the most remote and beautiful kayaking destinations in the US.
So, we plan to take our time, enjoy this place, and not live by any schedule other than the tides.
Our first day paddling in Glacier Bay and we are in a downpour which seems reflective of the circumstances. This part of the country usually limits its rainfall to a drizzle that I find extremely annoying. Growing up with the storms of the South I strongly dislike this halfhearted drizzle that never seems to commit to either being rain or mist. But this is real rain, fat drops pelting us from the sky and splashing us from the water. We are tired and cold. We make camp on a dreary island. We set up the tent and tarp and then watch in dismay as the wind picks up and rattles our camp enough to make us break it down and move it farther in to the trees. We are wet despite our rain gear. As we lay in bed that night, listening to the rain and wind batter our tent, we turn to look at each other and both are surprised to see the same look of peace on the other’s eyes.
“If it’s raining in the morning we could stay here.”
“There isn’t a ferry to catch so we really have no reason to go.”
In the morning its still raining so we turn off the alarm and go back to sleep. When we wake again we look out and our dreary island has transformed. The water is a bold blue from the sun shining under the rain clouds. Whales are breaching just off shore. The moss is brilliantly green and the bright red leaves of arctic berries decorate the ground cover. I make hot coffee and drink it sitting in a chair for the first time in weeks. We feast on pancakes. We wander the beaches marveling at enormous bear tracks. We listen to the whales. We breathe in this incredible place, looking out at the islands that dot the horizon and feeling the cold breeze of glacier cooled air.
I’m certain that tomorrow or maybe even this afternoon the itch to move forward, to see around the next corner, will grab me again, but for now I’m grateful to be slowed down by things outside my control.
We will paddle these waters slower than we probably have paddled in weeks. We have no internet or cell service here so we are forced to leave the logistics of figuring out an alternate way to Bella Bella, or an alternate plan altogether, for when we return. At least for now, we are freed from goals and schedules. Jeremy says with almost every setback and slowdown that things are meant to be, so we will enjoy this place as it was meant to be- slowly with nothing pulling at us but the tides.