ABOARD THE CHICHAGOF DREAM —
by guest blogger Molly Hottinger
After a nice breakfast with our fellow passengers, we prepared to kayak in Whitestone Harbor, near Chichagof Island, our vessel’s namesake. Whitestone Harbor is partly uncharted, so we had to be careful not not to ground our kayaks up on the large rocks in the fast retreating tide. Our expedition leaders shepherd our group but the areas we set off to explore are large enough that there is always sense of being on an individualized outing. There is also plenty of time scheduled to explore specific points of interest. So we headed over to investigate some dark brown rocks just off the shoreline.
This was also great opportunity to see the landscape up close. The rocky hills covered with towering Sitka Pines were beautiful. When we approached the rocks, we could see that the water was more shallow. I spotted a few bright orange feathery shapes, which I later learned were the feeding part of sea cucumbers. We kayaked along the shoreline and took photos of our fellow passengers. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely and more importantly, they didn’t mind being photographed enjoying themselves!
Back on the boat, we setup our camera equipment on the top deck to photograph the bravest passengers in our group; those who were about to become esteemed members of the Killer Whale Club. The stage was set up on the floating dock with turquoise towels to match the 40-ish degree water in the harbor. Those of us zipped up comfortably in our jackets cheered on each group as they took the plunge!
Later we boarded a smaller passenger vessel bound for Orca Point Lodge, Alaskan Dream Cruises’ exclusive day lodge on Colt Island. We were welcomed to the lodge and made our way into an area with a touch tank which encourages tactile interaction with anenomes, sea urchins, starfish, and other creatures. Our bonfire was crackling away near the beach. Some of us walked around to admire the blooming lupines and primrose flowers planted in the front yard of the log cabin style lodge complete with a perfectly manicured grassy lawn. I spotted a hummingbird and asked about them. Pam, an employee of the lodge, said that the hummingbirds migrate from Alaska to winter in Mexico, a journey of more than 4,000 miles each way.
Inside, we were served king crab and prime rib buffet style. I had never tasted king crab before and enjoyed the tasty sweet meat. The lodge inside was quite spacious and the gift shop had a nice selection of jewelry handcrafted by local Alaskan artists. After dinner, we were free to partake in roasting s’mores over the campfire or to do a little beachcombing. I noticed large white flowers that looked like Queen Anne’s Lace (or “Wild Carrots”), so I walked over to see them.
I noticed a bird song coming from inside the forest, so I stepped closer to listen and record the song with my iPhone. Reid and Janet, a couple from Iowa, came over to see what I had found. We decided to walk up the trail into the woods to get closer to the bird singing. Then suddenly we heard the unmistakable screeching of a bald eagle and spotted him alongside the tree line. We walked back to the head of the trail to find the eagle. He had just caught a fish in front of our fellow passengers. I spent the rest of my time on the grounds of Orca Lodge taking photos of the group beachcombing this beautiful rocky beach at low tide.