By guest blogger Molly Hottinger
We anchored in Steamboat Bay last evening to get an early start to our day. After breakfast, we boarded an inflatable to explore a pebble beach. The high tide had left behind cockle shells, green sea urchins, and white clams.
A few of us climbed up a small rocky hill which offered a great view of the Chichagof and wide sweeping views of the beach. Tall tufts of thick grass grew straight out of dark jagged rocks uplifted long ago here above the clear emerald waters of Steamboat Bay. I spotted bright orange lichen growing on the rocks. One of our expedition leaders studies the 2,000 species found in this region, so we caught up with him to give him our field sample!
Locals told me the red tulip-like flowers I was admiring are called Indian paintbrush, or prairie-fire. This red flower is native to the west of the Americas from Alaska south to the Andes, northern Asia, and one species as far west as the Kola Peninsula in northwestern Russia. We boarded the inflatable with our beachcombing treasures and returned to the Chichagof to set sail for Thomas Bay.
You might be wondering how the crew makes certain they haven’t left passengers stranded on an uninhabited Alaskan island? Each time passengers disembark, we are required to move a glass marble with a magnet attached to it on a whiteboard to “ashore”. When we return, we move our marble back to the “Aboard” column. Don’t lose your marble!
When we reached Thomas Bay, we boarded inflatables to go on a short hike in the rainforest to check out a massive cascading waterfall. The switchback trail that led up to the waterfall is nicely maintained by the U.S. Forest Service. The waterfall was an impressive sight.
A few hours later, we kayaked from the Chichagof to paddle to the mouth of the waterfall we explored earlier. On our way back, we heard what sounded like the clap of thunder on the surface of the water. Looking for the source of the sound, we noticed a whale spout catching the sunlight roughly two hundred yards away.