Thursday, September 21, 2017

Out to Caines Head: By Paddle and By Foot

Poised at South Beach on Lowell Point, ready to begin our paddle out to Caines Head

 Last week, we had the chance to paddle and hike out to Caines Head State Recreation Area. Our friend, Rachel, from Tallahassee, Florida was visiting for the week and we were able to include two other visitors from the south into the adventure. We used our 18 foot tandem kayak for two of us, and the other three walked out. This allowed us to bring more supplies than we could have / would have carried on our backs, to enjoy the view from the water and gave me a respite from walking the whole way, as I continue to rehabilitate my foot after breaking my fifth metatarsal back in July of this year. We started from South Beach on Lowell Point, three walking the Tonsina Trail, and two of us paddling out to the same beach just south of Tonsina Point. We switched around paddlers at that point and continued out into Resurrection Bay. The day was gloriously precipitation-free and we enjoyed the grandeur that surrounded us. The crucial part about going out to Caines Head is to time the tides right. The last 3 miles out to the cabin is located on the beach, and thus requires a 2.0 or lower foot tide to be above the water line. The low tide was to be at 6:11pm, so we wanted to be walking about an hour before and after that time, to allow us the maximum safety. We did have a back up plan of using the kayak to ferry us around the "pinch points" if necessary, but that would have been annoying and time consuming. Fortunately, that was not necessary.
The Derby Cove cabin, set amidst a rain forest

Upon arrival at Derby Cove, we were amazed at the beauty of the rain forest. The cabin was built on pilings because the ground beneath it was a sopping mess of constant run off. The inside was dry and cozy and smelled faintly of past wood smoke. Lovely! We enjoyed our evening by paddling around the area, going around the rocks to get to the old dock pilings from Fort McGilvry, which was built and staffed during World War 2, to protect Alaska from Japanese attack. We cooked food on our Svea Stove, outside on the metal plate that's part of the counter surface on the front deck. Such a lovely and easy to use set up. We played a board game, read the cabin log book and drifted into deep sleep amidst the darkness.

Evening sunlight with view across Resurrection Bay, while sitting on the beach at Derby Cove

Remains of the WW2 Fort
The next mid day, after consuming a couple of rounds of various foods that we considered breakfast / lunch, we packed up our belongings and set off to hike to the old fort ruins. It was up and down on quite good trail, particularly because we were wearing our xtra tuffs, which protected our feet from the sloppy mud and roots. After half a mile, we found a trail sign that indicated we had made no progress in the day's mileage. 2.5 miles to the fort, still. The scenery was gorgeous, even in the constant trickling rain. On we continued until we got to the super creepy remains of the fort, with an assortment of buildings tucked into the rocky soils. Reed and Rachel loved walking inside of these old structures.We were fortunate to enjoy a break in the rain while eating our snacks at the tip top of the fort area. Porcupine Glacier, across the bay was resplendent in the low light. We wanted to press on, or at least I did, but chose to begin our trek back, because there were many miles to go to get back to Seward, about 7, I think.

All a normal part of our ecosystem: chum salmon spawned out at Caines Head

Later that evening, back in Seward, we turned the Toyo stove on, fired up our propane home stove and delighted in eating hot soup with cheese toast. Yum! A lovely way to finish up a fantastic outing, and one that's located only a few miles from our home. How fortunate we are!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Autumn Rainforest Hiking on the Kenai Peninsula with a mostly healed foot

Walking in hard soled shoes

I've spent most of this summer on my couch, healing from a broken fifth metatarsal, a very minor injury that caused a tremendous amount of suffering and waiting for my whole body and mind. Finally, on September 1st, I got the pins removed and permission from the surgeon to begin putting weight on my right foot again. My immediate reaction was one of liberation, but in the days that followed, rather than jubilation, I felt myself sinking back into discouragement. My summer mood, which is generally optimistic and joyful, had suffered from lack of physical activity, purpose and employment. Even the removal of the pins couldn't take away the fact that summer was now over, and my muscles were shadows of their former selves. I needed to get out on the trails as soon as possible, to rebuild my muscles, tendons and, most importantly, my mental health.

Kelley with Grayling Lake
Last week, on dreary Thursday afternoon, I forced myself out of the house and on a drive to a trailhead, despite my mental distaste for driving anywhere for the purposes of walking. We live in downtown Seward, just one block from the base of the Jeep Trail, which ascends Mount Marathon, which makes it difficult to justify driving to a different trailhead. In any case, I wanted to see Grayling Lake, and I set off driving out of town on the only highway we have, the Seward Highway. My destination was just 13 miles from home, a small parking lot for the trailhead to Grayling Lake. I parked the old junker Rodeo that we drive, leaving the doors unlocked, and throwing on my small running backpack. I was wearing my grey dress clogs, per my doctor's instruction that I wear hard soled shoes to protect my foot against rocks and roots. 

The forest floor
The trail was lovely gravel for the first 200 meters, but soon after crossing the railroad tracks, it turned to slop. It's been raining in and around Seward for nearly a month, and the soils are saturated. Early on, I tried to avoid the slop, but quickly decided it was useless and instead plunged right through deep puddles and mud. The liquid felt icy cold, likely 50 degrees, same as the air temperature. I plodded along slowly and carefully, fully aware of how easily I could reinsure myself. The trail took me through a lush coastal rainforest, moss coating and dripping from nearly every tree. The ground away from the trail was coated in mosses and lichens, mushrooms blossoming through the soft carpet. Blueberry bushes, with the tail end of this year's crop accompanied me along much of the route. Steadily up I climbed, gentle elevation gain that was good for regrowing my calf muscles. And suddenly I was there, at the lake, and feeling accomplished for being able to walk the 1.4 miles to get myself to my destination. The trail continued, and I wanted to follow it. But I reminded myself that I still had to get out, and that I needed to be cautious about how much I push myself. So I thanked my body for taking me safely thus far, and I walked back out, admiring the variety of mushrooms and the greenness of the other vegetation. 

The trail in autumn 

Back at my car, it was still raining, the size of the drops increasing. I felt different, a bit better, and grateful that such a trail, with its accompanying forest and habitat is so easily reachable for me. Later that evening I would go to work at my new job, my legs and whole body sore and weary from the day's walk. I found the sensations of discomfort reassuring, proof that I am regrowing my body, and with it, my spirit will hopefully rebound as well.