Whales and Yawns while Paddling

4 minute read

We made it to Gustavus in two long days. On our first day it was still pretty windy but at least it was not raining. We walked along the coast and found a lot of beautiful beaches. We came across quite a few cabins, with grassy yards and such beautiful views on the ocean and mountains, we however did not see anyone. When we came across a stream that was so deep that we would have gotten our pants wet, we decided to paddle across it using just one packrafts. We inflated Ricardo’s boat, he then jumped into it and Salomé loaded both backpacks on the raft. Usually we have all our gear inside the tubes of the packrafts, but it takes quite a while to load them up, so this was a lot faster. He then paddled across and unloaded the backpacks and came back to pick up Salomé. We are happy to have successfully tried this maneuver as it will come handy many times on this trip. We used it later in the afternoon as the rising tide made it impossible to cross a rocky headland which was now sheer cliffs rising out of the sea.

We later had to transition to full paddling as the high tide was so high (full moon always brings very high tides) that our walk along the beach was full of impassable obstacles. Paddling often requires less attention (no need to look at where you are stepping!) which makes it easier to spot wildlife but the rocking motion and slow pace makes us often yawn so much that we joke that one day one of us will fall asleep and fall out the boat! That day however we saw so much wildlife. First we saw three orca bulls swimming by. For the first time we did not just see their fins but also their white spots on their bodies. We also saw our first bear on a beach who ran away so soon as he saw us.

It had started to rain that evening and would not stop until the evening of the next day. We decided to only paddle the next day. Paddling in the rain feels less miserable than walking as we’re wearing a the dry suit. The day was pretty foggy without many views but the wildlife provided for so much entertainment. After a tricky crossing is the Excursion Inlet (the wind suddenly started blowing us backwards in the middle) we heard a loud noise close by. Salomé thought that Ricardo’s boat had ripped, we were both pretty scared. It was a humpback whale that came up for air less than 10 meters (30ft) next to us. We watched it come up to breathe two more times before it dove deep showing us its tail. We could not believe how lucky we got! Later we saw countless sea otters lying on their backs cracking open shells and at times swimming sideways to check us out before diving back into the water away from us. We love seeing them, they are so inquisitive and cute!

We decided to paddle to the mudflats from where we’d walk into Gustavus. This turned out to not be the best idea as we ended up walking for nearly one mile in the wetlands tired after 2 long days. We were so happy that we managed to get to Gustavus in 4 days and looked forward to dry out in town.

We had the an amazing host in Gustavus, Ellie. But the story of how we got to meet her was interesting. As we walked on the beach towards Juneau we met Scott and Deb who invited us for coffee at their off-the-grid cabin. They gave us the contact of Jim in Gustavus who had hiked the Lost Coast and would be able to help us plan our next section along the Lost Coast. Jim and his wife Annie were quarantining and put us in contact with Ellie, who herself had walked the Lost Coast many times and just came back from a trip on the section we are going to hike! Her husband hikes a section of the coast every spring, he’s probably the person who’s hiked it the most! She set us up in their guest cabin with a wood stove, and Jim brought over a delicious dinner that we ate with Ellie. We spent a full day in Gustavus running chores: picked up our food box at the post office, biked back to the spot where Ellie picked us up with her truck (continuous footsteps!) and purchased some butter and fuel. We had time to exchange travel stories with Ellie (we found out that she we went to Patagonia only 2 months after Ricardo and Salomé met there). We also met Jim and Annie outside, and with their friend Caroline we went on a small hike. They are equally well travelled as Ellie and we learned about their climb of Denali and their 6 week adventure in Brooks Range in seventies. We are just in awe and truly touched how welcoming and friendly people here are!

We are headed now towards Yakutat on the Lost Coast, and we expect to get there in about two weeks!

Whale at our 10, 200 yards! That's half of the conversation on the water.
The humpback whales breathe two to four times before diving deeper showing their flukes.
Rain. Not shown here is the intensive yawning that happened that day.
Landing on the mudflats, where does the sea even start?
Wetlands, a new landscape for us, plus a bit of blue sky that was welcomed after a day full of rain.



Jason Lawrence

Hi Ricardo and Salome! I am enjoying following your trip immensely. It looks unbelievable. A humpback whale 30ft away! Incredible pictures and stories. I’m doing a bit of adventuring myself this weekend – heading off with Amber for a two-day backpack in the Enchanted Valley! :-)

Jeff Erickson

Hi you guys! It’s been two weeks and no update. Just checking on my favorite explorers. I hope you are safe and happy. Lots of rain here. One our kids is back and the other comes home tomorrow,then it’s off to the lighthouse to work on the roof. Good luck!

Ricardo & Salomé

Thank you all!!

Jeff, we just got to Yakutat, it only took us 15 days from Gustavus! We’ll update the blog shortly.

Jason, props for going adventuring! Hope you had a great time!