Petersburg, Alaska
July 1, 2010 - July 12, 2010

11 July 2010


My last full day in Petersburg another friend offered to take me up the Stikine River to see Shakes Glacier. I was picked up around 11:00 a.m. we packed the skiff and hooked it up to the truck. The skiff engine is the same kind of propulsion as a jet ski so it works in very shallow water, which I found was very important on this trip. We drove to the boat landing about 25 miles from Papke's landing and launched the boat. Unlike the other days I spent in a boat this day was colder and it was raining fairly steady so we decked out in full rain gear, yellow rain pants and all. I was feeling pretty silly until we actually got the boat in the water and got moving. The rain would drive down at you and it made it extremely cold and I was thankful for the rain gear I was wearing. Lucy the dog came with us, and we launched the boat. We made our way across Frederick sound to the mouth of the Stikine River. The sound was choppy and rough and once again I was glad to be sitting on a small float cushion for the little padding it gave me.

As we entered the river the mountains were amazing. They rose up on either side of us towering over us with their snow capped tops. Unfortunately it was raining so hard I didn't dare take out the camera. As the day wore on the clouds moved lower and lower and it was harder to see the mountains around us. We did see two side by side amazing waterfalls that I wish I had taken a picture of. The water chose it's own direction down the mountains and one of them was running almost sideways like a waterslide at an amusement park.

One of the first places we visited was Twin Lakes. They are two freshwater lakes on the mountains that are fed by warm springs. I put my hand in the water and was surprised at how tepid it felt. Definitely warmer than the cold wind and rain I was standing in. Lucy, the dog, followed us up the trail picking up every stick she could find hoping we would throw it for her. There weren't many clear places to throw it but I gave it a toss for her every chance I got.


We hopped back into the boat and made our way to a clear stream. The Stikine River is very silty and the overall color is a pale brown. As soon as we turned into this stream you could see the water instantly turn clear. You could see the bottom very clearly. It was interesting at the mouth of the stream watching the clear water mix with the brown water of the Stikine.

I truly realized how shallow parts of the Stikine River were as we made our way along because of all the fallen trees. There were huge dead trees all around us grounded on the bottom. The trees were easily 50 to 75 feet tall. It felt like we were moving through a tree graveyard. The branches had all been stripped off and all that was left lying on their sides were the trunks and the root systems. You could see most of the roots and about 1/2 the trunks of the trees that were stranded on the bottom of the river. There were times when there were hundreds of these dead trees around us and I realized at one point that we were moving through about 2 feet of water.

We made our way towards Shakes Lake to try to make our way up to the Shakes Glacier. My guide had tried to make the trip the other day but the entrance to the lake was so completely blocked by glaciers that it was impassible. We decided to take a look knowing that at least we would see some icebergs.

I could tell the minute we turned into the water that was the run off from the glacier. The muddy brown color of the Stikine quickly turned into that amazing green color that I've only seen come off a glacier. The air turned cold very quickly and the smaller icebergs began to appear. This glacier was very different from the La Conte Glacier. At La Conte there was a big ice flow of small chunks of ice at the mouth of the river. At Shakes there were huge icebergs, absolutely massive in size that blocked our way. My guide meandered in and out of the huge icebergs and the rain let up enough that I was able to take some pictures.

As we got further into the ice my guide stopped the boat. He was looking back at the massive icebergs behind us and towards were the glacier was. He turned to me and said that the glacier was only around that next bend but he was worried with the wind, weather, and how much the icebergs were moving that we might not get a chance to get out and we would be trapped waiting for the glaciers to move again. I told him I was fine with heading out now. I didn't need to see the Shakes Glacier so badly that I wanted to be trapped near it.

We turned the boat and looked for a way out. I did manage a few more pictures while my guide was looking for an exit path.

The last two pictures are the same iceberg and you can see that a large chunk of it was about to break off. I wasn't anxious to see how large a wave that would create and if it would be enough to flip our little boat so I pointed it out to my guide. He agreed that we should move past it quickly and we moved on.


We were pretty close to this one and I wanted to show how amazing the blue streaks were that run through the icebergs.

We finally found a path out of the massive icebergs and I was a bit relieved to see open water ahead. When we looked back we realized that in just the few minutes we had been in there the icebergs had moved quite a bit and our exit was probably the only one left and it was getting smaller quickly.

We made our way up to the Cheif Shakes Hot Springs. The hot springs are set up to run into hot tubs. There are changing areas to slip into swimsuits and we hopped into the tubs to try to warm up from the cold air and even colder rain that we had been traveling through. There are two pipes that divert the spring water into the hot tub. One from the hot spring and another from a cold spring. Unfortunately someone had left the cold pipe in the water and it wasn't very warm when we first got there. There was a release valve at the bottom of the tub and we were letting out the cold water while the hot water came in from above. The hot water was so hot that at first I couldn't even hold my hand underneath it It's so strange that in an area with so much ice and snow that there could be a spring that ran so hot.

We stayed long enough to warm up then got back into our raingear and warm clothes. The tub had warmed me up quite a bit but it didn't last. The rain picked up and the air seemed colder. Lucy hopped up on the bench next to me and buried her head against me. I figured she had the right idea and pulled her close for warmth. I spent most of the trip back down the river huddled with Lucy on the seat with my head down trying to stay warm. I was wearing as many layers as I could under my raingear but it didn't seem enough.

We made one more foray on our ride home off on a side stream. I was a bit nervous with all these huge trees that were leaning so far into the water that our boat was actually going beneath them. I was relieved when my guide said he was turning for home.

One last view of the Stikine River.

The trip home seemed much longer than the trip out and I was overjoyed to see the boat landing come into site. We loaded up the boat and cranked the heater in the truck for the ride back to my friend's house. We got back and my guide said he was all set with unloading the boat. I made fast tracks into the house and hunkered down next to the space heater to warm up.

The dinner of Salmon, blackbeans and rice that my friend made definately helped to warm me up before I dropped into bed exhausted from the day's events.