Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Honker Divide on Prince of Wales Island, Day 3

Day 3! To see the beginning of this epic journey click here. Click here for days 1 and 2 and here for day 4.

Even though we had a relaxing day at the Honker Lake cabin we were still catching up on our sleep from our marathons and the first day of the Honker Divide. We finally got our shit together and out the door around 10:30 in the morning. Today our rough goal was the trapper cabin we had seen on the Terry Gardiner blog. In Hunter's blog he mentioned how they were able to sleep in a cabin both nights. Maybe we could do that too!

Loaded up! Whiskey is easily accessible and the Juanita's are on top!

Immediately after we cleared the narrow section of Honker Lake we saw a lone soldier off in the distance. It was a log where one end had waterlogged and sank but the other end was still high and dry. This picture captures how big the lake is. Huge and this is just half of it!

David taking a picture of the lone soldier.

It's there... why not?

Full on dive from a sinking log! What a stud!
From where we exited Honker Lake to where portage 1 begins was around a half a mile of fairly smooth sailing. By smooth sailing I mean lots of walking but not too many logjams. This picture shows the end of the road for the upstream portion of our trip.

Portage sign claims 1 and 1/4 mile in length.

Canoe tracks! Following in the footsteps of akbeckman and mackie114! I also saw a set of large and small bear prints in the river bed that looked like they may have been as recent as that morning or the day before.

Gina and I decided to bring all our gear on the first trip then come back for the kayaks on trips 2 and 3. When imagining what the portages would be like in my mind I thought about the 1 and a quarter mile distance and it seemed like it would be a breeze. I had just run a half marathon 3 days ago! And I had seen pictures like this (source, Oliver Inlet) of other Alaskan portages! The portages turned out to be brutal beasts that tested the very depths of our willpower, physical ability, relationships and humor. This first half of this first portage gains elevation through a muddy and root laden forest of bogs and fallen trees. We had packed our kayaks as if going on a kayak camping trip which Gina and I have done a few times before. That means glass bottles, way too much food including cans and jars and so much beer we didn't even finish it (?!). When kayak camping the kayak carries all your shit for you- you just have to load it, foolishly paddle around for a bit and unload it. This trip turned out to be more like a backpacking trip than a kayak trip. I would never bring 6 Tasty Bites, a jar of pasta sauce and a glass bottle of whiskey on a backpacking trip!

Loaded down.

David carrying his yak through the woods.

Gina going under a tree through the mud.

Day old bear foot print.

Entering the muskeg section of portage one. Our shit was so heavy that we had to take numerous breaks. At one point I proclaimed that we probably only have a quarter mile left to later discover we weren't even half way yet. It took a long time!

More woods.

Loaded down as shit!

Gina walking over the recently refurbished trail. As hard as this portage was it would have been much more difficult without the work the trail crew had done the summer before through the muskeg.

Towards the end of the route we came across several spots where the logs had been removed from the trail. At first my mind started thinking about the vandalism on the Perseverance trail that happened many years ago but then I realized this was due to the water from the lake rising and lifting the logs out of the trail.

End of the portage! There's the first Twin Lake!

Going back for the first and heaviest kayak. We could go maybe 100 feet at a time and there is no easy way to carry this monster. We tried the handles but your hands would hurt. Over the shoulder would work too but not for long because your shoulder and neck starts to hurt. 

Resting on the wood trail in the muskeg.

A celebratory beer when we finished! At this point it was getting to be 5 o'clock. This first portage took us 5 and a half hours and included 6 and a quarter miles walking for each of us. Brutal! David is casting in the distance.

I loaded up. David and Gina were sure I was going to bite the big one when I slid into the water but I was too tired to get back out of the boat and a less dramatic water entry. As you can see below my water landing was incident free and I proclaimed half heartedly "here comes a stud" and "a stud's in charge." There was still a bit of humor left!

There's a neat bluff that overlooks the First Twin lake where it appears the trail crew camped. There's a fire ring, a cleared out area in the woods and a cool home made table.

Paddling on the first of the two Twin Lakes.

Here's a rough 360 of the second Twin Lake.

The narrow channel that separates the Twin Lakes.

There was clear sailing between the Twin Lakes. It's really one lake connected by a narrow channel. The second twin lake, seen above, may have been my favorite lake of the journey. There was a barely visible rock reef protruding from the water quite a ways from the shore. Very cool!

An island can be seen to the left in the second Twin Lake. It would have been fun to explore this area a bit but we were running against the clock and we had a cabin to find before dark!

The passage leaving the Twin Lakes heading into the Thorne River. It's time for some downstream action, right?

Gina prepares to tackle some "rapids." The roughly 2 and a half miles between Twin Lakes and Thorne Lake is a rinse and repeat of sit in the kayak for 3 minutes and walk for 10. There is no long relaxing section where you can paddle for an hour. 

We saw this cool old tree growing directly out of the water.

I don't recall exactly how many but we had to bypass 5 or 6 logjams in this stretch. Each one a brutal test of will after that long portage.

David taught me how to ride my kayak like this. This way it's much easier to get in and out over and over and over and over. I actually took this picture to use as a warning: don't go the footwear route that I did! I chose waders with neoprene feet and figured some cheap ass $5 sandals I picked up at Next Adventure would work for shoes. The feet were too baggy to just wear old shoes I already had laying around the house. This setup actually fully sucked shit. There are roots and sticks everywhere in the creeks we walked through and I had a hole in one of my feet on the very first day. But that wasn't even the worst part. There were tons of sections where we would be walking in the creeks on slippery ass boulders and rocks. My crappy sandals had zero traction in the water and I would endlessly slip jamming my exposed feet and toes into rock crevices. Twice I slipped and plunged up to my neck. It tested the waterproofness of my life vest pockets where my iPhone was. Yep- they're waterproof!  By the end of the journey my feet were bruised all over, sore as shit and I thought maybe I was going to lose one toenail in particular. David had a decent setup with some old tennis shoes over his neoprene feet but he got his waders used off of Craigslist. They came non-waterproof. Gina may have had the best set up . She bought waders with built in boots and they seemed to work fine for her. She still had sore feet when we were done though but I think anyone would.

More logjam.

A nice spot to paddle for a moment.

Another logjam.

We were able to jam our kayaks under the lowest log and avoid dragging our boats out of the water.

Some more paddling.

It was dusk when we finally hit the northern end of the lake.

We reached Thorne Lake around 9:30 and had given up on finding the trapper's cabin. This point of land on an island had an awesome campsite with a fire ring. It looked like it may have been a year or two since it was used. We camped on an island on a lake on an island! Although it may already have a name, we nicknamed it Skull Island in honor of where the Sumatran rat monkey was from.

Our campsite had a stunning view of the sunset. Fuck yeah!

Gina making dinner.

Plenty of dry firewood within 20 feet of our campsite.

Daily beer count: 3. Pretty weak showing but today was almost non-stop. I had one to celebrate finishing the portage and two at our campsite.

Links: Journey intro, Days 1 and 2, Day 4.

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