After a quick flight from Anchorage, through Juneau and finally to Sitka, we met up with Bighorse who drove us to his place. We arrived late and got settled into his place for a quick rest before leaving the next morning.
We woke up to fairly high winds and 21 foot forecasted seas, so we waited an additional hour to see if the wind would die down a bit. We met up with one of Bighorse’s buddies (member CTP) at the harbor. We loaded the gear, donned our float suits and were on our way.
We got a bit further toward our destination and ran into some pretty high winds. Playing it safe, we pulled into a protected cove and decided to wait it out a bit. Luke and I decided to walk up a creek and see if we could poke around a bit while we waited on the weather. We found a good clearing and I blew on the call a bit. I moved about another 25 yards down the game trail I was on and saw a deer face staring at me through the brush. I was unprepared for seeing one so close and couldn’t get my act together fast enough to get a shot at the buck. Back to the boat and we decided to continue on as it looked a bit better.
Out of the bay we almost immediately found ourselves in 10 foot swells. In the words of our large equestrian friend, it got a bit ‘sporty’ and it was a bit hairy at times shooting the gaps between rock outcroppings in the 17 foot boat (sketchiness factor of about a solid seven at this time). It allowed us some protection from the main ocean swells, but was like a big washing machine tossing the small boat pretty good.
One thing to stress here would be the fact that everyone had a float suit on and we had communications strapped to our persons in watertight containers in case something like this happens. Mr. Bighorse has a long playbook of exciting adventures, but it is always his goal to make it home in one piece.
We had about 30 minutes of pucker factor before we headed up the bay for our portage. After cruising through the steep mountainous bay seeing the eagles, otters, and waterfalls, we quickly portaged our gear and got going. The boat that Bighorse and CTP stashed the day before had drifted down the lakeshore about 50 yards because of the winds and the fact that the lake rose about a foot overnight.
3 guys, about 400 pounds of gear, and towing CTP (who got elected to pilot the kayak because he is a CG rescue swimmer) in a two person kayak with more gear, we rapped out the 5 hp Merc and headed into white-capping lake for the 5 mile trek across the water. Right when we left the cove we had a solid sketch-factor of 8 as we were taking water over the bow of our rickety lake boat and freeboard was at an absolute premium. CTP had his work cut out for him trying to keep tracking straight behind our boat as well. Seeing how much the boat was loaded down, combined with taking water over the bow, I would be lying to say I wasn’t concerned and had visions of us swimming to shore. We repositioned and kept most of the water from coming over the bow and it got much better.
About an hour later we were at camp and got everything situated inside our Forest Service cabin and did a quick evening hunt before dark to get the lay of the land. Off to bed after a bowl of chili and a long day filled with a few hair raising boat rides made my pad-less sleep on the planked wood no problem.
The next day, Luke and I paired up and began to penetrate the valley on the right side of the valley, as Bighorse and CTP teamed up to penetrate the left side of the valley. After a quick 30 minutes of still hunting through the muskeg, we saw two deer trailing each other about 50 yards ahead making their way into a clearing toward us. I saw the deer, looked at Luke who had his rifle up already, and being a bit to my left, had a shot and bagged the first deer of the trip. He thought the rear deer was a buck as it was hot on the doe he was chasing. Seeing the crab-clawed buck down got our blood pumping and a half hour later he was tagged/bagged and we were hunting again. Boom, boom, we heard Bighorse and CTP bag a deer across the valley that we later found out was of similar stature.