by Audrey Sutherland
Patagonia Books is proud to announce our latest release, Audrey Sutherland’s new book Paddling North, which describes her solo voyages along Alaska’s southeast coast in a nine-foot inflatable kayak. The book includes maps by Compass Projections and illustrations by Yoshiko Yamamoto and recipes by the author. Enjoy an excerpt from Chapter 3, "Misty Fjords and Whales."
“Suddenly there was a big water sound ahead. It was not the sound of a salmon jumping. It was not a seal spotting me and doing an instant up-and-over dive. This was a huge volume of water. Coming toward me were two whales, heading south down the channel. Not the humpbacks that I knew from Hawai‘i, these were pure black, with a high narrow dorsal fin and a 10-foot span between spout and fin. Killer whales! I spun away and paddled fast toward the cliff, but there was no place to get ashore. The critic on my shoulder scolded the yellow-bellied paddler. “You don’t have to carry the yellow color scheme that far.” I turned and stroked parallel to them, but they had already passed.
Disappointed, I turned back to the search for a hot spring. Five miles south of Saks Cove, said the USGS thermal springs book, and 200 feet inland. I came to a cove and landed. The major stream was farther south than the map indicated, but I found a smaller one that seemed possible, of a size that might have bubbled from just one spring. Its water was icy, but it would chill fast on this ground, so I crawled upstream, through the spiny devil’s club, under logs, through the water. Finally I stopped; 300 feet in half an hour. No steaming vapor showed ahead, no sign of the red algae that often grows near hot springs. I had no assurance a hot spring was still bubbling. The Geological Survey report was from a 1917 observation, and the 1980 NOAA report on hot springs of Alaska didn’t mention it. Until further reconnaissance, it will remain a mystery. I paddled on.