Into the Wild -- The Log of El Miguelito Stupidtramp
July 29, 2008 Juneau to Auke Bay and Beyond
For me, cruising is like birth and death and sometimes as painful as taxes or perhaps (although I would not know) as painful as birth.
In birth, you come into the world alone (through a seemingly un-navigable passage, with no good charts, and being almost certain that you will run aground before you hit open water.) Like birth, I started the cruising season alone, launching the boat in Anacortes before being joined by those who became part of my now concluding adventure.
In death, you leave the world alone, not knowing what, if anything, lies ahead. So ends my cruising season.
I write today's log with 6 miles left to go before the boat will be hauled at a yard a few miles up the Mendenhall river. (They assure me the water is navigable, they will meet me and pilot the boat, and they have the equipment to haul the boat (if) when we reach their dock. Stay tuned for what may be the most interesting part of the story. If it is as easy as they say, this will probably be the end of the log.) The haul-out is scheduled for high tide on the afternoon of August 6th. I have a plane ticket home on the 7th. I will shave my beard on the 8th.
My day of real (solo) cruising started at around 7:30 on the morning of July 29th. It was a day characterized by perfectly flat seas, high clouds, sunshine, blue sky, and warm weather. The final five hours between Harris Harbor in Juneau and Auke Bay were perfect for cruising. My trip south from Juneau, in the Gastineau Channel, as morning haze gave way to the sunshine that defined the day, was on glassy seas. I was treated to the proximity of seals, and saw just a few more bald eagles overhead. As I turned North onto the Stephens Passage and ran behind Douglas Island, the morning sky opened into that kind of sunny blue that I thought had left Alaska for good.
Conversation aboard was excellent although I spoke so much that I could not get a word in edgewise.
For the next 18 miles, I hugged the coast of Douglas Island, stopping frequently to photograph the seas, the wildlife and the snow covered mountains in all directions. At one point, on shore, I was treated to the sight of several deer grazing in the mouth of a small river.
Around noon-thirty, I pulled into Auke Bay and tied the boat off, ending (with the exception of 6 miles) my summer of cruising.
The Adventure of El Miguelito Stupidtramp
Having read "Into the Wild" and having several days before the final haul-out, I decided to live the life of Christopher McCandless (AKA Alexander Supertramp). I swore off all worldy posessions and walked away from the Mighty Sea Spirit, vowing to head off into the Alaskan wilderness where I intended to live off the land. Of course, just in case I decided to un-swear-off my worldly possessions, I carefully locked the boat before heading off on foot for the Glacier Highway.
I abandoned my given name and decided to call myself El Miguelito Stupidtramp.
With only the clothes on my back, three candy bars, a bottle of Aquafina, my cell phone, a few hundred dollars cash, and a few credit cards, I knew that I was on my own and there was nothing short of a call to 911 that could help me. I started walking south. It felt like the temperature might be plummeting toward the low 60s but I am not one to be dissuaded by such hardship.
For an hour I wandered along the Glacier Highway toward the Mendenhall Valley. This is bear territory but I felt little fear. I reasoned that no bear would leave the quiet woods to attack someone along such a heavily traveled road. Besides, the constant joggers and bikers looked more edible than me.
When I reached the Mendenhall river, I turned off the road and headed North along a barely worn trail. (It was barely worn because the trail had been freshly paved.) In the first quarter mile up the path (noting that their were mile markers ever .25 miles), I passed several senior citizens, obviously worn out from having ventured so far from their tour buses (neatly lined up in the parking lot at the trail head.) I ventured deeper into the woods. I walked beyond the children on bicycles and headed past the .5 mile marker on the trail. I knew that I was now in real Alaska. I could breath in the fresh air and know what it must have felt like to be my hero Alex S.T.
It was hour three and I realized that supplies were running low. I still had the cash, two candy bars, and the credit cards but the Aquafina was nearly half gone and I was quite parched. What to do? Was I going to die out here? I looked around for Jon Krakauer. Not seeing him, I became convinced that my death was not imminent.
Like my idol Alexander S.T., I was trapped on one side of a fast moving river and I knew that food, humanity, safety and a very large and well stocked Safeway were on the other side. Unlike Alexander, I was able to find the bridge across these troubled waters. (Actually, I followed some kids on bikes who led me to the bridge and then to a nice residential neighborhood.)
By now, I was almost spent. It was over three hours since I had left the boat and more than half an hour since I had left the road. I wandered the half mile to the Safeway. Although I knew that Alex S.T. would not approve, I purchased another Aquafina, nectarines, and hundred calorie packs of candy. I of course got my Safeway card discount.
By now, I was feeling one with Alexander Supertramp but I realized that my adventure would not be complete until, like Alexander S.T., I took up residency on an old Alaskan bus. One dollar and 50 cents later, I was living on a Capital City Metro Bus as it sped toward Auke Bay, 5 minutes from the Safeway. The driver refused, however to let me liveaboard, even though I had assumed such an excellent name. Even at twice the fare, the city of Juneau apparently does not allow liveaboards on the city buses but you can ride all day if you want. (I think they call it the Alexander Supertramp rule.)
Bored by now of my adventure, yet somehow feeling incredibly manly at having survived in the Alaskan wild, I exited the bus at the Auke Bay stop and returned to the Mighty Sea Spirit so that I might watch DirecTV and bask in my adventure.
So ends today's log.