An Outside Beach Adventure

  • We listened to the Fish & Game announcement this morning––no fishing today, but fishing tomorrow from 1-12. With fine weather we decided to go on an adventure I have been dreaming about for years––the outside beach. With a low tide approaching, we raced to get our gear ready and eat breakfast. We drove the 4 wheeler (called “bikes” here) to the beach and used 2X6s to drive it into the skiff. We really lucked out today with the calm seas because only 1 in 50 days is it calm enough to do that right in front of the cabin. We headed across the bay and saw lots of grey whales as we picked our way between the sand bars covered in basking seals, seals that in 24 short hours would be eating fish right out of our net. We left the river and entered the Bering Sea, which was relatively calm. Instead of turning north up the coast as we did yesterday when we fished, we turned south and looked for a place called “The Bumps.” Literally some small hills that look like small bumps from the cabin. Beyond we found a little inlet where we could leave the boat while the tide came in while we explored a new beach. It’s always really stressful leaving the boat anywhere unfamiliar. Sudden storms and large tides can swamp your boat or leaved it marooned on dry land for 12 hours if you’re not careful. We unloaded the bike and trailer and headed south along the beach under a blue-ish sky.

    Now here’s some background on this particular beach. Part of the reason I have always wanted to visit are because no one lives on the beach, there is no town or people for hundreds of miles, its sand (no mud), and there is essentially no foot or other traffic on the beach, ever. Additionally, there are walrus haulouts along this stretch of coast and an ivory walrus tusk is something I have always wanted to find. All these things spell amazing beach combing for glass balls and anything else that washes up. To make a long story short, we started finding glass balls right away and ended the day with a record number. None of my crewman have ever legitimately found more than one in a whole season but so far Dustin has found about 10. I also found the holy grail, an ivory walrus tusk just laying on the sand. It’s really heavy and has a quality that is different than bone, rock or wood. It’s perfect. A dream has been realized.

    The land is mostly flat (except for the massive mountain range about 50 miles to the south) but as we progressed down the beach, the land rose and pretty soon we where sandwiched between the sea and a 1000 ft bluff––Cape Menchikof. When its so flat, seeing some relief is pretty amazing. Also, there are virtually no rocks anywhere near where we live so it was strange to see massive rocks everywhere at the base of the cape. We could have proceeded another 10 or 20 miles but we were worried about the boat so we turned around and headed back. When we got to the boat, it was floating perfectly in deep water and the seas had become smaller even than before. It’s nice when things work out, usually things get worse here rather than better. With some time to spare, we gathered some wood from the beach and made a fire. In a place with no trees there is very little wood on the beach so unlike most places, it’s very hard to find enough wood to do anything with. Most of the wood we found were willow and alder branched with both ends beaver chewed. I suppose they had washed down one of the rivers. The only other wood we found were bits of lumber washed of fishing boats or other vessels. We did find one entire tree, which is a common sight on most North American beaches but here is a real shocker. There are no trees for hundreds or even thousands of miles, depending on the direction you travel. We suspect it must have washed down the Yukon river and traveled south through the Bering Sea to land here, on our front door step. We made a fire and roasted sausages (and crunched them down with lots of sand) then ate a can of organic pears for desert. Pretty good.

    On our way home we saw more whales, whether they were the same two, we are not sure. The grey whales come into the bay to sift the mud for tiny creatures. We watched as their tails and fins arched in the shallows like pirouetting shark fins. Because the water was not clear we couldn’t tell what exactly they were doing underwater but it must have been worth it because the water was shallow and they must have felt exposed. They blew and fed all around us for an hour or so before moving on. We could hear their song amplified in the hull of the skiff––a pretty amazing sound to have coming up from your feet and engulfing you. Last year we saw a whale in the same place. We were quietly drifting a little way off when the whale decided to go somewhere. Because we were so quiet and the water was murky, the whale didn’t see us and bonked the boat so hard we though a rail would go under. Startled, it took off at a fair clip in the opposite direction, pumping its tail and creaking a 3-foot wake.

    We got home, drove the wheeler out of the boat and once we were safe on shore, marveled at the fact that the day had been so nice, no equipment had been lost or destroyed, no one was hurt, the weather actually improved, and that we had found so much amazing stuff––it was a perfect day.

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