THE INSIDE PASSAGE
The Inside Passage is an extraordinary coastal route, with some of the most spectacular fjords and convoluted coastlines in the world. It’s a narrow artery that connects with and is part of the sixty-four million square miles that comprise the Pacific Ocean. The most scenic and challenging paddling trip in North America, it’s touted as a holy grail for those accessing it in long, skinny boats.
Seattle is considered the official starting point and Skagway the terminus where one literally runs out of ocean, about 1,300 miles later. After traversing through a snippet of northwest Washington, including an oblique trajectory through the San Juan Islands, the Inside Passage extends north along the entire British Columbia coastline. Dixon Entrance plays sentinel to the Alaskan boundary and from there the IP sinews its way up southeast Alaska’s panhandle, where Skagway waits at the pinnacle, like a grand finale.
Three major ecosystems comprise the Inside Passage, making it one of the most bio-diverse areas on the planet: the Salish Sea, the Great Bear Rainforest, and coastal Southeast Alaska. Ancient cedar trees can tower more than 200 feet, bears can stand ten feet tall and weigh 800 pounds, whales often top the scales at forty tons, and one slab of salmon can practically fill your kitchen table. Forests drip, waves surge, glaciers creep. Tidal rapids, essentially saltwater rivers, are truly chameleonic, changing their nature four times a day, flooding and ebbing twice each 24 hours.
In addition to providing habitat for bears, wolves, whales, dolphins, sea lions, a host of other sea mammals, sea birds and birds of prey, the Inside Passage also beholds the largest intact temperate rainforest in the world. It can be a wet ride.
I broke my 2010 expedition down into seven legs, centered around six resupply points; ports of call I would paddle into to retrieve my supplies I had mailed ahead.