Week 4 - A birthday and a hike, then much MORE rain and togetherness

D: Hiking and watching the beavers
R: Not hiking!
Jon: The beaver hike and apple pie
Megan: The beavers and celebrating Jon's birthday

Week 4 started with Jon's birthday. We got moving on Wednesday morning and traveled south as planned from the Northern Branch of the Beagle Chanel to the Southern Branch. It is a beautiful trip. Though the sun was not out, the clouds were high and you could see the surrounding islands and mountains. Back in February when we took this trip we had better weather, but the gray with high clouds has its own beauty. We had hoped to repeat our visit to 1,000 Cascades. It is a lovely seno with an interesting glacier at its head - clean blue ice, sheer cliff drops and lots of moving water. Last time when we were there it was completely calm in the seno (fjord) while it was a bit windy out in the channel. This visit it was the opposite - calm in the channel, but gusty in the seno. We decided that the anchorage spot would be a bit tricky to slide into, but we could probably tackle it. Adding to our decision making process, we knew the weather was supposed to deteriorate over the next few days. While we were scoping out the spot and making a plan, the wind came up and the rain started pouring down. We decided that we should continue up to the end of the short seno to take a peak at the glacier. What we loved about this place was that you can dinghy over to the glacier, sit on a rock and marvel at the amount of flowing water, and if lucky see some ice fall into the sea. Well, rainy, windy and blah meant we weren't going to cheerfully dinghy for a mile to go over or relax on that rock! So we took the boat as close as we could. You get a pretty good view, but there is a shallow moraine with rocks that has to be passed over to get really close. Zephyros, with her lifting keel can go over it; however, we don't have coordinates for the safe path, we know there are rocks and we couldn't see through the water very well to spot those rocks, so we stayed back behind the moraine. While we did a couple of turns in front of the moraine we did see a nice big chunk of ice fall! It was probably the most that we have seen come down anywhere other than maybe San Rafael (the northern most tidal glacier of the Southern Hemisphere). It was a nice treat, though as soon as that one big calving event happened we were anxiously hoping for another! After a short while we talked through the options and decided that since we wouldn't be likely to visit the glacier again with the dinghy it made sense to continue on. We traveled the 5 or so nm more to Estero Coloane. We were happy to see that the wind and seas were still calm out in the mouth of the Southern Branch of the Beagle. We had been a bit concerned that it was deteriorating out there already. It was not, which was good as it is open to the ocean and subject to swell. The rain settled back to the misty, soaking drizzle and we secured ourselves into the anchorage in Coloane. We had only passed through this Estero, as a lunch stop, last February and we were curious to explore it more extensively on this trip. After securing for the day, Megan went to work on the food portion of Jon's birthday. She made pancakes, we played games and she made an apple pie. We had a pleasant afternoon together, celebrating Jon's day in this beautiful part of the world.

Thursday was supposed to still be good weather, and it was, sort of. No real sun, but not windy and the rain mostly held off. We prepared to go hiking up in between the waterfalls and to hopefully see the beaver family that our friends reported seeing the week before. It was drizzling as we prepared to head out, but it stopped when we were ready to go. We had a lovely afternoon. The clouds were pretty high and the visibility was good. The high ice cap puts out a lot of water in dramatic waterfalls. We enjoyed these heavy flowing waterfalls and a view over a lake. We had seen a lot of trees taken down by the beavers and were impressed by how high they had climbed to establish themselves in this area. We found two lakes, both with lodges and followed a number of beaver made trails. As we were working our way back down from our higher viewing and lunch spot, we saw a beaver! He was swimming near the lodge and was quite big. We decided he was the father (who knows if this is accurate!) and watched him for awhile. D was beside himself with excitement! He was shaking and sneaking closer and closer. The beaver seemed curious and came towards him 2 times. The second time he slapped his tail and dove back down before returning to swimming around. He didn't seem especially bothered by his audience. Soon we realized that there was a second smaller beaver out too, we deemed this one a juvenile and named it Pow. Eventually the "Dad" beaver left, swimming away from the lodge. We hung around and watched Pow some more. D got some good pictures and tried to sneak closer and closer. Next another beaver arrived, we decided this was "Mom", (though actually it could very well have been the same beaver that was "Dad" a short time before). She also swam around and seemed curious and then gave a tail slap at D as well. She went back into the lodge after her slap and left Pow out to entertain us for a bit longer. Eventually, Pow went inside too and we headed back down the mountain. It was a nice hike and a really, really cool experience to watch this family of beavers, up close, do their thing for a little while.

Friday was clear of rain for a good bit of the morning and we discussed going on another explore. The crew was all a bit tired after a couple of big days and Megan took an early afternoon nap rather than getting motivated to go out to check out some more potential beaver areas and lodges. While she was asleep Jon and D decided to check things out with the dinghy. Megan woke up surprised to learn from R that they were gone. After a bit, the rains and wind came in and came in strong. Soon Megan was quite glad she had been asleep and missed the outing! Jon and D returned, eventually, quite wet. The winds and waves had picked up a bit in the large bay making for a wet dinghy ride on top of all the rain. Of course, a short while after their return it did calm for a bit before restarting. The anticipated weather seemed to have arrived in force.

The next five days the winds and heavy rains continued. We didn't see any signs of the sun. We would often be in a rain cloud that made the glacier across the bay disappear. Sometimes it would hail. It seemed to be constantly raining whether an occasional light, soaking drizzle or absolute down pours. The humidity became 100% and just stayed that way. Everything in the boat was damp to wet to soaked. The walls were wet. It was a tough five days. Everyone threw their own tantrums at one point or another, but we also got into a bit of a workable rhythm. We did our best to keep spirits up - there was school work, many games, podcasts, books, music, movies, baking, bread, etc. We enjoy the family time and down time, of course, but at this point in the trip there had been a whole lot of rain and a whole lot of togetherness. Looking at the weather gave no signs of hope either - just more rain and gusts. We were really, really hoping to explore more of Estero Coloane but the weather just didn't seem to want to cooperate! And while we certainly will hike in the rain, the high winds, downpours and hail were not very enticing when we were safely warm in the boat. Plus there was that knowledge that nothing was going to dry in the 100% humidity. As week 4 closed out we were all over the constant rain; food choices were becoming less interesting; and the call of returning to civilization (and the internet) began tugging at each of us. Adding to our longings were reports from Puerto Williams that they were seeing that elusive yellow, orange sphere in the daytime sky and enjoying warm spring days.

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