A Fiery Summer

There's nothing funny about wildfires. They're a destructive reminder of how our lack of foresight has been our undoing on so many occasions. In Alaska, much of the land is naturally burning, and while it's impact is felt by less people, the fires can be the largest on the continent and some of the most destructive.

2019 brought a summer of drought throughout the state. Along with these droughts, were multiple long, gigantic, fires. Highways became impassable and countless acres and properties were destroyed. And even though the nearest major fire was hundreds of miles away, the effects were still felt all over Southeast Alaska.

Most notably, fire and water bans were in effect for much of the region. For our little boat, the former meant we could no longer pick any beach and start a fire and the latter, that we couldn't get water in some of our normal spots, such as Glacier Bay. It was a weird sensation, being in the middle of a rain forest and unable to find potable water. There were spots such as Hobart Bay, where hundreds of fires were left to burn out overnight, without any possibility of risk. Now, I shuttled buckets of water back and forth from the beach before eventually retiring to bed.

For me though, the most impactful change was the way the fires altered evenings on the water. Because the huge mountain ranges span so much of the land, we rarely get a real sunset in the summer; but instead the sun begins to creep behind peaks and the light just sort-of withers away. Well, for almost three months this summer, the sunsets were spectacular.

Because of the lack of rain statewide, the particulates from the fires over 600-miles away traveled and showed themselves all the way down the coast. Almost every night, we were greeted by fiery-red or purple and orange clouds, magnificently glowing in the sky. It was eerie, and sad when you thought more about it, but it never did get old, especially for someone who's gone years without such things. Not only was I getting to sail into the unknown all summer, but I got to experience this incredibly special occurrence from some of the most beautiful and remote places on Earth. Getting yourself to sleep during the Alaskan summer is always a struggle, and these special moments sure didn't help.

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