China Poot

Following the curvature of the Gulf of Alaska, the Kenai Peninsula rests roughly centered in the arch. There, Captain Cook explored the waters, founding the Cook Inlet, Turnagain Arm, Anchor Point, Kachemak Bay, and many other iconic, Alaskan locations. At the entrance, Kachemak splits from the Cook Inlet and remains separated from the Gulf by a narrow mountain range, the tail of the Kenai Range, carved by incredible forces during the last great ice age. And in those mountains on their northern slopes rest a few remaining glaciers further influencing the shape of the bay and health of the water. Those icy titans are connected to their southern Gulf brothers via the Harding Ice Fields which is most commonly accessed all the way north and east in Seward. The northern glaciers bleed into Kachemak, where the Homer Spit desperately reaches across towards the silt-bearing glaciers that helped create it. And at those glaciers’ terminal points, there are numerous, small bays full of life and wonder.

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Which brings us to China Poot.

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It has a silly name with a not so silly history, earning the name in honor Henry Poot of early Homer history. Henry had a herring factory – or dealings in one – where Chinese immigrants worked. The rest is history. Either way, Henry Poot and his unfortunate surname were apparently a big enough deal in Homer that he earned a bay, a mountain, a lake, a creek, AND a street named after him, torturing me day in and day out at work to annunciate my t’s because “it’s China PooT not China PooP, not that that sounds any better, and can we just move on already?”

(But really, China Poop makes more sense because the bay smells like shit at low tide, credit to the abundance of intertidal life).

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Every six hours the tides shift, sucking and pushing millions of gallons of water in and out of the bay, bringing fresh nutrients in and pushing old filth out. Thus, it would behoove a traveler to respect the water. It acts like a river. When the winds and tides argue on direction, a horrifying feature that kayakers call a “pyramid wave” form in the current. These waves have multiple faces, making them aggressive and flippy to small crafts. Not to mention, the current alone is one of the strongest I’ve seen.  I consider myself an experienced paddler, yet I’ve been nearly humbled once or twice or more than I’d like to admit in China Poot.

But the bay rewards the adventure.

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With Doroshin, Nameless, and Woz Glaciers all feeding into Neptune Bay (Poot’s immediate neighbor), the area is full of rich glacial silt, filling the seas with sticky mud teeming with invertebrates and opportunistic aquatic plants. All those small critters are the base of the food chain. The small fish follow, bringing the bigger fish and they bring the bigger predators from land, sea, and sky. It’s a feeding frenzy in the bay.

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Lion’s Mane jellies the size of my torso drift aimlessly in the shallow waters of the bay, snaring small bait fish that hide from whales in the outer bay. Shy horned puffins feast along the coast where they need not compete with their goofy and rude nestmates the kittiwake. Red salmon stage along the rocky beaches in preparation for their final journeys, feeding hordes of eagles that have waited patiently for the fish. Bears peruse the cliffs, gorging themselves on countless berries in spring and fish carcasses in fall. Mussels coat the sticky floor in numbers to rival the greatest armies. Peregrine falcons patrol the steepest slopes, whirling like torpedoes at any juvenile eagle that gets too close. Harbor seals in colonies of hundreds flop onto shore to molt their old coats where they argue and growl.

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I work in that bay. I play in that bay. I’ve bled in that bay. I’ve struggled in that bay. And I damn love that bay.

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