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Alaska, The Kayaking Portion – August 2012

Sunday, January 14th, 2018 by

Well then! Winter here, several years in the future. The snow all melted in a quick 2.5 day burst of 55 degree weather, but last night dumped another foot back – at least all the ice melted out of the gutters. Small things.

But I left off in Alaska, where we had arrived down in Seward, and were about to set off on the kayaking portion of our trip…

Kayaking in a very big outdoors

We left a couple bags of extraneous gear at Adventure 60, and were driven with our gear and the boats down to the water. We hucked all our gear down a short slope to the beach, and after a short while, the water taxi pulled up. A few other small groups and ourselves were loaded on board, a whole lot of boats on the roof, and we headed off.

Piling gear on board the taxi

On the boat; grinning guy is Joel, one of our guides

The ride on the boat was somewhat choppy, and those of us more prone to seasickness were having, well, not the best time, but I luckily am not prone to such things. We first turned into Aialik Bay to drop off another group of people and started getting our first view of glaciers, and porpoises as well! We dropped off that first group and motored on, turning into the next fjord and our own destination, Northwest Lagoon. We got to the campsite and all got dropped off of the boat. We dragged all our gear onshore and set up tents, pulled boats up above the high tide line, and set up some tarps near the bear boxes (those tarps would get re-rigged several times over the next few days, but we’ve got to start somewhere, right? 🙂 It was…spectacular. There was a steep wall behind us, waterfalls in at least two directions, woods, and a small spit of land that was an island at high tide and a bit of peninsula at low tide. The woods were crazy full of fish skeletons, apparently from all the fishing birds that dive for fish, drop them in the woods, eat them, and then leave carcasses behind. Nature – both beautiful and enduringly creepy.

Alex shooting some pics in the area where we dropped off the first group

Rigging the tarps

Amittai setting up his solo tent. Not a bad view.

That same day we took our first opportunity to get out on the kayaks. It was, frankly, awesome. We went up just a bit north and pulled into a beach there. We got out and played a warming up game in which each person in a circle would try to do a one-move smack at the next person around the circle but would then have to freeze in their new position. This lead, somewhat unsurprisingly to a series of ridiculous positions and an absurd amount of laughter, so, you know, success. We went back that evening and had a pretty nice dinner and settled in for our first night in tents. It all went quite pleasingly.

In our kayaks

Pulling up on a beach

Playing the game

The next day, we woke up, and there was a nice big rainbow sitting over the fjord, over the hills across the water from us. We saw low tide, and man, the water pulls down the shore pretty far. We had some morning wander, morning breakfast, morning hanging out, and perhaps most importantly, some morning coffee. Alex expressed an interest in the large pieces of glacial ice that had invaded our little bay, and we all encouraged him to go fetch a piece for us. To ice our drinks, you know. He obliged, and we watched him head out into the water and come back with a rather surprisingly large piece of ice. I mean, it broke off from a glacier, so we perhaps shouldn’t have been so surprised, but so it goes. People then started to pull themselves together a bit.


Triumphant return with a piece of ice

Morning stretching

The day was amazing. We started out paddling over the blue blue glacial water and quickly got far enough away from shore to leave the mosquitoes behind (hooray!) We first cut a bit northwest across the lagoon and took a bit of a break at a big rocky beach. We pulled the boats ashore, walked around a bit, hung out, talked, and, from my photos, started to get some sense of the real scale of the place. From there, we got back into the boats and kept heading up into the fjord. At one point, Amittai and Woz’s boat came right near a very large piece of ice, and we convinced Amittai that licking a glacier would be a good alternative to licking an otter (…I’ve got no idea where that came from, but it was a joke all week. There was no otter licking during our trip – promise. Though a whole family of otters did run across our campsite peninsula at one point, then to quickly disappear into the water on the other side. It was awesome.)

Nathan and very blue water

Rocky beach; Iris massaging her feet. Outdoors.

Very little people; very big outdoors

Anyway! Heading further up the lagoon. We passed rivulets, and looked at glaciers. There are a couple little islands in the lagoon, and we came near to a couple of them, at one point watching a seal spending some time watching us, with a pretty baleful eye. We turned towards the end of the lagoon, and below a cloudy sky, far above us, we could see one of the places where a glacier broke off as the land ended. Dirty snow and blue blue ice, and a waterfall as the water melts into the sea. For general safety, we can’t get too too close to the actual glacial shelves, but you don’t need to be all that close to realize just how amazing an awe-inspiring they are. We took another landing at this point (and saw one other actual boat – very exciting!), and then headed back towards the campsite.

I couldn’t skip coming in with some quality almost-glacier-licking


Bits of glaciers

As we got back to the campsite, the sun suddenly burst out and chased away the gray. The gray was beautiful and the clouds were beautiful, making the glaciers moody (and keeping us less hot), but muted the entire landscape. The sun came out, and the whole color palette of the whole area changed. The blues were diminished, and all the greens came out, and, at least where we were, the water cleared up greatly. Jenny went out for some rolling practice, and the rest of us mostly just marveled at how nice it was. The clouds eventually came back (and plenty of mosquitoes), but it was a brilliant evening. I would say the sun then went down, but the sun was really only down during the periods in which we were asleep – so it just faded into a more dim evening, as we had dinner, and chatted, and slowly slipped off to sleep.

Sun came out

Well-lit beach

Admiring at low tide

Our good fortune, of course, was balanced the next day by the gray that settled in. The cloud layer was only a few feet above the water, and we couldn’t go out on the water (the risk of getting separated and turned around and thus lost was too great). So we settled in for the long, gray, damp day. We napped, and ate, and napped, and read, and ate, and napped, and mostly…did nothing at all. There was very little *to* do. We could walk around our land area, but we had a little bit of woods, and not much more before the fjord walls loomed over us. We couldn’t go out on the water. It was pretty damn grey out. It should have been terrible, but somehow it just wasn’t. The constant dim light, and the feeling of being out in this location where we just felt so…away, it somehow all combined, and the day was just a pleasant, calm period. If I’d been at home with that little to do, I would have gone stir crazy, but out there, it was just…ok. I’m not sure I’ve had a day like that before or since, but for some reason, it was just a calm, calm, sleepy day. Sometime around dinner, we all stirred a bit, and came out and had food, and walked around a bit. It was still super cloudy, but the actual rain had stopped.

Grey day

Bright spot against some low visibility

The next morning dawned at super low tide, and with the clouds still hanging out on top of the water, so I spent yet more time wandering around a bit, looking at the landscape of our little bit of land. The boats were very bright against the grey and green of the ground and clouds. I found some terrifying fish jaws hanging around to complement all the rest of the fish skeletons I had seen hanging around elsewhere. It did eventually clear up enough for us to head out on the boats again. Some glacier ice had found its way into our little bay in the morning. We headed out , south in the fjord, to a bay just south of ours, and then cutting out into the open water, making it through a bit more difficult stuff, to get out to the southweastern end of the fjord, where we got out and parked a bit. We got to watch the weather clearing out on the open water south of where we were. We walked along the difficult sandy beach for a while, looking at a stand of drowned trees and playing with shells and walking back along the rocks. We then had to fight out way back through the chop at the mouth of the fjord (complete with a whale sighting!), under the fabulous clearing skies, and then paddled hard into shore, where we had to pack up everything we’d brought with us, waiting for the boat to come back and pick us up.

Boats above the tide line.

Jawbone is all that’s left

Traipsing along a rocky beach

Of course, just as the boat showed up, the day became perfectly clear and fabulous. The ride back was awesome…well, for those of us who don’t have sea-sickness problems. Fortunately, I remained one of those people, and I went up to the bow of the boat to enjoy the chop and the spray with Alex. It was great fun. There were some Dalls porpoises flanking us for a piece of the ride back, which was a ton of fun to watch, as they swam around, in front, under, and by us. We got back that afternoon, and headed to the Barn Appetit. One of ours meals on the trip was supposed to be a large kettle of chili, but one of our guides, Jay, had managed to leave it behind (don’t worry, he scavenged together another meal for us), but he and Joel (the other guide) brought over the vat of chili for us all to eat that evening, so we all hung out, chowing down, and enjoying being able to take showers (though somewhat missing the amazing scenery, though really…the scenery everywhere up there was pretty solid).

Paddling in to shore

Pullups on the boat back

Enjoying the boat ride back

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