Sunday, October 14, 2007
kayaking in alaska.... Current mood: thankful
kayaking was something i always wanted to try when i moved to alaska. i'm kinda a chicken at times, but a flat calm day of paddling just looked so relaxing. the first time i was able to kayak was when i lived in ketchikan. there was a kayaking class/trip so i signed up. a friend was supposed to go as well, but backed out. i was happy that they at least got me to sign up. there were familiar folks from work on the trip as it turned out. first we all met at a local pool so we could learn how to self rescue. the ocean kayaks aren't like the river kayaks so you can't just do the roll thing. you have to exit the kayak underwater and then right the kayak, then use the paddle with a float to balance the kayak while you attempt to climb in. this is no easy task in a heated pool so i know when i'm out in prince william sound surrounded by icebergs i will most likely not be able to get back in my kayak. at least hypothermia makes you crazy before you drown.
the trip we took was out to misty fjords national park out of ketchikan. it is one amazing place really. the mountains just drop straight down into the fjord. the boat that dropped us off and picked us up took us around revillagigedo island where ketchikan was located. always fun to take that long boat trip and see what is out there. i took that kayak trip back in '96 so just the summer after i arrived in ketchikan.
the next kayak trip i took was after i'm moved to anchorage. my friend scott johnson, who i'd paddled that trip with in ketchikan, had moved to anchorage and i got invited to try my skills at kayaking again. he organized a trip to aialik bay. we got a group of 10 from our icu unit mostly to head out there. my friend tanya wasn't going to miss out despite being about 8 months pregnant. we gathered stuff together just in case we had to deliver out in the bush. i worked the night before then my paddle partner and long time friend, quinton, picked me up at work and we headed off for seward. it can be a winding road and trying to sleep in the back made me totally nauseated. i gave up on sleep.
it's always amazing when the water taxi drops you off on a beach in the middle of nowhere with this gigantic pile of stuff. you just can't imagine there is anyway possible this will all fit in the kayaks. this trip we were lucky though as we got dropped off at a forest service cabin. it was pretty early in the season so the cabin was available. let me think of the ten that went...scott, me, tanya, bob, quinton, christy, stephanie, arden, sue and clint. clint was our food organizer and i dont' think i've ever eaten so fine on a camping trip. since we had the cabin, we could really live it up. we laughed that first meal as clint brought out some china to eat on...he assured us it wasn't his "good china". whatever!!!
on the taxi out we got to stop and watch these sea lions who were hauled out on some rocks. got some great pictures.
took us a bit to get unloaded and set up camp, then we were off for a nice paddle. there is just something cool about being on the water in the kayak. quinton and i were a great pair in our double kayak...we laughed the entire paddle. he's just great fun and we have a similar twisted sense of humor. holgate glacier was in front of us and the scenery was astounding all around us. the tide zone plays out through the day on the rocks and beaches. the tides vary a great deal in alaska. entire beaches come and go through the day. we also were able to spy many bald eagles and seals. quinton and i were a bit nervous as we came near holgate glacier. we'd never paddled through ice before. your boat clunk,clunks on all these little ice bergs. you know they are much bigger under the water than on top and can flip and take you with them. a rule is to avoid any icebergs that appear larger than a refridgerator. as you sit in the kayak the coolness of the water is felt. a breeze always blows off those huge glaciers and you can hear the echo of the ice constantly moving,around you and in the glacier itself. of course, at times chunks of the glacier will drop off and a thunderous noise echo's through the region. that can be dangerous as well, but i'll tell my harrowing calving tale on another day.
as we returned to camp that first day we noted a black bear on the beach where the cabin was. luckily the bear hadn't had time to get to our stuff. they can reek havoc on anything left out. we all had fun watching a very pregnant tanya get in and out of her kayak. her husband, bob, was very sweet and he was always helping her.
the next day we headed the other direction towards peterson bay i believe it was. arden did a kayak flip playing in some waves and a tunnel formed by rocks. he's more experienced and he's a guy. quinton and i were always on the cautious side. we really could book though if we ever got ourselves on cadence. it was a joke that we never were paddling in unison the entire trip. we lunched at pederson bay and then headed back to camp. scott and bob and tanya were last to leave from lunch...bob and tanya made a bad choice when they went to take off from the beach and as the front of the boat hit the water the boat went a bit airborn and then flipped. it's very dangerous to flip right on shore as you can hit your head on the rocky floor beneath you. the cold of the water takes your breath away, but luckily they all survived and we all headed back to take whatever spare, dry clothes we had on board our kayaks. we thought we'd be delivering that baby for sure with her hitting the water like that, but in the end little madeline just had a baptism before birth.
we got really lucky and the weather was awesome. blue skies all around. we only saw one boat the entire time we were out besides out water taxi and that was a forest service boat out to check on us. we also only heard one plane fly overhead. it's always amazing in alaska that you are in complete and total wilderness. there just isn't another place like it in the us.
at night we had great campfire chats and eats on the beach. we'd pass around some good liquor and a huge costco desert. the third day we headed back to holgate for a longer day. we ate lunch at the glacier. took loads of pictures and just enjoyed all the great company and awesome scenery.