Sunday, July 22, 2012

Alaskan Adventure, Part Two: Kayaks, Birds, and Otters

Have you ever been kayaking?  This was my second time (first was on our 2006 Alaska trip) and I adore it.  I feared I might have grown too old or creaky in the intervening six years, but no such thing!  So here I share the experience, so you can enjoy an armchair kayak (guaranteed dry).

Peter slept in, enjoying the peace at the Good Karma, but Denise and I went.  You book a kayak (or halibut boat, or bear flight) excursion on the Homer Spit, that finger of land that juts out from Homer into Kachemak Bay.  It's the tourist center of town, and very attractive (below).  At the appointed time you show up at the charter office, and they take you on a fast boat across Kachemak Bay, where you get rigged up with kayak gear and insert yourself into the kayak.

Homer Spit

Our guide was a young woman named Kim, in her own kayak, and there were three other young women in their 20s, one in a single kayak, two in a double.  Denise and I were the elders in a double kayak, but we actually were pretty darn fast kayakers - Denise is a whiz!  So it was a group of all women, and there was something very enjoyable about that.  Now, here we go:  the paddling begins!

We paddled past lots of little islands.

Then we approached Gull Island, bird central.

Every few minutes an eagle alights on Gull Island, and thousands of birds lift into the sky, all screaming in alarm!  It's bedlam.  Killewakes, guillemots, murre, and more.

These are murre, a kind of Alaskan small penguin.

One of us taking pictures.

Here's an eagle, that which all the other birds fear.  And with reason.  We saw one lift a murre into his talons and fly off!  Even the guide said she'd never seen that before.  Of course it happened too fast to get a picture, but it's engraved grandly and horrifically in my mind's eye.

Denise and me, the Music and Art kayak girls

It's fun!

Landing on an island beach for a break and some beachcombing.  Kim was a naturalist and could tell us the names of shells and flowers, which was lovely.

Me and a piece of driftwood.  The life jacket and kayaking skirt aren't flattering!

A sea flower - don't know the name, but Kim said the middle bit is all mites.

A personable, though possibly dead, crab

After the kayaking adventure, we returned to Homer, parted with Denise, and left the Good Karma, to continue on our journey.  A few miles outside Homer is the little Russian village of Ninilchik.  I stopped to take a picture of the church, and the lovely Inuit Russian Orthodox minister was just coming out.

Here's the inside of the church.

A couple of hours later we reached Seward.  We stayed at the yummily named Salmon Bake, where there are cabins and the lovely old-fashioned Exit Glacier Lodge right by the restaurant.  Our room was in the lodge, and of course we had a delicious salmon dinner.

We decided to stay another night in Seward and moved to the Seward Hotel, another wonderful old-fashioned place that we liked very much, near the waterfront.  We booked a nine hour wildlife and glacier cruise in the Kenai Fjords for the next day.

The weather, however, though it produced some spectacular effects, was not conducive!

But the boat set out nevertheless, and we saw a good deal of wildlife...birds, sea lions, whales, and otters. 

Took quite a few shots of this funny little fellow, whom we thought resembled our weirdest cat, Catullus.

This is my one whale picture, of a whale tail (above).  Pathetic, I know.  But the things do not hold still.

Peter on the deck of The Explorer.

Peter and me.  The long and winding road, and what our travels are all about.

We would love to have this cabin!  The rain is evident in the picture, and it was more than rain, it was choppy seas that were making people sick.  The captain made the call to turn back, so the 9 hour cruise was only 4 hours.  We did not repine; he made the right decision, and we'd seen a lot.  The Kenai Fjords company gave us a good refund, too.

We'd done this same cruise six years ago, so we've seen the glaciers, but we decided to finish the day by getting up close to one.  So we climbed the Exit Glacier Trail, outside Seward, to the edge of this glacier, doing about a 4-mile round trip hike.  Peter hiked like a champion, outpacing me; he hasn't been able to hike this well in at least ten years!  So we ended the trip on a joyful note.

Peter says goodbye to his familiar, a musk ox in the lobby of the Seward Hotel.

Then we drove back to Anchorage, for a fine seafood dinner and to buy halibut to take home.  Which we did.


Elaine said...


This all sounds simply terrific and thanks for sharing. The seal looks just adorable!

Ellen said...

Wonderful pictures. I'm sure you had magical moments and rejuvenation. I see your friend, Denise, lives half the year in NYC, so she experiences Alaska out of its perspective and vice versa.


Anonymous said...

The best thing about a double kayak is that one of you can keep the boat pointed while the other takes photos. (We were very glad to be in a double the time a Minke whale decided to visit with us off the Antarctic Peninsula. We did our Alaska kayaking out of Seward.

Anonymous said...

this all looks fantastic, and you both look very well, I've never been in a kayak, seems fun. When I lived in Lincolnshire, I loved seal-watching at Donna Nook, but that was from the beach.
Here (Dorset) we are experiencing a brief heatwave, as a change from constant rain. I hope it stays dry for a little while, although a bit less heat would be fine.

Mal xxx

BrittArnhild said...

Finally I had the time to read about your Alaska trip. What an adventure!

The nature looks very much like Norway.

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