The Covid Wild Alaska Adventure – kayaking Holgate Glacier

The day’s first light starts to trickle in over Soldotna as I pack up my gear. My time here has come to an end as I start the two hour drive over to the other side of the Kenai Pennisula and the town of Seward for my next adventure. I take my time as the rising sun makes visibility tricky, and I do not want to hit a moose. I come around a bend and what I believe was a lynx runs across the road in front of me before disappearing into the forest.

I was last in Seward back in May of 2007. Upon my arrival I see that much hasn’t changed. I find the tour operator’s shop only to see that I’m early for check-in, so I grab a cup of coffee and wander the harbor in the early morning chill. I see the kayak’s being strapped to a boat and wonder if this is our charter.

Kayaking is something that wears my body out when I am feeling my best, let alone when I am still in recovery mode. I double up on pain meds, say a little prayer, and board the boat apprehensively.

Our small group heads out, spotting mountain goats grazing on the mountainside to our right while pod after pod of orca’s are circling around us to our left. Puffin’s zoom past the boat with lightning speed as we approach Resurrection Bay.

We leaving the open sea towards calmer waters that are closer to the interior. Soon we enter the bay where Holgate Glacier is located. Curious seals pop up to take a look at us as we pull up to the shore and start uploading the kayaks. No one else is here.

I can’t take in the beauty around me initially, as I’m 100% focused on the tutorial our kayaking guides are giving us. We all are doubled up into two person tandem kayaks, and I don’t want anything to happen to either myself or the girl I am paired with, as she isn’t experienced kayaking on the ocean. Nobody wants to fall out of their kayak.

We can only get within 1/2 a mile of the glacier, as approaching any closer could be disastrous if the glacier calves. We have about one mile to kayak, although it feels like the glacier is already much closer to us than that. It just goes to show how immensely large Holgate actually is…

After some trial and error, the girl and I get into a good rhythm and start gliding with minimal effort across the bay. Admiring our surroundings, we hear a loud BOOM that reverberates across the bay and pierces our very existence. I turn to see a large ice sheet fall from Holgate and into the water below. The wave created from the falling ice sheet starts coming towards us slowly at first, then with increased speed.

We brace for impact as the wave quickly moves across the water and tosses our kayak around like a child’s toy in a bathtub. Luckily we manage to stay topside.

I’m not sure if the falling ice sheet caused the seals to surface, or if their naturally curious personalities caused them all to take a look at us, but we find ourselves surrounded by little black heads popping out of the water to sneak a peak at us kayakers.

Eventually we head back to shore on the other side of the bay where we find lunch waiting for us.

Our guides made homemade soup and sandwiches for us, which we all devour voraciously.

The boat comes back to pick us up, and asks if we spotted the bears up in the hills. We must have just missed them, but just knowing they are on the same land as us is thrilling beyond measure.

We load the kayaks back into the boat and start the long journey back to Seward. It gives me time to talk to our guides, as I am always curious about how and why they ended up doing this kind of work. I find they are travel enthusiasts like myself, and we share stories of our different adventures.

On our return we find sea lions lying on rocks as the crashing ocean waves pound the earth around them. More than one gray whale makes it appearance, which surprises me as I would have thought the whales would have already migrated South by this time.

As we pull into the harbor, I feel my body is drained of all energy, but my spirits are high. I survived ocean kayaking, glacier calving, and my own insecurities.

1 Comment

Wench, bring my ale, what say you?

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