Solo Chick Alaska Adventure

I'm making one of my dreams come true by doing a solo chick adventure to Alaska. I’ll chronicle my trip here.

Sunday, July 23, 2006


Thursday began on a not so upbeat note. I had to check out of my hotel for my last 2 days in Anchorage. I was sad to leave the Historic Anchorage Hotel. The people who work there are delightful so I’d been very comfortable. And the location is right in the heart of downtown so it was convenient. I got in late from my hike the evening before and had to pack so sleep was minimal – I left at 6:30 AM (to me still nighttime!) to go kayaking.

I’ve seen kayaks – those colorful little boats bobbing in the water and wondered what it was like to be in one. They always looked a bit unstable but I was assured they’re safe and decided to have an adventure in one. I’m thrilled that I did! Alaska Sea Kayakers runs a great operation. I was nervous about being out in a kayak for an entire day but it went smoother than I could have imagined thanks to our guides, Misty and Kelly. I signed up for the Blackstone Bay tour.

As I said, I was nervous. Didn’t know how I’d like it. What if it tipped? The water is freezing as it’s got icebergs running into it – kind of like how drinks stay cold when there’s lot of ice cubes. And it’s always a little awkward when you travel solo and join families on these types of activities. But I got into a fun groove quickly. The people were all nice. There were 7 of us – one family of 4 and a father and son, plus Misty and Kelly. Blackstone Bay is a distance from our starting point in Whittier. We took a charter boat for 45 minutes. I was concerned about getting queasy but not at all! We were dropped off on a beach and they unloaded the kayaks and gear.

Misty instructed us on how to get in and out of the kayaks. We were prepared for almost everything. The guides for Alaska Sea Kayakers are certified and considered “on duty,” instead of just being escorts. On duty means they are required to do everything they can to help the health and safety of those in their care. While all guides would most likely do it, these guides are obligated to. They’re trained in CPR and if someone falls in the water, they know how to rescue them and warm them up.

Before we left, we stowed our shoes in the office and put on rubber boots. Life vests too. I got a raincoat for later. They said it’s almost always raining in that area. Sunny days actually create rougher water. Blackstone Bay has several glaciers and they greatly affect the water conditions. Sun on them makes the water rougher. The closer you get to one, the colder you feel. I used my faith to keep the rain that they get most days away. It was a bit overcast but bright.

Kelly rode in a double kayak with me since I was solo. She’s a fun and informative chick so I enjoyed our interactions. The others were also in pairs. Misty was solo and led the way. We paddled around glaciers and boy were they calving. Sadly, that refers to pieces breaking off of the glaciers regularly. It’s a nice tourist attraction but means the glaciers are shrinking, which will lead to them eventually disappearing. Such a shame!

As pieces break off, they create thunder-like sounds. Booms! Scary to first hear it when you’re sitting in a little kayak but I got used to it fast. We sat and watched for it to happen and weren’t disappointed. The glaciers had a bluish tinge and we’d watch them intently, getting excited when a piece came down. Then the boom. Kelly explained that the boom comes after so looking when you hear it is too late. It happens fast but I finally caught some falling in a photo.

Kelly said we’d be very lucky to get through lunch without rain. As Misty’s gourmet spread got set out on a checkered tablecloth on the beach we stopped on, the sun actually peeked out and warmed us up. Misty rocks! We expected peanut butter sandwiches and instead were treated to a feast of smoked salmon, homemade macaroni salad, fresh cheese, yummy spread with crackers, fresh fruit and veggies cut up, and granola bars. AND – Nutella! I’d never had that before and it’s yummy! They even had hot water for tea and hot chocolate. Misty and Kelly served up a lunch beyond our expectations.

After the break, we embarked for more. As we approached another glacier, mist hit us from it. It felt good as I’d been a bit warm from the sun. It was very light. Then the clouds got a bit darker and drizzled lightly for the rest of our trip. I put my rain jacket on and felt warm and dry under it. We took another break under a glacier and hiked up just next to it. We climbed on rocky trails and over boulders, made a little slippery by the drizzle and clunky rubber boots with little traction. But it felt good to stretch and satisfying to actually do it. It was another thing I felt nervous about but conquered it.

As we rode to our final destination, there were flocks of seagulls roosted along the shore. As we got close, they flew away en mass. I wanted a picture but couldn’t get to my camera in time. No problem, Kelly reassured. She explained how the gulls play a game by flying away and then roosting just a little ahead. Then they fly off as we get close, to just a little down the way and it becomes a cycle. I had my camera ready as we got close the next time and caught them in flight. Funny birds!

We got to Willard Island where arranged to meet the charter for our return trip. It was around 5 but he wasn’t due till 5:30 - 5:45. We were early because we had a great group and got in and out of the boats quickly without wasting time. Just as we stepped out of the kayak, the sky opened up. Kelly had just told me how it rains every day there, but rarely more than a drizzle. This was a lot more! But she and Misty were quick to action, getting out a big tarp and using paddles to stand it up as an awning. Good thing, as we didn’t know it yet but the charter boat had a problem earlier and was running late. We waited almost 2 hours, sitting on big rocks laughing as Misty and Kelly broke out some snacks to cheer us up.

It’s hard to get radio transmissions in that area so we were never sure when Josh would arrive to get us. The rain poured down but we stayed dry. The only uncomfortable part was the mosquitoes, often referred to as the bird of Alaska. They’re fine when you’re moving so during kayaking they weren’t a problem. But, they attacked us on shore. Two days later I still have a few bites that itch. We were all relieved when Josh radioed that he was right around the corner. It took some more time to load the kayaks and gear and then a 45-minute ride back.

The big concern was returning in time to go through the tunnel that connects Whittier to the mainland. It’s only one lane and is used by trains too, so you can only go through it out of Whittier once an hour. We were supposed to return between 6 and 6:30. Instead it was close to 8 when we were on our way to the tunnel to make the 8PM time to go through. I was sad to say goodbye to everyone that I’d shared this magical day with, especially Kelly, my kayak buddy and Misty, our leader. Both were skilled and strong. Nothing fazed them. Their good cheer and sense of fun was contagious.

Kayaking was definitely an adventure that was both fun and taught me how to get past my fears to enjoy the fun. I’d challenged myself when I signed up for it. I could have done a short trip but pushed for the all day one. It was worth it for an amazing day and a shot of confidence for having overcome fears!

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