I am finally back from my almost 7-day trip across Kachemak Bay – tired and sunburnt but so glad I was able to have such an incredible experience. I have so much information to share so I’m going to organize it all by day.
Day 1 – July 21, 2014
On Monday a few of us left Ageya to bring all of the group gear across the Bay. After picking up a few pizzas for dinner, we met the water taxi at 5:45pm. We had probably a few thousand pounds of gear and the five of us had to unload it all from the van/truck, load it onto the boat, then off of the boat, and then carry it up the beach to the 4 separate camping areas (2 girls/2 boys). We then set up tentipi’s (a big tent in the shape of a tipi), kitchen tents, propane stoves, etc. for each of the four camps. The boys and girls camps were separated by a large rock/cliff that made it impossible to get to either side at high tide. After we were done setting up we hung out around a fire on the boys’ side and then took one of the double skin boat kayaks called a baidarka back to girls’ camp because the tide had gotten too high.
Day 2 – July 22, 2014
Tuesday was the day when all of the campers and other staff members were arriving at the beach, so we all woke up around 9am and waited for them to arrive. The girls got to the beach aroudn 11 and then we made lunch and sat around a fire. We had some time to relax for a few hours and I had a chance to get some more Wuthering Heights read. The girls were to start with two large skin boats called umiaks. That afternoon we loaded up the umiaks and down the beach to get some paddling practice in and to load up on fire wood for the week. We saw an otter and a seal off the beach that afternoon!
I made it a point to write down how each day made me feel while I was over there too! Tuesday I wrote “I am feeling lucky to be here and it feels strangely normal to be outside all day”.
Day 3 – July 23, 2014
I was super excited for Wednesday because I was finally going to be able to see a glacier (semi) up close and personal! One of the other staff members ran every morning and so I joined her for about half the time Wednesday morning – during which I somehow lost a contact out of my eye, only had hiking shoes to wear to run in, and the beach was all rocks; but the scenery and smell of the fresh air made up for it! We took the umiak out for about a 45 minute paddle to a hiking trail. We hiked 2 miles out to Grewink Glacier Lake and then made a fire and sat out on the rocky beach for a few hours. The rest (as will be the case for the majority of the rest of the days) can be better told with pictures!
paddling the umiak out to the glacial lake trail head
The view on the hike to the glacial lake
The hike about half a mile from the glacial lake. The glacier used to reach this spot 50 years ago. The rocks have all been left behind by the scouring of the ice.
This is what it looked like when we got to the beach – super incredible! There was an icy wind coming off of the glacier
This is a close-up picture of the glacier because it is just so darn beautiful! I could probably stare at this picture all day.
Some of us dunked in the glacial melt water! It was so cold that I couldn’t talk when I came up – but we had a fire going so it was okay!
After we changed and hung out for another hour of two, we started our two mile hike back to where we parked the umiak. Two campers and I stopped to take a picture with the view.
In the first part of my journal entry for Wednesday I wrote “Today made me feel self-sufficient”. I also wrote that the “glacier’s beauty, strength, and steady movement are qualities I would like to imitate”. On seeing the glacier from the beach I was filled with hope that other people might be as struck by its beauty as I was and feel compelled to appreciate and respect natural landscapes for the inherent value of their beauty.
Day 4 – July 24, 2014
On Thursday we woke up around 9am and ate pancakes and hashbrowns out of syrup-y bowls. The sun was out and it felt good to have another day out camping across the Bay. From our beach, we paddled about 1.5 miles from our beach and parked our umiak by a trail marked with a huge solitary dead tree with a big orange triangle hung on it. The hike was 2.4 miles both ways and relatively flat. Some of the trail was wide enough for two or three people to walk side by side and it really reminded me of the H.H. Poole woods back in Stafford except with more spruce trees and bear scat (which I have a picture of if anyone is interested? I thought it was second-best to a picture of an actual bear). We reached the river made from the outflow of the glacial melt lake. The water was a milky/cloudy white and rushed super quickly – it was a good thing the tram was in place because it would be really dangerous to try and cross.
We got to the other side and built a fire on the rocky beach, ate lunch, and hung out for a few hours telling riddles and reading stories.
Umiak-ing to the Glacier Spit /Tram trail
View from the umiak on the way to Glacier Spit/Tram trail
View from the Glacier Spit trail
The tram to cross the river (from Glacial Lake overflow) – the metal box fit two and had to be pulled back and forth manually
Me on the tram!
View from the beach across the river – off in the distance is Grewink Glacier Lake
By the end of the day, it was raining and I fell asleep in my tent early.
Day 5 – July 25, 2014
On Friday was made a trip to a community/location called Halibut Cove Lagoon. We paddled in the umiak again and landed on a rocky beach entrance of a community only open to the public from 1-4pm. The whole place was so silent, secluded and beautiful. A man named Clem Tillion who used to be an Alaskan senator and is responsible for setting aside all of the land for Kachemak Bay State Park and owns all of the land making up Halibut Cove spoke to us after we ate lunch out on his front lawn. We got to see his large greenhouses full of fresh cherries and apples and then made a trip to his late wife’s art gallery and some horse stables.
During the umiak paddle to Halibut Cove we passed a rock that looked like an elephant!
Part of the halibut cove community
Me and two of the other staff members posing in front of the view from Clem’s front yard
Clem’s incredible home he built and raised his kids in
one of clem’s greenhouses
I took a pocket full of cherries on my way out!
Diana Tillion’s art gallery. She was famous for her paintings made with octopus ink – they were gorgeous!
They have a pretty extensive stable with about a dozen horses – and two super soft bunnies.
After we paddled back to camp, we gathered a few things and went over to boys’ beach for a bonfire. It was a little rainy but still fun. I was exhausted by the end of that night too but managed to remember to write down how I felt before I fell asleep (unlike the day before). I wrote “I feel inspired”. The part of the day that stuck with me most was Clem talking about his job as a senator and how he wasn’t concerned about his children’s futures because they were already grown and he felt like he had given them at least a decent life – but he addressed the campers listening and told them he was worried about making Alaska a better place for their grandchildren. I thought that was awesome. I’ve heard and read quotes about sustaining the earth for future generations but I’ve never met someone who has said it AND completely dedicated their life (and succeeded in) living it out.
Day 6 – July 26, 2014
On Saturday we traveled to China Poot Lagoon. For this trip we switched our umiaks with the boys’ group for some sea kayaks. These were my absolute favorite because I got to paddle a single with a fancy foot-pedal rudder and go steer whichever way I wanted! The paddle there had to be timed with high tide because the water rushed through a narrow inlet into a lagoon and so the current gets really strong going in and out and if we hit the tide going out, it would be almost impossible to paddle. When we got the the narrow part, the normally calm bay water turned to fast moving river-like conditions. It was super fun to just sit and let the current take us. The other cool thing about the strong current was that a lot of the wildlife gets swept into the lagoon and then swept back out when the tide goes back out so I got to see SO MUCH WILDLIFE. I saw seals, otters, lion jellyfish, moon jelly fish, pigeon guilemots, black-legged kittiwakes, hawks, and bald eagles. There were apparently porpoises and baby bears around but I didn’t see them
We made a fire and cooked hotdogs and smores on the beach at the end of our hike and stayed there for a few hours until it started getting cold. On the paddle back I (super carefully) kept my camera out and was able to take some of my favorite pictures from the trip.
I also took the opportunity on the hike bike, since it would be our last hike of the week, to take pictures of some of the plants growing along the trail.
A counselor and I at the beginning of the China Poot hike.
The china poot hiking trail was a “saddle trail” meaning that it was in between two larger mountains BUT a good majority of the hike was still really steep!
I took a lot of pictures of views on the hike too!!
View 1 from the hike
View 2 from the hike!
View 3 from the hike
View 4 from the hike!
View at china poot lagoon
View of the mountain to the right of the beach on China poot lagoon
Watermelon Berries – they’re super small but taste just like watermelon and have a bunch of white seeds in them like watermelons do!
Soap Berries – apparently you can use them to make soap, lather and all
Salmon Berry – like a rasberry but a little more transparent looking, they’re super good.
Wild Blueberries! – these were so good, I kept plucking and eating them all along the trail. Some of the other staff members gathered a bunch of these one day and made a blueberry crisp over the fire!
Bluebells – not edible (I don’t think) but super pretty
Me at the beginning of the paddle back
The view of the mountains looked this beautiful the whole way
The current on the way back was even stronger on the way there and I was able to take a picture of all of these sea birds (black-legged kittiwakes I think) without paddling, unless I got caught in little swells.
The view just outside of the strong current
The end of the current – people lived right to the left of the frame of this picture.
The water got this shallow in certain areas as the tide was going out and the current was pulling our boats out with it
Just before we got back to camp I stopped to take a picture of the huge storm front. It ended up hitting homer with thunder and hail but completely missed us.
That night I wrote :
“The current getting there and back was incredible. It was so fun to ride the mini rapids. I felt so alive, free, and self-fulfilling.”
“Tonight my toes are cold as I sit at the edge of my open tent and it’s so wonderful. Nothing I’ve seen yet can compare to the view of the lights on the Homer Spit on a clear pink-skyed night. Everything about this place really is magical. ”
The Homer Spit at night from our camp
“On the paddle back I was relatively on my own and an otter popped up, curious, about 30 ft. from my boat. It let me paddle halfway to him and then I sat and watched me as he lounged on his back in the sun. I wanted to see a porpoise or whale (and I haven’t yet) but after that encounter I felt whole. There is something about the almost relaxed nature of the wildlife here that is so calming. I am in love. And though it would be nice to see more wildlife, I no longer feel entitled to seeing more because being out here has become more about finding a place for myself as a part of the vastness and appreciating every part, rather than focusing solely on what I want to see and get out of this trip.”
Day 7 – July 27, 2014
Sunday was a rest and pack day, which was probably a good thing because it was so hot. I got a sunburn on the side of my legs that were facing the sun in under an hour and I can still feel it as I’m typing two days later.
This is what I did for the majority of the day on Sunday! It was wonderful, I could’ve stayed there forever (with that kind of weather). It was high 60s and sunny and we were all reading and talking.
Part of our camp beach and all of our sea kayaks.
At the end of the day the campers and other staff members and I got together to do a little compliment circle around a bonfire on the beach. Everyone wrote anonymous compliments on pieces of paper and then we all picked one out a read one. I got a few and it really made me feel part of the group.
That night I wrote that I felt at peace.
I wrote “We are leaving in the morning and yet I fell I have so much left to learn and understand from this place. I suppose that is exactly how I will feel leaving AK in a week. I have learned patience, to flow with a change of plans, to not be hurt by small words or small things. To appreciate what matters and to let slide more easily what doesn’t. I have learned that pushing myself feels alright, that I’m a worthwhile person, and that I can make a positive impact on someone in a month, two weeks, or even just 6 days. I have learned that it is okay to rely on and want to emulate the right kind of people. And to focus on the parts of myself that others may want to emulate. More than before, this trip has taught me to not stress or get worked up over things that I cannot change AND over things that are not worth changing. I have learned to be proud of myself for little victories – not down because other people may have accomplished more, BUT to keep pushing for higher accomplishments even when I am unsure of whether or not my qualities will allow me to accomplish them.”
“I value my ability to find new and unexpected opportunities.”
I know that’s a whole lot of feelings, but that’s really what this trip did to me! It made me reevaluate everything in the most positive ways.
Sunset at the end of the last day across the Bay
The next morning I left with the first water taxi. Here’s the view of the beach we camped on.
I am super happy I had the opportunity to go on this trip. I’m sorry this was such a long post BUT – compared to all of the pictures I took and stories I have – this post was extremely abbreviated. I can’t wait to get home to share the little details with all of you because those are some of my favorites.
Thursday morning at 3am I’m catching a camp van back to Anchorage with some of the campers and then I will be staying in Anchorage until my flight on Sunday (August 3rd) around 4pm.
I’m hoping to get in another hike (if I can find one close enough) and to check out downtown Anchorage on Saturday – I’ve heard good things about their farmer’s market!
Thanks again to everyone who’s been reading! I will be posting at least one more blog (probably two!)