The Land Where The Ice Age Lingers: The Kenai Fjords of Alaska

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The next event, Event #3, took us 24 hours to complete. 24 LONG ALASKAN HOURS! 

None of us realized how long it was going to take; not even me and I’m the one who booked this thing. All I knew for sure was that we had to wake up freakin’ early for it. I’m talking around 1:30am (01:30) to drive from our geodesic dome in Eagle View to Seward, the location of Event #3. After the first couple of events in Denali, we drove five hours south to our new accommodation right outside of Anchorage to a geodesic dome I found on AirBnB. It’s someones home that we rented, located on a bee farm but central to everywhere we needed to go. It’s perfectly Alaskan!

Our unique geodesic dome style homestay we found on AirBnb.
Our unique geodesic dome style home-stay we found on AirBnb.
After settling into our wonderful new home-stay, I decided to break some news about Event #3 to the gang. Out of all eight events that I planned, this particular event took me the longest to organize based on how elaborate it was. I sat them down on the couches in the main room.

“We’re going to Seward to kayak through glaciers, icebergs, whales, seals, and all that stuff,” I began to say, almost with a tone of exhaustion. “It’s an all day thing and we have to be out the door at 1:30am in order to make it to Miller’s Landing by 6am, which means we should all go to bed around 7 or 8pm tonight. We are kayaking for eleven hours!”

They were astonished. They couldn’t believe or really grasp what we were about to do.

I decided to tell them so they could dress appropriately for the glacial chill we were about to endure and to mentally prepare themselves for the fact we were about to be kayaking for eleven hours in elusive waters where whales like to play. We spent the next hour looking up videos online of the area we were going to, the Kenai Fjords, but more specifically Aialik Bay. Everyone was brimming with excitement!

I woke up around 1am and rounded up the gang for our drive south into Seward. Leaving at such an early time gave me peace of mind for the drive. If anything were to go wrong during the drive, we’d have plenty of time to get it resolved. Plus, getting there about an hour early gave all of us time to snooze once more before our long haul into the glaciers.

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Event #3 of 8 – Glacier Kayak in the Kenai Fjords of Alaska

I woke up my car mates at 5:30am (05:30) to meet up with our guide, Ben, at Miller’s Landing. I’ve been in contact with him for the last couple days to make sure the weather was fitting and our dietary requirements were in order. We walked up through the fog and the mud puddled road to the cabin property, where we were able to check in and grab a light breakfast.

“Meet me at the dock behind us in just a few minutes,” Ben said as he walked off with a random assortment of boating equipment. Ben was an older man, I’d say early 50’s, with a single yoga-style tone to his voice. He’s been doing this for awhile and you could tell. He wasn’t the most enthusiastic guide I’ve ever had but still he was kind and most certainly knowledgeable.

I walked outside to the dock…the eerie dock where our small boat bowed out into the mist. Ben told us that this boat would transport us about 100 – 150 miles into the fjords. But where in the heck were we headed? I could barely see a few yards in front of me.

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We boarded the small transport boat and set off to Aialik Bay, wherever that was. On the way there, Ben said we could potentially spot whales and seals. I personally found the opportunity to catch a little more sleep. The drive back home was going to be exhausting, so any moment I could find to rest my eyes was absolutely necessary. Besides, the fog covered everything. I was still most anxious about actually kayaking through icebergs and glaciers, something that I’ve never done before. Same goes for the others.

This is the area of our event. Courtesy of Google Maps.
This is the area of our event. Courtesy of Google Maps.

The boat ride to Aialik lasted a little under two hours before we docked on one of the stone riddled beaches. We unloaded our kayaks and gear onto the shore. They were double kayaks while Ben had a single. We briefly went over proper packing and paddling procedures and what to do if the kayak flipped or if a wild animal approached us in the water. If anything, it’s important to remain calm because the last thing we would want is our kayak to flip. The waters here were the coldest I’ve ever felt in my life! If we fell in, our bodies would instantly tighten from the freezing sea and wouldn’t be able to function before we succumb to hypothermia. Thankfully we were bundled up and vowed not to flip our kayak.

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Aialik Bay Kayaking

It was just the five of us on that shore. There were a few other kayaks around but we lost them in the murky distance. It felt like a weird dream. The water resembled a milky steel and was as calm as you could imagine, but teaming with mysterious life right below and even above. There were only sounds of nature and a sense of tranquility among the isles in the short distance. The only nuisance were the pesky flying insects that swarmed the shores. How are these bugs so active in the cold like this? The shore was piled with smooth stones and plates of slate. The stones were the perfect size for skipping rocks across the liquid steel.

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Veronica was my kayak partner for this event. Katelin and Chris manned the other. We put on our skirts and packed our kayaks with our bags and food that Ben prepared and set off into the mist. Almost immediately we could spot many small icebergs that have just calved off from an approaching glacier.


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Aialik Bay Kayaking

The first glacier we approached, Aialik Glacier, was massive! Ben told us that it stretched a mile long, even though it didn’t look like it from where we were. We couldn’t get too close to it just in case ice started to calve off. From our distance, we could see humongous thumps of ice fall off and two seconds later we would hear a loud “thunder” followed by an intense surge of water spouting into the air creating waves that we could feel from our kayaks. It was too surreal!

As for the whales? We didn’t see any around, which I wasn’t mad about but still a little disappointed something monstrous didn’t pop out of the water. Only a few otters and seals. The cold didn’t bother them one bit. It started to take its toll on us though. Our pants were drenched from the water that was already in the kayak. Veronica and I had the same mental thought process.

“This is fun and amazing. We both aren’t fond of kayaking. We both hate being cold. Why is our kayak going slower than the others? Let’s get the heck out of here.”

We followed Ben and kayaked around the isle back to our shore where Ben would prepare lunch that he made at his home for us. We were all starving and were ready for whatever he was about to serve us. But first he set up a tarp between two of the kayaks to shield us from the drizzle. It barely made do.

As he prepared our lunch, Chris and I went further along the shore to break slates while Veronica and Katelin built a fire to keep warm.

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After a cold yet much needed lunch (pasta with veggies on a corn tortilla), we geared up to paddle around and through the inlets around us, which proved to be way more strenuous than we all anticipated. We basically paddled out into the open sea of nothingness, with the current along the shorelines of the isles.

Aialik Bay Kayaking

“Why is our kayak moving so slow?” I would continue to say. Veronica and I were baffled. We were kayaking at normal pace and usually in sync, but for some reason, the other two kayaks were always out ahead in the distance. Thankfully after paddling for what felt like hours into a void, Ben had us dock at an isle inhabiting bears and some of the mossiest forests I’ve ever seen. The forest floor was essentially a giant blanket of cushiness. Like a natural downy fabric softener. Nothing but a soft baby green moss…with animal skulls lying around. I could have slept right on the moss if it weren’t for all those skulls laying around. There was a resident murderer around here somewhere.

At this point, I began to feel miserable. I enjoyed everything we were doing but I was soaked from waist down. I didn’t wear the proper pants for this event and I was tired of kayaking forever. Veronica felt the same way. However, that miserable feeling went completely away when we kayaked towards this…

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There were chunks of icebergs everywhere, all coming from another large glacier called the Pedersen Glacier. At what first seemed like a dangerous maneuver through the icebergs turned into a real life game of Frogger for me and Veronica.  The chunks of ice flowed every which way, with some even turning right-side up in the water creating small shocks of waves that shook the surrounding bay. It was impossible for me to perfectly steer our kayak through the ice and eventually accepted the fact that were just going to crash into a few chunks. May as well have fun with it? I was laughing the entire way at Veronica’s expense, since I was doing all the steering and she was sitting in front, she had no idea what direction I was taking her. Add on the fact that there was an evil-eyed seal chasing our kayak and poking its head out the water, leering at us. We definitely pinballed our way through the ice chunks, much to our amusement. We were fine as long as our kayak didn’t flip and that stalker seal didn’t come any closer. We were eventually treated to the Pedersen glacier, which was smaller than the Aialik Glacier, but the challenge was welcoming and rewarding. Thousands of ice chunks and dozens of seals surrounded us. It was by far one of the most amazing sights in all of my travels.

Aialik Bay Kayaking
Aialik Bay Kayaking
We explored our surroundings on foot for about 20 minutes until Ben suggested we head back to our original beach. This leg of the trip would be the longest so far. We had to kayak all the way back, but this time against the current!

The current was so strong that at times it didn’t feel like we were moving. It was a little frustrating but we knew we had to keep paddling or else we’d be stuck out here forever. It took us about three hours to get back to where we needed to be and by that time we were beat. Cold, dead, and beat. Shivering beats. Once we docked we saw that our kayak had all the heavy bags and the heavy bag of storage water. “That’s why we were going so freakin’ slow!”

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Now all we had to do was wait for our boat to come pick us up. The boat was about an hour late but came in the nick of time. We were all soaking wet and freezing. As soon as we boarded, everyone changed into their dry clothes while I remained a still statue nestled in the corner of my seat until we got back to land. I eventually changed at the car, thankful that the day is over, but even more thankful that I was able to witness everything we saw in the Kenai Fjords. We were the only ones out there and had the whole bay to ourselves. We didn’t see any whales up close but we did see a couple of whales breach on the way back to Miller’s Landing. Now all we had to do was drive a few hours back to our geodesic dome and become enslaved to our dry warm beds. We got back to the dome at the same time we left, exactly 24 hours ago. But WELL worth it. This event gave us more than we all expected.

I told Chris, Veronica, and Katelin that we didn’t have an event tomorrow, but instead it would be a day of rest. “Event #4 takes place on Sunday when we fly to Juneau, Alaska” I warned them.

What they didn’t know was that I was about to pull the rug from right underneath their unsuspecting feet once again…


 

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Author: Adventure Born

I'm Daniel. A cereal lovin', traveling machine from Michigan on a solo journey around the world, documenting and sharing my unexpected tales from abroad. My aim is to inspire people like YOU to discover your very own adventures. The world is truly too big not to explore it!

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