Monday, July 13, 2009

Alaskan Kayaking

Kayaking on the Kenai Peninsula in AlaskaSo how about that Sarah Palin?? You just can't get away from Alaska in the news, can you?

And I'm going to give you more Alaskan things to think about because you're going to have to listen to the story of my week. Sorry for not answering emails or responding to comments, I was too busy having THE BEST TIME OF MY LIFE!!

I should start by saying I've never been a huge camping fan. I've always had a hard time with that whole cold, dirty, bug-infested part. But last week I accompanied 11 teenage girls on a kayaking expedition and if I were to tell you all the wonderful things about the trip you'd be reading pages and pages till you dropped from exhaustion.

Kayaking on the Kenai Peninsula in AlaskaWe had originally planned on going to Valdez and kayaking on the ocean but when it came down to it the people who were training us worried that the girls would be fighting the dangerous ocean currents and notoriously touchy weather on Prince William Sound so at the last minute we switched to the Kenai Peninsula so we could instead go kayaking on lakes and stay safer.

I was a little disappointed at first but boy was I wrong because we had the most fabulous weather you'll ever see in southcentral Alaska. Our temperatures were around 80 for most of the week (the picture looks rather hazy because of the forest fires burning around the state but it really was very sunny) and instead of using all the layers I packed we spent the week in swim suits and t-shirts, trying fun things to keep ourselves cool.

We camped in the Ptarmigan Creek campground which is about 20 minutes north of Seward. The fee is $14 a night but it's well worth it because the area sits alongside the Ptarmigan Creek where there's a trail that leads from the campground for about 3 1/2 miles along the river up to Ptarmigan Lake. We hiked the trail first thing when we got there (even before setting up camp) and it's very much like the Winner Creek trail back in Girdwood in terms of terrain and difficulty.

At first I was a bit nervous because of all the signs that said things like: "Bear Country: Beware!" and "For the safety of all, do not leave any food, cosmetics, toiletries or anything with an odor in your camp!" The other leader that was with us handed me a can of bear spray and suggested I go first along the trail.

"You just pull this strap here and the trigger unlocks. Then you spray the bear. Just be careful that you're not more than 30 feet from him because it won't work at that distance--you'll just get a cloud of spray that blows away. You need to be able to get him good in the face and the can only has enough spray for about two or three seconds which means it's really just there to give him a distraction so that you can run away."

Kayaking on the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska"So let me get this straight? I see a bear coming at me. The bear wants to eat me. [we've already proven how good I am with wildlife relations after my earlier moose episode] I'm supposed to 'wait until I see the whites of his eyes'? I'm supposed to let him get a good, tasty whiff of me and offer myself as a morsel then get close enough to really make him mad so the rest of you can have time to run away?"

"Pretty much."

"Okay. Just so we're clear here."

So at first I was a bit nervous and did a lot of shouting along the lines of "If there are any bears out there you better back off because I'm armed. With bear spray!" until the temperatures rose and we were all a pack of dripping sweat balls and I pretty much didn't care if there were any bears out there anyway because becoming an h'ors d'oeuvre couldn't be worse that the flies that were attracted by my most pleasant fragrance.

But sweatiness aside it was a great hike. Forget-me-nots and orange wild columbine dotted the forest trail with dogwood and cow parsnip underfoot as we hiked beside the opaquely-green river. It was about as beautiful as you can imagine.

Kayaking on the Kenai Peninsula in AlaskaThe next few days were all about kayaking. We shuttled our nine kayaks up the road about five miles to the turn off for Upper and Lower Trail Lakes where we packed up and put in.

Grace and I were both in single-man crafts while most of the girls were in doubles. The singles are a bit more unstable but the water was just like you see it here--perfect glass.

We paddled for five miles and the girls did great--even with a sticky rudder and a broken cable to cause some problems they really were amazing and it was one of those perfect days where the weather is perfect, your surroundings are perfect, you're just perfectly content, hoping it all doesn't end.

There were float planes occasionally taking off or touching down on the lake as we made our way across, there were dolly varden and rainbow trout jumping here and there to break the surface and surprise us but the highlight of the trip was when, on our return, we passed directly beneath two large spruce trees where two bald eagles sat perched on the very tops. They were screeching in their distinct way and were watching us as we drifted by then they flew on ahead a bit to two new trees where they watched us catch up only to fly on ahead of us again, screeching and talking.

Kayaking on the Kenai Peninsula in AlaskaI would have had pictures of them but it's hard to pull out your camera from the back of a kayak. We ate our snacks and lunches right there on the water, floating along, because there were no places to put out--it was nothing but mountains and spruce trees right down to the water line.

When we finally got off the water it was so warm and lovely the girls all jumped back in the water right there at the lake. Even back at camp it was warm enough that every afternoon we could tramp down to the river and bathe so we could feel more human and evenings were all about sitting around the fire and playing long games of Five Card Mow (rhymes with cow) which will probably warrant a post in itself it was so fun.

Kayaking on the Kenai Peninsula in AlaskaOn Wednesday Andrew brought the kids down to wish me a happy birthday and I took the kids out on Kenai Lake which is the picture you see here--they all loved it and the only bad news now is that we're thinking that we may have to do it as a family next summer. Maybe by then David will be big enough to reach the rudder pedals and won't have to mope about how he wants to go out in a kayak by himself and why does he have to have a partner?

I think after this trip I can definitively say to Andrew that I am not the outdoor whimp that he thought he'd married afterall. And the girls had as much fun as I did--I kept hearing that it was "the best experience of my WHOLE life!" which must mean that it wasn't too bad of a week.

Who says I'm not an outdoor person? At least as long as I've got my sun.

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Robin said...

It sounds absolutely wonderful from start to finish, I'm so glad it all worked out so perfectly for you.

Carina said...

Glad you had such a great time, and I just have to say that you guys "trying to stay cool" in 80 degree temps really cracks me up.

It's been between 107 and 111 for highs here for days, with much more to come. Right now I would so trade you. In a few months...not so much.

Jeana said...

Wow, that sounds amazing! I've always said that I would be an outdoor person if it wasn't for the sun. :-)

Randy, Ally, and Wes said...

That looks like so much fun. I have wanted to try kayaking for some time . . . it looks amazing.

Mandy said...

Great commentary and pictures. I am going to girls camp next week and I wish it was going to be in the 80's! Much hotter and muggy here but no worry about bears! Ha!

Anonymous said...

TOTALLY jealous :) That looks and sounds so awesome and reminds me of my own happy backpacking memories, a bit further south, but still the same region of the world.

I am assuming that you were hot and sticky but the water was cold, right? Glacier fed?

Chele said...

It sounds like you had a great time! Thanks for sharing your adventure. :)

Tiffany Hampton said...

Hi, Sound like you had a good time and a adventure to talk about. I simply love it ! Your blog is a great source of inspiration to other moms in Anchorage.

I would like if you can share your posts with other moms on the bizymoms anchorage community Anchorage . They would love to read your posts and benefit from what you have to offer them. Once again three cheers to you and you are a wonderful inspiration to other moms everywhere !!

Miche said...

WOW, that whole area was SO lovely. I hope I get to visit there someday-Bill and I are planning for our 10th anniversary (which is in another 5 years) to go on an Alaskan cruise.

And I'd be nervous about bear signs, too!

Amy said...

Sounds like fun. I really want to explore more of the Kenai Peninsula and all of the lakes and rivers that crisscross it. I wonder where you will go next year?

Kelly @ Love Well said...

I'm so glad you had a fun trip. I thought about you a lot last week. And you're right -- having sunshine and warm temperatures makes (almost) all outdoor activities 250% better. I read it in a study, I think.

Karen Olson said...

As someone who does not embrace camping, I can honestly say that your post today has me thinking that if I were in Alaska and had a kayak, I might actually enjoy it!

Lee said...

we love kayaking and have done it a few times, even a few times in Alaska, once out of Sitka and once out of Ketchikan. Loved it. Have done a little ocean kayaking as well. Once you try it, you can't resist doing it again.

Maddy said...

Sounds a darned sight better than England [although I am a little biased.]

Naomi said...

I am totally ditching my family and moving in with yours... this looks like so much fun!

Serena said...

It sounds wonderful. Can I join you next time?

It's nice to see that Alaskans can now spell 'ptarmigan'. ;)

RefreshMom said...

Sounds fabulous! I got to find my inner Grizzly Adams in Yosemite a few years ago. We had 4 bear sightings in 2 days, including the one up in the tree trying to get the food we'd so carefully hung like we were supposed to and the REALLY BIG one who walked past my sleeping bag. I could only hope that he couldn't smell the raspberry lipsmacker that I'd buried in the sand oh...about where my head was! (I didn't take the "don't bring cosmetics" warning seriously enough. It melted and got sandy during our 5 mile hike to the camp site.) I guess it was too early in the morning for dessert.

Glad you had such a great time. Thanks for sharing.

Leisa Hammett said...

Beautiful scenery. Thanks for sharing!

CountessLaurie said...

You are far, far braver than I for taking that many teenage girls anywhere :) Seriously, sounds awesome if you could leave the bears out of it. I am also jealous of your 80 degrees. Here in New England, we are in the midst of the year without a summer. It sounds lovely to be floating on the water, all warm and summery! Thanks for sharing.

Stephanie said...

What a memorable experience! That is a fantastic way to spend a birthday - doing something new & unexpected.

Janet said...

The Mountain Man is not allowed to see these pictures. Looks like fun though!

Anonymous said...

Oliver said....Thinking of spending some days in Alaska has been a dream for him. But now after learning how wonderful it is to feel the 80 degree temperature breeze there he loves to wander about the area. How amazing it is?