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Backpacker Magazine – November/December 2005

Save or Splurge: Kayak Southeast Alaska

Tour the wildlife menagerie that is southeast Alaska on two kayak trips

by: Tracy Ross

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Save
$895

What you get

A 3-hour cruise aboard a 40-foot charter boat gives you a taste of what's coming: You whoosh past Resurrection Bay's hanging glaciers, needle-sharp mountains, and charred-black sea stacks en route to Holgate Glacier, in Kenai Fjords National Park's sheltered Aialik Bay. You pass islands where 50,000 seabirds, including horned puffins and black-legged kittiwakes, gather to raise babies and dive-bomb distracted fish. For the next 3 days, you'll paddle past sea lion rookeries, dodge "bergie bits" (floating chunks of iceberg), and fall asleep to the groans of ancient glaciers. The price covers tents, hearty food, kayaks, the charter, guides, gear, and instruction. Bring a sleeping bag and a bottle of wine.

Why It's Cool

The Harding Icefield is a 300-square-mile Ice Age remnant responsible for Kenai Fjords' wilderness of craggy cirques, deep-water valleys, and 40-plus hanging and tidewater glaciers. The walls of ice creep down through rain forest to shed 200-foot-high slabs of ice into a sea churning with seals and salmon. From your basecamp at Holgate Arm, you'll paddle 6 to 7 miles a day, poking around offshore rock formations and ambling into hidden white-sand coves and protected lagoons where 30-ton humpbacks have been known to surface under kayakers and "kiss" their boats. You'll hike glacier moraines in search of black bears and wolverines, then snack on cream-cheese-and-salmon pizza while you glass Dall sheep tiptoeing on the surrounding cliffs. Wildlife sightings or not, you're guaranteed an intact-wilderness experience, where you can ride the tides into a world that is as it was a thousand years ago.

How To Do It

Sunny Cove Sea Kayaking Company: (907) 224-8810; www.sunnycove.com


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