Preface: I admit that I started this blog over a month ago (on my flight from Panama back to the U.S.) and have now been in Alaska for three weeks, getting my first taste of the winter wonderland that is Valdez, which has included a lot of ice climbing, post-holing in the snow and living in a 12′ by 12′ tent called an Arctic Oven. Without further ado, it’s time for you to get excited and inspired about a trip to Valdez!
I’m currently thousands of miles up in the sky. Any minute the captain will unintelligibly announce the initial descent into Newark, New Jersey. It’s February 13th, and I’m wearing flip-flops. Thank goodness I’ve had a down jacket with me the whole time I’ve been in Panama for this very day, my return to the United States. I’m filled with countless sun-, sea salt- and wind-kissed memories from the past 2 ½ months of fun in Panama. Yet, now I’m looking forward to the next grand adventure: Alaska! So very different than Panama, however another land of unknown adventures.
Before we know it summer will be upon us. In Valdez the Alders and Cottonwoods will be sprouting their bright green leaves in full force, the sun will make a huge arc in the sky, delighting northern dwellers with nearly 24-hours of daylight, Chocolate Lilies and Shooting Stars will add colorful adornment to meadows and roadsides, salmon will start the arduous journey from open ocean to their natal streams, Arctic Terns and Black-Legged Kittiwakes will descend upon the rocky islands in Prince William Sounds’ bays in preparation to hatch their young, and Valdezians will switch their skis and snow machines for paddles and fishing rods. And. . . sea kayak guides will reunite, filled with bubbling energy to get out on the water.
It’s hard to believe that I haven’t been in a sea kayak in Prince William Sound in nearly six months. At the end of last September I said goodbye (more of a “see you later”) to the majestic blue icebergs in Columbia Bay, the magical fog drifting in and out of Sitka Spruce trees in Long Bay, the smooth round rocks on Glacier Island, and my fifth summer of adventuring in and around Valdez. In one month I’ll be back in the kayak shop outfitting guests with rubber boots, spray skirts and paddles. I’ll be pointing out Harlequin Ducks, adorable Sea Otters and Bald Eagles as we glide through the water in our kayaks. I’ll be encouraging people to find a quiet spot for themselves for a few moments to silently take in the incredible beauty and wildness around them; the snowy peaks of the Chugach range, with their countless glaciers wrapping around each mountain and pouring down the valleys; the hissing, popping and snapping of ice as it finds equilibrium in the cold water; the orchestra of birds and ducks as they go about their feathery business; the soothing sound of waves lapping against a rocky coastline.
There is so much to discover, both outside and within. A world of new experiences awaits each of us. I return to this place season after season to discover something new that I have yet to see or experience. I never know what it will be. It may be identifying a different flower or seabird, or finding a piece of ice that inspires me in a certain way, or learning something new about the geology of a particular bay. . . or it may be something less tangible and more internal that one tends to discover after taking so many paddle strokes amongst the grandeur of such pristine wilderness. When you sit in a sea kayak and propel yourself forward to discover what lies ahead, you might discover that what lies ahead is as infinite as the ice that floats in Columbia Bay. You can choose to engage with the wonder and joy of knowing that you will never discover it all. There will always remain new and different things to uncover out there, as well as within yourself.
So start thinking about planning a trip to Alaska this summer, and make sure that you swing through Valdez to see what there is to discover. Check out some trip options, as well as photos and videos to inspire you. Contact me and let’s talk adventure! As always, thank you for reading and stay tuned for more blog posts.
Parting shot: Columbia Glacier, the largest tidewater glacier in Prince William Sound. Can you spot the kayak?