OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHappy Memorial Day weekend! I thought I’d share with you some of the pre-season and ongoing training that us kayak guides partake in to keep you safe and knowledgeable out there. The sea kayak season in Valdez, Alaska is picking up as we get excited for June. The other kayak guides have been here for a few weeks already. It’s wonderful to have the anadamily back together again. If you read my last blog you’ll be familiar as to who comprises, and what in tarnation is the anadamily. Spirits are soaring as we settle in to being back amongst the magic of this awe-inspiring corner of Alaska. It can get difficult for a sea kayak guide to be away from icebergs for so many months during the winter, although Palm Trees are not a bad alternative. May has been a month to replenish the lack of Alaska in our lives, as most of the guides were far away during the winter months.

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May is the time to get back into our sea kayaks and paddle in Port Valdez to test the waters, as we do at the start of every season. We don dry suits, which are full-body waterproof suits, and practice rescuing one another. Yes, that’s right, we willingly plunge ourselves into the cold waters of Prince William Sound to ensure that our kayaking skills improve each season. We hope to not have to utilize these rescue skills during the season (and we rarely do), however it’s good to have them at the ready if necessary. You’re in good hands with this well-trained crew!

Another annual training session occurs at the Valdez Glacier. We paddle across the Valdez Glacier Lake and practice our crevasse rescue skills on the glacier. The Valdez Glacier is one of Anadyr Adventures’ most popular day tours and includes paddling around this freshwater lake, alongside massive icebergs.

We then take a hike on the glacier to check out all kinds of fascinating ice features, such as crevasses (fissures, or deep clefts, in glacial ice) and moulins (cavities worn in a glacier by surface water falling through a crack in the ice). These are beautiful (and often gorgeous blue) ice features that we get very close to, which makes this tour a favorite of the guides and our guests. It’s a unique opportunity to experience the mysterious and constantly-changing life of a glacier up close.

Here we are practicing crevasse rescue on the glacier, another important skill that all Anadyr guides have.

Antony with bird on head

You might be surprised with the wildlife found at the face of a glacier

Of course, as naturalist sea kayak guides we spend a great deal of time learning about and discussing the natural history of the area, a topic that one could easily spend an entire lifetime studying. This corner of northeast Prince William Sound offers a myriad of habitats, major historical events, flora and fauna, and great Alaskan personalities. From the rush of gold-mining prospectors to the area in 1898, to the major oil spill of the Exxon-Valdez tanker in 1989, to the catastrophic retreat of the Columbia Glacier in the 1980s, and the intricate ways that the natural world interacts in this northern Boreal forest and glacially-carved landscape, there is always more to learn. In the evenings the guides are often gathered together, sharing the diverse things that we’ve seen while on our day tours and camping trips. This keeps us engaged and excited to share this knowledge with our guests.

A visit to the wonderful Valdez Museum at the start of each season reminds us how much there is to learn and share.

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Learning about the 1964 “Good Friday” Earthquake

When we don’t have a trip to go on (and it’s a bit wet outside), we still thirst for knowledge.

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Anadyr guide, Mark, studying up on his natural history

As always, I look forward to taking you out on sea kayaking and glacier hiking adventures in beautiful Valdez, Alaska. Thanks for reading and stay tuned for the next blog, which follows my first camping trip of the season, a four-day kayaking adventure in Prince William Sound, in which we experienced all kinds of Alaskan weather.

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Jumping for joy for sunshine in Columbia Bay

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