I’D DIP MY PADDLE IN THAT: Lake Superior Kayaking + 12 Reasons to Visit the Keweenaw Peninsula

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What a good-lookin’ fleet!

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Beauty in nature is found by those who seek it, Lake Superior

When I received an enthusiastic invitation from Keweenaw Adventure Company (pronounced kinda like Kee-wah-naw) to partake in a sea kayaking tour in exchange for writing a blog, I answered an even more enthusiastic “Yes!” (truthfully, it was more like “Yaaaaaasss!”) Wow, I was finally going to dip my paddle in the waters of the famous Lake Superior, the largest of North America’s Great Lakes. This was a pretty big deal for me. And if I had to use one word to describe my experience? Friggin’awesome (that’s one word, right? It is now).

I strive to surround myself with good people in beautiful places doing fun things. Let me tell ya. . . Keweenaw folks are good people in a beautiful place doing fun things:) The take-away message here is Keweenaw Adventure Company is amazing. Copper Harbor is amazing. Lake Superior is amazing. Sea kayaking on Lake Superior in Copper Harbor with Keweenaw Adventure Company is amazing.


Keweenaw Adventure Company Highlights

Guided sea kayaking day trips, overnight camping and kayaking trips to Isle Royale National Park, kayaking lessons and rentals, mountain biking tours and rentals, vacation rentals, shuttles, retail shop, and more. Visit their website.KAC logo- 25th finalThey also offer Group Adventures (youth groups, scouts, camps, staff retreats, and yoga/wellness retreats). Any group of 8 or more receives a 15% Group Discount. The more the merrier! They also have a great adventure blog. Check out A Kayaking Yoga Routine, from Keweenaw staffer and Michiganer (artist, musician, and yogi), Lena Wilson, the first person who I met upon my arrival to the Keweenaw Peninsula. She graciously served as my personal tour guide during our drive, regaling me with fun Michigan facts, and making the necessary visit to the renowned Jampot, where I purchased some truly divine gifts for my parents. . . and myself. Industrious monks from this Byzantine Catholic Monastery make jams, jellies, preserves, and impossible-to-resist baked goods and fruitcakes using the finest local, regional, and organic ingredients. They offer a surprisingly large selection of baked goods soaked in liquor. I guess they know what sells:) A must-stop if you’re driving the Scenic Highway M26!

 

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Rule #1: Look good. My guide, Matt, perfecting his hair before our first paddle on Lake Superior together

Let’s take a closer look at what makes this place unique, shall we? Fun facts: Copper Harbor is the northernmost town in Michigan, located on the Keweenaw Peninsula, which juts into Lake Superior. The Keweenaw Peninsula is the largest and northernmost county in Michigan, and the least populated. It is believed that “Keweenaw” is a Native American word that means “portage or place where portage is made”. Copper Harbor, the name alluding to its’ former role of shipping copper mined from local deposits during the mid-19th century, is the farthest away you can get from an Interstate Highway in the lower 48. How cool! Lake Superior is generally considered the largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area (31,700 square miles), which is 10% of the earth’s fresh surface water. Fed by over 200 rivers and containing 2,900 cubic miles of water, it is the third-largest freshwater lake by volume in the world, and the largest by volume in North America. With 2,726 miles of shoreline to explore (including over 400 islands), it is also the cleanest and the clearest of the Great Lakes (underwater visibility averages 27 feet, and can reach 100 feet!). One more fun fact, which blows my mind: Waves of over 40 ft. in height have been recorded on Lake Superior (all the more reason to hire an experienced guide)! Don’t worry, the good folks at Keweenaw Adventure Company wouldn’t dare take you out in those conditions.

Keep it local! Copper Harbor has no chain businesses. None. Zero. If you’re looking for a picturesque place with an off-the-beaten-path local vibe that offers fun adventures for the whole family, lovely accommodations, great restaurants, brewpubs, and artisan shops, you’ve arrived (scroll down for my top finds). This place is on point! With a year-round population of 80 that swells to a few hundred in the summer months, Copper Harbor offers a unique escape into Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, a place renowned for breathtaking wilderness and intriguing local culture. I need to go back to delve deeper into what makes a Yooper a Yooper (someone born and raised, or accepted as a transplant to the Upper Peninsula), because Yoopers sure are proud of who they are and where they come from!

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View of Copper Harbor from the Brockway Mountain Overlook. (C) Keweenaw Adventure Co.


Keweenaw Adventure Company Offers Multi-Day Sea Kayaking Trips to Isle Royale National Park

Copper Harbor is known as the gateway to Isle Royale National Park, which is the largest island in Lake Superior at an impressive 207 square miles, and one of only 2 of the nation’s island national parks. Apparently, Yellowstone National Park receives more visitors in a single day than Isle Royale does in an entire season! Unfortunately, I didn’t get to paddle here (frowny face), so I’m already scheming a trip for the future. From what I’ve heard Isle Royale offers some of the best wilderness kayaking in Michigan. I’ve pored over enough photos to confirm this claim. Who wouldn’t want to kayak past some of the oldest exposed rock in the world! No vehicles are allowed on the island, so hiking and boating are the only options to explore the more than 150 miles of shoreline, numerous barrier islands, and fjord-like bays. These are best explored in a sea kayak with a local guide. The island is teeming with flora and fauna; eagles, loons, many species of birds and waterfowl, as well as wolves, moose, and otters.

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This will be me someday paddling at Isle Royale, (C) Keweenaw Adventure Co.


Good Times in Copper Harbor

Now that I’ve regaled you with fun facts about the location, here’s a run-down of what I actually did during my 4 days of fun in Copper Harbor. Because if you’re going to trek all the way out to this small town, you might as well stay a while and go local; sample the best of nature and adventure with the various tours offered by Keweenaw Adventure Company, and hit up some of these other spots too!

  1. Acquainted myself with the wonderful staff of Keweenaw Adventure Company, met my guide, checked out the kayaks and gear, and settled into my cozy and private accommodations at the Chalet Adventure Lodge, next to the company shop. They offer seasonal and different styles of cozy accommodations (cabin, house, cottage, chalet) in Copper Harbor. Fully furnished and equipped, I thoroughly enjoyed my stay here.
  2. Went sea kayaking on Lake Superior. I chose the Bare Bluffs day tour, enticed by sea stacks and sea caves. Although sunny, it was a bit blustery, so Matt and I turned back a tad early before the waves could build up too much. I loved the interesting shoreline and did get to see a few sea caves and the sea stack in the distance. Part of what made the trip so great was getting to know yet another quirky kayak guide:) Luckily, guides always have calm paddling spots up their sleeves, so we explored a serene slough, beautified by the reflection of vibrant fall foliage, as I described sea kayaking in Alaska to Matt. As an avid sea kayaker and guide I could immediately see the truth in everything that I’d heard of paddling on Lake Superior; it’s a gorgeous world-class paddling destination. It offers kayaking for all abilities, from flat and glassy, to big waves that only the most experienced “storm chaser” paddlers seek. . . and everything in between.

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    Sea Stack on the Bare Bluffs Day Tour, (C) Keweenaw Adventure Co.

  3.  Enjoyed an afternoon of hiking on the Copper Harbor Trail System. Due to guiding commitments in Alaska, my trip to Michigan took place in October, a lovely time of year to enjoy vibrant fall colors. (I got to enjoy 3 falls; Alaska, Michigan, and Philadelphia.) On my way to the trailhead I passed a lovely community garden surrounded by apple trees. I hiked for miles, undisturbed and at peace (I hardly saw anybody else, except for a few mountain bikers).
  4. Learned about mountain biking in Copper Harbor, the “Moab of the Midwest”. The Copper Harbor Trail System, which boasts over 40 miles of marked and mapped trails is designated for hiking and mountain biking. I had no idea that Copper Harbor is such a hotspot for singletrack mountain biking! Apparently it’s some of the most unique, scenic, and thrilling mountain biking in Upper Michigan. The area won the prestigious “Silver Level Ride Center” designation from the IMBA (International Mountain Bicycling Association), and has an ever-growing community of biking enthusiasts who dedicate thousands of cumulative hours each season to maintain and create trails, as well as promote eco-tourism to the area. Keweenaw Adventure Company is a major supporter of the Copper Harbor Trails Club, which is now recognized as a “model club” on both the regional and national level. In fact, the owner of the Keweenaw Adventure Company, Sam Raymond (avid mountain biker), helped to formally establish the Trails Club, and has personally dedicated 1000s of sweaty hours to building trails. Good people doing cool things. Next time I visit I’m going to do some mountain biking with one of their guides!
  5. Did yoga in the forest. I don’t normally photograph myself doing yoga. In fact, it would never occur to me to document such a thing. However, for the purpose of this blog, here you go:) Beautiful and peaceful places abound in this area for exercise, yoga, and healthy living in general. The air is fresh, crowds are easily avoidable, and nature-based activities pervade the community. Besides, visitors from more populous areas may have a slightly different notion as to what defines a crowd.
  6. Caught a gorgeous sunset from Brockway Mountain. Wow! This was a highlight, and a short drive from town. The scenic road is 10 miles long, with many pull-offs to take in the views. At the top you’ll be rewarded with a 360° view of Lake Superior, the surrounding woodlands, and inland lakes. At 735 feet above the lake, you can see Isle Royale about 50 miles away. Next visit I want to catch a sunrise here.
  7. Ate a Lake Superior Whitefish sandwich at the Mariner North restaurant. Visiting a new place always includes indulging my taste buds in the local fare, as well as learning about the food heritage of the area. Lake Superior is home to about 88 species of fish, including carp and varieties of trout, salmon, and perch. I’ve heard they’re all delicious! Fish from the lake are rich in omega-3 fatty acids because the lake is very cold and deep. Hundreds of years ago the Ojibwe and Chippewa Indians hunted Lake Superior trout, whitefish, and sturgeon from birch bark canoes using nets crafted from willow bark. European settlers began to arrive and commercial fishing was born as a result in 1820. Due to the usual culprits of pollution, over-fishing, and introduction of invasive species, trout and whitefish numbers severely declined and by the 1950’s the heyday of this commercial fishery was over. Currently, there are strict regulations to limit commercial fishing in Lake Superior.

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    Damn that was a tasty Whitefish sandwich at the Mariner North

  8. Introduced a new friend to packrafting at Hunter’s Point Park. For those who have sat in a packraft, it’s a pretty tight ride. But I only had one raft and we needed it just for a short crossing to a small island. It was in the name of exploration! Hunter’s Point Park is a beautiful area with a few trails that follow the shoreline of Lake Superior. Great for birding, as well as abundant flora (wildflowers, mushrooms, lichen, mosses, and cedars, hardwoods, and pines). The geological formations are especially unique here. The basalt in this area is the oldest rock on earth. Consider a visit here like a window to the past.
  9. Took a stroll on the Cathedral Grove Trail at Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary, which is home to the oldest stands of virgin White Pine trees in Michigan. Owned and cared for by the Michigan Nature Association, the sanctuary has two short and easy trails that feature pines that are more than 100 feet tall and 200 years old. There are also Maple, Birch, and Cedar trees. I was there in the fall and got to see a bounty of mushrooms in many shapes and colors. In the summer and spring you can see many rare fern species, as well as orchids and other delicate woodland plants.
  10. Grooved to the juke box at Zik’s Bar with the endearing couple who own and operate Keweenaw Adventure Company (Sam and Shelby). Is it sacrilegious to have spent even a few hours in Michigan without drinking beer? I think so. I’m guilty. I just don’t like beer. However, I did drink wine at this fine local establishment. This is the place to be if you want to check out the Copper Harbor nightlife, while being immersed in local history, as the walls are covered with photos and memorabilia depicting local lore. Copper Harbor has at least one microbrewery called Brickside Brewery, which I did not visit. Next time.

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    Zik’s Bar, (C) Zik’s Bar

  11. Coffee and fresh muffins from Jamsen’s Fish Market and Bakery. Local, delicious, and right on the waterfront:)

  12. Received an unexpected farewell gift of homemade jams from front yard blueberries and raspberries. I got a ride from a new friend to the airport, and when we stopped at her house to check the tire pressure, her landlord handed me two large jars of homemade jam! It was such a moving gesture. That sealed the deal. . .I’m going back for more:)
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    Copper Harbor Trail System


    Even though I’m a sea kayaker who went to Copper Harbor to go sea kayaking on Lake Superior, I came away with far more experiences. It was an unexpected whirlwind of meeting some of the most warm-hearted people I’d ever met. I made new friends and connected with people on a level that made me feel like I was visiting old friends. I discovered an adventure company that strives to keep things local, human, and sustainable.

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Agate Harbor Day Trip, (C) Keweenaw Adventure Co.


Parting Shot. . .

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Spreading a bit of Alaska Glacial Facial love to new friends, Matt and Gabbey. Cheers!


I sincerely hope that you enjoyed reading this special blog as much as I enjoyed reliving the fond memories as I wrote it. Check out my other paddling-related blogs about Panama, Alaska, and Croatia. Follow me on Instagram


Don’t forget to check out my website for upcoming summer sea kayaking trips in Alaska and Croatia. . . or if you’re one to plan well in advance, in Panama for next “winter” season.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

JOIN ME IN ALASKA JULY 5-9: Lodge-Based Sea Kayaking Adventures

*If you’re reading this from an email, it looks way better on my website:)*

TWO SPACES AVAILABLE FOR A 5-DAY LODGE-BASED KAYAKING TRIP

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A day trip from the lodge, Paddling past Steller Sea Lions, Glacier Island

Here’s what a client had to say after doing a 7-day lodge trip: “We will treasure our 7 day kayak experience for life. We had so much fun and enjoyed every minute of this experience.”

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Sunset view from the lodge, Prince William Sound


TWO SPACES AVAILABLE FOR A 5-DAY LODGE-BASED KAYAKING TRIP

JULY 5 – 9, 2019        Cost: $2,420/person

Includes: 4 nights accommodations in a wilderness lodge, professionally-cooked meals, water taxis to-and-from the lodge, all kayaking equipment, a professional sea kayak guide (yours truly), a day trip to the south side of Glacier Island, and a day trip to the face of the iconic Columbia Glacier (the largest tidewater glacier in Prince William Sound).

If you’d prefer different dates, or wish to inquire about my other Alaska sea kayaking trips, please contact me! There are lots of camping trips available too. I also have upcoming trips available in Croatia and Panama.


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A day trip from the lodge, Ice in Columbia Bay


You know the saying “If I had a nickel for every time I heard . . . “? Well, I’d be at a whopping $2 if I earned a nickel for every time I’ve been told, “I’d love to join you for a multi-day sea kayaking trip in Alaska. . I just don’t want to camp!” You do the math. That’s actually a lot of people:) Get ready for a grand announcement: You don’t have to camp to enjoy a multi-day sea kayaking trip in Alaska! On the contrary, you can experience the best of coastal Alaska from the incomparable vantage point of a kayak while enjoying all of the luxuries that a wilderness lodge has to offer.


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Find serenity at the lodge

Paddle to your heart’s content in serene coves and the ice-filled Columbia Bay, giggle as Sea Otters twirl past your kayak, explore life in the inter-tidal zone, photograph Bald Eagles soaring overhead, marvel at the snow-capped Chugach Mountains, and gasp as Steller Sea Lions leap out of the water on Glacier Island. All of this. . . and you also get to enjoy hot showers, electricity, a cozy bed, delicious home-cooked meals, a deck with a firepit overlooking a peaceful bay, a wood-fired sauna, plenty of space for relaxation, and even a wood-fired studio space for yoga and other activities (a huge bonus if the weather turns rainy).

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Low tide view from the lodge, Virgin Bay

The first and final days of this lodge trip will be day trips to the south side of Glacier Island, home to a raucous Steller Sea Lion haul-out, and to the face of the iconic Columbia Glacier. The remaining three days will be spent on paddling excursions from the lodge, located in Virgin Bay, which is home to many marine mammals, including Sea Otters and Harbor Seals, as well as numerous bird and duck species.

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A day trip from the lodge, The face of the iconic Columbia Glacier

Thanks for checking this out. Stay connected @ileneinakayak See you next time!

HIKING THE VELEBIT MOUNTAINS OF CROATIA: The Perfect Accompaniment to Paddling the Northern Dalmatian Coast

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Perfect day for hiking in the Velebit Mountains, Paklenica National Park, Croatia

*If you’re reading this in your email, it looks far better on my website.*

Hola! Although I’m amidst the current sea kayaking season in Panama, my sights are set ahead on an exciting offering in Croatia, June 1-9, 2019. Some of you know that I completed an exploratory trip to Croatia in October 2018. After that trip the deal was sealed, and I’m excited to return in June as a guide in collaboration with Venture Outside to share the tranquility, adventure, and beauty of Croatian coast and mountains. Check out part one of this blog about sea kayaking in the Adriatic Sea in Northern Dalmatia. Enjoy:)

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Velebit Mountains, Paklenica National Park, Croatia

*The trip that I completed with a friend in October was so wonderful that this upcoming trip in June is almost identical. No use in changing something that’s already amazing! This blog highlights two days of hiking in Paklenica National Park, which is included in my 9-day June Kayak/Bike/Hike Croatia trip.*

Croatia Trip Part Two: After 4 days of spectacular sea kayaking in the Adriatic Sea off the Northern Dalmatian Coast, we transferred to the Velebit Mountains and Paklenica National Park, which lies about 47km northeast from Zadar. A beautiful coastal city in North Dalmatia famous for its Old Town, Zadar is completely pedestrianized and chock-full of fascinating history. Don’t miss sampling delicious local food (like octopus salad and cuttlefish risotto) and a visit to the Sea Organ. Oh, how I loved the Sea Organ! This cleverly engineered musical instrument was designed to allow water and air to flow through resonant chambers and to be pushed out through channels on stairs that you can walk on. The undulating sounds created by the energy of waves and tide are spectacular. So loved is the Sea Organ that the Croatian architect who designed it, Nikola Bašić, received the European Prize for Urban Public Space in 2006, as the best among 207 candidate projects from across Europe.

I don’t know about you, but when I travel to a new place I purposefully avoid looking at too many photos beforehand. I enjoy being surprised by new surroundings. The Velebit mountains and Paklenica National Park were worth seeing for the first time in person! Prior to this trip I was unaware that Croatia had such rugged mountains.

Background Info: Paklenica National Park covers an area of 59 sq. miles (95 km) and is located on the southern slopes of the Velebit mountains, which is the largest mountain range in Croatia and part of the Dinaric Alps. Famous for hiking, the park was established in 1949, mainly to protect  the largest and best preserved forest ecosystem in Dalmatia against exploitation. The name Paklenica likely comes from black pine sap called “paklina”, which locals used in traditional medicine for wound treatment, as well as coating wooden boats. Interesting.

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Enjoying the view in the Velebit Mountains, Paklenica National Park

The topography of the region is known as karst, which results from the excavating effects of underground water on underlying soluble rock, such as limestone, gypsum, and dolomite. The resulting landscape consists of features like caves, sinkholes, underground rivers, and barren, rocky ground. Combine expansive views of the Adriatic Sea on one side and Bosnia and Herzegovina on the other with dramatic sculpted cliffs, wooded valleys, and mountain meadows, and you get a world class hiking destination. The area is also rich in flora and fauna, home to numerous endemic species. In 1978 the entire Velebit range was included in the world network of biosphere reserves within the UNESCO program of Man and the Biosphere.

Upon entering Paklenica National Park, we passed what is considered to be one of Europe’s most famous climbing areas. With light packs we hiked gradually uphill to a mountain hut, our home for the next 2 nights. As a kayaker, I don’t spend too much time carrying things on my back nor using my legs to propel me forward. However, it was a wonderful challenge and change from the previous days of paddling. Spectacular views, excellent food, and lively conversation were the theme at the mountain hut.

Upon arrival the hut caretaker cheerfully greeted us with a shot of “medicine”. I admit that I don’t remember what it was, nor was I totally confident that I ever knew; all I can say is that it burned on the way down. We were also served plates of steaming burek. I could write an entire blog about burek, as I sampled plenty of it in Croatia, however someone else more knowledgeable already has, and it’s worth reading here. Basically, burek is a baked pastry made of thin flaky dough, filled with meat or cheese. . and it’s damn delicious!

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Burek and a shot of “medicine” upon arrival at the mountain hut

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Summit Pic! Vaganski Vrh 5764ft

Vaganski Vrh Summit Day: Early to bed, early to rise. A gorgeous and challenging-at-times (also flat-at-times) hike brought us through Beech, Black and Mountain Pine forests, where we enjoyed forest bathing (never heard of it? It’s pretty cool, google it!) and mountain meadows. At one such meadow we arrived at the exact moment when the sun began to burn off the morning dew, creating a mesmerizing effect. A few hours and many snack breaks later we were standing on Vaganski Vrh, the highest peak in the entire Velebit mountain range at 5,764 ft (1,757m). What a magnificent blue-sky sunny day. I had no idea the views would be so vast and spectacular! We could see to the Adriatic Sea on one side and to Bosnia and Herzegovina on the other side. Maybe I ought to hike more often. As much as I love sea kayaking, it’s pretty difficult to get summit views at altitude from your kayak!

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Hiking in Paklenica National Park

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Hiking in Paklenica National Park

That about wraps it up for now. The best way to explore the Northern Dalmatian coast is in a sea kayak, and the best way to explore the Velebit mountains and Paklenica National Park is hiking! Amazing views, fresh air, great climate, delicious food, and always something exciting to discover around the next corner. If your senses have been piqued by Croatia I invite you to join me in June. Contact me!

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more blogs about Croatia, Panama, and Alaska, where you can join me for sea kayaking, yoga, and cultural adventures. It’s not too early to start planning your summer holiday in Alaska. Stay connected and follow me on Instagram @ileneinakayak

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Summer in Alaska awaits, Meares Glacier, Prince William Sound

 

 

 

 

 

 

KAYAKING THE NORTHERN DALMATIAN COAST OF CROATIA: A Dreamy Destination

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Amazed at our dreamy paddling conditions near Molat, Croatia (Photo: Marko Mrše, Malik Adventures)

I’m back from a brief hiatus; a whirlwind of travel, family, friends, and new experiences this past month. It’s been a while since I’ve done any writing. Here’s what I’ve been up to (instead of writing blogs):

  • Wrapped up my 7th season kayak guiding with Anadyr Adventures in Valdez, Alaska. Woohoo!
  • Went sea kayaking and hiking in Copper Harbor on the Keweenaw Peninsula in Michigan (on lake Superior) for the first time. Get excited for an upcoming blog about what this adventure-filled area has to offer, highlighting the awesome Keweenaw Adventure Company.
  • Enjoyed some family time (and Asian food) in my hometown of Philadelphia
  • Completed a 3-week exploratory trip to Croatia and Slovenia, including sea kayaking off the Northern Dalmatian coast (read on), hosted by Malik Adventures, with whom I am excited to collaborate to offer a Sea Kayaking & Multisport Trip in Croatia this May (will include biking, hiking, probably SUP & Yoga). More on that at the end of this blog.
  • I’m currently watching 3 dogs and 4 cats in Vermont for a few weeks before I thaw out in . . . PANAMA!

On with the show! Croatia and the dreamy Dalmatian Coast

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The northwestern tip of Dugi otok, Northern Dalmatian coast, Croatia

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We spent a few hours relaxing on the limestone rocks, near Molat, Croatia

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Those sunsets!

It’s hard to put into words such a recent experience that has had a profound impact on me. One word: MESMERIZING. (Which, according to the dictionary means hypnotizing, spellbinding, fascinating. . . yes, yes, and yes!) Everything about sea kayaking in the Adriatic Sea mesmerized me. The intricate design of the limestone, the subtle patterns on the water driven by different winds (yes, there are 8 wind words based on the direction from where it’s coming. . How neat is that?!), walking through fields of rosemary, colorful roses outside of every house, the sight of bees pollinating flowers, and those sunsets, oh my god! those sunsets.  They’re in a whole other league of sunsets. Best part: they happened every single night!

 

Our Trip

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Kayaking with good friends, Croatia

After our first couple days exploring Dubrovnik, my friend and I took a 55-minute ferry from Zadar, which is a beautiful city on the Dalmatian coast (worth a visit), to an island called Molat, where we were warmly welcomed by Marko Mrše. Our guide, new friend, and now collaborator for my upcoming Kayak & Multisport trip Croatia, is the founder of Malik Adventures, a wonderful company that offers multi-day and multi-sport (sea kayaking, SUP, yoga, hiking, biking, & even ski touring in the Slovenian Alps) adventures in the Northern Dalmatia archipelago. Marko is a living representation of Malik’s mission: to discover and get inspired by nature, adventure and culture. And that we did! We spent 6 inspiring and adventure-filled days with Marko; 4 on Molat and 2 hiking in Paklenica National Park. *This blog focuses on kayaking in Molat. Stay tuned for my next blog highlighting the incredibly scenic Paklenica N.P. and the mountain hut where we stayed.*

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Sparkly surroundings near Molat, Croatia (Photo: Marko Mrše, Malik Adventures)

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Hiking in Paklenica National Park, Croatia (Photo: Marko Mrše, Malik Adventures)

As a kayak guide I have not too often had the privilege of going on a guided trip as a client. After this experience, I could get used to it:) Truth be told, I wasn’t a full-on client. The purpose of my Croatian journey this past October was to experience the trip so that I can guide here in the future. Marko regaled us with stories of visiting these islands as a child, invoking our curiosity by painting a picture of how these places have changed.  This was not simply a mundane “paddle from A to B, then from B to C” type of trip. This was a full experience, enriched with the fascinating history of the area, the delicious local foods we got to taste, and the self-discovery that accompanies any true adventure. This is the type of destination that you truly feel each trip is unique, offering to guests what they are seeking, even if that is unknown to them.

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Croatia’s spectacular crystalline coastline (Photo: Marko Mrše, Malik Adventures)

 

On Molat we stayed in a lovely apartment owned by a local family (a welcome change from my usual camping and hammocking in Panama and Alaska) and had delicious multi-course meals served to us, using local ingredients for the yummy honeys, jams and fruits at breakfast. Dinner always included a stout aperitif homemade from local herbs. Definitely got the job done of whetting our appetites for the amazing meals showcasing local seafood, such as cuttlefish, squid and octopus (I’ve got a thing for Cephalopods). I must say how impressed I was with this Croatian cuisine, and I have pretty high standards when it comes to local cuisines:) Fun fact: “Molat” comes from the Greek word mellitus, meaning “tastes like honey”, which is also the name of Marko’s wife (& Malik co-owner), Ivana’s line of natural body products (Mellitus) that she was so kind to give us samples of her face cream and lip balm that I am still enjoying. It’s a very fitting name, as honey and honey-scented products are very prominent in Croatia. Bring back those bees!

 

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Falling in love with the Greenland-style paddle and the Croatian coastline, Ist

 

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Fishing boat near Molat, Croatia (Photo: Marko Mrše, Malik Adventures)

What was the coolest paddle, you ask?

No need for me to think about this too hard. Paddling into a submarine cave was definitely a highlight, and something that I can’t say I’ve ever done before. Croatia was part of former Yugoslavia, and there exists fascinating relics all over the place as a nod to the country’s military past, some of which Marko introduced us to. The layout of the islands created strategic hiding places to house submarines, tunnels, bunkers, and barracks. What a cool place to kayak!

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Mesmerized by a submarine cave (Photo: Marko Mrše, Malik Adventures)

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From our bike ride across Molat

In addition to the dreamy kayaking we also worked our legs biking and hiking. It is a magnificent 9km bike ride from one end of the island to the other. From the community of Molat the road takes you through another community called Brgulje, then on to Zapuntel at the other end. I delighted in passing through these small villages, resplendent in color from flowers and gardens. From there we paddled to another island called Ist, where we hiked up to a beautiful white church to earn spectacular views of the surrounding islands.

Inspired to Join me in Croatia?

Croatia is gaining momentum as a destination to experience adventure, culture and nature. It certainly piqued my senses, with its tastes, scents, history, and culture. As you can see from my photos it also offers world-class paddling and hiking. If this blog has enticed you in any way to add Croatia to your “next up” destination, please consider joining my upcoming all-inclusive 9-day trip and experience the magic (and sunsets) of Croatia for yourself. Along with the exciting collaboration with Malik Adventures, I am also thrilled to team up with another exceptional adventure company called Venture Outside in offering this Croatia trip. Contact me! Also find me on Facebook and Instagram @ileneinakayak

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Stay tuned for my next blog highlighting the hiking in Paklenica National Park       (Photo: Marko Mrše, Malik Adventures)

Upcoming Panama Trip Plug:

Before Croatia calls me back, I will be spending the next 5 months guiding kayaking trips on both the Caribbean (in the San Blas Islands, aka Guna Yala) and the Pacific (Isla Coiba National Park) of Panama. For those yoga and kayaking lovers I am excited to join yoga instructor, Leigh Lubin to offer our second annual unique all-inclusive 9-day Yoga/Kayak Retreat that explores both coasts of Panama. Check it out here for more info. I’m biased. . . but it’s an amazing trip that we’re really excited about! We are now extending the following discount:

  • If you sign up with two other people, you get a 50% discount
  • If you sign up with three other people, you only pay $1,000 (an incredible deal!)

Parting Croatia Pics:

TEAMWORK MAKES THE DREAM WORK: 9-day kayaking trip to Columbia Glacier

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Tranquil evening in front of Columbia Glacier

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Day 1 of 9, Unakwik Inlet, Prince William Sound

“Teamwork makes the dreamwork!” Corny? You betcha! However, it’s a fantastic motto to live by on any paddling trip (and life). I can’t imagine this trip without my paddling companions, Evan and Katie, who flew into Valdez for this kayaking adventure. (I guided this trip with Anadyr Adventures.) But first, a little backstory, as this was not our first Alaskan adventure together:) The following photos are from our 2017 trip together.

 

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Katie & Evan exploring the salmon stream in Sawmill Bay, 2017

My luck started last year when I guided Katie and Evan on their first multi-day kayaking trip (a 3-day), in which we fought the wind from Valdez harbor to Shoup Bay (it was a pretty wild first experience, yet they did amazing). We camped right in front of Shoup Glacier, then paddled to the serene Sawmill Bay the following day. Read my blog about that trip here. They discovered how much they love sea kayaking. I hooked ’em! We kept in touch throughout the year and how thrilled was I when Katie wrote with the good news that they wanted to do another LONGER trip with me this season!

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Enjoying Sockeye salmon with a tarragon, lemon & butter garlic sauce, Unakwik Inlet

Paddling to the face of two tidewater glaciers in Prince William Sound was the new goal, which is normally a 7-day trip. To my good fortune, it wasn’t that difficult to convince them to add another 2 days to make this a 9-day expedition. All that I had to do was agree enthusiastically with Katie when she proposed the idea of adding more days. Preparations began (putting together the gear and creating a menu plan) and before we knew it July 5th arrived. We departed in beautiful sunshine. After a few minutes of paddling, we all wished that we had packed tank tops. I think it got into the 70’s. Who woulda thought?

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Home for the first 2 nights, Unakwik Inlet

DAYS 1 – 3

We got dropped off at the mouth of Miner’s Bay, on the east side of Unakwik Inlet, (mid-Prince William Sound, about 40 miles west of Valdez). We spent the first two nights at this gorgeous camp, which allowed us to spend our entire 2nd day at the face of Meares Glacier, where we basked in rays of sunshine.

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Paddling to the face of Meares Glacier, Unakwik Inlet

Holy moly. All that sunshine caused the glacier to become quite active. We witnessed a huge calving! An apartment-sized chunk let loose just as we arrived onto a rock overlook for lunch. After freaking out just a little (it was so amazing), we headed for higher ground, while the rock overlook got splashed from the waves. It’s a good thing that I had anticipated such an event, therefore carried our boats high up the beach.

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Lunch spot, Meares Glacier, Unakwik Inlet

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Katie & Evan enjoying Meares Glacier, Unakwik Inlet

Along with being mesmerized by the glacier and mountains, we saw dozens of Harbor Seals in the water and on top of the ice. The face of the glacier is quite protected for seals to give birth to their pups. I was excited to discover blood on the ice from the birth of a Harbor Seal pup.

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Then we got a wee bit of precipitation. . . DAYS 4 – 6

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A little friend (Black-Tailed Sitka Deer)

No photos actually exist from these few days. NOT because we didn’t have a lot of fun. . . oh, we still maintained a high level of fun and hilarity (boisterous merriment, if you will), however no photos captured these good times. We hunkered down in the beautiful Cedar Bay, nestled on the muskeg surrounded by the tall snow-covered peaks of the Chugach Mountains. It truly was a beautiful spot. . . just a bit on the wet side. Thank goodness for rubber boots:) We hung out in the screen tent, which serves as the kitchen/dining/living room. We played Farkle (a dice game) for hours and hours. . . told stories. . . listened to music. . . ate large amounts of hot food. . . and Katie fell in love with hot water bottles, which I happily made for her to cuddle and sleep with.

On our 6th day the weather improved a bit and we were able to bid farewell to Cedar Bay, our haven in the storm. We made it surprisingly quickly to Fairmount Bay, and set up camp near Granite Point, where we continued to play Farkle while Katie’s love for the hot water bottle blossomed.

DAY 7. . . The magical bump from Captain Scott

With conditions a bit too rough for us kayakers to round Granite Point, we got picked up by Anadyr manager and boat captain, Scott. He brought us a resupply of food, dry tents, and smiles from town. A boat bump later we found ourselves in Columbia Bay, set up to spend our last few days near the face of the largest tidewater glacier in Prince William Sound (cue the dramatic orchestra). . Columbia Glacier.

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Looking down on the face of Columbia Glacier

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Paddling to the face of Columbia Glacier

The sunshine returned. We dried ourselves out and with inflated spirits spent an entire day on an adventure which allowed us one of the most incredible views that any of us had ever seen. No exaggeration here! It was unanimous. With the retreat of Columbia, a new beach provides access to climb above the glacier and to see a large part of the Chugach Icefield. (I feel obliged to encourage people to go with an experienced guide on outings such as this.) Our climbing efforts paid off and we spent hours gazing and contemplating our spectacular view. Of course we took some jumpshots too!

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Speechless above Columbia Glacier. Yes, Evan carried his REI camp chair up there:)

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Katie and I show our excitement, Columbia Glacier (it only took about 6 tries to get this shot)

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Photos can’t do justice to the view that we enjoyed, Columbia Glacier

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Katie & Evan paddling through brash ice back to camp, Columbia Bay

What an incredible adventure! It’s not often that I get to guide such a long trip, and paddle to the face of two tidewater glaciers. In fact, you can read my blog from the only other 9-day trip that I’ve guided with Anadyr here. My blogging skills have certainly improved since 2014:)

As the title of this blog states, I am extremely grateful for the enthusiasm, sense of humor, positive energy, and support of Katie and Evan. We worked as a team to accomplish everything on this trip. Yes, I was the guide. However, we shared the sentiment that we were all in the adventure together, and that supporting each other was important for the success of the trip. Plus, it made it so much more fun. The giggles could be heard from afar, I’m sure:) From packing their own boat, to carrying the kayaks, helping to chop vegetables, and even setting up my tent(!!), Katie and Evan helped create a dream team to make this one of the greatest adventures that any of us has been on. I’m excited for the next one!

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Our last night, 11PM sunset over Columbia Glacier and the Chugach Mountains

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The Farkle Dream Team (Evan, Katie & me), Columbia Bay, 2018

I hope that you enjoyed reading about this 9-day kayaking adventure. More blogs to come from summers in Alaska and winters in Panama. Stay tuned. Feel free to contact me, especially if you’d like to talk about paddling.

PS. We did see two Humpback Whales on this trip (no photos), lots of Harbor Seals, Bald Eagles, and Sea Otters, along with a multitude of birds and ducks. Plus, we had lunch with that adorable Black-Tailed Sitka Deer. That was pretty neat:)

PPS. I also want to make it known that we ate fresh Prince William Sound prawns. . . lots of them, to Evan’s chagrin and Katie’s and my delight!

 

 

FIVE DAYS KAYAKING IN ALASKAN PARADISE

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Hélène and Bruno show off some skin, Prince William Sound

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This Steller Sea Lion shows us who’se the boss of these waters, Glacier Island

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Hélène and Bruno enjoying the ice, Columbia Bay

*This trip itinerary can be found here, and is called Glacier Island to Columbia Glacier Discovery Trip 5-Day*

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This Strawberry, Arugula Walnut Salad dwarfs the face of Columbia Glacier, Alaska

I love traveling. It runs in my family. I love seeing how other people live their lives. I love hearing about other people’s passions and what they find to be beautiful and inspiring in the world. I love hearing what makes others crack up laughing (and delighting that we are all quite similar in this department). I love catching glimpses of people living in different weather conditions, speaking different languages, eating different foods, and dancing to different music.

On this trip I loved hearing about Hélène and Bruno’s perspectives on all of the different cultures and places that they have visited.

For Hélène and Bruno (from France!) our five-day kayak camping trip together was a mini journey within a much larger journey; a journey of a greater scope that has taken them around the world (and not for the first time). Check out their blog (it’s in French) with beautiful photography and trip descriptions (and one day a blog in their own words about our trip). While I am inspired to learn about their year-long around-the-globe trips, what is most inspiring from Hélène and Bruno is the amount of time that they choose to spend in each place, be it country or state.

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Hélène and Bruno discover a waterfall, Heather Bay, Alaska

They rarely touch down for brief visits of a week or two. Much of their journey includes stays of a few months to explore, discover, and experience a place on a deeper level. One of these levels that I am grateful to have shared with them for 5 days is the beauty and wildness of a place. Alaska provides wonders for many visitors who are seeking a deeper (or different kind of) connection with their natural surroundings. Prince William Sound is where I feel this the most. It was a pure joy to see Hélène and Bruno be inspired by the majestic and impressive land- and seascapes, which grabbed hold of all of our attention. I often caught them gazing at the mountains across the sea with a look of awe on their faces. (Most people get this look.)

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Iceberg in Columbia Bay

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Paddling by the Steller Sea Lion haul-out, Glacier Island

 

 

 

 

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Hard to tell that the face of Columbia Glacier is a couple 100 ft. above the surface of the water

I hope that you have been inspired by the travels of Hélène and Bruno, as well as the spectacular Alaskan scenery. Keep traveling, whatever it is that grabs your attention and piques your senses. Share it with the world.

Contact me for information on guided multi-day trips in Alaska and Panama.

THREE SPACES AVAILABLE ON A 9-DAY KAYAKING TRIP THIS JULY 5-13. MEARES GLACIER – COLUMBIA GLACIER, PRINCE WILLIAM SOUND, ALASKA

Follow me on Instagram and Facebook @ileneinakayak. I look forward to hearing from you! Thanks for reading.

Side story: On our 3rd morning, we woke up on one side of a peninsula. As soon as I crossed to the other side of the peninsula (in Heather Bay), I was amazed by this rainbow, which at one point was indeed a TRIPLE rainbow! I ran back to get Hélène and Bruno and we all delighted in this beautiful and surprising sight.

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Hélène joyfully displaying a rainbow, Heather Bay

 

 

 

 

KAYAK CAMPING WITH A 7-DAY VEGAN MENU

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The chefs hard at work on Vegan Burritos

Vegan. Gluten-free. Paleo. Pescatorian. Vegetarian. There’s a lot of dietary preferences and restrictions to consider these days. It can get a little confusing, not to mention overwhelming. Now throw a 7-day camping trip into the mix!

Vegan menu

Someone who is vegan does not eat any animal product whatsoever. No meat. No dairy. Here are some foods that vegans do eat:

  • Legumes (Beans, Lentils, Peas, Peanuts)
  • Vegetables and Fruits Galore
  • Nuts, Nut Butters and Seeds
  • Whole Grains (Barley, Brown Rice, Millet, Bulgur, Buckwheat, Oatmeal, Whole-wheat Bread, Pasta, and Crackers)
  • Hemp, Flax and Chia Seeds
  • Tofu, Tempeh and Other Minimally Processed Meat Substitutes
  • Calcium-Fortified Plant Milks and Yogurts
  • Seaweed
  • Nutritional Yeast
  • Sprouted and Fermented Plant Foods

Whether you’re a guide who has to prepare all of the meals for your vegan guests, or you’re going camping with a vegan friend for the first time, there’s no need to feel overwhelmed with menu-planning. There are many online resources with recipe ideas out there. It’s also easier than ever to find vegan products at grocery stores. Plus, I’ve included a vegan menu for a 7-day camping trip!

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Hearty Bean Salad

The menu link (above and below) is the exact menu that we used on a recent 7-day sea kayak camping trip in Prince William Sound, Alaska. The group consisted of two omnivores (we eat practically everything), one vegetarian, and one vegan. This particular vegan is not fond of the substitutes available, such as vegan cheese, condiment, and meat substitutes. But if you are vegan or have to prepare food for a vegan you might look into these. Some of them are quite delicious! Tofu and tempeh (fermented soybeans) are typical vegan and vegetarian additions, which we did not utilize. There are many meals on the menu that you could easily add these.

Keep in mind accessibility of certain foods due to geographical and seasonal factors (i.e. we weren’t delighting in many tropical fruits that are much easier to find for my trips in Panama).

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Doing the dishes

Omnivore Additions

There were a few meals that I added cheese and salami for myself and the other non-vegan. The vegetarian only added the cheese. You could also add smoked or canned fish if that’s available. It’s extremely easy to accommodate for different preferences while at the same time providing nutritious and filling vegan meals. To get the extra calories that we were getting from adding cheese and salami, the vegan supplemented with extra dried fruit, nuts, and vegan snack bars. Nobody went hungry on this trip!

This menu is for 6 breakfasts, 7 lunches, and 6 dinners, and includes some snack ideas.

Vegan menu

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Beautiful Heather Bay, Prince William Sound

I hope that you have found this helpful. I certainly learned a lot and have many more vegan meal ideas from this recent camping trip. Please share your meal ideas with others. What worked? What didn’t work? There’s no excuse to not eat like royalty out there:) After all, we’re not backpacking!