A 5-DAY ALASKAN SEA KAYAKING ADVENTURE TO THE FACE OF COLUMBIA GLACIER

Preface: Enjoy this blog about an unforgettable adventure. Stick it out to the end to see my top two all-time favorite icebergs, and find out what finally merited busting out the emergency tequila:)

Photo is so nice, I had to use it twice. Cheers!

For five days in a row I awoke to the sound of two Brits giggling in their tent. That’s right. . . giggling like school children! (I don’t think they’d mind me saying so.) As I lit the stove to boil water for coffee, gazing out over the ice-filled bay in front of Columbia Glacier, I thought giddily to myself, “somewhere along the line I must’ve made a really good decision if this is what I do for my life’s work”!

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Our vessels of choice at our campsite in Columbia Bay

 

Double-bladed adventurers in Columbia Bay

I get to share with wonderful people the most beautiful places in the world using my favorite mode of transportation, sea kayaks. This trip, a five-day kayak and camping expedition starting on the south side of Glacier Island and finishing off with three amazing days exploring the recently-revealed landscape at the face of Columbia Glacier, was one of the best yet! A huge thank you and enthusiastic cheers goes out to my two clients, Rob and Anya, who just happened to squeeze in this kayak adventure amidst their lengthy motorcycle tour starting in Washington. Umm, yea. . . they’re kind of badasses on two wheels. Now they can proudly say they’re badasses with double-bladed paddles.

This is Alaska. . . coastal Alaska, so there’s no shame in saying that we experienced some pretty wet and cold conditions, however this was supplemented with sporadic sightings of what we called the strange yellow orb in the sky. No harm done though, as we equipped and dressed ourselves for the occasion. Anya made some important discoveries that wearing two pairs of wet weather gear is considered a norm. Well, why wouldn’t you wear two pairs of rain pants and two rain jackets? And this is where the impressive amount of giggling came into play. Rob and Anya maintained lively spirits, adventurous attitudes, and senses of humor that would have anyone laughing up a storm in any weather conditions. Yellow orb in the sky or not, the three of us had a blast!

Interestingly, both Rob and Anya were reading accounts of polar expeditions, and even though we might have been in cold and damp conditions, their daily updates of expedition parties having to winter in Polar pack ice, put into perspective how plush we had it. After all, we didn’t have to worry about getting scurvy or having to kill marine mammals to eat. In fact, Anya often commented on my seemingly bottomless “Mary Poppins-esque food bags”, from which I pulled out many a fresh vegetable and Prince William Sound delicacies, such as Sockeye Salmon fillets and Cod. We even ran into such good fortune (literally we ran into my friend’s boat as he was chucking shrimp heads into the water) as to receive the delicious gift of fresh Prawns. Now that was a sweet treat!

Doesn’t get much fresher than this!

I swear, there is a tent under all of those tarps

View from my sleeping bag. . . not bad

Preparing lunch under the strange yellow orb in the sky, Columbia Bay

Mountain Goats, from our kayaks, Columbia Bay

Along with spending time in the kitchen tent stuffing our faces with my delicious homemade meals, and getting warm and dry, we enjoyed many of the things that make a sea kayak expedition in Prince William Sound such a special and unique experience. We delighted in many wildlife sightings, such as a dozen Mountain Goats that we watched from our kayaks in Columbia Bay. We paddled past the Sea Lion haul-out on Glacier Island to enjoy these gregarious creatures, as well as saw lots of Tufted and Horned Puffins flying in and out of the sea caves that they nest in. Unfortunately, I couldn’t snap a photo of the flying birds. And, of course, we saw quite a few Harbor Seals and the adorable Sea Otter.

The grand finale, the show piece, the main exhibit, the pièce de résistance (you get the idea). . . Paddling through ice to land at a very recently-exposed beach (i.e. one year, as the glacier has retreated back up onto land in this area) between two branches of Columbia Glacier to scramble up rocks like Mountain Goats to set foot on the glacier and glimpse a view of the impressively expansive ice field. Run-on sentence? You betcha. Incredible experience that not many people have had nor will have (unless, of course, you book this trip with me)? Absolutely. This was actually my first time exploring this new terrain along with Rob and Anya, which made the excitement level exceptionally high. I’ve been known to get pretty giddy when I’m seeing something for the first time out there.

Standing on Columbia Glacier

That view from the top!

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Recently-exposed landscape at the face of Columbia Glacier

 

Looking back at Columbia Bay from on top of the glacier

Yes, that’s right, we luxuriated in Columbia Glacial Facials.

Gettin’ that baby’s bottom smooth skin

Now, as prefaced, I must share with you my second all-time favorite iceberg that I’ve ever encountered. Want to see my number one? I bet you do. Just look at it. My number one. We happened upon this beautiful piece of ice on the return paddle from the glacier face to camp. Rob and Anya had to pretty much pull me away from this beautiful iceberg.

The only way we could think to celebrate such an exciting day at the face of the largest tidewater glacier in Prince William Sound. . . Bust out the emergency tequila!

CHEERS!

Our fifth and final day, we paddled back down Columbia Bay, enjoying more ice and a waterfall. I will never tire of paddling around ice.

Getting drops on the camera at the waterfall in Heather Bay

The 12′ x 12′ Arctic Oven tent, my home-away-from-home-away-from-home

Well, there you go. How’s that for a memorable trip? After a five-day expedition of any sort most people want to shower, wash clothes, eat, and sleep. Rob and Anya gloriously completed the first three, then were adventurous (and surprisingly awake) enough to cram into the backseat of a car, drive out of town, and assist me in setting up my Arctic Oven, which is a 12′ x 12′ tent with a wood stove in it. Yea, it’s that plush in there. Upon completion of set-up we hauled four lawn chairs into it, cranked the stove, and commenced a giggle-fest about funny American and British terms.  I guess we all say the darndest things. Rob and Anya, you two are always welcome to come party in my vestibule:)

 

 

 

 

Thank you so much for reading. Check out my other blogs about exciting trips in both Alaska and Panama. Stay tuned for the next post. I will be paying homage to the beautiful and mesmerizing ice that I am fortunate enough to see and paddle around day after day. This is my way to commemorate the gigantic iceberg that recently broke free from the Larsen C ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula. Read more about this massive iceberg from NPR and NASA. And check out the video from The Guardian.

The massive crack first opened up in the Larsen C ice shelf back in 2014; by the end of last week, a roughly 3-mile sliver of ice was all that connected the iceberg to the shelf.
John Sonntag/NASA

As upset as some people might be from news like this, I grow more motivated and inspired by the opportunities to see ice, to paddle around ice, to photograph ice, and to touch the ice that is in my backyard of Valdez and Prince William Sound, Alaska. I do not take places like Columbia Glacier for granted, and I hope that you too, like Rob and Anya, will make the trip to Alaska to paddle around with me in the splendor of ice.

 

ANOTHER AMAZING SEA KAYAK CAMPING TRIP IN PRINCE WILLIAM SOUND, ALASKA

There are lots of waterfalls to see from your kayak

Evan and Katie enjoying the scenery

Greetings! I’ve been busy the past two weeks with lots of paddling (obviously), including two camping trips. This post is about one of them; another sea kayak camping trip with amazing clients, memories and scenery. Thank you to Evan and Katie, who joined me from Fairbanks for a three-day adventure out on Prince William Sound. Experienced backpackers and campers, these two wanted to get more experience in a sea kayak.

We began our trip right from the small boat harbor in Valdez, as Evan and Katie learned how to efficiently pack a sea kayak. We experienced a bit of a headwind for the first couple of hours as we made our way to Shoup Bay. They hung in there and we made it to the Inner Shoup Bay, where a view of Shoup Glacier made our efforts well worth it!

The beautiful Shoup Glacier

We set up camp right in front of the glacier, then hiked up to the face to explore and take a closer look at all the cool features there. Katie had said that all she wanted was to touch the glacier. So, of course, that is what we did! Shoup used to be a tidewater glacier, meaning the face (or terminus) sat in the sea water. The glacier has since retreated onto land again, allowing us the special opportunity to walk around at the face. We found a beautiful cave with a pool of water inside of it, pouring out as a powerful waterfall from underneath the glacier.

Making their way up to touch that glacier!

Exploring the lateral moraine of Shoup Glacier

Although I am missing the photo (I got distracted and forgot), we dined on salmon with a buttery tarragon sauce that I made, with rice and steamed broccoli. There’s no reason not to eat gourmet out there! With a screen tent to keep bugs and inclement weather out, a table and chairs, I feel as if we’re “glamping” out there. Sipping on cocktails and hot drinks from our comfy camp chairs, watching the glacier and snow-capped mountains, I don’t think any of us felt as if we were “roughin’ it” out there! We stayed up as late as we could (not very), laughing and telling our best adventure stories.

Day two we bid farewell to Shoup Glacier and paddled to our next destination, the lovely and serene Sawmill Bay. The coastline from Shoup to Sawmill is one of the prettiest in the port of Valdez, with many cascading waterfalls pouring thousands of feet from the glaciers above. We beat the afternoon winds through the Valdez Narrows and made it into Sawmill Bay earlier than expected, allowing us more time to relax and enjoy a short hike along the clear stream next to our campsite.

There are many waterfalls between Shoup and Sawmill Bays

Our third and final morning, we dined on a special culinary creation of S’mores Pancakes! We were glamping, after all. Katie loves s’mores (in fact, she carried her own stash on the trip), so I enjoyed whipping up this special breakfast that I had never made before. I think I’ll be making those again:) We then explored the rest of Sawmill Bay, enjoying the tranquility of floating in the calm waters, surrounded by mountains and watching wildlife from our boats. We saw lots of Bald Eagles being chased by brave Seagulls, as well as a Hooded Merganser with her following of eight little chicks. And Katie even got to enjoy a few hours of the freedom of solo paddling! It brought me a lot of joy to see her so excited to be in her own boat, able to go wherever she pleased. Perhaps two single kayaks are in the future for Evan and Katie:)

So cheers to another wonderful sea kayak camping trip in Prince William Sound. Thank you for reading and stay tuned for more exciting blogs from ileneinakayak. The next one (in a few days) will be about the other sea kayak camping trip that I most recently returned from; a five-day adventure from Glacier Island all the way up to the face of Columbia Glacier with two hilarious San Franciscan Brits. You won’t want to miss that one! Here’s a sneak peak of Rob and Anya standing on the mighty Columbia Glacier (a place where not many have stood before), looking south into Columbia Bay. They look pretty happy!

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SPACE AVAILABLE ON SEA KAYAK CAMPING TRIP IN PRINCE WILLIAM SOUND, ALASKA: SEE COLUMBIA GLACIER FACE!

JUNE 26TH – 30TH SPACE STILL AVAILABLE ON A 5-DAY SEA KAYAK CAMPING TRIP.  Join me with Anadyr Adventures on this unforgettable adventure as we paddle the rugged coastline of Glacier Island and to the face of Columbia Glacier, the largest tidewater glacier in Prince William Sound, Alaska. Highlights of this new itinerary are what makes this part of Alaska so exceptional and memorable; wildlife, rugged coastline, beautiful beaches with amazing views, sea caves, paddling amongst towering icebergs, remote campsites, and seeing Columbia Glacier up-close.

The face of Columbia Glacier

Iceberg paddling in Columbia Bay

Sea Otter in Columbia Bay

Beautiful campsite

Sea Lion, Glacier Island

Puffins on Glacier Island

I will cook delicious and nutritious meals for you, as well as provide all of the camping and paddling equipment that you will need to stay comfortable, warm and dry out there. You’ll feel like you’re “glamping” in the Alaskan wilderness! That’s right. . . we’ll bring along a table and chairs! You won’t be roughin’ it too much.

Cooking up some fresh Salmon

This trip is just around the corner, so contact me today for prices and more info!

FIRST SEA KAYAK CAMPING TRIP OF THE SEASON IN PRINCE WILLIAM SOUND, ALASKA

Hello everybody! This blog is about the first camping trip of the season that I had the pleasure of guiding for Anadyr Adventures. Enjoy.

What do you do when Alaska throws almost every type of weather at you during a four-day camping trip? Let me tell you. . . You see the beauty in both the driving rain with gusts of wind, and the blue skies dappled with sunshine. You maintain a cheerful attitude, hunker down and discuss the great books you’ve read, eat delicious hot meals, drink a lot of tea, and laugh a lot!

A huge thanks goes out to Siobhan (pictured above, leaping for joy for a much-deserved sunny day in Columbia Bay), who travelled all the way from Melbourne, Australia, to join me on a sea kayak adventure. She was everything that a guide wishes for in a client and paddling partner; helpful, cheerful, funny, adventuresome, and with a “ready to rally” attitude.

Approaching the face of Shoup Glacier

Paddling past the Black-Legged Kittiwake rookery in Shoup Bay

With a less-than-ideal weather forecast for the first day of our trip, we altered the itinerary to include a night at Shoup Glacier, what we called our “bonus glacier”. We endured a bit of rain that day as we paddled to the face of this beautiful blue glacier, then enjoyed a lovely evening as the skies cleared to reveal new snow on the mountaintops.

Beautiful blue face of Shoup Glacier

Clearing skies in Shoup Bay

The previous year a young whale had washed ashore in Shoup Bay, which now offers us a unique opportunity to get up-close-and-personal with the carcass of this massive creature.

Day two we awoke to blue skies, sunshine, and a gorgeous reflection. Shoup Glacier sure does look pretty with these pleasing conditions.

What a gift of a day! We continued on to the magical south side of Glacier Island, where calm seas and light winds allowed us to explore sea caves and enjoy time at the Sea Lion haul-out, where hundreds of these gregarious animals hang out and approach our boat in playful curiosity.

Bald Eagle

We pushed on and made a four-mile crossing from Glacier Island to the south end of Heather Bay, which is right next to Columbia Bay. Tired from an exciting and full day we set up camp and enjoyed the last bit of no precipitation for a little while, as the next day we endured the brunt of a windy rainstorm. Hey, this is coastal Alaska after all!

I don’t have any photo evidence from this wet day, however Siobhan and I still rallied, put on lots of warm clothing, stuffed ourselves with hot food and drinks, and set out into the wind and rain to check out the icebergs in Columbia Bay. We paddled up Heather Bay, seeking shelter in Heather Islands’ protected coves. It took a couple of hours, but we finally managed to land on the moraine, which divides Heather and Columbia Bays. This long stretch of land is the deposit of rock, gravel, and sand left over from when this largest of tidewater glaciers in Prince William Sound (tidewater meaning the face of the glacier is sitting in the ocean) had pushed its’ face (or terminus) to this point in the bay. The glacier has since retreated off of the moraine, leaving a great place for walking, as icebergs often ground themselves in the shallows here.

Lots of ice grounded on the moraine (on a sunny day)

We returned to our camp, dried out, filled up with halibut fish tacos, and endured a bit more rainy weather from inside of our dry tents. It’s a great thing we both had good books! Having experienced all of that rain, we were overjoyed to wake up the last morning to clearing skies, which turned into a glorious sunny day. We had the rest of this beautiful day to return to Columbia Bay and paddle amongst the towering icebergs.

Siobhan is one of the lucky ones to get to see ice in both grey and sunny skies. There is a unique, dramatic blue to the ice with a grey background. And with sunny skies. . . Well, it’s simply magnificent. We must have repeated a hundred times how lucky we felt for this day.

Iceberg reflected in Columbia Bay

What a trip, filled with so many highlights. I look forward to sharing more camping trip experiences with you, as well as lots of other Alaskan adventures. Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more on the blog. Don’t forget to check out all of the wonderful trip opportunities that Ileneinakayak has to offer. Contact me and I’ll help make your Alaska and Panama dreams come true!

Tomorrow I will be preparing for a three-day sea kayaking and camping trip here in Prince William Sound, Alaska. We’ll be paddling in the serene Sawmill Bay and to the beautiful Shoup Glacier. I’m excited to get back out on the water. You can look forward to a blog post about that trip next week. Take care everybody!

Your guide!

ALASKAN SEA KAYAK GUIDES PRE-SEASON TRAINING

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

Anadyr Adventures: Exciting New Sea Kayaking & Camping Trips in Prince William Sound, Alaska

Hello everybody! As you know, this is Ilene, senior kayak guide for Anadyr Adventures here in beautiful Valdez, Alaska. I’ve been enjoying a sunny spring, delighting in watching the days grow longer and warmer. Before we know it the snow will be gone in town, flowers will be blooming and heaps of visitors will be arriving to explore and discover all that the area has to offer. dsc00882I finally got into a sea kayak the other day and felt happy to be paddling once again in Prince William Sound, greeting the Bald Eagles, Harbor Seals and Sea Otters. Back for my 6th season with Anadyr Adventures I continue to be amazed and inspired by the beauty and wildness of this place.

 

Do I ever tire of returning to the same places with different guests season after season? dsc00994No, absolutely not! That’s why I keep coming back. The wildlife, the mountains, the glaciers, the icebergs, the sky, and the water offer the chance to tune in and discover the subtle yet constant changes that occur in this dynamic marine environment. Just like no two icebergs are the same, no camping trips will ever be the same either. Anadyr offers a variety of camping trips for all experience levels, time frames and trip goals. We are excited to be expanding our camping trip offerings, highlighting the awe-inspiring environment of eastern Prince William Sound, one of the most spectacular places for sea kayaking! Check out these two new and unique camping trip itineraries.

Glacier Island to Columbia Glacier Discovery Trip 5-Day ($1625/person Fully Guided)

Diverse wildlife, boreal forest, rugged coastline, sea caves, towering icebergs, serene bays and coves, cascading waterfalls, pristine beaches, glacial moraine, and the dramatic recently-revealed landscape from the retreat of the largest tidewater glacier in Prince William Sound. This unique trip is Alaska at its’ best!

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Rugged coastline of Glacier Island

Glacier Island, with its’ rugged coastline and sea caves, is home to numerous bird and marine mammal species, including Horned and Tufted Puffins, Bald Eagles, Harbor Seals, Sea Otters, and the chance to view bear, Humpback Whales and Orcas. A highlight is paddling amongst Steller Sea Lions, as the island hosts a large haul-out for these playful and active animals. It’s a dream-come-true for wildlife enthusiasts.

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The mighty Columbia Glacier

 

 

This trip takes us into Columbia Bay, one of the most breathtaking and dynamic bays in the area, ringed by the majestic and snowy glaciated peaks of the Chugach Mountains. We will explore the popular bird-nesting site and often ice-dotted glacial moraine, where Columbia Glacier sat until the start of its’ retreat in the early 1980’s. The peaceful boreal rainforest and distinct coves of this bay and its neighbor, Heather Bay, are home to a delightful diversity of birds, ducks and mammals, including Arctic Terns, Loons, Bald Eagles, Harbor Seals, and Sea Otters. At certain times we can observe salmon returning to their natal streams. If conditions allow, we will paddle the recently-exposed shoreline all the way to the face of this impressive glacier, as it calves icebergs into the water, an unforgettable and powerful experience for all to witness.

This wilderness trip-of-a-lifetime will allow you the feeling that you are experiencing the best of Alaska’s dramatic and awe-inspiring environment.

Columbia Glacier to Long Bay Exploratory Trip 6-Day ($1900/person Fully Guided)  

Diverse wildlife, boreal forest, towering icebergs, serene bays and coves, cascading waterfalls, pristine beaches, glacial moraine, rarely visited glacial lakes, and the dramatic recently-revealed landscape from the retreat of the largest tidewater glacier in Prince William Sound. This exciting wilderness trip allows you to discover one of Alaska’s most breathtaking and dynamic areas.

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Blue ice in Columbia Bay

With the majestic and snowy glaciated peaks of the Chugach Mountains as the backdrop, Columbia Glacier towers above sea level, frequently calving large icebergs into the water. We will paddle amongst these glistening ice sculptures as we cross Columbia Bay, discovering lakes and ice left over by the glacier. The popular bird-nesting site and often ice-dotted glacial moraine left over after Columbia Glacier started its’ retreat in the early 1980’s offers a unique landscape to explore. We will have many opportunities to view a diversity of birds and ducks, possibly bears and Mountain Goats, as well as paddle amongst Harbor Seals and Sea Otters that frequently haul out onto the ice.

We will enter Long Bay, a glorious gem of a bay, surrounded by boreal forest, cascading waterfalls, muskeg meadows, and towering rock cliffs. Wildlife viewing opportunities include Humpback Whales, Orcas, bears, Bald Eagles and other birds and ducks, Sea Otters, Harbor Seals, and salmon returning to their natal streams.

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Tranquility in Useless Cove, Long Bay

This trip will leave you feeling inspired and amazed at the best of what Alaska has to offer.

I hope this has you as excited as I am about sea kayaking and camping adventures in Prince William Sound! I encourage you to visit the Anadyr Adventures blog (click to read one from a 9-day adventure) to peruse posts that I have written over the years about camping trips that I have guided (also great posts from other guides), as well as read client testimonials to see the wonderful things that former Anadyr guests have to say. Also check out the amazing day trips that Anadyr offers, which I guide along with 8 other wonderful guides, who I will be introducing in the next blog post! I gave them homework and they’ve all shared with me what they’re excited about for the upcoming season.

Contact me for more information. I love hearing from you and hope that you’ll join me for a trip-of-a-lifetime in the great wilderness of Alaska’s Prince William Sound.

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