Traveling Solo to Alaska, I was hesitant to try one of the more popular yet daring water excursions. After seeing the colorful teeny Kayaks bobbing in the water, I wondered how it would feel to be in one, they looked so unstable. Yet paddling alongside glaciers sounded like a must-try Alaskan activity.
Alaska Sea Kayakers in Whittier is only a short drive from Anchorage. It offers a full day of kayaking around Blackstone Bay, which contains several glaciers. My Anxieties about being out in a kayak for an entire day almost made me cancel. What if I didn’t like it? I’d be stuck out there without a friend to complain to. What if I tipped into the freezing water? The ice breaking off the glaciers made the already cold water unbearable! Thankfully, I joined a group led by Misty and Kelly, two capable, enthusiastic guides. I soon realized I was there to have an Alaskan experience. Where else would I get such an opportunity?
My wake up call was for six. After a hearty breakfast and putting on layers of clothing, I drove to Whittier. My trepidations passed quickly as I got into a fun groove. There were seven of us – one family of four, a father with his son, plus our guides. We stowed our shoes in the office, put on rubber boots and life vests and packed raincoats in case of showers.
I was advised to go with this company because the guides are all well-trained, certified, and considered “on duty,” instead of merely being escorts. This means they’re required to do everything in their power to protect the health and safety of those in their care. While all guides would most likely do this, these guides are obligated to. I felt comfortable with Misty and Kelly – they were skilled and strong. Nothing fazed them. It also helped that their good cheer and sense of fun was contagious.
Blackstone Bay is a 45-minute boat ride from the starting point in Whittier. The trip began by being dropped off on a beach where we unloaded the kayaks and gear. Misty instructed us on how to get in and out of the kayaks. As we tucked ourselves into them, the sky was overcast yet remained bright. We were all put in pairs, I got to ride with Kelly, and Misty led the way along the peaceful bay lined with glaciers. Little sea otters occasionally peeked out from the water. Birds watched us from their onshore perches. Paddling in the serenity of this isolated bay felt almost surreal, knowing this was a place in Alaska that few experience.
As the glaciers calved I had mixed emotions – excited, then sad; it’s a nice tourist attraction to see the ice break off, but at the same time that meant the glacier would eventually disappear. The calving made thunder-like Booms! It was scary at first hearing such loud noises, while being in such a tiny boat. We sat and watched the glaciers intently, yelling when pieces rolled down and waiting for the crash into the water.