When I finished school in June of 2004, an epic trip 6 months in the making was ripe for the picking. 3 friends and I secured reservations for a backcountry cabin in Kenai Fjords National Park 6 months earlier. We packed our bags and headed to Seward by way of Anchorage, going on a Halibut fishing trip the next day, although 21 hours of daylight meant no night. With kayaks and backpacks in tow, we met the Aialik Bay ferry at 6am June 24- 2 days after summer solstice.
The cabin was a 50 mile boat ride through the roughest seas I have ever been on. The seas were so rough, our 4 nights in the Cabin turned into 3 nights, then 2, then 6. You see, the captain of the ferry said the weather was supposed to turn sour in the next few days, and advised picking us up after the third night because if we stayed 4 he wouldnt be able to pick us up. Not knowing anything of Alaskan seas, we fully agreed with his expert advice. Then our marine CB radio call the next day from the captain advised us to come out the 2nd night
as things looked bad. We reluctantly agreed, if only because we didn't want to cut the visit short. After the second night, word got to us we would not be picked up the next day, or the next. In fact the seas were so rough it was a day by day affair, and 6 nights later we finally heard the ferry was coming. We had run out of beer 2 days earlier. We had run out of fresh halibut we caught in Seward the night before, and had less than a days left food each. It was quite an experience!
The first was sunny and incredibly nice. What followed was a succesion of overcast and drizzly days interrupted by brief periods of dynamic change. The incliment weather gave me lots of time in the rainforest that surrounded the cabin and the tidepools that were all over the beach. The tide in this part of Alaska moves by as much as 4 meters, twice a day. The tide moved so fast that when we landed on the beach of glacial stones our captain began shouting in a friendly but hurried tone, "quickly now, unload the gear. Let's go the tide
moving out! Hurry!"
We made several kayak excursions. The first day we hiked to the far end of the fjord, experiencing the magnitude of Aialik glacier up close. Harbor seals give birth in summer on the icebergs, and their pleasant company was an unexpected treat! Another trip was across the bay, which got rough in the middle. The shallow shore on the far side was crystal clear and filled with kelp blades as large as bicycle tires. Another trip into a fantastic cove with short hikes was memorable too, and a short trip towards the ocean that got very rough very quickly was a test of comfort.
The sun never quite set, at about 1145 it would officially dim to almost twilight, but around 2-3am it would rise again. The daylight in Alaska feels like a steady stream of caffeine into your veins. It keeps you up at night and makes you want to get up early. It's strong evidence and a constant reminder of your location close to a polar region!
We saw bald eagles and bears, kelp, starfish, seals, whales and mussels. We thought we might never return, and we thought we might drown in
the freezing cold iceberg waters with not another soul to help within 50 miles. It was fantastic!
I planned the trip, made the reservations and rallied my friends. It was the first big trip where I had done such a thing, and I believe it prepared me for the upcoming international trips I would be taking in the future. It let me know such exotic far away activities like "sea kayaking the tidewater glaciers and fjords of Alaska" were just a few phone calls and some detailed planning away from happening. It gave me time alone with the scenery, able to capture with my camera the intimate details and nuances I saw. The release of control when the boat couldn't picked us up let me truly open my eyes and my lens, and my life and photography has never been the same since.
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