Kayaking Glacier Bay National Park
Months of planning had culminated to this instant as we sat on the transport boat waiting to be dropped off in Glacier Bay National Park. Here we would spend the next week on kayaks, navigating the waterways and camping in the backcountry. The park ranger shook our hands and congratulated us for embarking on a journey that 99% of Americans would never experience in their lifetime… a journey that would take us into the remote Alaskan wilderness. It was the moment we had been waiting for. The moment we said goodbye to our frantic lives back home that revolve around cell phones and computers, busy roads and crowded shopping malls. The moment the boat dropped us off on the beach, waved goodbye and sailed out of sight. From that moment on, we knew we wouldn’t see another soul for the rest of our journey. We were truly and utterly alone.
There’s a remarkable and overwhelming sensation of liberation when you finally let go of the technological clutches of society. For the week ahead we would use paper maps and compasses rather than GPS and Google maps. We relied on the fiberglass hull of our kayaks and the strength of our arms, rather than the horsepower of a revving engine. We had to search for freshwater streams rather than turn the handle of a faucet. Every detail, from calculating the tides to measuring how much food we would consume, had to be considered for this incredible journey.
We relied on our expertise and experience from a lifetime of camping in the backcountry, but there were new challenges that would test us in ways we had never expected. Challenges like the 18 foot tidal swings (our trip coincided with the full moon) that washed away the beaches and left us scrambling to move our tents and kayaks into the bushes before they were flooded and carried out to sea. Or the constant worry of encountering a brown bear after setting up camp. Even paddling from one side of the bay to the other had to be a calculated decision, in which we would factor the wind, tides, and time of day to avoid a dangerous crossing.
It was through careful planning and execution that led to a remarkable and rewarding adventure. We felt prepared for anything, whether it was sunshine or rain, calm seas or high winds. We had what felt like enough gear for an Everest expedition as we loaded up the kayaks each morning, piecing together the jigsaw puzzle to fit everything from the food, tents, sleeping bags, chairs, clothes, water and other miscellaneous bits of camp into our two boats. It is hard to describe the joyous feeling of having everything you need to be self-sufficient with you in the hull of your boat… We were completely autonomous and independent, detached from civilization and integrated to the natural world around us.
We felt like pioneers; explorers discovering a new land and setting foot on beaches for the very first time in human history. We let our imaginations run wild, and we felt more free than ever before. We were visitors to this beautiful land, and we felt connected to it in a spiritual way. We would sit on our kayaks and listen to the sounds of the world around us – sounds that were completely foreign to our ears, like the surfacing of a humpback whale as it takes a breath of air, or an oystercatcher as it protects its nest from intruding birds. We listened to the sound of bears and their footsteps in the water as they fished for salmon in the streams, and heard the loud crackling of ice as it slowly melts and falls from the face of a nearby glacier
We weren’t spectators at a zoo or tourists staring through a glass jar. No… we were part of it. Part of the wilderness, part of the ecosystem, part of the natural world that we lose connection to every time we step foot back in the concrete cities we call home. We were ready to lose our bearings and push ourselves into unknown terrain, resigning ourselves to the influence of sun, the tides, and the creatures around us. We were four souls connected to each other and to nature in an age where humans have completely detached themselves from the natural world and lost touch with our fundamental roots to this beautiful planet. We uncovered a deeper meaning during our time in Alaska. We discovered that there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, to share these incredible experiences with the friends around us, and to break free from the grasp of society, even if only for a week, to bring us back in touch with the beauty and peace of the natural world.
Waking up in paradise every morning...
The best bear viewing platform anyone could ask for... right from the kayak!
some of the most incredible sunsets we'd ever seen!
Watching whales from water level is the experience of a lifetime.