Kayaking the Golden Hour

As the old adage goes, do one thing every day that scares you.  And that's pretty much how it began. 

What started as a “let’s stay close to shore” excursion quickly turned into my first, long distance, open water, channel crossing of North America’s longest and deepest fjord.

Juneau has been blessed with spectacular weather this month, so I jumped at the chance to join my friend and internationally acclaimed, award-winning nature photographer, Daniel Buck, on a kayaking trip north of Alaska’s capital city.

Initially, I just wanted to get a seal’s eye view of the spot I had camped at a few weeks earlier.  But as we paddled along the foreboding granite cliffs high above our 14 foot kayaks, the surge of adrenalin was unmistakable.  My mind encouraged me to “just go for it.”  And so it began.  Baby steps transformed into leaps of faith which led to an unforgettable adventure of a lifetime. 

We found ourselves leaving the protected cove and venturing out into open water.  Little did I know at the time, but our kayaks were cruising above the historic shipwreck site of the SS Princess Kathleen, a steamship that met her dark watery grave just 63 years prior.

Unfazed, we scanned the horizon for the jubilant exhale of humpback whales, occasionally spotting playful harbor porpoises close by.  With this remarkable encounter alone, my trepidation and fear of the unknown subsided.

As the waves catapulted us closer and closer to our wilderness destination, at one point with my rookie hand I felt the tide taking my kayak in one direction, the wind pulling me in another.  Powering through, we arrived at the shores of Shelter Island after an ambitious and arm-clinching paddle.  Completely worth it. 

Securing the boats above the tide-line, we scrambled along the rugged and rocky shore to gain a higher vantage point on the ocean landscape we had just traversed.  The first half of the journey was now complete, though it felt like a journey just beginning.

After some time exploring the island's unprotected eastern shores and doing a bit of beach-combing, we paddled back to the mainland, surrounded by God’s wonderland stretching as far as the eye can see.

As the sun set behind the majestic snow-capped peaks, the waters we had just conquered were bathed in the warm glow of the golden hour.  During a particularly Zen-like moment, I paused in the middle of the waterway, letting the silence of the world engulf me, comforted only by the presence of nature and the sound of the cerulean waves gently lapping the boat.

There, at sunset, as the small kayak gently rode the ocean swells, I had a revelation.  Growing up in Alabama, I lived an unexceptional life.  Now in Alaska, I am living a life without exception - a life where each day I do one thing that scares me, strengthens me, and fulfills me.  Where each day is nothing less than an epic adventure, all in America’s Last Frontier.


Here's a big THANK YOU to Daniel for taking many of the photos above and sharing them with me so I can share them with you. 

Check out Daniel's other awe-inspiring photographs at Wilderness Peaks Gallery, Alaska's premiere fine art photography gallery.

Becoming an Outdoors-Woman

It all began with learning how to hang a bear bag high up in the trees.   Then came a yummy, yet valuable, lesson on mixing butter into a cup of hot chocolate to add crucial calories for survival. 

Next thing I know, I’m camping in the wilds of Alaska.  For the first time in my life.  In bear country.

Last weekend, I became a woman of the wilderness when I participated in a three day program called Becoming an Outdoors-Woman (BOW).  At an "off the grid" location 40 miles north of Juneau, I developed new skills and tested my limits.  Sans my iPhone's compass, I was surrounded by fresh air, campfires, and supportive new friends. 

The weekend was an incredible experience that left me bright-eyed, refreshed, and ready to learn more.  Thanks to this program and my new friends, my apprehensions are in check, and my self-esteem has blossomed.  Thank you, BOW!

Glaciers + Wildlife Galore = EPIC Cruise with Adventure Bound Alaska!

Looking for adventure in Southeast Alaska?  Get yourself on the Adventure Bound!  Last weekend, I went on the adventure of a LIFETIME to the Tracy Arm Fjord.  I saw some of the most amazing and breathtaking sites in not just Alaska, but the entire world!  Since my words pale in comparison to the magnificence of this trip, I'll leave you with a quote from Adventure Bound Alaska's brochure:

"The inland sea is a jade green.  Icebergs redefine the color blue.  Deeper colors come with the rain and brilliance with the sun.  Granite walls reach to the heights.  Waterfalls spiral from above.  The air is fresh with a chill from the last ice.  Cruise along, watch for bears, mountain goats, and seals.  Every turn reveals a new and awesome scene.  At the end see the source of it all - the twin Sawyer Glaciers."

And since a picture is worth a thousand words, check out my photos and videos below - and get ready to be blown away!

After passing massive and ancient icebergs, there was a foraging bear...

Wonderful waterfalls were at every turn.  I was a bit thirsty when we passed this gusher.

The South Sawyer Glacier welcomed us with countless icebergs strewn across open water.

Harbor seals haul out on the ice.  The fjord is a sort of refuge for them - free from predators like killer whales.  

Captain Steve shared with us a mischievous joke:

A seal goes into a bar.  The Bartender says, "What'll it be?" 

The seal replies, "Anything but Canadian Club on the rocks!"

Those little dark spots on the ice?  Those are seals.

Seals are just dog mermaids.  Think about it.

When we weren't hearing the ice crack at the face of the glacier, we were listening to the song of beautiful Arctic Terns.  These stunning seabirds have by far the longest regular migration by any known animal.

I can only sum up the taste of glacier ice as "salty."  My next visitors to Juneau will be treated to a cocktail featuring this stuff.

The Sawyer Glacier is my favorite of the twin glaciers because it is more active and seems to produce more awe-inspiring calvings than the South Sawyer Glacier.  I can't get enough of the blue.

While cruising back to Juneau, Captain Steve slowed down to allow us to view what they have endearingly termed "The Wall."  For my rock climbing friends, this is your paradise.

The strength of water has impressively carved out the rock at the water line. 

Southeast Alaska isn't just playground for commercial fishermen and eager tourists.  It's a haven for celebrities, corporate bigwigs, and whoever is on THIS boat.  FYI: this is the M/Y Harmony, currently for sale for $36,750,000.  And no, I didn't mistype any of those zeros.

About an hour from Juneau, Captain Steve announced across the loudspeaker to look for sea lions on the starboard side.  Little did we know there would be a gigantic humpback whale off the bow.

As if the wave of a whale's tail wasn't enough to close out the trip, seaplanes returning from the Taku Lodge flew overhead as we cruised down the Gastineau Channel.  This was the icing on the cake for me as I've always wanted to be on the water when a seaplane was landing. 

It was a perfect trip.  Outstanding weather, terrific sights and sounds, all while experiencing the best of Alaska.  What a blessing to have this masterpiece right in our backyard!