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Staff Training Expedition in Aialik Fjord - Day 1

Over the course of a 4-day sea kayaking expedition in Aialik Fjord the Sunny Cove staff and owner practiced, trained, refined and enjoyed subjects such as birding, mammalogy, glaciology, geology, plant identification, group management, paddling technique, leadership styles, and seamanship.

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After departing from the Seward Harbor via the Alaska Wildland Adventures (AWA) water taxi fittingly named the Weather or Knot, the Sunny Cove guides breathed a collective sigh of relief as we knew then, we were departing civilization with only the belongings we had with us on the boat, there was no longer the need to triple check the presence of each piece of gear. We were now headed out to the wilderness of Kenai Fjords National Park with only the modern sea kayaking equipment necessary for a 4-day paddling adventure and the communal atmosphere of the recently reunited Sunny Cove staff. Motoring across the calm waters of Resurrection Bay we viewed sea otters, seals, and sea lions. Once we reached the Harding Gateway at the mouth of Resurrection Bay we spotted our first whale spouts including an elusive gray whale migrating past the fjord on its way from Baja California Sur to feed on the rich marine abundance of the Bering Sea, the longest known migration of any mammal. The majority of guides had seen gray whales before in the lower 48, where they spend a significant portion of time near-shore, but seeing a gray whale above 60 degrees North in Alaska was a special treat.

We were dropped off at McMullen Cove and we packed our kayaks with a quickly rising tide. We pushed off just as the tide was beginning to touch the bows of our kayaks and paddled through the peaceful, serene, and drizzly McMullen Cove, passed a handful of lively waterfalls on the way to our lunch destination- Quicksand Cove.

Tidal Lagoon and ghost forest behind Quicksand beach.

The group gathering for a mid-day lunch in a thick mist on Quicksand Beach.

After a feasting on a delicious sandwich spread we launched and paddled north with our hearts set on reaching the 6-mile Holgate Arm of Aialik Fjord to view the magnificent tidewater face of Holgate Glacier. Paddling out of Quicksand Cove we spied mountain goats lazily munching new spring growth whilst precariously perched on unimaginably steep hillsides, and the sound of humpback whale spouts to our aft reminded us of our love for the ocean and all its' inhabitants. Before we reached the Holgate Arm we were pleasantly interrupted by one of the most unique wildlife gatherings many of us had ever seen.

Double eagle, single black bear.

As we rounded a small rocky point, we spotted from a distance the familiar white head of a bald eagle, except very unusually there were two sitting right next to each other well within their 6 foot wingspan. Having an enormous human-sized wingspan creates both a difficult landing and take-off in dense spruce foliage, especially within 6 inches of another already perched eagle. The 14 guides on the trip were already marveling at the two eagles perched so delicately next to each other when a plump black bear poked its' head out from behind the same spruce tree and paying us little attention as we paddled by. This unique wildlife combo was likely the most American thing that any of us had ever seen! 

After nearly fulfilling (never quite possible ;)) our fix of paddling, and wildlife viewing we made camp above the tideline on the north side of the Holgate Arm where we filled our bellies with local salmon and quinoa, then laid our heads to rest to the sound of a steady drizzle pitter pattering the outside of our tents and the Holgate Glacier rumbling with calving ice just a short paddle away, with the thought of tomorrows adventure gently seducing us to sleep.