Shortly after completing my first season as a sea kayak guide, I jumped on a plane and returned to Cambodia, my Peace Corps program country.
A look at our Northwestern kayak camping adventure!
Have you ever wondered what it takes to be a professional sea kayaking guide with Sunny Cove? The list of skills needed to make it as a guide with Sunny Cove is long! Before guides even arrive in Seward they have already been through an extensive application process and have obtained a Wilderness First Responder certification. They also have a huge study guide they need to review before arriving.
When they arrive in Seward the hands on training begins! The first 12 days are filled with sessions covering hard-skills, soft-skills, interpretation and team building.
Our hard-skills sessions begin at the Seward High School pool and then progress to practicing in Resurrection Bay. We cover self-rescue, assisted-rescue, strokes and much, much more...in drysuits of course!
We also spend a lot of time going over trip routes, naturalist information, interpretation, communication skills, team building and getting familiar with our local areas. And of course we paddle...a lot!
One of our most anticipated sessions is our visit into Kenai Fjords National Park! Our guides absolutely love kayaking near tidewater glaciers...and we had an absolutely glorious weather to kayak!
This is just a short summary of 3+ week long training program. What do you think...do you have what it takes to be a part of the Sunny Cove Sea Kayaking family?
One of the biggest pieces of feedback we get from clients is that they wish they could have brought their pet with them. Well, Sunny Cove has heard your pleas and starting this summer, 2017, pet cats will be allowed on all 3-hour Lowell Point trips!!!
You will have two options of where to put your favorite feline. If you decide to purchase an additional seat, your cat will have a cockpit all to itself (see below). Keep in mind you will be paddling a tandem kayak by yourself so make sure you are up for the challenge!
Or for just $20 extra, you can purchase our Cat Carry On option where your cat can sit anywhere on the deck of your kayak near your seat (see below). This option is best for those owners who are inseparable from their cats so we always recommend the Cat Carry On option for all crazy cat ladies.
Worried about the safety of your cat? Don’t be! We found 13 random stray cats around Seward and took them kayaking to see how it would work. We found that since cats have such a hatred of water, they stayed in or on the boat in every single test scenario. They also meowed the entire time so clearly they were all having a hoot! You can rest assured knowing your cat will be safe and protected during your entire expedition while having an adventure with you they will never forget.
Unfortunately for you dog lovers out there, we aren’t quite ready to offer the same package with your favorite canine. In our trial runs with 11 different dogs, six of them jumped in the water at the first sign of wildlife and we were only able to convince 3 of them to get back in the boat while the other 3 chased after a pack of Steller sea lions. We have our fingers crossed they eventually swam back to shore and found their owners. We will be doing more tests this summer to hopefully figure out a way to allow dogs on board next year so stay tuned!
From all of us at Sunny Cove, have a great April Fools’ Day and we hope to see you and your feline friend on the water.
Think tides are boring? Thing again!
"Getting the wood stove going takes little more than fire making skills, and some dry split locally harvested timber... By the evening nearly everything is ready to come out, and returned bone dry to the Yak Shack."
As we get ready to launch many of our trips, we often get asked, "What body of water is this?" to which we excitedly reply, "You are about to kayak in the Pacific Ocean!" Paddling in the largest body of water on the planet, especially in the Gulf of Alaska, can be very intimidating to some people. Fear starts to creep in...Is it safe? Will I flip over? Are there sharks? etc. etc.
If you are one of those people, this blog is for you! Don't let fear stop you from paddling in one of the most beautiful places this planet has to offer. Here are some common fears we hear from potential guests and hopefully we can help answer them for you ahead of time to put to rest any fears you may have.
Will my kayak flip over? Everybody who paddles with us will be put in a tandem kayak with another guest or guide. Tandem kayaks are extremely stable and it would take a lot to flip one over. We take out thousands of people every summer and on average have one capsize per summer with some summer having none. Usually if a kayak capsizes, somebody in the boat was doing something they should not have been doing which is why we do a detailed safety talk before any trip gets on the water.
How cold is the water and will I freeze to death if I do capsize? Water temperature typically ranges from 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the summer. If you did happen to capsize your kayak, typically the worse thing that will happen is you will be cold for a little bit. There are lots of rumors of how people die within 5 minutes of these Alaskan cold waters and that is not true at all...it takes about 6 minutes for that to happen. Just kidding! After an initial 60-90 cold water shock, your body will actually adjust to the water temperature and our guides will have you back in your kayak long before we would have to worry about hypothermia.
Will I get stuck in my kayak? Again, if you are the very rare person that finds themselves upside down in a kayak, water will flood your cockpit and displace you out of your boat. Your personal flotation device (PFD) will also be working to bring you to the surface of the water so you will be out and breathing within seconds.
Are there sharks? Will the whales eat me? The two main sharks we have are the salmon shark and sleeper shark. Both are extremely rare to see and do not interact with humans. And one of the most incredible things to see from a kayak is one of our local humpback whales or orca pods. Whales have a great sense of their surroundings and are not interested in eating you.
It's Alaska...won't it be super cold? It is over 80 degrees Fahrenheit as I currently write this so Alaska does have its hot days. Typically summer temperatures range from the 50s-60s degrees Fahrenheit. While that may seem chilly to many people, it is actually a great temperature to be on the water and the physical activity you will be doing helps warm you up even more. We always recommend wearing synthetic layers and water proof/resistant jacket and pants to retain your body heat and we even supply paddling poagies for your hands if you are worried about your hands getting cold.
Do I need experience to go on a trip? We love teaching people to kayak who have never done it before! We would recommend doing our shorter 3 hour trip if you are new to kayaking, but we take out guests every day who have never kayaked. We supply all the gear you need and spend roughly 30 minutes talking about paddling technique, the kayaks, and important safety information before we even get in the boats. You gotta learn sometime so why not with a professionally trained guide?!
What safety gear do guides bring along with them? All of our guides are medically trained Wilderness First Responders and carry first aid kits with them on all trips. They also carry a boat repair kit in case any issues arise with your kayak. A bilge pump and sponge are carried to get any large or small amounts of water out of your kayak. Guides carry a large dry bag of spare clothes for any guests that would capsize. If a guest is in the water and is having trouble getting back into the kayak, our guides carry a stirrup strap that serves as a stepping stool to climb back into the boat. And if that does not work, a paddle float is used to create an outrigger which makes it much easier to climb back in. Each guide wears a tow rope and has the ability to tow boats if guests get tired, injured, or are having trouble maneuvering their kayak safely. And each guide straps a spare paddle to the deck of their kayak in case a guest loses or breaks their paddle.
Will I regret not kayaking with Sunny Cove? Absolutely! Put those fears behind you and sign up today. Alaska is an incredible place to kayak and all your friends will be super impressed and jealous when you get back home and tell them of your Alaskan kayaking adventure. We hope to see you on the water!
People come to Alaska for a variety of reasons. For the wildlife...for the mountains...for the isolation...for the adventure...for the bucket list...whatever their reason may be, there is one place that encompasses all that and more in my favorite place to spend time; Fox Island.
If it is wildlife you are looking for, Fox Island is a hub of activity for sea otters, sea lions, harbor seals, bald eagles, puffin, salmon, humpback whales, and orcas. Being about 12 miles closer to the open ocean than Seward, Fox Island has the benefit of being in the feeding path of many of our marine animals. Fox Island is one of the few places in the world where orcs have been documented rubbing their bellies on the beach...the very same beach we launch our kayaking trips from. I was fortunate enough to be leading a trip on the water when this happened and it was a treat!
If you want mountains, Fox Island sits out in the middle of Resurrection Bay where you are able to glimpse the views of mountain tops created from two different tectonic plates that sit on opposite sides of the bay. Snow capped all summer long, our tallest peaks shoot up around 4,000-5,000 feet straight out of the water in a meeting between mountains and ocean that rivals any vista around the world.
If you like the isolation, a Fox Island trip may be just what you need. An already busy tourist town, Seward was put more in the spotlight by the national parks 100th anniversary celebration and a visit from President Obama last September. With several kayaking companies in town, Sunny Cove is the only one with an established base on the island and you will be sure to experience the peaceful nature of Alaska while on your trip.
And if you are the adventurous type, there isn't a better place to explore than Fox Island. With trips that run from three hours to full day adventures, Fox Island has many route options depending on the weather, wildlife, and paddler abilities. And since you take a boat to the island, many of our trips and combined with a sightseeing tour of Resurrection Bay after you finish your paddle.
When I first came to Alaska, I fell in love with this place I now call home. And of all the majestic and wonderful things you can see and do during your time in the Last Frontier State, make sure Fox Island is at the top of your list and check off that bucket list in style. It is a truly magical place and we look forward to seeing you out there on the water!
Meet McKenzie! McKenzie is a fire spinning fermenting wizard that can ski. Or so she tells us. While most of our guides come from all over the lower 48 states looking for adventure, McKenzie is the rare breed that is actually from Alaska! Growing up in Anchorage she was privileged to have spent many years in this great state and decided to move to Seward for the summer and guide with Sunny Cove. McKenzie is a first year guide with tons of Alaskan knowledge and if you are into plants and flowers, she's the guide for you! We were excited to bring McKenzie on board and please continue reading below to learn more about this wonderful new addition to Sunny Cove!
Hometown: Anchorage, Alaska!
Favorite Food: It's a tie between salmon and coconut ice cream. (But not combined)
Favorite TV Show: Game of Thrones
Favorite Book: Either the Anarchist's Cookbook or Plants of the Pacific Northwest
Favorite Sport: Besides sea kayaking?! Backcountry skiing!!!
Favorite Animal: Caribou
Certifications/Degrees: Bachelor of Arts Degree in Ethnobotany, Wilderness First Responder, CPR, AIARE 1 (Avalanche Training)
Number one item of bucket list: I want to take an underwater photography/diving course.
Best Life Experience: I had a stint at a tiki bar on the Caribbean coast of Colombia. Every night I got to watch the sunset over the bay and during the day I got to go swimming, kayaking, fishing, and ate copious amounts of mangoes and rum. It was really amazing there and I am planning a return trip.
Best Alaskan Experience: As a child my mom used to take me out in the winter so that we could look for northern lights. I would get all bundled up and curl up in my sleeping bag amidst the snow watching the sky for that magical flickering. I always fell asleep before I saw the lights but getting to stay up late watching the sky with my mom is one of my favorite memories.
Why I love to guide: I love to show people my home and the amazing wilderness that still exists in the world. Plus I enjoy the dynamic challenge that each day can bring!
Random fact: I love teaching people about edible foods, foraging, and fermentation.
Personal Statement: Instead of a personal statement, let me tell you my perfect date. Let's go on an adventure, whether that be sea kayaking, skiing, or whatever else we can come up with that is active and that doesn't cost a lot of money. After that let's make food and celebrate being alive. Badda Bing Badda Boom. Party on Wayne.
Kelly S. is one of our newest additions to the Sunny Cove staff. Kelly hails from Miami Beach, Florida and spent this past winter guiding trips in the Florida Keys. That's about as far away as you can get in the U.S. from here, but we are glad she made the trek up! Kelly isn't new to the Alaskan experience as she attended college here majoring in Outdoor Studies. She has a specialty and knowledge base in trail work and non-native plants and lives her life by LNT (Leave No Trace) principles.
Kelly S. joins Kelly M. as our second Kelly on staff. Only time will tell which Kelly we decide is the best Kelly, but for now we think you are in good hands with either one. You can find Kelly driving around Seward in a full size van she lives out of that sometimes works. If you see her stranded on the side of the road, please give her a ride so she is not late for work. Continue reading below to learn more about Kelly!
Hometown: Miami Beach, Florida
Favorite Food: Lobster
Favorite Movie: The Sound of Music
Favorite Book: Plant ID books
Favorite Sports Team: University of Miami
Favorite Animal: Lynx
Certifications/Degrees: Bachelor Degree in Outdoor Studies with a minor in Environmental Science, Wilderness First Responder, CPR
Number one item of bucket list: Explore more of the world!
Best Life Experience: Taking a risk and going to college across the country. I grew up in Florida and decided to go to Alaska for college.
Best Alaskan Experience: I backpacked the Talkeetna Mountain Range for 21 days. The experience in general was hard, but life changing.
Why I love to guide: I love getting people excited about the environment.
Random fact: I love riddles. I know a ton of them!
Personal Statement: I am excited about guiding and sharing all the info I know. I am ready to have some fun!
JD is back and better than ever for year two as a Sunny Cove guide and we are thrilled to have him around again. If you remember from last year, JD is from the state of Iowa which we were never able to find on a map so moving on to other things...Over the winter, JD finished up his Degree in Outdoor Recreation at the University of Northern Iowa where he also worked as a trip leader taking students on backpacking, rock climbing, and canoe trips. He also gained some experience ice climbing and helped build a cross country ski trail for the university.
JD was best known last summer for his discovery and love of the movie Frozen. He could be found literally every day singing Do You Want To Build A Snowman at the top of lungs. Our favorite story of JD is that roughly the first 20 times he watched Frozen, he only watched the first half with his favorite songs so that he never knew Prince Hans was the villain until we forced him to watch the entire movie. He was devastated. The crew this year has banned JD from watching Frozen so we are all waiting with anticipation to see what new Disney musical songs he will start singing. We are glad to have JD back on the team and continue reading below to learn a little bit more about one of our experienced guides.
Hometown: Winchesterville, Iowa
Favorite Food: Anything my mom makes
Favorite Movie: Frozen
Favorite Book: The Giving Tree
Favorite Sports Team: CUBS
Favorite Animal: Tasmanian Devil
Certifications/Degrees: Bachelor of Arts in Outdoor Recreation from the University of Northern Iowa, Wilderness First Responder, CPR, National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) Alumni, Outward Bound Alumni, Swift Water Rescue, High Vertical Rescue, Leave No Trace Master Educator, United States Navy Veteran, Certified Chicago Cub fan for life
Number one item of bucket list: Cubs World Series
Best Life Experience: Meeting fellow Cubs fan and sea kayak guide Bobby!
Best Alaskan Experience: Singing karaoke with the Sunny Cove crew
Why I love to guide: Because it is boring talking to myself
Random fact: I eat peanut butter and dill pickle sandwiches before every trip I guide
Personal Statement: Go Cubs Go. Thank you. Standing by on 1-0!
With an ambitious plan of visiting all three tidewater glaciers in Aialik (eye-al-ick) fjord during the daylight hours of the second day of our training expedition, the crew was up early to start coffee and a scrumptious breakfast of hashers, zucchini, onions, scrambled eggs, and reindeer sausage in order to expedite an early departure from the Holgate arm. Due to a conflict with another sea kayaking group over campsite selection for the evening we decided to maintain a base camp in the Holgate arm, rather than moving camp to the Pedersen Lagoon as previously outlined in our float plan. Not only did this decision lighten our boats, and give our tents a chance to dry out from the overnight rain, but provided both paddling parties with the more remote wilderness vibe we all travel to Aialik fjord for, whilst only adding an additional 6 miles to our day trip from basecamp.
Paddling around Holgate Head into the slightly more exposed waters of the body of Aialik bay we scouted a sea arch that was impassable at the current low tide and spied two mountain goats lazily perched precariously on a cliff side just 50 feet above us. Two hours of paddling later after numerous marbled murrelet, pelagic cormorant, pigeon guillemot, and even a solitary white fronted goose sighting we landed just west of Slate Island on the mainland for a smoked salmon spread flatbread lunch with pickled onions, bell peppers, and capers.
After lunch we pushed off and were immediately cutting a path through reasonably thick brash ice with interspersed growlers and small icebergs on our way to view the enormous face of Aialik glacier, with our eyes out for hauled out harbor seals using the ice to warm up their bodies from the cold-sapping water. Strangely we saw no harbor seals in the vicinity although the bergs of Aialik glacier is a commonly known pupping area this time of year. The mile long terminal face of Aialik glacier had noticeably retreated since I'd last visited in late August of last year, and was beginning to show even more rock underneath the massive tongue, which perpetuated the hypothesis that it wouldn't be long before Aialik glacier will likely become a land-locked valley glacier, relinquished from its tidewater status. After marveling at the dynamic terminal face of ice for as long as we could without inhibiting our late afternoon plans, we reversed directions and cut ice back to the entrance of the tidally dependent and spectacular Pedersen Lagoon to view Pedersen Glacier.
The dynamic Pedersen Lake, Lagoon, and Glacier system uniquely exemplifies a dynamic mix of geology/hydrology in action, biologic richness/diversity, and the boundary of where modern society (i.e. Kenai Fjords National Park) meets native ancestral lands of the Alutiiq Unegkurmiut (modern day Port Graham Authority), all overlain with a natural tone of epic grandeur. Entering the lagoon via sea kayak encourages a stark feeling of contrast between the ocean environment of Aialik bay and the sheltered lake-like feel of Pedersen Lagoon, which is a natural haven for harbor seals, and sea otters due to its protection from open ocean elements such as wind, wave action and predators. After floating the tidal current up into Pedersen Lake past a number of intimidating grounded icebergs we were astonished to be looking directly at the terminal face of Pedersen Glacier. Not a single one of the guides had ever seen the glacial lake so free of ice, something drastic had happened over the winter. Taking advantage of the open water we paddled as a group closer to the face of Pedersen Glacier than any of us had ever been. Pedersen Glacier has been retreating quicker than any other tidewater glacier in Aialik fjord, it's an incredibly active place, avalanches and rocks fell as we paddled, icebergs cracked and rolled, all as we were paddling in an enormous recently revealed glacial landscape. We even spied a black bear foraging high up on the mountain side.
Given the short window of safety in Pedersen Lake, we turned around within two hours as to ensure we made it out of Pedersen Glacier Lagoon before the drastic tide change which creates currents greater than 6 knots. Exiting the Pedersen Lagoon mouth went smoothly and we quickly paddled the 6 miles back to basecamp at Holgate Glacier with dinner, sleep, and theories of why Pedersen Lake was so free of the icebergs we were so accustomed to seeing on our minds. Back at camp we quickly ate a couple of tasty Halibut tacos each, and hurried off to bed to rest after an truly epic 20+ mile day of sea kayaking in Kenai Fjords National Park.
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.
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.
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.
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.
When John Page first started Sunny Cove Sea Kayaking (SCSK), he named his company after Sunny Cove on Fox Island where he would run trips and spend his summers living. Many moons have passed since John lived and ran trips from Sunny Cove. John currently lives and runs his operation just south of Seward on Lowell Point. As SCSK has continued to change and grow over the years, we have started a discussion on if it is time to change the SCSK name brand to reflect the direction the company has taken over the past decade. And so it is with great excitement that after many hours of brainstorming and deliberation, we will be officially changing the name of SCSK starting summer 2016.
What's the new name you ask? We wanted the new brand to reflect the dynamic nature of everything we offer. And so without further adieu, we are thrilled to announce that Sunny Cove Sea Kayaking will now be called...
Liquid refers to the nature of our trips on the water. We will still focus on kayaking so it was important to keep that in the name. We threw adventure in there because apparently that's the thing to do in Seward. And the 60 degree clearly refers to Seward's average summer temperature. We wanted a name to distinguish ourselves from all the other companies in town and felt this one did the trick. To make it easier to pronounce, we will use the LKASDF acronym to refer to ourselves.
We couldn't be happier to announce this monumental change. We are counting on you to spread the word to help the community learn our new brand. To make the transition as easy as possible, the new name will go into affect in the middle of the 2016 summer season.
While we are sad to say goodbye to Sunny Cove Sea Kayaking, we look forward to introducing everybody to Liquid Kayak Adventure Sixty Degree Fahrenheit! Thanks for your support and happy April 1st! :-)
Checking in on Tara and Arthur!
We often get asked what Seward is like in the winter. The answer is AMAZING! Sure, we have shorter daylight hours checking in at about 5 hours on the shortest day, but those short days lead to incredible light for long sunrises and sunset.
There's so much to do! Cross-country skiing, snow shoeing, back-country skiing, sledding, heli-skiing, snow machining (snow mobiling to you out of staters), ice skating, kayaking, fishing, you name it. If it's a winter sport it happens in Seward!
Most people think all the wildlife disappears in the winter, but that's not true with the exception of the Humpback Whales. We often see tons of birds, sea lions, sea otters, harbor seals and eagles.
Seward is really an amazing place to live in the winter!
From all of us at Sunny Cove, we wish you a Happy Halloween!