EXPLORE ALASKA’S OUTERMOST EDGES
The summer was coming to an end and I’d promised my nephew that before the days got too chilly I would take him to one of my favorite paddling destinations: Kachemak Bay. For years, I had been coming here with friends and family, and I wanted him to experience it too. He was a young man from the mountains of Virginia but with an adventurous spirit and a willingness to try anything once.
More than five years later, that trip still resonates with me. After taking a water taxi across the Bay and being dropped off at a rocky beach, Zach and I spent three days kayaking, camping and hiking the trails in Kachemak Bay State Park and Wilderness. We collected mussels along the tideline and created fresh seafood pasta dishes that rivaled anything you can get in a fancy restaurant, using only an old Whisperlite stove and some seasonings. Even the weather cooperat- ed, with blue skies breaking through as we explored the small coves and sloughs in the Tutka Bay area.
Kayaking in Alaska is always an adventure – whether you take to the sea or pick a lake or river to explore. It not only offers a unique view of Alaska and a chance to see places not accessible by larger boat, but it also makes camping just that much more comfortable. It’s amazing how much gear a properly balanced and packed kayak can hold when compared to a backpack. Rather than pack the very lightest sleeping pad and bag, Zach and I splurged on thicker pads and warmer, bulkier bags. Fresh ingredients like cilantro, butter and eggs all stowed into our boats easily with no fear of getting crushed. And instead of one coveted can of beer per person per night, we could bring as much as our boats – and not our backs – could handle. After all, we had priorities!
If you’re new to kayaking, now is the time to take advantage of what’s left of summer and hit the water now. You needn’t be an expert, but do use common sense and get basic training before launching on a complicated itinerary. Wind, unpredictable weather and cold water are not to be trifled with, but fortunately there is no shortage of guides and outfitters ready and able to help you plan the perfect summer-ending outing. These are our favorites:
Sunny Cove Sea Kayaking: sunnycove.com
Kayak Rentals: No
Guided Adventures: Yes half-day, full-day and multi-day adven-
tures. Prices range from $195 per person for a half day to $1,700 per person for a five-day remote camping/kayaking adventure.
Epic Charters: epicchartersalaska.com
Kayak Rentals: Yes, starting at $65 per day for singles, $75 for doubles.
Guided Adventures: This outfit is a good group-trip option, as 8-10-hour day trips are in the flat-rate range of $840 for up to six paddlers. Multi-day trips are available, as well as boat-supported trips for those who want to carry more gear than their kayaks can handle.
Alaska Sea Kayakers: alaskaseakayakers.com
Kayak Rentals: Yes, $65 first day (singles) and $45 each additional day. $80-110 per day (doubles) and $60-75 each additional day. Bo- nus: Drysuits also available for rent.
Guided Adventures: Three-hour day tours $89 per person; full-day tours, $145. Multi-day trips are available as well.
Lazy Otter Charter: lazyottercharters.com
Kayak Rentals: Yes, 2-day minimum, $50 per day (singles) or $90 per day (doubles); $40 per day (singles) for four days or more, $80 per day (doubles).
Guided Adventures: Yes; 8-9 hour guided adventures, $335 per person includes water taxi, gear, guide and lunch.
Prince William Sound Kayak Center: pwskayakcenter.com
Kayak Rentals: Yes, rates are discounted for each additional day. For example, $70 first day (singles), $120 for two days, $170 for three days, and so on. Doubles start at $120 for the first day. Bonus: PWS Kayak Center rents triples.
Guided Adventures: Three-, four- and five-hour tours are avail- able, as well as all-day tours and overnight/multiday tours. Prices range from $79 per person for the shortest trip to $445 per person (four-person minimum) for a four-day trip.
St. Augustine’s Kayak and Tours: homerkayaking.com
Kayak Rentals: No
Guided Adventures: Half-day, full-day and multi-day trips are all options. Prices range from $110 for the half-day trips to $405 per person for a two-
day paddle and hike drop-off. Bonus: The overnighters include lodging at a comfy base-camp cabin.
Mako’s Water Taxi: makoswa- tertaxi.com
Kayak Rentals: Yes; this is the do-it-yourselfers’ outfitter, and the one we used for our adven- ture. Singles and doubles rent for $40 and $50 per day; with water taxi to Kachemak Bay destina- tion of choice: For example, $75 to $85 to get to Tutka Bay.
Guided Adventures: Makos can work with local guides
to help you plan the trip of a lifetime.
Turnagain Kayak and Coffee House: turnagainkayak.com
Kayak Rentals: Yes, this outfit can not only rent high-quality sea kayaks but also provide camping gear, supplies, lodging,
NICOLE GEILS / VISIT ANCHORAGE Kayaks are lined up along the shores of Eklutna Lake, just north of Anchorage. This is an ideal freshwater
kayaking day-trip, with rentals and guided trips available on site. A popular option combines mountain bik- ing and kayaking.
and shuttles to and from your destination.
Guided Adventures: Guides are available to assist with exist- ing trips or help create your own itinerary.
Lifetime Adventures: lifetime- adventures.net
This is for the lake-kayaking
enthusiast, and a much-recom- mended destination, especially for those who might be short on time.
Kayak Rentals: Yes, singles and doubles are $40 and $45 for two hours, $50 and $55 for
a half-day. The most popular option is the Paddle & Pedal. Kayak out eight miles one-way to the end of the lake where you
will have a bike waiting for the return trip. This trip takes 5 to 6 hours to complete and is $90 per person.
Guided Adventures: There are a couple of options: a guided overnight kayak and bike trip, camping at the end of the lake ($295 per person); or a full day of guided kayaking for $140.
KAYAKING TIPS FOR PERFECT TRIPS
• Take a Lesson. You have to start somewhere, and many companies offer mini-lessons before heading out on the wa- ter. Even basic skills, like how to hold your paddle, will im- prove your abilities.
• Speaking of which, hold the paddle with a light grip, which helps you better control your kayak’s movements and mini- mize your chances of straining a muscle.
• Paddle swiftly and rhythmically, with deep strokes to get moving more quickly.
• Each paddler is different in what feels most comfortable. Do what works for you as far as pace and rhythm. If you feel comfortable, you will move more naturally on the water.
• A sweep stroke is wide and away from the boat, and allows you to correct directions. Use it in forward and backward mo- tions to adjust your boat’s direction.
• To minimize your chance of capsizing, keep your upper body at a balanced center of gravity, with your nose aligned with the center of the boat.
• Practice a wet release, or coming out of the boat while cap-
sized, before heading out. This greatly diminishes the chance of panic if it happens in real life.
• Here’s what to do when flipping your boat. Lean forward; push against the boat, release spray skirt and push out of the boat with your feet.
• Pick a route, tell and friend and doublecheck the marine forecast before committing to your trip. Nothing is worse than a cancelled trip due to poor weather — except going on said trip and having a disaster because you ignored a coming storm.
• Safety in numbers. Organize trips carefully, and include a larger group to ensure safety. If too large, trips can get cha- otic, but a core group of four to six kayakers at a time offers comfort in case of emergency.
• Bring a map. A GPS or phone can be helpful but if you get out of range for service or your battery goes dead, you can get in trouble fast.
• Pack it in, pack it out. Just as with backpacking, everything that goes with you on the water should come back as well.