Kayaking With Icebergs : An Alaskan Adventure

Kayaking With Icebergs : An Alaskan Adventure

We never dreamed that our Ultimate Canadian Road Trip would lead us to Alaska and to one incredible adventure after another, this is what it feels like to go kayaking with icebergs:

 

One giant push from the shore and we are left to our own devices. “Left, right, left” we call, beginning to gather our composure while rocking to and fro on the calm body of water. I would not have believed this was the ocean, the undulating Gulf of Alaska has been sufficiently tamed by the surrounding cliffs to provide us with a sheltered haven. An hour and half ago we were standing port side in Valdez, Alaska, learning how to eject ourselves from our kayak should it be necessary. Following this we had cruised with Pangaea Adventures towards our kayak point, needless to say several cascading waterfalls and an encounter with a humpback whale already had us pumped for our main event. Surrounding us are the steep cliffs of the Prince William Sound, grey rock intertwined with glaciers. The setting could not be more enthralling and the water could not be kinder to beginner paddlers but we must draw back from watching Alaska’s majestic appearance. If we are to get anywhere in our vessel we need to start paddling.

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Kayaking With Icebergs, An Alaskan Adventure

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We stick to our guide Stan, making a few more turns than necessary as we learn to keep ourselves straight but lose composure when gliding past a pair of otters. Four beady eyes, positioned just above the surface watch us wearily until we are at a safe distance. Making a left turn it appears that our beginner session has come to an end as we begin to encounter choppy water. Our tandem kayak tackles the small waves with ease and our team begins to make strokes towards pinnacles of ice strewn about the bay. This is the output from Columbia Glacier which is sitting 13 miles beyond our position and is receding faster than any other glacier on Earth.

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Kayaking With Icebergs, An Alaskan Adventure

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All glaciers are constantly moving and as such experience something known as ‘calving,’ a term used to describe the thunderous process where ice breaks off the glacier and drops into the water below. These ice giants float with the current towards the open ocean and are the reason that we have travelled here today. Paddling momentarily ceases as we pass a couple of large pieces. We marvel at their incandescent blue hue, oddly derived contours, shear volume and the unique way they shimmer when touched by the sun. “We can’t get too close” Stan warns and it is soon apparent w, one of the more rounded pieces emits a crack and begins to roll. These chunks of ice, most of which lie below the surface, have a hard time finding an equilibrium and with both the sun and sea eating at them they are often likely to have to… let’s say, readjust. It is not a quiet affair and so for the others we stay well away, especially when they loom way above our heads.

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Kayaking With Icebergs, An Alaskan Adventure

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Oyster catchers, a black bird with a thin long orange beak and seagulls (why oh why are there always seagulls?) find refuge upon the rocks, they stare intensely as we kayak by as if it is us who look out of place. A couple of seals prove who’s fastest by disappearing beneath the surface and rising into view at three times the distance. As our arms begin to tire in the choppy swell our guide changes tactics as if he has another trick up his sleeve. When he turns our backs to the mountains, ice platforms and snaking glaciers there just has to be a good reason. The wide open expanse of the Columbia Glacier Ice-field is soon replaced by a tiny alcove bordered by long green grasses and moss strewn trees. “It’s the salmon run” Stan grins and sure enough there they are, hundreds of them, swimming endlessly upwards towards a place unknown and ready to spawn at the last breath. Above us glides an adolescent bald eagle, he obviously has plenty of food to sustain him and is already larger than his elders, two of whom are perched nearby.

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Ultimate Canadian Road Trip, Alaska, Straight On Detour,

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Bewitched, enthralled and tired we blindly follow Stan through a series of shallow channels that bring us back into view of the ice field once more. Our vessel has returned to collect us and we are ready to embark on another safari back to port, back to Valdez and to relive our encounters over a good stack of typical American pancakes.

So where is this magical place?

Valdez is accessed through a scenic drive between the Chugach Mountains, 300km from Anchorage, Alaska’s capital. Being a southerly coastal town Valdez enjoys a short but sweet summer from June through to early September. During these months locals engage in an on-going fishing derby and make the most out of the surrounding mountains, while in winter they enjoy activities such as heli-skiing (Valdez was the first place to drop skiers into the mountains via helicopter) and ploughing snow from the only road into town. Summer visitors can partake in glacier hikes, whitewater rafting or even go to watch a calving glacier. Stan Stephens Glacier and Wildlife Cruises offer the latter while also providing the optimum chance of spotting the numerous animals that inhabit the Prince William Sound. Of course there is also ice kayaking and Pangaea Adventures offer this spectacular Colombia ice-field tour practically every day of the season.

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Kayaking With Icebergs, An Alaskan Adventure

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With a combination of unique activities, excellent wildlife viewing, friendly locals and one of the most beautiful setting of any place, anywhere in the world, it is obvious why Valdez is being recognised as Alaska’s playground.

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Join us for more on our ‘Ultimate Canadian Road Trip‘ page

 

 

 

Written by

Rebecca Mayoll is a ‘just turned 30’ freelance writer and photographer from England. She is the co-founder and author of straightondetour.com, a travel website with the mantra ‘find your own adventure.’ Promoting adventurous destinations, independent travel and giving a humorous insight to the World of travel is what Becky does best.

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Hi we're Prue and Becks, travel writers and photographers who have been travelling the world together since 2012. Without taking ourselves too seriously, we divulge the lesser known, out of the way places and give you the tools to replicate it. Want to know more? Click on our pic.