10428370_10204454288096108_2561397641372324506_oWe just returned from a great 13 day sea kayaking trip in Glacier Bay National park. Even after dozens of humpback whale sightings, we never got tired of seeing the gray-blue curves of these 40 ton whales surfacing near our kayaks and campsites. The numerous sea birds and ptarmigans provided endless amusement as they scurried about busily, finding food and charging us when we wandered too near to their nests and chicks. The hundreds of shy seals and sea otters were always exciting to see as their cute and curious faces surfaced for a quick look.

1899860_10204454324457017_7993165744921761263_oThe glaciers and floating sea ice glowed with otherworldly shades of blue and changed each day as the sea ice melted or more new ice calved from nearby glaciers. The trip was full of magic and it’s hard to imagine finding another backcountry experience that could match Glacier Bay. This trip featured more animals than any other place I had been, more cold and exhaustion than I had ever experienced, and already I want to go back and do it all again.

10496242_10204454263775500_4451153184910424516_oIt had been about five years since my last long sea kayak trip. That one didn’t go well and left me with some lingering anxiety about this activity. When Brian wanted to return to Glacier Bay, saying his last trip there had been the best trip of his life, I hesitated. He tried to tell me about the humpback whales, the glaciers, and the constant parade of animals competing for his attention during his previous trip.

“We could just go hiking instead”, I countered.

The best parts of this national park can only be reached by boat and to have this great experience I would need to overcome my aversion to long sea kayak trips. Sure, I go on short paddle trips all the time and love the water, but my last long expedition at sea ended badly and I haven’t been on another trip like it since.

    It was five years ago in the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington. On the third day of our trip, we paddled a mile across open water in 2 foot waves which already felt a little big. As we neared the tip of Speiden Island in front of us the ocean changed suddenly from gentle laps to violent roars and 4 foot breaking waves. We were caught in a powerful tide rip and I didn’t know how to self rescue if the boats tipped over. My partner expected easy conditions and had decided not to wear a wetsuit that day. The islands nearby were private property so we couldn’t pull over. We continued all the way to Stuart Island through more waves. I couldn’t wait to get out of the boat. Once on Stuart Island we were stuck for the next two days as a storm rocked the San Juan Islands and kept the sea in a lumpy, angry state.

10497200_10204454261055432_2458787063637916842_oI didn’t want to repeat that experience so I had a lot of questions about our sea kayaking trip in Glacier Bay. We planned the trip carefully, studied the nautical charts and took a route far away from any challenging areas with tide rip potential. We shopped for the most stable sea kayak we could find, and also bought a nice drysuit to ensure comfort and safety in the cold, 32-40 degree water of Glacier Bay.

1909355_10204454109411641_6631274208070099929_oGlacier Bay was a good place for easy paddling conditions, especially in the early morning hours. The days were long and the Alaskan midnight sun illuminated the sky nearly all night long. One day we began paddling at 2 AM because the sea was calm and tides were in our favor. The water in the bay is pretty protected and we didn’t encounter any dangerous waves or tide rips. Most of our paddling took place on flat, calm seas.

I’ll write more about Glacier Bay soon. There are so many moments to share about this amazing trip.

Category: Sea Kayaking
Lisa Hackett

About the Author

Hi, I’m Lisa. I’m a tall, blonde superhero and I live in a van. I do it all. I rappel big waterfalls, drive from Idaho to Alaska solo, live and work in a van in the wilderness and dodge encounters with wolves and bears. Seriously. More

One Response to Sea Kayaking Past and Present, including Glacier Bay, Alaska

  1. Chris says:

    Hi I saw your article on glacier bay.. would you like to paddle glacier bay from July 5-10? I’m looking for more people to join so this trip can become a reality!

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About the Author

Hi, I’m Lisa. I’m a tall, blonde superhero and I live in a van and on a sailboat with my superhero husband, Brian. I do it all. I rappel big waterfalls, scuba dive with sharks, dodge encounters with bears and wolves, and work remotely as a full time computer programmer.
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About the Van

Hi, I’m Vanifest. I’m a big, 4x4, off-the-grid van complete with solar panel for power. I'm a 2000 Dodge Ram Van and Lisa has had me since 2009. Read more about me here.


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