By Theresa Russell
Kayaking Amongst the White Giants
Preparing for my trip to Valdez, I came across Anadyr Tours online, and became intrigued by the photo on their website of a kayak gliding through two icebergs. That image imprinted itself on my mind; I knew that I had to experience this adventure.
Valdez is at the end of the eponymous pipeline; the town itself was completely relocated from its original spot due to an earthquake in 1964. I learned more about this and other bits about the area at the Valdez Museum and Historical Archive, a small but thoroughly interesting place that captivated me with its interesting exhibits and extensive information on the history of the town. I cut my visit short and dashed over to the Whitney Museum, which houses one of the largest collections of Alaska Native art and artifacts in the world. Having learned about the culture and history of the area, exploring nature was on my schedule for the next day.
Having sailed amongst many ice floes as I made my way to Valdez via the Alaska Marine Highway System, I imagined myself paddling through them and anxiously awaiting my full-day outing the next day. Upon arriving at Anadyr I acted like a kid wondering about the presents on Christmas day and immediately asked about the possibility of kayaking through the iceberg, just like the lucky people in the website photo. Being dynamic and very unstable, icebergs have different characteristics from one day to the next, so we would have to wait and see what awaited us. I remained optimistic and donned the waterproof pants and boots that Anadyr provides. We grabbed paddles and life jackets and headed to Valdez Glacier and its mirror-like lake where we started our adventure.
Paddling to different areas of the lake, our guide pointed out the natural features and shared a bit of local history;Valdez Glacier was a popular route during the gold rush.
We dodged small ice floes following the lead of our guide. The crisp and clear air combined with the spectacular backdrop of rugged mountains, vast expanses of sky and glaciers provided an ideal setting for kayaking. The sun appeared, making multiple layers seem frivolous. Paddling provided extra warmth.
In the distance we could see an iceberg that appeared to be one that we could kayak through. Upon closer inspection, that was simply a deceptive possibility. However, we could exit the kayaks and walk in the great arch formed by the power of water. The marble-like blue floor of the glacier and the surrounding blue ice nearly blinded me with its brilliance. We all took turns getting our photos in the arch and then headed back to our kayaks, taking extra care not to slip on the ice.
A SENSE OF PLACE
After paddling for several hours, we selected an area for lunch. We got out and started climbing the ridge of a small hill. This was no ordinary hill; we were on the glacier. Our guide had checked out the safety of our lunch spot where we enjoyed our lunches and savored the view.
Without heat from our physical experts, I realized how chilly the temperature was and layered up again. We scurried back down to our kayaks after eating and glided in and out of little waterways amongst the floating white sculptures. It wasn’t until we skirted our glacial lunch stop that I could really appreciate that we had been on a glacier. I was happy that we hadn’t gone too far to the one edge with a sheer drop off that was undetectable from our lunch perch.
All good things must come to an end so we stroked back to our launching spot. Being on the water and on the glacier enhanced my sense of wonder of the awe inspiring nature of Alaska. I took forward to returning.
About Theresa Russell
Claiming her lust for travel began on her first journey through the birth canal, Theresa is genetically programmed to travel and to have fun doing it. She especially enjoys adventure and experiential travel and always finds something at a destination to write home about.