Note: This is Part 4 of the AnchoRAGIN’ series. For Part 1, click here.
Oh boy, I don’t even know where to start with this post. I remember when the idea of kayaking to see glaciers was just a random suggestion, but it eventually evolved into an actual thing that we really got to experience. We knew that we would need to go with a guide, but all the companies that we researched either weren’t providing trips when we were in Alaska or required a minimum of four people to go. We only had three. I finally came across the Alaska Kayak Academy’s Big Ice Trip while looking around some more online and it was perfect! We’d get to go and kayak by some glaciers and they could accommodate less than four people! Rona and Evelyn called to get some more information and we booked our trip.
Fast forward to the Sunday morning of Memorial Day weekend. At 7AM, a truck carrying kayaks was waiting for us at the front of our hotel, ready to transport us to the town of Whittier. First, we made a stop at a Carrs (Alaska’s version of Vons or Ralphs) to figure out what we would be having for lunch, and then we were off, passing a bunch of scenic sights that I realize I didn’t fully capture since I was trying to conserve the battery life on my phone. Jim, our guide, told us about his experiences with leading kayaking tours and living in Alaska in general.
After a while, we eventually hit the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel, also known as the Whittier Tunnel. The tunnel only has a single lane and it uses this complex timing system to allow vehicles to go in one side and out the other safely. Half an hour is devoted to cars moving one direction and the other half is devoted to cars moving the other direction. If you miss your time, then you have to wait for the next period to go. Luckily, we arrived early enough that we even had time for a bathroom break. The tunnel finally opened up to our side and we were off. Driving through the tunnel was kind of surreal. It was long, with rocky walls, and safe-houses to the side in case of emergency. If a car breaks down, they even have tow trucks at the end of each side to take care of it right away.
Once we exited the tunnel, we found ourselves in Whittier. Jim drove up to a dock and loaded two double-occupancy kayaks on the top of a water taxi and Rona, Evelyn, and I hopped in afterwards, ready to actually be on the water. While we were in the water taxi, Jim gave us each drysuits to wear to keep us warm and, well, dry. Our water taxi driver spotted some whales while bringing us to our drop-off location and we also took some time watching them spout.
On the beach where we got dropped off, we finished suiting up, adding a life vest and a spray skirt to our ensemble. It looked a little goofy, but it did serve a purpose. We also got fitted for our kayaks and I got put in charge of handling the rudder for my boat. The rudder made it so much easier to turn and it was fun controlling it too. Evelyn got put in the front of my boat while Rona was paired with Jim.
Our first stop was Beloit Glacier, a tidewater glacier which basically means that it ends at the water. We could actually hear and see chunks of ice falling into Blackstone Bay. Jim told us that we could get some ice and try tasting it. It was pretty great ice for being frozen in a glacier for how many thousand years. In the distance, we spotted the whales again. Jim got excited since it was the first time he had ever seen whales while kayaking. We considered trying to paddle towards them, but they disappeared and we needed to continue kayaking if we were going to make it back to pick-up on time.
Well, we kayaked to the shore to have our lunch first. We could still hear the glacier calving, but we couldn’t see it anymore.
After lunch, we went around to Blackstone Glacier, another massive glacier by the bay with a lot more floating ice around it than Beloit had. This was the perfect place for a photo op and Evelyn got a picture of me that I really liked. I think I enjoyed Blackstone more than Beloit because of all the drift ice. We were surrounded and it was just a very cool experience, in both definitions of the word.
We landed on the shore nearby to take a break again and it felt good to stand up once more after sitting in that kayak for a while.
Continuing on our way back to the pick-up point, we passed kittiwake rookeries nearby housing a bunch of birds and a waterfall that was coming off of the Northland Glacier, which, unlike Blackstone and Beloit, is not a tidewater glacier. We checked out a couple caves and then eventually got to where we needed to be.
My phone’s battery finally died a little after we hit the shore, so I didn’t get to take any pictures from the rest of the trip back, but it was pretty similar to how we started. On the water taxi, we saw the whales again and Jim was convinced that one of us had a whale charm or something that made them appear so much. We got back to Whittier, went through the tunnel again, and made the long trip back to Anchorage to take a break at our hotel.
That night, Evelyn, Rona, and I decided to eat at the Moose’s Tooth Pub and Pizzeria since it was a short walk from our hotel. We had another flight of beer (Hard Apple Ale, Wild Country Raspberry Wheat, Northern Lights Amber, and Polar Pale Ale) and also our own small pizzas which were delicious. Afterwards, we went back to the hotel and called it a night.
I often feel like saying that going glacier kayaking was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but it kind of implies that I will never do it again, so I don’t really want to go that route. Let’s just say that it was something that I think I’ll remember for the rest of my life. It was just spectacular and I really do recommend spending the extra money to do it, especially with Alaska Kayak Academy. The site doesn’t look updated, but don’t let that deter you from calling in and asking for more information because it really was the highlight of our trip.
One more day to write about in this AnchoRAGIN’ series! Let’s do this!
Check out other posts in the AnchoRAGIN’ series:
– AnchoRAGIN’ (Part 1): Adventures in Downtown Anchorage
– AnchoRAGIN’ (Part 2): Reindeer Are Better Than People
– AnchoRAGIN’ (Part 3): What’s the Address for the Glacier?
– AnchoRAGIN’ (Part 4): Glacier Kayaking
– AnchoRAGIN’ (Part 5): A Wild Moose Chase