Ilene Price

WHAT A TRIP: 7 Days Paddling from Columbia Glacier to Valdez, Alaska

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7-Day Glacier Island-Columbia Bay-Valdez Itinerary

Map of Itinerary

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Jack, Sarah, Miki, and I proudly sporting our Anadyr Adventures hats!

The Opportunity

When my manager asked me if I had any interest in leading the 7-day kayak camping trip to train the 3 new guides we’d be welcoming this season to Anadyr Adventures, I didn’t have to deliberate. I gave an enthusiastic “Yes, of course!” What an amazing opportunity. This trip happens at the start of every season (early May) and teaches the new guides paddling and camping skills, as well as introduces them to all of the areas in northeast Prince William Sound where we guide our clients. In addition, it’s an incredible trip that gets them excited to be working in one of the most spectacular paddling destinations in the world. Let’s begin!

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Tranquility in Shoup Bay at 11 PM, Prince William Sound

 

Beautiful paddling, Prince William Sound

The Itinerary

Roughly 70 miles this itinerary starts in Irish Cove, in the northwest corner of Glacier Island, and quickly rounds Iceberg Point. It follows the entire coastline of the south side of this rugged and beautiful island, which is a wildlife lovers’ paradise. This is where I had 5 Orcas surface directly underneath our kayaks in a camping trip in 2017. The south side is also where Tufted and Horned Puffins spend their summers, alongside hundreds of Steller Sea Lions at their haul-out. The Sea Lions often accompany us around the island, as they leap and twist around our boats.

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Steller Sea Lion haul-out on Glacier Island, Prince William Sound

 

 

After Glacier Island we made the 4-mile crossing to Elf Point, the southeast point of Heather Bay, where we camped for two nights. During the day we paddled the beautiful and serene Heather Bay to get into Columbia Bay, a highlight of this itinerary (and one of our most popular day tours). Columbia Bay is where icebergs float that have broken off (calved) from the face of Columbia Glacier, the largest tidewater glacier in Prince William Sound. This glacier experienced much fame during it’s catastrophic retreat in the 80s and 90s. The glacier has since slowed down this retreat, however it still pumps off lots of interesting ice sculptures for us to marvel at.

Sarah showing us a Harbor Seal skin that she found

 

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Sunrise at Elf Point, Heather Bay
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An ice-free Columbia Bay

This year brought an interesting surprise. Where was all the ice in Columbia Bay? There was none to be found! Usually this bay is filled with ice for us to paddle around. Apparently, the ice was stuck further up the bay, where it was blocked behind a constriction filled with chunks of sheet ice. It was a shame to not be able to introduce the new guides to paddling around ice on the training trip, however, days later the ice broke out of the constriction and Columbia Bay was once again filled with ice.

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Columbia Bay often looks like this

With 3 nights under our belts we headed east, paddled around Point Freemantle and spent a night in the lovely Sawmill Bay. This is one of my favorite stretches of coastline and we were lucky enough to paddle it during the lowest tide of the month. At a negative tide, the rocks were covered with life and we were delighted with thousands of different kinds of Sea Stars and seaweeds. This is also where Jack got “high-fived” by a Sea Lion. If you come to Valdez, ask him about it:)

Low tide reflections
Leather Sea Star

The paddle from Sawmill Bay into Shoup Bay goes through the Valdez Narrows and along a coastline filled with glacial waterfalls. We spent our final two nights in the Shoup Lagoon, with a gorgeous view of Shoup Glacier. We paddled up to the face, where we explored and I explained how much the glacier has changed since last season, as well as historically (Shoup has gone through a couple of advance/retreat cycles in recent history). And of course took the obligatory jump shots!

In front of Shoup Glacier

 

The face of Shoup Glacier
Jack practicing his paddle talk, Shoup Bay

What Did We Eat?

I have to mention how good we ate out there! One of the points of the training trip is to practice our backcountry cooking skills. Each of us had to provide meals for the group. No one was disappointed or hungry on this trip. Due to dietary preferences we enjoyed a vegan menu (meat and dairy options on the side), which I will write a separate blog about with recipe ideas.

Chefs Jack and Sarah hard at work
Spaghetti a La Veggie
Hearty Bean Salad
“The Soup”

Make It Happen!

I’ve paddled this particular itinerary a few times. It’s a winner:) This is an incredible trip with lots of opportunities to experience wildlife, glaciers, and to be awed by the remote ruggedness and beauty that Prince William Sound has to offer. However, if seven days scares you off or doesn’t fit with your schedule, have no fear. This corner of the Sound has many amazing trips to offer; overnight excursions to Shoup Glacier, or longer trips to Mid-Prince William Sound’s Unakwik Inlet to see Meares Glacier. All that you have to do is check out our other Alaska itineraries and contact us to start planning your trip-of-a-lifetime. See you on the water!

Miki enjoying the afternoon paddle
Yours truly, Shoup Glacier

 

 

Aidan Shafland

First Trip of the New Anadyr Season!

The sea kayaking season here in the Prince William Sound kicked off with a bang! The first trip of the 2018 paddling season was chock full of wildlife like only the Prince William Sound can provide. I had the pleasure of leading this Gold Creek trip with a wonderful couple from Oklahoma and I’m already a little worried it will be hard to top this year but you never know!

The trip started off just like every other Gold Creek day trip and we loaded into the kayaks from our dock in the harbor and paddled out past the salmon seiners and the Stan Stephens boats. We paddled along the jagged, rocky shoreline of Blueberry Hill glimpsing seal heads and some sea otters frolicking in the water. So far so good, a pretty standard paddle along Blueberry Hill, but as we crossed Mineral Creek draining into the Port, my client saw a black bear walking along the Shoup Bay Trail! We paddled over towards it but as we got closer it spooked and ran off into the brush before we could snap a photo.

Kayaking in the waterfall lagoon

After the bear sighting, which have become rare in the sound in recent years, we continued and had the right tide to paddle in this beautiful little lagoon with a big waterfall cascading into the water.

We continued our paddle along the shore line towards the beach at Gold Creek where we hopped out of the kayaks to go for a quick walk to look at the Gold Creek Waterfalls and check out the beautiful temperate rainforest that Valdez and the Prince William Sound are famous for! While we hiked we found a porcupine kill and some huge grizzly bear tracks! (Not necessarily related but I like to think so)

Dustin checking out the porcupine quills
Look at the size of those prints!
Gold Creek Falls!

After our short walk in the woods we collected some fiddleheads and headed back to the kayaks for lunch. As we walked we noticed what appeared to be fresh bear tracks following ours! We got back to the boats and as we ate we heard and saw a young humpback breathing from the beach to round off the day. Or so we thought! While we finished eating some Ugly Fruit I heard a rustling behind me and with those big brown bear tracks fresh in my mind, went to go check it out. Much to my surprise there was a brown bear ambling down the hill not 100 feet away from us! I attempted to scare it off while also getting back into our kayaks. My attempts were successful for a while and then the most amazing thing happened! The bear came out onto the beach where we had been sitting and we got to spend the next hour hanging out with what appeared to be a two year old brown bear, and apparently a really hungry one!

The bear checking out our lunch spot
Dustin checking out the bear as the bear checks out Dustin!
The hungry bear chowing down on some mussels
The bear was really photogenic and posed for some great photos

We paddled with the bear for the whole way back to Mineral Creek where I got the attention of Jared, Bagel, and Sami who were leading a high school Marine tech class from the local H.S. so they could enjoy the bear as well.

What a way to start the season off! A black bear, brown bear, humpback whale, tons of seals and sea otters all in a six hour paddle right from the harbor! Hopefully I didn’t use all my wildlife luck on my first trip.

-Aidan

Ilene Price

SEA KAYAK CAMPING TRIP TO THE FACE OF COLUMBIA GLACIER

Preface: Get ready for a longer blog about this unforgettable trip. Stick it out to the end to see my top two all-time favorite icebergs, and find out what finally merited busting out the emergency tequila:)

Photo is so nice, I had to use it twice. Cheers!

For five days in a row I awoke to the sound of two Brits giggling in their tent. That’s right. . . giggling like school children! (I don’t think they’d mind me saying so.) As I lit the stove to boil water for coffee, gazing out over the ice-filled bay in front of Columbia Glacier, I thought giddily to myself, “somewhere along the line I must’ve made a really good decision if this is what I do for my life’s work”!

Our vessels of choice at our campsite in Columbia Bay

I get to share with wonderful people the most beautiful places in the world using my favorite mode of transportation, sea kayaks. This trip, a five-day kayak and camping expedition starting on the south side of Glacier Island and finishing off with three amazing days exploring the recently-revealed landscape at the face of Columbia Glacier, was one of the best yet! A huge thank you and enthusiastic cheers goes out to my two clients, Rob and Anya, who just happened to squeeze in this kayak adventure amidst their lengthy motorcycle tour starting in Washington. Umm, yea. . . they’re kind of badasses on two wheels. Now they can proudly say they’re badasses with double-bladed paddles.

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