When you catch your cadence, it feels like you are dancing on the water.
With each paddle stroke you reach out to plant your blade, put pressure on your leading foot, unwind as you move the boat forward, pop the blade, twist, and repeat on your opposite side. The muscles in your hips, quads, arms, and core sway and pull with a rhythm you set to allow your boat to move through the water. Currents, winds, tides, and the conditions dictate the song you dance to. On Icy Strait in Alaska, you feel small and connected as you move through the landscape with the ebb and flood of the tide.
I have missed this connection.
It had been six and a half years since I had last guided a kayak trip in Alaska. Over the years, I put away my paddle and picked up other adventures in my new home in the Pacific Northwest. My fingers started moving to a new rhythm as I scripted emails and managed my days in the city in order to gain a career with a more stable financial footing in my life. In the city, I earned the nickname Xtratuf for wearing my boots to almost every occasion and I caught myself feeling like an old high school football player reminiscing of my bygone glory days in Alaska.
Eventually, with the support of some friends and my partner, I realized that even though my guiding days were likely over, I could still make it a priority to spend small pockets of my vacation time on the water in a place that I so dearly love. So, in June of this year, I found myself on a flight from Seattle to Gustavus for a four-day kayaking trip on Chichagof Island, with a few good friends in tow.
As we flew towards Gustavus I had a strong feeling of going home.
We were immediately greeted by old friends as we hopped off the plane, and shared stories with the new generation of guides over a potluck dinner in true Gustavus style. As I walked through our old building, I could see small relics from the days I had lived there; handmade picture frames, photos, and books. The evening ended with hugs and promises to catch up soon.
June 30 - July 3, 2017
Party: Ambrose Bittner, Arie Voorman, Kara McKay, Aaron Nash, and Kaylyn Messer.
I invite you to hover over the photos for captions that help to tell the story of our trip.
Gustavus to Pinta Cove
Day 1. June 30, 2017.
High Tide: 6:37am 13.8', 7:30pm 14.8'
Low Tide: 12:39am 3', 12:52pm 1.2'
Pinta Cove to Goose Island Connection
Day 2. July 1, 2017
High Tide: 7:45am 12.5', 8:26pm 14.5'
Low Tide: 1:45am 3.3', 1:50pm 2.6'
Goose Island Connection to Inian Islands
Day 3. July 2, 2017
High Tide: 9:00am 11.8', 9:22pm 14.4'
Low Tide: 2:54am 3.2', 2:53pm 3.7'
High Tide: 10:14am 11.7', 10:15pm 14.7'
Low Tide: 4:00am 2.7', 3:57pm 4.2'
Many thanks to all of the people who made this trip possible; the entire Spirit Walker Family, the Glacier Bay Sea Kayak family, Keith and Zach of Gustavus Water Taxi, Kim Ney, Jane and Greg, and the folks at Pep's Packing and Toshco.
Also, thank you to Ambrose, Arie, Kara, and Aaron for a fantastic trip.