Posts Tagged With: kayaking

Honeymoon Roadtrip, Day 11: the East Side of Glacier

Wednesday, June 11: our last big day of kayaking and hiking in Glacier

After two days on the west side of the park, we were ready to spend our last full day in Glacier on the east side. Since the Going-t0-the-Sun Road wasn’t yet open, this meant that we had to drive around the outside of the park. On our way, we stopped for breakfast at the Izaak Walton Inn. I had delicious huckleberry pancakes (if you couldn’t already tell, I really embraced the huckleberry). Someday, I would love to go back to the inn and stay in one of their cabins, which were created out of old rail cars.

Izaak Walton Inn

a rail car cabin at Izaak Walton Inn

When we reached the east side of Glacier, we unloaded our kayaks on Swiftcurrent Lake. This lake was much smaller than Kintla, and to my relief there was barely a light breeze in the air. Many Glacier Hotel sits right on the lake, and view was phenomenal. We enjoyed a nice, easy kayak trip across the lake to the small channel connecting to Josephine Lake. It being early spring, the water through the channel was rushing prettily steady and too strong to paddle against. We attempted the most bone-chillingly cold portage (and this from someone who’s done the Polar Plunge in Lake Michigan during a Chicago winter), but ultimately decided that the water was too high and we’d have to skip kayaking Josephine.

kayaking Swiftcurrent Lake near Many Glacier Hotel

kayaking near Many Glacier Hotel

Swiftcurrent Lake

Swiftcurrent Lake

We took the short trail to Josephine to gaze at the stunning, crystal clear water, so calm it perfectly mirrored the mountains surrounding it. Then we followed the Grinnell Glacier trail, climbing steadily up the mountain. As we got higher, I thought back to a ranger’s words of warning on walking the glacier trail while there was still snow and ice present: “Just be smart. If you fall, you’ll get a concussion and keep sliding ’til you’re dead.” I have a pretty bad fear of heights, but kept going with Kurt’s encouragement. Mountain goats are definitely not my spirit animal; I’ll stick with my original Buzzfeed quiz result of “dog wearing sunglasses.” As we hiked, we spotted mountain goats high up on the steep ledges above us. Down below, I alerted Kurt to a grizzly sow in the valley with two cubs tailing behind her. (The two best things I did before this trip were chop off my hair and get LASIK eye surgery).

Lower Grinnell Lake

Lower Grinnell Lake

As we approached the view of Salamander Glacier and Lower Grinnell Lake, we came across a sign warning of ice on the trail. A couple approached from behind the sign and told us we could still go another couple hundred yards. I silently cursed them, as I was ready to get back to a lower, less deadly elevation. Kurt, however, wanted to keep going for a bit more, so I reluctantly followed. We carefully maneuvered around a giant snow boulder blocking the trail, my heart beating like crazy. After reaching a spectacular view of Lower Grinnell Lake and snapping dozens of photos, we finally turned around and headed back down the mountain.

passing the snow boulder

passing the snow boulder

snow hazard sign

snow hazard sign

We took a leisurely paddle back across Swiftcurrent, enjoying snacks in our kayaks. As we floated mid-lake, we heard a group of about twenty tween girls taking the “sing while hiking” advice to heart, belting out “Let It Go” from Frozen at the top of their lungs. “I think they’ve scattered every bear in the park,” I said to Kurt. They were just beginning to follow it up  One Direction’s “Beautiful” as they finally, mercifully disappeared into the woods and out of our range of hearing.

After stowing the kayaks back up on the roof rack, we said a wistful goodbye to Glacier. We grabbed dinner and huckleberry margaritas at Two Sisters, then began the long drive back to the cabin. On the way, we made a few more sightseeing stops: the Continental Divide marker and Goat Lick. At the latter, along the highway, a plentiful amount of mountain goats grazed while the young ones frolicked on the rocky ledges. We all gasped as a young goat lost its balance and tumbled, but luckily it safely recovered. It made me way too anxious; I could never be a mountain goat mother.

goats!

goats!

We reached our cabin during the last of the light, and began to pack up our things in preparation for the following day’s departure.

 

Wildlife sightings: mountain goats, grizzly bear with two cubs

 

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Honeymoon Roadtrip, Day 9: Kintla Lake

Monday, June 9: kayaking, hiking, and glacier spotting

One of our guidebooks perfectly summed up Upper Kintla Lake with the line “It’s a place you have to get to on purpose.” Once again, our alarm went off at 6 am. We took North Fork Road, which is unpaved, gravelly, and full of potholes (when we told locals where we planned to go, they always immediately followed up with the question “Do you have 4-wheel drive?”). On our way, we stopped in the small town of Polebridge to get coffee. Polebridge has no electricity and uses solar power or generators in their mercantile store and bar.

We made our bumpy way up the 40 miles of North Fork to reach Kintla Lake. The campground was open, but we only saw two other people there. Otherwise, it was just us (and about a million mosquitos). No motorized boats are allowed on Kintla, so the lake was completely calm. We immediately unloaded our kayaks and got onto the clear, inviting water.

Kintla Lake

Kintla Lake

Kintla Lake is about 5 miles across. On our way out, the wind was at our backs, making the trip relaxing and peaceful. We drank in the gorgeous scenery and bright sunshine. It was a perfect, beautiful day of 70 degrees. As we reached the end of the lake, we spotted the campground.

crossing the lake

crossing the lake

As Kurt secured the kayaks, we noticed a young mule deer grazing nearby. He saw us but didn’t startle. We continued about our business, getting out our daypacks and lunch, and he continued to hang around, keeping a safe distance while watching us curiously. I felt calmer with the deer nearby, thinking that that must mean there weren’t any bears around. Glacier has the highest concentration of grizzlies in the lower 48 states, a thought that was constantly on the back of my mind.

our deer friend

our deer friend

After our lunch, we said goodbye to our deer friend and started a hike towards a view of the Kintla Glacier. After a while I got tired of constantly shouting “Bear! Bear!” and began to sing any song that came to mind. By the time we reached a meadow clearing with an amazing view of the glacier, I had run through most of the pop divas (Britney, Miley, Katy, Madonna). The mountain range behind us was the last on U.S. soil; beyond them lay Canada. We took pictures and drank in the gorgeous setting before making our return trip. I worked my way through 80’s rock and Disney soundtracks. Kurt politely did not complain about my terrible singing voice, but did say “I didn’t know you knew all of those songs.”

Kintla Glacier

Kintla Glacier

mountain man

mountain man

We knew that the return kayak trip straight into the headwind was going to be rough, but once we got back onto the water, we realized the true extent on how much more difficult it would be. The wind whipped between the mountain ranges and straight over the lake, creating small whitecaps. We attempted to hug the shoreline for calmer waters, but unfortunately it didn’t make as much of a difference as we had hoped. Kurt said that at one point he turned to look at me, I was padding as hard as I possibly could and I was still drifting backwards. If I paused for a second, the wind would spin my kayak to the side and it was a strenuous battle to get straightened back out. “Are we halfway there?” I called out to Kurt at one point. “We’re not even a quarter of the way there yet!” he shouted over the howling wind. With no rangers or other boaters in sight to save us, we had no choice but to put our heads down and paddle through it. My shoulders burned from exertion.

blue waters

blue waters

When we could finally see the other side of the lake again, the clouds above the mountain range grew ominously dark. I could see gray sheets of rain pouring in the distance. We were in a race with the wind, and we were at a distinct disadvantage. I ignored the burning in my muscles and continued to push through it, with renewed hope as the shoreline grew closer. Finally, we could see the boat launch. “We made it!” Kurt shouted in celebration. The rain was held at bay by the mountain range, and we reached land exhausted but dry.

We loaded the kayaks onto the roof rack and chowed down on snacks, then started the long journey back on North Fork Road. I was gazing out the window, enjoying the scenery, when suddenly a mountain lion wandered across the road. “Whoa!!” Kurt and I both shouted in unison. The mountain lion looked at us then bounded up the hill in three easy leaps. We fumbled for cameras but the moment was too quick. Seeing a big cat in the wild felt otherworldly; it felt like something had escaped from the zoo. “It’s like Jumanji!” I said.

We stopped at the bar in Polebridge for a few cold beers out of their cooler and a delicious bowl of chili. The bartender was a friendly guy originally from the East Coast. We talked about the area and how it was not for the faint of heart; he said that you had to be pretty adventurous and self-sufficient to go as far as we did. Getting AAA service out there could be a whole-day event. We enjoyed our conversation with the locals and the welcoming, rustic ambiance of the bar.

Polebridge

Polebridge

As the bar closed up, we settled our tab with cash (no electricity = no credit cards) and finished the drive back to the cabin. Along the road, we saw a baby moose spot our car and run back into the woods, his little knobby knees kicking adorably. Deer frolicked in the meadows along the road as the dusk settled in. We finally reached the cabin after our longest day yet, but I wouldn’t have changed a thing; everything about it was pretty perfect.

 

Wildlife sightings: snakes, mountain lion, moose calf, deer

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Labor Day Kayak/Canoe Trip 2013

tents

sandbar camping

This year marked the fifth Labor Day Kayak/Canoe Trip that we’ve taken (I’ve been on the last 4, since the first outing was guys only). As usual, it was a relaxing, beautiful weekend on the Wisconsin River. We started near Arena at Trader’s Bar & Grill campgrounds, and paddled about 42 miles over 4 days to Boscabel. We lucked out with sunny skies, warm to hot weather, and no rain.

cow island

cow island

Some of the highlights this year included the very-up-close spotting of a hawk eating a fish on a sandbar, a vortex of wind and river water that created a mini-tornado, a sandbar full of cows, and our annual fried chicken and beer run. With temperatures in the high 90’s, we did plenty of swimming.

canoe

 

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Labor Day Kayak/Canoe Trip

Thursday, Aug. 30-Monday, Sept. 3, 2012

For the third year in a year (fourth for some of my traveling companions), I spent an extended Labor Day weekend floating down the Wisconsin River. It is one of the most relaxing yet most rustic trips we do each year.

sandbar camping

We start on Thursday night. After work, we drive 3.5 hours to Arena, WI and camp out at Traders Bar & Grill Campgrounds, the same place we do our huge annual caboozing trip. The next morning, we pack up all our gear into kayaks and launch into the river. Depending on the weather and river flow, we travel anywhere from 10 to 20 miles until late afternoon, when we start scouting out a good island to spend the night. Then we set up camp, filter some drinking water, build a fire, enjoy some boxed wine, and look at the stars.

Kurt and I usually rent our own single kayaks for this trip, but this year we got a canoe so we could bring our new puppy, River. Her name is partly owed to our many trips in Wisconsin and our love of camping (also, we’re Firefly nerds) so we were excited to bring her along. The trip was definitely paradise for dogs. She loved chasing butterflies and running leash-free on our private sandbars.

River

Every year, we end up passing the launch at Port Andrew on Sunday, and we stop there to hit up a gas station/convenience store to get fried chicken and beer. There is nothing better than floating down the Wisconsin River, belly full of delicious chicken with an ice-cold beer in your hand. I dream of it during bitter Chicago winters.Kurt and I came off the river a day early this year since I was scheduled for knee surgery on Wednesday the 5th. We were picked up at Boscobel so we did roughly 45 miles total. It was the perfect way to get outdoors and enjoy the last dog days of summer before heading into knee surgery and recuperation.

Until next year….

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Alaska, Day 6: Exploring the Kenai Peninsula by Sea

Wednesday, July 26, 2012: a day on the water

We started the morning by wishing Bob a happy birthday and making breakfast. Then it was on to our next expedition: a boat tour of Kenai Fjords that also included a kayaking excursion. We drove into downtown Seward (as the lady with the tour company said “We don’t really have street addresses here”) and found the boat company.

Early on into our boat ride, we had our first few wildlife sightings: sea otters, Dall porpoises, and a humpback whale. The boat took us to Fox Island, where we got fitted with our kayaking gear and met our guides for the day, one of whom used to work for Kayak Chicago. It was fun talking to her about kayaking on the Chicago River (a trip we all had done before). A few of the guides had found a humpback whale calf that had been killed by orcas (they like to eat the tongues) and showed us a piece of blubber they had kept in a plastic baggie.

The water was amazingly clear; we could see jellyfish bobbing along below us. In the kayaks, we were able to get close to shore to inspect starfish and rock formations, and paddled into alcoves filled with waterfalls and tide pools.

Kurt and a starfish, Bob and Amy’s kayak

jellyfish

We kayaked back to Fox Island after a few hours for a lunch of Wild Alaskan salmon, prime rib, and crab legs. After getting back onto the boat, we continued to explore Resurrection Bay. We came across more whales, including a mother and calf feeding near a beach and two whales ‘sleeping’ (whales rest portions of their brain at a time).  Near some rocky formation, we saw a large group of sea lions and tons of birds, including puffins, gulls, eagles, and many other species I can’t remember but got our captain all excited (the guy really loved birds).

whale tail

sea lions

puffin butt!

After an amazing day on the water, we went back to camp where Kurt prepared bacon-wrapped chicken breasts on the fire and Bob and Amy taught us how to play 42, a dominoes game.

It was a day that reminded us how precious and fleeting life can be, for quite a few reasons.

night sky

Wildlife sightings: sea otters, Dall porpoises, humpback whales, puffins, starfish, jellyfish, eagles, sea lions, lots of varieties of birds
baby animal alert!: humpback whale calf
lives saved by Heimlich Maneuver: 1

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