Kodiak to Seward, 1-31 July 2019: 31 days, 261 nm

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by dmon707, Aug 7, 2019.

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  1. dmon707

    dmon707 Paddler

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2019
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    Location:
    San Francisco, CA
    Ever since I bought my first Feathercraft K-1 back in the nineties, I had dreamed about taking it into the wilderness for 30 days, self-contained assuming the occasional availability of fresh water. But getting your partner to go on expedition is one thing; getting them out for 30 days is another. Now that my partner has retired from kayaking, I looked for the perfect 30-day wilderness trip and found it on this site, thanks to the posts of Philip. AK about his Kodiak to Homer and Homer to Seward paddles. I had daydreamed about Homer to Seward years ago when cruising Kenai Fiords N.P. in the nineties and Kodiak to Seward while planning an expedition to the Shumagin Islands more recently, but Philip's posts revived the dream and showed how it was possible.

    I took no photos on this paddle, but if you want to see what it was like, I commend to you the photos and video Philip has already posted.

    I don't think this trip would be possible without the use of a folding boat because of the need for volume when planning 30 days of meals. And these weren't just freeze-dried meals. I loaded a dozen fresh eggs, a half-dozen avocados, an outback oven with several bags of cornbread, brownie, scone and cinnamon roll mixes, as well as walnuts, dates, tortillas, salsa and packaged albacore tuna.

    I also don't think the trip would be doable for a paddler who can't cover 25 nm in a day. The duration of the trip makes it look like mileage could be easy, but on the Kenai side the haulouts and campsites are just not available at regular intervals, especially between Windy Bay and the Petrof Glacier. After paddling for eight hours around Gore Point from Windy Bay, I had to settle for a site in Tonsina Bay that obliged me to wait until 3 a.m. before the receding tide gave me tent space. Needless to say, I slept in the next morning. It's definitely better to paddle through this area during periods of lower tides, but that's hard to plan when you are departing from Kodiak, with all the contingencies of weather involved in paddling the Shelikof Strait and crossing the Stevenson and Kennedy Entrances to the Cook Inlet.

    From a wildlife and nature perspective, this is the most exciting trip I have ever done. There were great rafts of sea otters in the Raspberry Strait as well as an eagle in every cove. There were pods of humpbacks bottom feeding all around northwestern Shuyak Island as well as Elizabeth Island. One of them appeared to float up into the air in front of me as I was paddling furiously through heavy confused swell that had suddenly come up in the Shelikof Strait. She was so close I could see the individual rivulets in the waterfalls coming off her body as she torqued. Coming out of Quicksand Cove towards Aialik Cape on a strong ebb tide, I found myself in the midst of a pod of orcas working the ebb. One of them did me the honor of a nice long dolphin hop forward from my bowsprit.

    And there were bears. An old gray Kodiak encountered my camp on Gull Island off Shuyak. We spotted each other simultaneously and he turned around and headed off instantly. I hollered at him, which was hardly necessary. He turned and looked at me, then continued off. I encountered black bears in Kenai Fiords N.P., none of whom were naive to human contact. There is a beautiful pebble beach campsite across Nuka Passage from the island where one fellow lounged at the far end of my beach waiting for me to break camp so he could scavenge.

    And the wild raspberries that line the beaches of the Kenai are at their peak in July. I guess the bears aren't hungry enough to handle them. They are rotting on the vine. And the moldy ones taste like alcohol-filled candy.

    For sheer wildness, northern Afognak and western Shuyak take the prize. Kenai is salmon trawlers and yachties. I didn't see any other kayakers until I reached Aialik Bay, which is kind of the Yosemite Valley of Kenai Fiords N.P. Outfitter-type commercial trips go there, as well as luxury cruise boats. I had the ultra-luxury 1034-passenger Silver Explorer sail right up to my campsite in Quicksand Cove and drop anchor for the night. The passengers must have entertained themselves watching me cook dinner, wander around the beach stoned, and break camp and paddle off in the rain the next morning.

    There were also some pretty exciting paddling challenges as well, like fighting tide races between Elizabeth Island and the mainland and navigating with a deck compass in fog after my GPS got taken out in a hairball surf landing. Then there was landing my boat on about a square yard of sand between the jagged boulders of the sea wall in front of my Best Western Hotel in Seward.

    Building and launching a folding boat from the Anton Larsen Bay pier on Kodiak was problematical, because one has take a taxi, build the boat, organize gear, load and launch and get to a campsite all in one day, fair weather or foul. I chose instead to book an AirBnB at Whale Island Cabins. There I had two nights and a full day to prepare, with great meals provided by the owners, Kat and Donnie, as well as a fresh water source and a good protected beach to launch from.

    So if you want to try all or part of this trip, feel free to contact me about some of the campsites I found.
     

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  2. Astoriadave

    Astoriadave Paddler

    Joined:
    May 31, 2005
    Messages:
    5,666
    Location:
    Astoria, Oregon, USA
    Great report. Loved your approach to this route.