Paddling from Homer to Seward around the Kenai Peninsula, AK

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by Philip.AK, Jul 4, 2012.

  1. Philip.AK

    Philip.AK Paddler

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Kodiak, Alaska
    A number of years ago I solo paddled from Homer to Seward Alaska around the Kenai Peninsula. It was without a doubt the most spectacular trip I have ever done. This is the first time I am finally putting it together in a full trip report. This may turn into a massive photo dump, so if you don't like that sort of thing, I strongly suggest you click on something else STAT! :D

    Here's a map of southcentral Alaska. The area of detail is shown in the purple box.

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    My route is shown by the purple line.

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    The trip was about 300 miles and took almost 3 weeks. I had all the food I needed from the start since there was no easy option for resupply along the way. Almost the entire coast is either National Forest, Wilderness, or National Park land. Some day I would love to do the trip again, though I am hesitant since I doubt I would ever encounter such blessed weather.

    Living in Kodiak as I do, the easiest way to get to Homer to start the trip is to hop on the Alaska Marine Highway, aka the ferry. Leaving Kodiak:

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    Arriving in Homer:

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    The paddle down Cook Inlet was uneventful. Camping south of English Bay near the outlet of Cook Inlet the first night:

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    Sunset over the Augustine Volcano:

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    Then I swung east and paddled through the Chugack Passage inside the three lovely Chugach Islands. Years ago I paddled from Kodiak to Homer and made landfall after a huge crossing when I arrived on Perl Island. To commemorate my return (and to wait out an extremely unfavorable tidal current :wink: ) I took a hike and climbed to the top of Perl Island.

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    From there I continued on to Windy Bay and camped the second night.

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    The next day was what a lot of folks told me would be the crux of the trip: Gore Point. By 'crux' I mean most of my fishermen friends said "you want to paddle around Gore Point? Yer gonna die." It wasn't so bad. Gore Pt is the far distant point of land:

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    Rounding the point I was greeted by mountain goats standing on the beach. :)

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    Some fat sea lions too.

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    I had lunch just around the point and dried out my stuff.

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    From there the weather started to change, and I paddled up into Nuka Bay just in time. I stopped briefly at the beach at the terminus of the Peterson Glacier as storm clouds gathered.

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    I crossed Nuka Bay to Nuka Island and went to an old homestead at one time owned by a fisherman named Herring Pete. This place was abandoned long ago after he was lost at sea and the whole area is now part of Kenai Fjords State Park.

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    I sometimes sleep in abandoned buildings when the weather is bad, but river otters had moved in long before me and pooped on every horizontal surface to a depth of 3 inches. It smelled like sh!t, so I moved on. :D

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    I camped on this tiny beach and the skies opened up and it POURED rain all night.

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    The next beach down the coast washed away during the night when a creek coming off the mountain turned into a raging torrent. Got lucky again. :D

    Getting a weather forecast meant climbing to the top of Nuka Island the next day where the VHF reception was better.

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    The forecast didn't sound good, but I packed up camp and moved farther into Nuka Bay the next day and found my new home at an abandoned gold mining camp in Surprise Bay. My new, luxurious digs out of the rain:

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    The forest was reclaiming some long-forgotten mining equipment.

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    The good thing about all the rain was that literally every 100 feet there was another waterfall cascading into the ocean.

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    After paddling around the rest of Nuka Bay I headed east again and paddled through Mc Arthur Passage between the Pye Islands and the mainland.

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    The next bit of coastline was incredibly exposed and could have been scary if it weren't for the GLORIOUS weather I found.

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    The capes were HUGE and interspersed by shallow bays ringed by steep, high energy beaches. Not a place to be caught in bad weather.

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  2. Philip.AK

    Philip.AK Paddler

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    Location:
    Kodiak, Alaska
    Re: Paddling from Homer to Seward around the Kenai Peninsula

    I camped at the entrance to Northwestern Lagoon. This was the old terminal moraine of the glaciers in Northwestern Fjord which as recently as the early 1900's flowed far enough out the fjord that they were visible from the Gulf of Alaska. In the intervening century they have retreated a good 10 miles up to their present termini and are now barely even tidewater glaciers. In their retreats they revealed islands that have seen daylight for the first time in millennia. But first I had to dry out all my soaked gear. :D

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    Then it was up into NW Fjord.

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    The first 'new' island I passed was Erratic Island. It has an odd reddish iron color.

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    You can imagine thousands of years of ice polishing this poor little rock.

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    I started running into my first 'bergy bits' or small icebergs. If you have never paddled around glacial ice, it's an experience all in itself. Hyper-compressed air bubbles squeezed into the ice by incredible forces make a Rice Krispies noise when released making a crackling noise called 'bergy seltzer'.

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    The scale of the place is simply mind-blowing. The glacier is flowing down from a 4,000' high pass, and the peak on the left is 6,000' high. Straight up from sea level. Fock.

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    In the middle of inner Northwestern Fjord, called Harris Bay, is an island just recently uncovered by ice. It stands 1,200 feet high and is polished rock. In a fit of insanity I decided I needed to climb up it. :D

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    I paddled around it looking for 1) someplace to land and, 2) some way to scramble up it.

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    I dragged my boat up on a sloping rock shelf and then dragged my Xtra-Tuf shod butt up to the top. The climb was terrifying but the views from the top were simply amazing.

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    Looking back out at the Gulf of Alaska and the entrance to Northwestern Fjord:

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    Back down in my boat I paddled up to the face of a few glaciers. Negotiating the ice was rather a pain.

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    For some reason, harbor seals like this stuff.

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    I even saw a black bear in the area. There is absolutely nothing to eat as far as the eye can see, and even getting here would require epic glacier travel or long swims. Totally nuts.

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    The next day I headed east again and paddled through Granite Passage inside Granite Island. Humpbacks plied the waters with NW Fjord in the background.

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    Rounding Aligo Point and entering Aialik bay I arrived at the Twin Islands.

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    Late in the afternoon as I arrived at Mc Mullin Cove to camp, I was passed by a couple of male orcas presumably headed out to the Chiswell Islands to snack on pinnipeds.

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  3. Philip.AK

    Philip.AK Paddler

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    Re: Paddling from Homer to Seward around the Kenai Peninsula

    Lots more
     
  4. Philip.AK

    Philip.AK Paddler

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    Re: Paddling from Homer to Seward around the Kenai Peninsula

    Lots lots more
     
  5. JohnAbercrombie

    JohnAbercrombie Paddler

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    Victoria, BC
    Re: Paddling from Homer to Seward around the Kenai Peninsula

    Amazing stuff!

    More!More!
    :big_thumb :D

    Do you want to comment on:
    Bugs (did I see a headnet in one shot back a while?)
    Bears (Brown/Griz?) and carrying a gun
    Paddling 'season'
     
  6. Philip.AK

    Philip.AK Paddler

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    Kodiak, Alaska
    Re: Paddling from Homer to Seward around the Kenai Peninsula

    The next morning the rain started gain as I entered the Holgate Arm and approached the Holgate Glacier. This glacier takes its tidewater designation seriously and puts out a lot of ice into the narrow fjord.

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    I climbed a small island to scout the bergy bits and my best approach.

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    I contemplated an oyster catcher omelet until the mom talked me out of it.

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    Now that I was in Kenai Fjords National Park I started to see a couple of very nice public use cabins. They are pretty cheap and sleep about 8 folks, so they would be a great value if you wanted to visit the area.

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    Hundreds of starfish can't be wrong.

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    I set up camp at the terminus of the Pederson Glacier and the next day I paddled up to the head of Aialik Bay to see the biggest glacier in the park, the Aialik.

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    Unfortunately the glacier was simply puking ice into the bay and about a mile from the face was all the far I was going to get, so I climbed up on Squab Island and surveyed the view.

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    It didn't take long to figure out how the island got it's name.

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    It was nesting season.

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    These chicks figured that if they couldn't see me, I couldn't see them as their brother/sister pecked its way out of the shell. :clap:

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    It really is an amazingly beautiful place.

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    I camped in the stand of trees on the right.

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    I climbed a hill behind my camp to get a better view of the Pederson Glacier and ran into this porcupine snoozing on a leaning spruce tree.

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    He didn't like getting woken up.

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    A view of Pederson Lagoon. I was camped in the little clump of trees in the middle of the photo.

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    The Pederson Glacier:

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    I paddled over to the park headquarters and asked the rangers about possible hikes in the area. Their cabin is in the tall trees in the center of the photo.

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    The rangers suggested a route up the peak on the left, so up I went.

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    On the way up I ran into a lot of mountain goats recently shed of their winter coats.

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    On the top of the mountain I got a nice view of the last section of coast I would be paddling: Resurrection Bay leading up to Seward.

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    Paddling in and out of Pederson Lagoon and its strong tidal current was getting to be a bother so I moved across Aialik Bay to a spot with a nice view of Aialik Glacier.

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    That evening was summer solstice, and the heavens smiled upon me that night.

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  7. Philip.AK

    Philip.AK Paddler

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    Re: Paddling from Homer to Seward around the Kenai Peninsula

    The next morning, the first day of summer, I paddled to the face of the Aialik Glacier and watched it calve. Awesome.

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    Then I paddled to the northeast corner of the bay and hiked up a valley leading to a ridge overlooking the Bear Glacier. My destination is in the distance:

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    Looking back at the Aialik Glacier.

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    Peeking over the pass was amazing.

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    It was unfortunately time to paddle the last leg towards Seward, so I stopped back by the Pederson Glacier on my way out to have one last look.

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    The Holgate Glacier as well.

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    This glacier is too insignificant to have a name:

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    Three window point inside Cape Aialik:

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    Camping in Bulldog Cove about half way up Resurrection Bay.

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    My last night at the outskirts of Seward before catching the ferry home, some paddlers enjoyed a calm sea on Resurrection Bay.

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    My ride arrives, and I head back to Kodiak.

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    Dragging my boat off the M/V Tustumena back in Kodiak:

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    BEST TRIP EVAAAAAAAR!! :mrgreen:
     
  8. benson

    benson Paddler

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    Sequim, Wa
    Re: Paddling from Homer to Seward around the Kenai Peninsula

    Okay Philip...you win! One hellova epic trip...top to bottom. The way it should been seen. Thanks for sharing some great photos...should leave you stoked for quite a while!
     
  9. Philip.AK

    Philip.AK Paddler

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    Re: Paddling from Homer to Seward around the Kenai Peninsula

    Sorry I missed this earlier.

    When you are near the face of glaciers, you find more bugs. Not sure why. Maybe they also like the view. Anyway, it's mostly white socks. Sometimes noseeums. Less often mosquitos. College Fjord in Prince William Sound is bad. Headsets and bug dope are always good to bring, but the bugs on this trip seemed pretty minimal to me.

    This seems to be mostly black bear country. I saw a handful, and one waltzed into camp on one occasion during dinner. It was at the campsite in the trees at the Pederson glacier, and the Park Service must know that spot is an issue since it was the only place I ever saw bear-resistant food lockers provided. When confronted, they all ran away. I have solo traveled thousands of miles in coastal Alaska and personally don't carry a gun. I'm a bear spray man. But to each their own.

    The paddling season would probably be from late May into early September. That's when you could find better, calmer weather and around solstice there is lots of daylight. I get the impression that the glaciers calve most actively early in the season, though it probably depends on the individual glacier. It's a double edged sword because when they are active you are more likely to see a good calving event, but the bay is more likely to choked with ice. I went in June, and have to say it went well with the weather. The weather stats may indicate July is drier, but you'd have to look it up.

    I have to give one more plug for Kenai Fjords. If you have never paddled around tide water glaciers, quit your job, sell the kids, drop everything and go do it. The experience is like nothing else on this planet. Camping in glacier country is exhilarating. The noise alone is fantastic with all the booming and cracking and tinkling. Just camp out of reach of glacial surge waves. And I enjoyed the glaciers in Kenai Fjords quite a bit more than in Prince William Sound. They are much harder to get to though.
     
  10. JohnAbercrombie

    JohnAbercrombie Paddler

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    Re: Paddling from Homer to Seward around the Kenai Peninsula

    Thanks, Philip.
    Very complete and informative answers.

    Are you a pro photographer?

    Your pics are outstanding -you either have some good long lenses or you are a fearless and skilful game stalker! :big_thumb
     
  11. Philip.AK

    Philip.AK Paddler

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    Re: Paddling from Homer to Seward around the Kenai Peninsula

    Thank you. That is very kind. I'm an amateur photographer, but I do think I have a decent eye for composition. And I really feel that if you live in a fantastically beautiful place and just snap a few pics of everything as it goes by, a couple shots will probably turn out ok. I only use point and shoot cameras. Most of my paddling images are made with Panasonic Lumix cameras (look at my other trip report thread dealing with paddling in Kodiak). These Kenai Fjords pics were made with an old Olympus 35mm film P&S before I ever bought a digital, and I scanned the negatives. But most of my more recent pics were made with a Lumix DMC-ZS3, and a few with the Lumix FZ100. I just picked up a Lumix DMC-ZS20 that I am looking forward to using. I also really like to shoot stills with a GoPro Hero 2. It takes very high quality wide-angle stills, is waterproof and very rugged, and once you get used to not having a viewfinder, it's a joy to use. I just tie a little keyring buoy to it in case I drop it overboard.

    I hope to do another trip this summer and won't hesitate to pull the camera out. :D
     
  12. Andy_Ferguson

    Andy_Ferguson Paddler

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    Re: Paddling from Homer to Seward around the Kenai Peninsula

    Thanks for sharing this Philip. An awesome story to say the least.
     
  13. mbiraman

    mbiraman Paddler

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    Re: Paddling from Homer to Seward around the Kenai Peninsula

    Great report,,fantastic pics. Thanks for sharing. Very inspiring.
     
  14. sludge

    sludge Paddler

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    Re: Paddling from Homer to Seward around the Kenai Peninsula

    Absolutely fantastic. Thanks for posting.
     
  15. Pawistik

    Pawistik Paddler

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    Re: Paddling from Homer to Seward around the Kenai Peninsula

    Wow, great report! Thanks so much for sharing this corner of the world with me.
    Bryan