The whole thing start almost a year ago, during a Long Boats and Currents class. I mentioned to Ryan Rushton if he would consider leading an exclusive ISK trip and if he wanted a co-leader from ISK. In the next couple of months Jeff and myself received a message from Ryan and the planning started.
In October sign-up happened and now we were committed and locked into going. We knew we wanted to take a longer vacation this year so the start to research what else to do after the kayaking trip was on. Here is our final outline:
June 11-13 Juneau staying at the hostel in town
June 13 Meet up with the group and fly to Hoonah
June 14 Water taxi to Yukobi Island
June 14-20 Kayaking Trip
June 20 Arrive back in Hoonah
June 21 Fly to Juneau with an overnight in Juneau
June 22 Fly to Anchorage, rent a car, and drive to Telkeetnah
June 22-24 Telkeetnah staying with Michelle’s brother
June 24-27 Denali National Park staying at the hostel
June 27-29 Anchorage to visit Alex, staying at an Airbnb
June 29 Fly home
A big trip with 18 days on vacation total! Whooo!!!
But first for myself there was life that had to happen. We decided in January we would put our house on the market by mid-March. We needed to get that ready. I also decided to have Lasik eye surgery done (best decision ever) but that still took up some time. And finally I finished up grad school with the toughest and worst class I have ever taken. During this time we also through in a trip to Cumberland Island, Georgia.
Well some how we did it. We did put our house on the market and sold it within 16 days. We quickly found a new house, but were not able to close until June 5. We would have to be out of our old house by May 15, a month prior to leaving for Alaska. It took careful planning on my part to make sure nothing for Alaska was packed away, in case something happened! (Which of course something did happen.) We ended up not closing on our house until June 10, the day before we left. Oh well, such is life. We still closed and will just deal with our house when we return.
Packing for Alaska:
Many have asked, how do you pack for a trip this big. We had to think of this trip in two parts; one being kayaking and the other leisure. For packing I didn’t want to spend money I didn’t have to, so my goal was to get everything into two bags, weighing up to 50lbs each. We signed up for the Delta credit card, to save money on our ticket and have one free checked bag. Well we did it!
Luckily for Aaron and I we travel as a pair so we can share things like a tent, repair kit, food, etc. We also did group meals, so I was not responsible for bringing meals, stoves, pots and pans, etc.
Kayaking Trip Portion Packing:
All of our kayaking gear fit into two XXL REI red duffle bags. They were a pain to carry and I will be on the look out for a nice rolling one for the future, but for a last minute thing they worked well. The nice part with the duffle bags is they fold into the size of a dinner plate and we could keep all of our stuff in the bag until we loaded our boats then we stuffed them into our boat. It did not take up any more room then an IKEA bag will. The other advantage into using the REI bags were we were all packed and ready to go. Everything was stuffed into dry bags or put in there proper spots. We still struggled finding things but my anxiety was way lower doing this this way.
Big Angus Sleeping Pad
Trowel and Toilets Paper
Camp bowl, cup and eating utensils
Water Bottle -1 each
Kayak Hydration System
Warner Paddles~ 2 each
Kokatat Life Jacket w/ a knife, strobe, personal first aid kit, and quick boat repair kit
NRS Paddling Shoe
Kokatat Dry Suit
Boat repaired kit (shared)
Bail out bag (I took out all food and drink so I would not have to worry about removing it at night from the bears)
1-Kokatat Storm Keg
1- homemade storm keg
1 set for camping, kayaking, sleeping, and extra
- 150 merino wool or blend long underwear pants and Shirt(for kayaking I used only merino wool for other I used a blend)
- Fleece long underwear pants and shirt
- Thin merino wool socks
- Thicker Smartwool or Kirkland brand socks
- Wool beanie hats
For camp clothing:
- Zip off camping pants
- Northface Thermoball jacket
- Camping, bug resistant, sun proof shirt
- Athletic shorts for sleeping in
- Cotton t-shirt for sleeping in
- Chaco Sandals (not as bulky as tennis shoes, water shoes a must!)
- Seal Skin sock (for walking through wet areas and for bug protection)
- Extra socks-I think I brought 2 sets of thin and 2 sets thicker. Nothing worst then dry feet
The key was to layer~ when on the water I wore 100% merino wool as a base layer then, planed on layering with fleece. I did this head to toe.
- Protein Bars~ 1 per day each Builder Bars and Luna Bars
I am allergic to nuts so I struggle finding a protein bar. I don’t really like the all fruit ones, so I have found the smote to be my favorite. Aaron likes the Builder Bars.
- Granola Bars~ 2 each per day
We have found we can only handle one protein bar per day so it is nice to have something else
- Kirkland individual packed almonds, cashews or pecans~ 1 per day for Aaron
- Power aid Packets, two per day shared.
- We only put power aid into the purple water bottle, so we could bring the other into the tent with us with just water.
- Beer and wine~ 1 can of PBR tall boys per day for Aaron with an extra, 1 pouch of black box wine (I shared)
- Starbucks Via Packet~ 1 per day each. Coffee was limited and only in the morning, so we put an extra jolt in our cup to help us.
- French vanilla powder coffee house~ 1 container. This acted as our creamer for the week and was a great treat in the mornings.
- GU and Gels. We brought just in case. I did use the Gels one day and like these better.
- Bathroom Items~
- The usual stuff
- Waterless shampoo~ I am still on the fence what I thought of it
- Razor and environmental friendly shaving cream for Aaron
- Hand sensitizer
- Baby whips
- Camp towel~ 1 each
- Earplugs and extras. I still don’t know where they go, but I was glad I had them.
- Sleeping mask~ I only used this the first night, Aaron did not at all.
- Headlamp~ was needed in the cabin
- Buff (wish we had one for Aaron)
- First aid kit~ two day hikers one with extra blister band aids
- Cold medication~ Glad I brought it with, as we either all got a cold or allergies. It was all used by the time we got back.
- Bug head net
- Bug spray
- Camera~ each
- Extra camera batteries
- Radio~ 1
- Extra radio batteries
- Rain pants (for the coat we had our storm kegs)
- Book each
So yes, some how I got this all packed and on the plane. Four of us put our paddles into one bag and split the cost of this! I did have to do some re-arranging at the airport to make the weight. But we did it.
Kayak Alaska was set up with two different learning experiences classroom on the water and journeys. Both offered us hands on experiences to challenge and expand our paddling.
Classroom on the water took place outside of Green Top Cove, where the natural environment offered us changes and new challenges every five minutes. Jeff and Ryan took us through a series of progressions starting us out in tiny conditions and working our way up to rescues and higher conditions. The wild life, especially the seals, were a great audience as we were as curious of them as there were to us. At times they would let us know they were in charge of the waters and we were their guests.
Jeff and Ryan always set us up with safety and encouragement to test our limits and try out our newfound confidence. By the end of the week our edges were stronger and our paddles were more secure. For me this was the first time I felt confident with my low brace and my head was a swivel in reading the water to stay up right. I never caught the wave at the right moment, but I was able to control myself in tight spots and end the day with a smile.
There were two types of journeys. The first was a day journey to White Sulfur Springs to enjoy a natural hot tub and to build on our navigation skills. We broke into two groups and guided through the beauty of Alaska. What struck me was how tough it was to figure out at times were you were at. Not everything was marked on the charts. We had to rely on the known and work on visualizing what we did not know, but the charts were telling us. Arrival at White Sulfur Springs was greeted with huge boulders and working as a team to land. However, the greetings of a hot tub and the fellowship with strangers made the journey magical.
The second type of journey was the journey home. The journey home was three days and our only way home. Leaving Greentop cove was hard to do, as this is home and this was magic in the beauty which surrounded it. We knew the days would be long with 72 miles to go, but we planned and hoped the tide and current would be in our favor. The first goal of the journey was to fit everything into our boats. When you are at home and know the boat you will be using, you plan and pre pack, but here you were not able to. Luckily we were all able to and we were able to carry enough water for a day plus journey.
The journey home offered time to admire and reflect on the truth, beauty and goodness found in our earth. Alaska offers an untapped environment of an untouched wilderness. Our stops along the way, we could have been the only ones to have ever stepped foot there. The white snow top mountains is the visions of Heaven and reminded me of Greek and Roman mythology stories and where the Gods and Goddesses lived. Everywhere we turned there were animals and sea life to be seen. However, I am glad I never saw a bear.
The journey was long and we made the most of it. Getting to know each other even more and encouraging each other when we were done paddling. 30+ mile days are not my idea of fun, but the end of the day was worth every moment. Setting up camp in the land of the endless sun, enjoying one of Michelle’s home cooked meals, watching every last bit of scent go up into the tree, and sitting on the beach, as the sun tried to set, holding on to every moment.
Arrival in Hoonay was bitter sweet, as it met we were done with sitting in our boats, but the adventure was over. The adventure was an amazing one and one I am glad I got to do with my husband, aunt, uncle and friends. I have been on many adventures with groups of people but this group worked well together. We all encouraged each other, cheered one another on, and picked up one another when we needed it most. We adventured into the unknown, jumped on a puddle jumper plan, traveled by water taxi, slept for 10 days in the same room, and enjoyed the natural smell of no showers! Until the next adventure…