Good day everyone! This post is dedicated to my time spent as a guide at Alaska Wildland Adventure's Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge. Here's to all the good people with whom I have crossed paths through this venue, amazing! Hope you enjoy the writing (finally finished), and the fine photography from a few of the staff members over the years.
Alaska's Kenai Fjords - The Power of Wildernesswords by
Riley Sump: https://www.facebook.com/riley.sump/photos
Killian Sump: http://killiansump.blogspot.com/
Franklin Jeffers: http://www.flickr.com/people/franklin_jeffers_photography/
Travis Marak: http://travismarak.com/
Here, I rest on a driftwood log, drinking some morning tea as waves lap on a salt and pepper sandy beach in a steady, rhythmic manner. My kayak rests high on the beach, after having transported me many miles across the seascape. Mountains rise steeply; the deep blue ice of a hanging glacier looming ominously in the heights above. The closeness of these peaks to the ocean provides a feeling of encapsulation, as if a natural fortress of rock and ice acts to insulate the nomad from the wildness of the open sea. A few gulls glide by on a gentle breeze, the smell of ocean is rich in the air. This is Quicksand Cove, a small, half-moon inlet nestled along the east side of Aialik Bay. Aialik is one of a series of inlets that compose the Kenai Fjords National Park: A venue of constant change; as retreating glaciers reveal new earth, and sparse vegetation communities transform into forests within decades. Cliffs drop to sandy beaches, rocky peninsulas jut out into breaking swells, and waterfalls pour clear and cold from the lush rainforest. The place is alive, geologically active and teeming with life.
For the past three summers, I have had the privilege of living in the Kenai Fjords, working as a kayak guide for a remote lodge. My purpose is to allow our guests to experience the wilderness from a sea kayak, facilitating an immersive experience of adventure and education, with someone whom they can trust. My experiences here have tied me to the grandeur of this landscape, and continue to inspire me to share with others.
The Kenai Fjords lie along south-central Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula. Each long, narrow body of ocean water extends many miles inland towards a major collection of ice called the Harding, one of the largest ice fields in North America. This source feeds many glaciers, rivers of ice that have been constantly at work carving out the fjords for almost twenty thousand years. As the climate steadily warms, the glaciers unveil their valleys, which fill with ocean water from the neighboring Pacific. Now, the headlands are commonly characterized by calm, glassy seawater and still-active tidewater glaciers, from which one can hear deep rumblings that resound off the rugged walls.
The marine ecosystem is rich in abundance. Harbor Seals and Sea Otters dot the still water’s surface, and rookeries of Sea Lions dwell on the bedrock shores, letting out brutal roars as crashing waves send foaming water into the air. Cetaceans like Dall’s Porpoises, Orcas, and Humpback Whales swim the outer coast, communicating in song, a musical language mysterious and ancient as time itself. On land, dense moss carpets the forest floor and drapes over the limbs of the Spruce and Hemlock trees, the whole forest scene vibrant and alive with many shades of green. A delicate, moist place often found dripping with rain water or shrouded in morning fog.
The first nation peoples, called the Unegkurmiut, have lived and thrived in the coastal environment of the present-day park for thousands of years, subsisting with the maritime ecosystem and travelling by kayak, or baidarka. Fortunate to have had the opportunity to get to know this region by kayak, I support the practice of the indigenous culture through their method of travel and skill in the elements, breeding a knowledge and respect of nature. With each stroke the blade slips silently into water, and the craft glides through the reflective surface. Even when the ocean becomes chaotic, the kayak floats atop the chop, cresting each wave with buoyancy and strength. The kayaker sits low in the water, rising and falling with the smooth moods of the sea, paddling with grace and intention, using the ever-changing tide to one’s advantage. Exploration impassions endlessly.
Reflections on my time as a wilderness guide are now illuminating. Interpreting the land, connecting personally with the travelers, and simply having fun has been more rewarding than I could have imagined. The many months out here make me certain that the prospect of adventure, coupled with the beauty of the wilderness, allow people to open up and learn more about the world or themselves, setting a higher limit (or lack of limit) for what life can offer. The gold of this ‘job’ shines when I see someone’s face and attitude completely change after spending just a few days paddling and hiking, experiencing the wonders of the fjords for themselves or their family as a whole. Perhaps it has never been as important as it is presently; to build a population of earth protectors. There being many methods to accomplish this; simply find your role in the process. But here, is where the wild land, justly by itself, is enough to change the world; one person at a time.
For a video narrating a brotherly kayaking trip in the fjords, check out: http://vimeo.com/49145473
*Filmed and Edited by Riley Sump*
Have a splendid day and don't forget to spend some time outdoors!