July 25, 2008

"NEW" Resurrection Bay Paddle

We finally got the opportunity to do some sea kayaking while along the southern coast of the Kenai Peninsula. We met our Louisiana friends Leo and Sean Bourgeois while we were visiting Seward. Earlier, they had planned a day trip with a kayak outfitter along the shores of the fjords. The outfitter only accepted people in their own tandem kayaks so we left our boats behind.

The day started off dead calm - though it was cool and foggy. We were told to expect the winds to blow out of the north later in the day. We were told to keep an eye on the skies.

After suiting up in kayak gear, our guide gave us a quick paddling lesson. We left Lowell Point south of Seward in high anticipation of the day.

The scenery was spectacular as we paddled down the shore past land rising sharply from water. Tall conifers with an occasional bald eagle perched on their branches hung onto the sides of rocky cliffs. The emerald green water held sea otters swimming on their backs and strange looking sea birds like the puffins or murrelets.

Our destination at Caines Point was a park reachable only by boat or at low tide by hiking along a beach trail. As we neared the destination beach, a beautiful waterfall emptying into the water came into view.

Caines Head State Recreation Area is the site of an abandoned World War II fort. Early in World War II the territory of Alaska was attacked and occupied by Imperial Japanese ground forces. Caines Head and other Resurrection Bay vantages became strategic spots for defending the Port of Seward. The port was the southern terminus of the Alaska Railroad, a critical supply line for the war effort and for Alaskans.

The beach where we landed is marked by the remains of an Army dock built in 1941. The pier survived the 1964 Good Friday earthquake and tsunami, but the land in this area dropped five feet. The deck of the old pier was eventually destroyed by waves.

We stopped to admire the beauty surrounding us before grabbing our lunch to hike up to our picnic spot.

We hiked up a trail that seemed more like a creek than a trail. The walk through the temperate rainforest was beautiful. Moss hung off branches and clung to the north sides of trees. Emerald ferns covered the ground.

We stopped to eat lunch at a small inland lake.

Lunch, which was provided by the outfitter consisted of a lighter far of snack foods. All served pleasantly on a checkered tablecloth.

There was no perceptible wind change while we were gone but by the time we returned to our launch site, the waves had kicked up quite a bit.

Our trip leader made a call to the office via radio and the decision was made to pack up and get out while we could. With some instruction on getting out in the surf and what to do once we got out there, we made our way out into the waves.

We paddled hard for about 20 minutes. It seemed longer. I was really glad that we were in a tandem kayak. I was concentrating hard on paddling. It seemed to me that we were making slow progress back to Seward. Just as I was starting to get really tired our guide signaled us to head towards the shore.

We beached with no problems. I was taken completely surprised when I saw that we landed on the same beach we pushed off from! We had made absolutely no progress the whole time we were out there paddling. I was concentrating so hard on paddling that I had no idea we weren’t going anywhere. Our guide again radioed into the home base. A decision was made to call a water taxi to come rescue us.

While waiting for our rescue we watched other groups around us getting their own rescues.

We watched as our rescue boat ran as close as he could to shore and let down a ramp on the front of the boat. We loaded up all the kayaks and tied them down and headed into the small cabin for a protected ride back.

As you can see we're all smiling. There wasn't a happier group to be in that boat!

And for a look at what our ride back was like - just how bad the waves were - take a look at this short video clip.