|Paddling to Slate Island, then to Aialik Glacier|
Out of everyone who arrived at the lodge when we did, Andrea and I were the only ones who had booked a 4-day/3-night stay. Everyone else was leaving in the afternoon on this day, which made us the only guests to sign up for the full-day activity: kayaking to Aialik Glacier. We made packed lunches from ingredients laid out on the bar and met our guide on the porch at 8:45 a.m. We had heard about this guide—and she us—as she hailed from Michigan, and word had gotten around that there were fellow Michiganders about. For reasons that are not easily explained, this was exciting. Since Andrea and I were her only charges, we immediately began swapping information - Where are you from? How did you end up here? Etc. Amazingly, she grew up about an hour from where I live, and now we were meeting on the porch of a lodge in the woods in Alaska.
|Back through the meadow toward the beach|
|Paddling to Slate Island and Aialik Glacier, seen in the distance|
|Paddling into a cove in Slate Island. Water trickled from above, creating wonderful sounds.|
|Paddling deep into another cove in Slate Island|
|Slate Island - taking a break|
|Aialik Glacier can be seen through the split in the rock at Slate Island's north end.|
|Paddling through the opening in Slate Island. Photo by Andrea.|
|My camera was constantly getting wet. It was a trooper.|
|The icy water near Aialik Glacier|
|Harbor seal hauled out on the ice. Photos taken at a distance with a zoom lens.|
|A curious harbor seal checks us out.|
After lingering at the glacier for a while, we began paddling back toward Slate Island, this time making our way between the west side of the island and the mainland. As we paddled close to the island’s steep rocky face, we noticed some puffins nesting in the rock. We spent a few minutes watching them, then things got interesting (because up to this point, the day had obviously been a snoozer).
|A puffin nesting in the rock on Slate Island|
|A black bear swimming from Slate Island to the mainland in Aialik Bay. All bear photos were taken from a distance with a zoom lens.|
|Black bear catches its breath after swimming to shore|
|Scratching an itch and eating berries|
For a video of the swimming, strolling, berry-munching bear, go here.
At some point, our guide was able to retrieve a new battery for Andrea’s camera from the gear stowed in our kayak’s compartment. She also radioed another guide she knew to be nearby with a group of kayakers to let him know about the bear sighting. This other group showed up within a few minutes and paddled alongside us. The bear continued on its path toward Slate Beach - a stretch of beach where, unfortunately, we had planned to stop for lunch. Before reaching the beach, however, it turned inland and disappeared into the brush. We were discussing eating lunch in our kayaks due to the bear’s proximity to the beach, but the other group paddled right up to the beach and got out. They were meeting a water taxi, and this beach was their pick-up location. Their guide grabbed two rocks and banged them together for a while to make an excess of noise intending to keep the bear from visiting the beach. Figuring there were enough people there for it not be an issue, we decided to join the group for a quick lunch break.
|Lunch break at Slate Beach|
The bear agreed. About 15 minutes after we arrived, he emerged from the brush on the beach’s west side. We didn’t see it right away, but we heard the other guide suddenly shout, “Everyone get up!” The other group was between the bear and us, and we looked over to see them all stand up and walk backwards toward the water, watching the bear stroll among the bushes bordering the beach. It was so focused on eating berries that it appeared not to notice any of us. Still, it was time to leave. As we quickly packed up our lunches and gear, the other group’s ride showed up - a water taxi driven by the same boat skipper that brought us to the lodge.
|A water taxi arrives at Slate Beach to pick up some kayakers|
A young boy was looking at Pedersen Glacier through the telescope at the picture window, when suddenly (as he explained later) the view went black. He looked up to discover that a bear had wandered into his field of vision. He started yelling excitedly, and everyone ran to the windows to see a small black bear ambling through the grass near the lagoon - a perfect welcome for the new guests, and a fitting sight for us on our last night at the lodge. Unfortunately, a bunch of people ran outside toward the bear, immediately forgetting any etiquette regarding wildlife and their surroundings that they may have learned upon arrival. (Well, it was pretty exciting.) Lodge employees had to corral everyone back inside, reminding them that the wildlife needs to be left alone, and that people should remain safely inside.
|Lion's Mane Jelly|
|10:00 p.m. outside our cabin on our last night at Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge|
To be continued in Part Seven: Return to Seward
|Day 3 route|