Saturday August 6
Linda and I had been planning to head south to Homer,
Alaska this weekend. Homer is at the end of the Kenai Peninsula.
We have not made it that far yet, but based on reports we have heard
and our fondness for Seward (also a fishing town on the Kenai) we
have been looking forward to going.
Our plans began to change when I checked the weather
forecast on Thursday. It was supposed to be an absolutely perfect
weekend in Prince William Sound. Sunny, 80 degrees, very little
wind near Whittier (the closest access point to the sound). That
kind of thing happens once, maybe twice a summer. If you have read
some of the old journal entries and
my top five lists, you know that Prince
William Sound is one of my favorite places on Earth.
So with perfect weather on the horizon and autumn
looming only a few weeks away, we put our trip to Homer on hold,
rented a double kayak, and headed for Whittier.
from this trip are in the gallery.
As soon as we arrived in Whittier, I knew we had made
the right decision. It was indeed a spectacular day. We parked the
car, loaded the kayak, and shoved off into Passage Canal. It was
pretty slow going as we headed the six or so miles to the end of
the canal, where the sound begins to open up a bit. We were paddling
against the tide, which would become a theme for this short trip.
When you are trying to squeeze a weekend sea-kayaking trip into
about 30 hours, you can't sit around and wait for tides to change.
When we rounded the point at the end of Passage Canal
we looked across the mouth of Blackstone Bay and immediately saw
where we wanted to camp. A mile wide beach at the foot of a retreating
glacier. The rough topography of the shoreline in PWS makes camping
spots hard to come by. This one had been marked on our map, and
when we didn't see any tents set up on the beach yet, we knew we
had found our spot.
Crossing the 1.5 mile wide mouth of Blackstone Bay
was a bit tricky. The water was a chilling aqua-marine color thanks
to the many tide-water glaciers in Blackstone Bay and the wind was
whipping out to sea. The waves were not too bad, but we were nervous
that they might pick up. If we flipped over in this water, without
another boat around to help us, we would be in real trouble. Fortunately
the double kayak was very stable and the wind remained manageable.
We landed, set up our tent, ate some lunch, and planned
our afternoon. The stream next to our campsite seemed to have more
salmon than water in it. As we sat, a family of sea otters swam
in front of us and played on the rocks nearby. We could have just
relaxed on the beach and seen plenty, but we were itching to explore.
Linda wanted to continue into Blackstone Bay to catch a glimpse
of the tide-water glaciers, and perhaps a few small icebergs or
calving glaciers. I wanted to continue out towards the open part
of the sound in hopes of seeing some humpback whales. Life is tough
when this is your big decision of the day.
Eventually Linda convinced me that we were still in
a high traffic area of the sound and that seeing whales was unlikely.
So we headed down Blackstone Bay, once again fighting the current.
Along the way we saw an American Eagle perched high in a tree, surveying
the salmon jumping below. After a couple hours of paddling we were
about halfway down the bay and glaciers were just starting to come
into view a few miles away. We would liked to have gone further,
but we were getting tired and the tide was going to change soon
and we didn't want to fight it on the way home also. So we used
the binoculars to get a few looks at the glaciers, then turned and
rode the tide back to camp for dinner.
Sunday August 7
The next morning we were greeted by a seal who was
doing some fishing near our beach. We cooked our breakfast as he
looked for his. We thought about doing more exploring along the
shoreline in the other direction after we packed up camp, but instead
decided to enjoy a leisurely morning in camp, then pack up and paddle
It was a short and fairly mundane trip as far as kayaking
in the Sound goes, but it was thoroughly enjoyable and enough to
satisfy my Sound craving. For a while, anyway.
Saturday August 20
I have done a number of fun mountain running races
this summer and I had been told that the last one on the schedule
was one of the best. The Lost Lake Run. The Lost Lake trail is about
a 16 mile one-way trail near Seward, Alaska. Linda and I hiked
the trail in July. As I said then, it is one of the most beautiful
runs in Alaska. The trail climbs for the first half of the race
up to Lost Lake. The elevation gain is only a couple thousand feet
so it is gradual enough to run the whole thing.
from this race in the gallery.
I realized at the start that most of the top trail
runners were not there. Must be saving up for the World Mountain
Running Championships in Girdwood, Alaska in a couple of weeks.
I started well and was running near the front for the first mile
or two. Then the top two runners took it up a notch and I never
saw them again. I was feeling good, so I passed the rest of our
group and tried to lay my claim to third place early in the race.
I dropped them all, but the climb was longer and harder than I anticipated.
I began to tire as I reached Lost Lake, which was one or two miles
from the top of the hill. The first woman began to close in on me.
About 500 meters from the top she caught me. At this point, pride
took over and I refused to let her go. I crested the top of the
hill with her. From here it was all downhill to the finish, 8 more
miles, and the legs on her 5' 3" frame were no match for my
6'1" gait and I was able to break away quickly. Whew, I could
relax - I wasn't going to get 'girled' today. But I couldn't relax
too much because I knew I was not a great downhill runner on uneven
terrain and others would start closing in. Sure enough, with about
four miles to go, a guy came flying by. I was starting to resign
myself to 4th place, but then I realized that he was not getting
away from me as quickly as he had caught up. I was hanging tough.
For the next three miles I kept him in sight. With a mile to go,
the trail emptied onto a road. Once again, I was able to put my
long legs to use. I was feeling strong and I picked up my pace and
quickly closed the gap. At this point there was only one problem
- I didn't know where the finish line was. There I was preparing
for a sprint finish, but without any idea when it would start. The
road was winding and I couldn't see more than 50 meters ahead. I
stayed shoulder to shoulder with him and waited for any clue: a
quickening of his pace, the sound of spectators, the sound of the
main highway nearby, anything. At one point we deviated from the
road and dropped down a trail towards a firehouse. I knew the post-race
party was at the firehouse, so I gambled and dropped the hammer.
I got a good jump on him and immediately began to worry that I had
misjudged. But just then, I rounded a corner and the spectators
and finish line came into view. I finished third.
I was feeling pretty good about my third place when
my friend Scott McArt, who had raced last year, but not this year,
asked me my time. When I told him, he replied, "Nice job, that
might have gotten you a top ten finish last year." Ouch. Like
I said, the fast guys weren't there.
Continue in September 2003 Journal