Primal Soccer Mom Drawn to Alaska's Kenai Fjords Boat

Why would an otherwise sane mother of two decide to spend her valuable vacation time challenging Alaska's Kenai Fjords in a sea kayak? What could possibly be so appealing about calving glaciers churning waters into treacherous roller coasters, official warnings of "hypothermia and death within minutes", and terrifying tidal currents that a modern suburbanite would call this dangerous mishmash a vacation? And yet, that little Kenai Fjords boat journey beckons, calling out to a soul far too primal to remain hidden indefinitely behind soccer schedules and business deadlines.
Alaska's Kenai Fjords in a sea kayak? It's not that I think of myself as unadventurous. Anyone who can juggle university office politics, provide taxi service for the seemingly impossible schedules of two busy teenagers, and instantly recite the number of cell phone minutes in our shared account has to be ready to tackle an adventure here or there. Once, when those two teenagers were still in diapers, I even managed a live-off-the-land primitive camping trip with a toddler and an infant in tow. Still, I've never tried to handle a sea kayak even in a swimming pool, so why would I be drawn to an icy wilderness where the national park rangers warn that "rough-water boating experience" is "absolutely required?"

Perhaps it's that I've read too many novels of the frozen northland, or followed too closely the firsthand accounts of a pair of women who braved the journey to the South Pole on wind skis. Maybe all those visits to Curves and the YMCA have convinced me that I'm in far better shape than I probably am. Maybe I just need to prove that my almost middle-aged self can still tackle such incredible physical odds. Whatever the impetus, though, I know I'm hooked. By this time next year I'll be braving Alaska's Kenai Fjords in a sea kayak, seeing those legendary calving glaciers for myself.

First, of course, must come the preparation. I plan to start with some whitewater rafting experience on the nearby Delaware River before venturing into any open seas. A quick web search, though, already found a guy on the Jersey Shore willing to teach me to handle a sea kayak, and even provide-eventually-some of that rough-water experience the rangers say I'll need to challenge Alaska's Kenai Fjords. The Jersey guide says he can have me ready for the glaciers by next summer if I'm willing to devote serious time to preparing myself. I am, and so I'm trading in my Curves membership for kayak lessons.

My kids have dubbed my dream "Mom's Kenai Fjords Boat Trip," and they're supportive even if they think the whole idea more than a little offbeat. They have suggested that the appropriate "Kenai Fjords Boat" for the trip would be the Princess Cruise Lines ship that sails into Seward (home to Alaska's Kenai Fjords) as part of its Inside Passage Tour. And of course, they also want to come along for the ride, staying over in style at the Hotel Edgewater while I defy icy dangers in my tiny craft. They seem to think that the Alaska SeaLife Center, adjacent to the hotel, offers a near enough glimpse of the area's natural wonders for most mothers. But, I do have to give them credit. After all, they also want to accompany me on my preliminary 3-hour guided sea kayak excursion from Lowell Point into Caines Head State Recreation Area, where we've read we can see everything from sea otters and leaping salmon to orcas and humpbacks in the wild.

Besides, I don't want them with me once the water taxi drops me off in Aialik Bay. Adventure may call my deepest soul to seek out towering blue cliff faces of sunlit ice, but I'm a mother first and foremost. I don't want to worry about my kids being trapped beneath a rolling iceberg. I want to focus just on me for a day or so, to experience Alaska's Kenai Fjords on my own terms without thought of anything more than my own success and survival. Also, while I'd really like to undertake this challenge completely alone, I'm realist enough to acknowledge that I'll probably have to travel with a guide. Alaska's Kenai Fjords, exposed to the ocean, with infrequent landing sites often made treacherous by wind-driven surf, can swallow a novice kayaker without so much as the courtesy of leaving evidence. I'm truly not insane, despite the pointed questions posed by the few friends in whom I've confided my private goal.

Taking one step at a time, I really will make it to Alaska's Kenai Fjords. Right now, I'm reading, dreaming, talking to kayak instructors, and downloading the occasional kayak-and-glacier photograph for my computer desktop. Soon will come the Delaware River and numerous trips along the Jersey Shore, then Lowell Point . . . and finally, Mom's Kenai Fjords Boat Trip will become a reality.
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