Sunday, August 1, 2010

Seward: Couple's Therapy

A couple weeks ago I had this great idea.  Let's go kayaking in Seward, Alaska.  It's about 2 hours south of Anchorage on the Resurrection Bay - one of the top fishing spots and where lots of cruise ships port.  It's one of the larger cities in Alaska with a booming population of 3,000.

Of course there are guided tours for novices like myself, but they are quite pricey and Matt said he had gone before so he decided let's just rent one ourselves for a fraction of the cost and do our own tour.  His co-workers convinced him there is this great 5-mile round trip hike to a 100 year old fort that can only be reached by water or an even longer 18 mile hike.  By water it's a 5-mile trip there and 5 miles back.  No biggie, right? Let's do it.

We enlisted a couple of our good friends, Jared and Nicole - who, God bless them, are up for any crazy idea we come up with - and we hit the road Saturday mid-morning. (Jared, who is a pilot, had just gotten back from LA at 2am the night before, so we let him sleep in a bit.) Our plan was to arrive, jump in the kayaks for the 6-hour or so adventure and end our evening with a big, well-deserved meal at an amazing sea-food place before driving home.

Sounded like a wonderful plan, right?

Matt calls Millers Landing (kayak rental place) as we were leaving to make sure that they would reserve a couple double-kayaks for us - since that would be depressing to drive all that way for nothing.  They informed us that due to the risk of it being Alaska and having cold waters, they would require us to take this 2-hour safety lesson first.  Annoying, but we obliged.

About one o'clock, we finally arrive, quickly eat our sack lunches we brought and informed them we were here.  They set us up with wet suits and go over a basic training on dry ground first.  I knew that when I was cold just practicing on shore that it was not a good sign for the upcoming proving-myself-worthy in the freezing water. 
They took us out on the water and then told us we have to intentionally flip our kayak upside down, pull ourselves out while under water and get back into the kayak using only the paddle as leverage and try not flipping it again - which tends a common occurrence. 

As you can imagine, all I was thinking was - are you freaking kidding me?!  Never the less, we had plans to kayak, gosh darn it, so we were going to do this!

As my heart was pounding, we flipped the kayak and we fell into the Alaskan ocean.

Holy was ridiculously cold!!  I wish I could remember what all I was exactly yelling saying as I floated along in my numbing body.  However, it's probably for the better than I don't remember...

I'm here to verify that it's true that freezing water feels like a million needles piercing your body.  Miserable.  I had to help Matt into the kayak first before I could crawl in.  I truly wish I had pictures to verify my story, but good news is that our instructor (who I'd like to add, never actually got into the water himself) said we did it in record time.  I think Matt had no choice as I might have wanted to hurt him had he taken a long time to get back into the kayak.  And I, for one, am rarely that motivated...

Thankfully, 2 hours later we were back in our dry clothes and dragging our sea kayaks back into the water.  It was 4pm and high tide was at 5:18pm. Our destination was 5 miles down the bay...against high tide.  I'm pretty sure the workers at Millers Landing were laughing at us as headed out...remember it was supposed to take us about 6 hours in normal circumstances and none of us had ever done this sea kayaking thing before. 

We fought the current and high waves for 2 hours straight without stopping...if we stopped we would start being pushed backwards and the kayak would turn around.  So no stopping was allowed!  I think for every stroke we went like 1 cm.  About 1 1/2 hours into it, we saw the old military dock - FINALLY!  But due to our speedy moving, I didn't think we'd ever reach it. I swear I looked at that dumb dock in the distance for it felt like hours before we finally arrived. 

That's the beloved dock behind us, after we finally reached shore
And in the back of my mind, I knew we still had a 5-mile hike ahead of us. 

We pulled our kayaks ashore, so they wouldn't float away while we were gone and tried to dry out from the cold, splashing waves that had been hitting us for the last couple hours.  It's about 6:15pm at this point...and  we have one liter of water and a couple granola bars to our name.  So, naturally, we start up the trail...

The hike was quiet (I think we were the only crazy people out at this point) and rather muddy.  About an hour later, we arrived at a couple old barracks and the fort.  We had to have flashlights to explore...and to be honest, I think we had all seen one too many scary movies to feel completely comfortable exploring the pitch black abandoned concrete building hidden on the side of a mountain on a cloudy, cold evening unable to be reached by any motorized vehicles.  Though on the flip side, it was kinda cool thinking about what it was like back in the 1940's when men were stationed there. 

the entrance
Inside...not eerie, at all, huh?

Group pic at the gun turret
Being about 8 o'clock now, way past dinner time and all being cold, hungry, tired, and Matt and I were out of water and food and we still had a 5-mile kayaking trip back.  We sadly came to the conclusion that all the good restaurants would be closed by the time we would complete this exciting we tried to think positively and discussed all the way down the mountain how wonderful a Big Mac at McDonald's will be on the way home.  It made us walk a little faster.

Quickly water-sealing our belongings that were still dry

We got back to the shore and quickly jumped back into the kayaks and headed out. The rental place closed at 10pm.  We needed to be back, because at this point owning kayaks was not high on our list.  I wish I could say we truly took in the amazing scenery and the peaceful water (because we did not see a single boat on our way back...they were all in bed at this hour), but my exhausted arms, pounding head, growling stomach and my wonderful husband singing "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" behind me may have caused a few shouts of agony and couple held-back tears of pain. 

nothing like forcing those smiles

Despite my complaining, it was rather magnificent.

The best part is that after we finally got back into the car at 10:45pm...and still really looking forward to that Big Mac, we learned that Seward does not have any fast food places (which, yes, means it's that isolated!) and not much - ok, anything - is open that late. And keep in mind, there is nothing for 130 miles between Seward and Anchorage.

Praise the Lord, we passed a grocery store on the edge of town that still had it's lights on and we were able to make a concoction of things to create a dinner.  At this point, I think we would have eaten anything. 

On our way home - til 1am - we ate our food (which included cookies and a quart of milk...because we had earned it) we laughed about how ridiculous a day it had been.  Which we like to equate it to an odd form of couple's therapy: whatever extreme of emotions we were feeling, we needed each other to get back.  I like to hope it just grounded our marriages and friendships deeper.  And at least we have a good story to tell. :)

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