Around the World... One Journey at a Time. Around the World... One Journey at a Time.

North to Alaska - Live!

by Kathy 2. July 2011 11:01

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Valdez: Kayaking into Ice Caves


Spreading out from the face of Valdez Glacier is a tranquil glacial lake with large chunks of icebergs. Look closely, and you will discover crevasses and small openings—just large enough for a kayak to glide through and discover the secret worlds within.

We had to see it to believe it.

My kayaking partner for today was Genevieve:

Sebastian was paired with Ben:

Genevieve and I proved to be a great team, which was a tremendous relief. The last time we were paddling in the same boat was two summers ago during a white water rafting trip in West Virginia. I am not an experienced paddler by any means, and Genevieve’s panicked cries of “We’re going to die!” as we approached the first set of rapids resulted in me promptly shuffling her off to Ben as soon as possible in exchange for Sebastian, whose laid back vibe definitely improved my confidence in getting us down the river safely.

Today, she and I were in the same groove, like a beautiful melody.

The first glacial cave that we stopped to admire had a thick floor of solid ice, so we left our kayaks outside and gingerly stepped onto the slippery surface.

Our guide Peter, shown above on the left, always entered the caves first to ensure their relative safety.

We were in awe of the turquoise walls and the see-through base. Here are Sebastian and Genevieve in front of a wall:

This was the only walk-in cave that we visited. The rest were float-in.

Most of the caves were big enough for only one kayak at a time to enter. But the next was wide enough for our whole family to be inside together. Looking at the entrance ahead:

The interior walls had brilliant stripes of blue and white ice. Here is Sebastian:

Looking back outside:

Our favorite cave was so amazing that we had to experience it twice. Here are Ben and Sebastian entering:

The mouth had a small waterfall, with more pouring down from spots inside, and we were grateful for our rain hoods. You can see the water splattering behind Ben and Sebastian in the photo below, as they continue moving deeper into the cave:

The gray-covered exterior was in stark contrast to the inside, which was like a magnificent jewel--alive and shimmering.


The tunnel walls gradually came together until they met in a point that I nicknamed “the wedgie” because the front part of our kayak wedged into it so perfectly. At the wedgie:

The backward view:

I have to say that looking upward at the massive sheets of ice above us, my mind flickered briefly on the possibility of being crushed by the weight of that ice collapsing downward—but I moved through those thoughts quickly and then tossed them out of my mind for the rest of the day.

Some of the icebergs formed towering curved shapes, like a big open clam shell. Here are Sebastian and Ben inside one of those curves:

Around us, bits of rock and ice were continually falling into the lake, as the ice slowly melted. Peter scoped out the cave entrances and removed any rocks that he thought might slide down and clunk us on the head. Here he is tossing down a large rock:

Some of the rocks seemed too precarious to proceed further, such as the ones above Genevieve in the photo below:

Ben and Sebastian, entering a small cave:

Genevieve, inside that same cave, with a stream of water flowing from the ceiling:

After exploring the icebergs out across the lake, we paddled along the face of Valdez Glacier.

Where the glacier met the water, the ice continued downward, with a sheer drop of 700 feet beneath the surface. You can bet that whatever falls overboard will most likely be gone forever.

Sebastian was chilling:

The glacier face offered many nooks and crannies to “wow” us:

One cave had a tall and skinny entrance that resembled a keyhole. Here are Genevieve and I playing the part of the “key”:

And what did we find within this cave, in combination with all the others?  Magic?  Possibly.  Happiness?  Yes, although I think we already carried that with us.   How about Wealth?  Well . . . the walls were sparkling with rivulets of melting ice, not gold.   However, I dare say that having the privilege of entering their intimate spaces and witnessing such intense beauty and power have definitely made my life richer.

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Comments (5) -

7/2/2011 1:02:15 PM #


ahhh - okay, i lied.  this is my new favorite posts.  i love this.  we have "kayak on lake" on our summer to do list...but i have a feeling nick won't go for a "drive five days to alaska to kayak on the lake" correction to the list.  sigh, algun dia.  i love this, so beautiful and the prose was perfect.  

becky United States | Reply

7/3/2011 4:46:17 PM #


Hi, Becky!
I bet Luke and Charlie will love kayaking--on ANY lake!
I am enjoying seeing the amazing transformation of your house.  There are so many details!  Isn't the internet wonderful--allowing us each to share our stories and stay connected?!
Much love to the family!

Kathy United States | Reply

7/4/2011 4:21:12 PM #

Kathie Kenaston

Wow!!!  I can't believe I've lived here for 20 years and have never done this!!  You've inspired me!  Are you camping at state campsites along the way?  What day do you think you'll be in Fairbanks?

Kathie Kenaston United States | Reply

7/6/2011 7:11:36 AM #

Tedd Dunham


Tedd Dunham United States | Reply

7/6/2011 9:43:44 AM #


Thanks, Tedd!

Kathy United States | Reply

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Places We’ve Been, w/Quick Links

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Anais Nin