Day 11: Homer
(THE WRITER RETURNS! 🙂 I’ll share writing duties with Matt for the last few days of the trip so we finish the blog before we forget everything we did. As of today, three new posts are up: Days 9, 10, and 11!)
This morning we had our supermarket cereal breakfast before driving to the Spit where Matt and I would depart on our half-day kayaking trip with True North Adventures. We dressed in layers anticipating a dreary day on the water, but the weather was sunny and pleasant, if a bit windy.
After checking in and signing a waiver that held us responsible if we got swept out to sea, we met our guide, Marin, and got suited up. The six of us on the trip were provided rain jackets, pants and boots. Once dressed, we walked down to the pier to wait for our water taxi. The boat that pulled up was comically tiny; Marin told us that it had been custom-built for its former 4’11”-tall owner. It was at this point that I wondered if I should have taken that Dramamine.
The trip across the bay to Yukon Island took about twenty minutes; the water was very choppy and the poor guys in the path of the spray got soaked. No seasickness, although I did concentrate pretty hard on the horizon straight ahead of me for most of the trip. Arriving on the beach, we unloaded our gear and marveled at the gorgeous mountain scenery.
Marin gave us a lesson on paddling, steering, and what to do if we flipped over, then helped us adjust the pedals in our kayaks and showed us how to attach our splash skirts. Worn around our waists, the splash skirt forms a tight seal around the edges of cockpit and keeps water out of the kayak. If we flipped, however, it easily pops off allowing a quick exit. We hoped to not to test this first-hand. Neoprene gloves that attached to the paddle were also provided, which would help keep our hands protected from the cold water. Once we were clear on the basics, we pushed off and paddled around for a bit to get a feel for things. Matt sat in the back where he was responsible for steering; all I had to do was paddle.
Shortly after we set off the wind picked up a little, and after fifteen minutes we changed directions so we weren’t fighting the current so hard. We paddled for a half-hour, scanning the shore for wildlife but not seeing much. The wind continued to pick up, making the water pretty choppy, and after a while Matt remarked that we were going to have a tough time getting back to the beach in a timely fashion if we didn’t head back soon. As if on cue, Marin shouted to all of us to turn around; under calmer circumstances I think we would have paddled farther but she realized our time was running out and we would need more time to return.
Once we turned around, I realized just how windy it actually was; we weren’t being pushed backwards, but we had to paddle significantly harder to make even half the progress we’d made in the other direction. The large buoy in front of our beach was nowhere in sight; we cut a path away from the shore, put our heads down, and paddled. Hard. I was actually enjoying myself quite a bit, though Matt cursed a lot (this was probably because his other Alaska kayaking experience had been on glassy-calm water and he was not having as much fun here. :)) It was a workout, we were getting faces full of salt water, and there was no chance to idly look around for otters or birds, but we started counting 50 paddles at a time and eventually our beach came into view. When we came ashore, we looked back for the rest of the group and discovered that we had smoked them all – if it was a race, we’d have won by a mile. Just saying.
Once everyone made it back, we helped put all the gear and kayaks away and waited for our little water taxi. On the return trip, we came within a pretty close distance of an adorable otter, although he disappeared underwater before we could get a picture. Back on the Spit, we shed all the rain gear and met back up with Matt’s parents, who spent the morning checking out various shops in Homer and planning their bear excursion for Wednesday.
While Matt’s parents stopped to look in one more gallery before we headed back to the inn, Matt and I watched a charter fishing excursion unload its haul of halibut and cod. Each fish had a color-coded tag corresponding to the person who’d caught it, and the captain processed all the fish as desired (most people had it filleted and frozen to take home, but area restaurants would also happily prepare your catch for dinner, too).
Back at the inn, Matt and I rested for a bit while his parents made a late-afternoon visit to the Pratt Museum a few blocks from our hotel. Later we all cleaned up and walked down the street to Don Jose’s Mexican Cantina and Pizza, where in the halibut capital of the world, we devoured a delicious pizza that had not a hint of seafood on it. After dinner, we visited a little with the inn’s owners before turning in for the night.