Splendor in Alaska / Fjords NP

On the drive back to Anchorage, I stop in Seward for the night. Long a fishing town on the eastern shore of the Kenai Peninsula, it was named for William Seward, Secretary of State under President Lincoln and dealmaker for the purchase of Alaska from Russia. Seward is popular with tourists as a departure point for boat trips into Kenai Fjords National Park.

I sign on with a group promising an all-day adventure that takes us to the tongue of a glacier. A large motorboat ferrys campers and trekkers to various beaches along the Fjords’ many inlets. It drops us several miles from Holgate Glacier, where we unload the kayaks.

It’s a beautiful day for paddling. We head out for several miles along the shore, stopping occasionally to explore boreal forests, until we get within a few hundred yards of the glacier’s front wall. There we scatter, with some heading closer to the glacier, others playing among large chunks of calved ice, though not big enough to be bergs. A sightseeing boat from Seward provides scale to the glacier’s enormous 400-foot-high face, which rumbles and moans in its slow progression to the sea as we skiddle about.

“I never get tired of this dynamic, ever-changing landscape,” says a Kenai Fjords National Park ranger who paddles over to check us out. Just as we’re talking, a big section of ice calves into the inlet with an explosive percussion. It sends waves toward us that quickly dissipate in the deep fjord. “As I was saying, this landscape is dynamic, living, unpredictable and wild.”