Michal and I always marvelled at people going on trips, journeys and expeditions and making it unnecessarily complicated for themselves by bringing equipment that isn’t up to the job. Unsuitable clothing, too thin sleeping bags, tents that do not withstand winds, the list can just go on. Of course, we have had some experiences, when what we had with us turned out not to be as perfect as promised, but usually it could have been sorted just fine.
I have spent five days last week kayaking in the Kechamak Bay just on the other side of Homer. I packed all my expedition stuff, rented a funky red plastic kayak with rudder, and bought a tent, as we only had one on the peninsula, and it was Freya’s. I had a bit of a pause for thought when I saw its name: Greenhorn. Is that a good idea to rely on something called Greenhorn? Perhaps.
Water taxi took me across the bay and dropped me off in Jokolov Bay early in the afternoon, it was sunny and warm and I kind of just floated with the tide until it brought me to Kayak Beach, two hours into my first day I had enough and decided to spend sunny afternoon on the beach.
The campsite here had wooden platforms for tents, and food storage facilities to hide food away from bears.
I unpacked my tent hoping it’s a free standing one for the platform, although it had rings all around. I started to pitch it and the reality was slowly hitting me, the tent isn’t free standing, and what’s more, it didn’t have any guy ropes. I have five nights ahead of me, with a promise of rain for the following three days. The night wasn’t a peaceful night, I allowed myself to get worried of what if, when it would, and so on. The loud noise in the middle of the night sounding like a bear didn’t help. Then while I was packing it in the morning one of the tent pole holding strap ripped out, so now my tent also had a hole in one corner.
I spent most of next day paddling and worrying, looking up to the clouds and imagining the next night. Not really a good frame of mind, but fortunately the surroundings were too beautiful to allow me to keep going on like this all day. I found a place to camp for my second night. My tent was pitched on a landing of wooden stairs leading from the beach to a cabin, with an idea that bears don’t walk on stairs. I stayed on the beach to cook as the tent was too small for anything other that lying down. The rain started and I had to shelter under the bank covered by some thick leaves and branches. It was time to make a plan for the night. The missing strap was replaced by a stone inside, the tent was propped up by dry bags, I put on my water proofs deciding that if the tent gets wet through, and the sleeping bag, I may actually stay dry.
No bears that night, it was calm and quiet despite the rain, and surprisingly comfortable and warm. I woke up in the morning, it was still raining, and I had to make a plan of how to keep everything as dry as possible, especially when packing without a shelter. Waking up in waterproofs proved to be smart idea, I just rolled out and was ready. Again, the branches and leaves helped. It actually went ok, and while I sat there having breakfast wearing my dry suit watching the rain I started to enjoy it. Who cares that my tent is not cut for the game, I am. Going on trips having good equipment is easy, making it work with bad stuff is a skill, or fun.
Tutka Bay was beautiful that morning, sea eagles and otters for company. I paddled all day until Halibut Cove, a very interesting place of many rather eccentric looking houses. However there was nowhere to camp, all private property around here. The last three kilometres crossing was a bit of a hard work into the force five headwind. The day was exciting, and there and now I fondly thought about my little Greenhorn tent. Yeah! I couldn’t wait for the next adventure that will await us during the night.
I landed on The Right Beach, and luckily there were people here. A family of grandparents, parents, an uncle, a teenager, and two little girls. Fantastic, I don’t need to camp alone. Some of them stayed in tent, the rest in a rented yurt. I was offered food, wine, berries. I pitched my tent closer to them as the bear presence was everywhere here. So glad Greenhorn and I weren’t alone.
They all marvelled at the size of it. And were well impressed when just before rolling into it, I put my waterproof pyjama on.
The following day, Sunday, was the forecasted very rainy one. The family was packing to go home, but before they left, they said they hired the yurt for two nights, only using it for one. And offered it to me. So I acquired a yurt for 24 hours, marvellous. I only paddled a little bit that day as it was raining, and windy, the yurt proved great set up for book reading.
Many people come to Kechamak Bay to hike to the various glaciers that are up in the mountains. On Monday I first paddled to Halibut lagoon, where entry is so narrow that it’s only accessible with the right tidal flow. It was early morning all was still but the rain, and the lagoon became a playground for porpoises.
After that, I went to a place called Saddle. It’s a start of a very popular hike, so I figured out there might not be bears on the trail and I can do it by myself without bear spray and all. No bears just their poohs. I reached the Grewingk lake. There were sightings of sow and cubs during the week, but I was lucky to meet few people there. One couple invited me to walk back with them, so I didn’t need to sing and shout all the way back.
I camped on the same beach as before. Pitched my Greenhorn, last time tonight. However, I was hoping for some other people to come here to not be alone. My plan B was, if I had to be alone, and the yurt empty, I would sneak in there. I stayed out on a beach for a while, and when it was finally time to go in, I’ve been inside a yurt for about 30 minutes when I heard him. A black bear was walking around, putting his head to the door, then sniffing by the window. I couldn’t take any photos as I was very close to hiding under the bed. So that’s me done with going outside until the morning.
Last day, and my water taxi pick up was arranged for just after midday about 2 hours paddle away from here. I left early, and spent some time floating around the Gull Rock watching out for puffins.