Kayak Guide Training Summer 2022
The First Three Days On The Water
On the first of March, introductions were short-lived as guides were suited up in dry suits and tossed into the water to start their cold water and kayak rescue training. These amazing suits allow one to capsize in the water and stay dry, making training a lot easier and way more fun. Once the suits were on, kayak manager Abby and lead guide Ron began with demonstrations of several self-rescue techniques like the paddle float, cowboy and even the burrito… Yum!
Miller’s Landing trains all guides and certifies them through the ACA with an L2 Essentials of Kayak Touring certification. This encompasses self-rescue strategies, rescuing others, paddling techniques, towing and so much more.
In between sessions on the water learning skills, guides attended presentations, learned from more experienced returning guides about the tides and weather, and even did refreshers on first aid and CPR. Despite having Wilderness First Responder (WFR) and First Aid (WFAA) certifications, all guides participated in WFR exercises such as litter building, hypo wraps for hypothermia, splints and much more.
The First Overnight: Three days In Resurrection Bay
And so it began: the guides departed on a three-day overnight trip around Resurrection Bay.
They left Miller’s Landing at 9 am and paddled down the coast towards Bridal Veil Falls where they made their first stop (pictured above). As they paddled, they learned about Resurrection Bay’s natural history, how the tides affect their trips, navigation on the water and much more. After paddling 3 miles to Bridal Veil and eating a lunch of hummus hoagies on the beach, the team continued 2 more miles down the coast to Caines Head State Recreation Area.
After landing at Caines Head, the team set up camp, explored the surrounding forest, and then came back to the camp spot to learn to Leave No Trace, practice using liquid fuel stoves, and cook dinner. For dinner, the team whipped up Manager Abby’s favorite backcountry dish, sweet potato fajitas, which were marinated in chili powder and soy sauce overnight for the best flavor! Then the team took some time to enjoy the night by walking the beach, hanging out by the fire, and reading by the stream.
The next day the team woke early, munched on some oats, and left to paddle 5 miles across the bay to Fox Island spit. The waters were completely still and the sun was shining down, creating a stunning reflection on the water. When they arrived at the spit, they spent the rest of the day creating shelters, perfecting different knots, cooking, exploring and learning about the flora and fauna in the area from their manager and returning guides.
The night was spent watching whales fluke in the still bay water, avalanches in the mountain peaks, shore birds pitter-patter along the coast and the sun slowly set over the bay. In the morning, the crew paddled east towards Humpy Cove where they kayaked under waterfalls, explored rock gardens and munched on veggie mac n cheese while awaiting a water taxi return to Miller’s Landing.
The second Overnight: Three Days in Aialik Bay
After spending three days in Resurrection Bay, the guides were ready to take their new skills to the next level by spending three more days in Kenai Fjord’s coastal backcountry. The day began at 5 am and the guides departed at 6 after an hour of gear preparation, loading kayaks onto the Fox Willie, and making coffee. It’s a two-hour boat ride into Aialik Bay from Lowell Point. Along the way, the boat made stops at No Name island to see stellar sea lions, passed through Chicken Pass, and then continued north into Quicksand Cove where the crew was dropped off to begin their paddle.
The guides started in Quicksand Cove and then paddled west along the coastline towards Holgate Glacier. Along the way, they saw waterfalls, mountain goats among the cliffs, snow falling from the peaks as it melts, and scads of sea otters and harbor seals. Migratory birds such as the Bristle-thighed curlew and bar-tailed godwit lined the coast and the new guides observed them foraging for crustaceans and other sea snacks. After reaching Holgate, one of the many tidewater glaciers in Kenai Fjords National Park fed by the Harding Icefield, they continued west to set up camp at Holgate Beach, a 12 mile trip from their drop-off destination.
The next morning, the crew headed north to Pederson Beach where they were able to paddle into the stunning lagoon at high tide and set up camp in this mystical camping location. At this spot, one cannot travel above the high tide line because the land is part of the Port Graham Association, however, there is one designated camping location and it is a stunning moss-covered forest. After exploring the lagoon and designated areas, they re-grouped for some Wilderness First Responder exercises and readings. Then they had the rest of the day to explore, ask questions, or relax and enjoy the views.
The team woke up at 4 am to get an early start, portaging their boats out over Pederson Lagoon so they could see Aialik Glacier before the water taxi’s arrival at 10 am. The original plan had the group leaving Pederson Lagoon at 10 am when the tide would be high enough, however, the group was met with a surprise that forced them to change their float plan a bit. After launching, the guides were greeted by a pod of almost 50 harbor seals that morning, their heads bobbing in the distance, some following the kayakers all the way to the beach by Aialik where they got out of their boats and walked to the glacier for a better view. Even more seals were near the glacier, napping on the ice and poking their heads out from the water. After getting a close look at the glacier on foot and watching it calve, they headed back to their kayaks and paddled back south to their pickup location. The overnight was successful!
They came back tired but with smiling faces, ready to work a season in this stunning scenery, teach all that they have learned, and work together to make the most of their summer season. After training, they shadowed trips with clients so that they could learn to lead their own. But the training hasn’t stopped there; throughout the whole season they will have access to hundreds of resources, events and even mini-training sessions so they can continue to develop their skills and knowledge.
Cheers to the start of a great season and our amazing new crew!