Kayaking Into The Wild: 4 Days in the Alaskan Rainforest
I walk down to the shoreline, alone.
I sit and look out at the still water, and up, way up, at the 3,000-foot granite cliff before me.
The only sounds I hear are the gentle lap of the waves and the soft tap-dancing of the rain on the ocean.
As I turn to the campsite and count two tents, I realize I am likely one of four people… in 2.2 million acres of wilderness.
Alright, I suck at math, but I’m pretty sure that means I have approximately 500,000 acres of wilderness to myself. That’s almost the size of Rhode Island.
Holy shit. That’s awesome.
I’m spending four days kayaking in the Misty Fjords National Monument, located about 40 nautical miles from Ketchikan, Alaska. I’ve been here before, both on a floatplane and on a speedboat, but never like this.
Kayak. That is the only way to experience the incomparable beauty that is the Misty Fjords.
In May, I traveled with three other friends deep into the Alaskan wilderness. We took a water taxi from Southeast Sea Kayaks and were dropped off, kayaks and camping gear in tow, at Punchbowl Cove, located in Rudyerd Bay.
Rudyerd is what people picture when they think of the Misty Fjords. Dramatic 3,000-foot granite cliffs, shooting straight into the depths of the Pacific Ocean.
That is, if they’ve heard of the Misty Fjords. Most people haven’t. I sure hadn’t until I began researching where the heck I was moving back in 2010.
In case you’re like most, here are some key facts. Misty Fjords National Monument is the largest national monument in the United States. Located in the temperate rainforest of Southeast Alaska, it is inaccessible by roads: the only way to reach it is by boat or floatplane. The glacially-carved fjords are covered in trees, waterfalls, and wildlife… and not a whole lot else.
Since it’s not very well-known, there are few visitors. During the cruise ship season, there are high-speed catamarans and floatplanes that come through during the day, but after the ships leave in the late afternoon, you very well may have the monument to yourself.
I don’t know what I did to deserve four wonderful days of kayaking in the Misty Fjords, but I’m thankful for whatever it is.
As for how beautiful it is, you really just have to see it to believe it.
I could waste time using a bunch of cliched adjectives trying to describe it, but I hope that the photos will do most of the work for me.
It is green, so green (it better be, as it rains more than 300 days per year!), and it is one of the most ridiculously gorgeous places I’ve ever been. I’ve traveled a lot, and being an outdoors lover, to a lot of incredible natural areas.
Nicaragua? Thailand? Petra? In terms of raw natural beauty, the Misty Fjords tops them all. The combination of lush greenery, soaring mountains, and vast ocean, combine to make it paradise on earth. Well, paradise if it rained all the time.
(Speaking of rain, we absolutely lucked out with the weather as well. I thanked my friends for being nice people over the past year, because our karma must have been rocking to hardly get rained on once. I mean, they’re called MISTY for a reason.)
By paddling a kayak, we were able to enjoy an absolute quiet that you can’t experience in any other vehicle.
We were also able to sneak up on wildlife, which is no easy feat! We saw a brown bear, black bear, mountain goat, and many bald eagles and seals. On the boat ride there, we also saw some playful Dall’s Porpoises.
More important than what we did see, however, was what we didn’t see.
We didn’t see any other people. We never heard a cell phone ring. We didn’t think about work, family issues, or any problems going on back in the real world. The serenity and peace that I experienced out there has never been matched in my life.
As a travel blogger, I feel like I’m constantly connected to the internet. No matter what your job is, I imagine that many of you feel the same way.
Ironically enough, the internet abounds with talk of “unplugging” and taking a break from technology. Well, if that’s what you’re looking to do, you can’t do much better than 2.2 million acres of wilderness in Alaska.
This is truly the place to get away from it all.
- The best (pretty much, the only) times to visit are May, June, July, and August.
- If you’d like to rent kayaks, you should be an experienced sea kayaker, comfortable with self-rescues in cold water.
- You should also have experience in the backcountry, particularly with bears and with Leave No Trace camping techniques. As my boss always says, “The Alaskan wilderness is not a place to learn new skills.”
- You should be prepared for rain — a lot of it.
- If you aren’t comfortable with those things, then I’d suggest a guided trip. Period.
- The Fjords are 40 nautical miles from Ketchikan. Just a word of warning: getting out there is time-consuming AND expensive. But SO worth it!
Disclosure: I worked for Southeast Sea Kayaks in the summers of 2010 and 2012. I would highly recommend them for any and all of your kayaking needs in Ketchikan, especially being that they wrote pretty much the only trip planning guide to the Misty Fjords. If you don’t trust me, however, just check out their Trip Advisor reviews!