Posts Tagged ‘prince william sound’
Sunny spring days inspire folks in Valdez to get out on the water – kayaking, sailing, fishing, and shrimping. Sailors love summer in Valdez when a west wind almost always arrives in the late afternoon.
Yesterday, my friend Josh McDonald invited me along on Bema, his 27-foot sloop, for a quick happy hour sail around Prince William Sound. It’s just a little shakedown before heading out for a weeklong sailing/skiing adventure. When summer kicks in, Josh leads folks on super cool, small group, custom kayak adventures as owner and lead guide of Unbeaten Path.
Thanks and cheers Josh!
In Valdez, there are mostly two genres of weather: jaw dropping beautiful Bluebird Days and the complete opposite – Graybird Days. I have been spared the Hellacious Wind Days when the winds crest upwards of 160 mph for days on end. So one of the best things to do in rainy weather has always been kayaking so I called my friend Josh McDonald to see if he was game to go for a paddle. Josh runs a multi-day kayak tour company called Unbeathen Path Adventures. He’s a wicked good snowboarder and snowboard instructor and an avid paddler, sailor and like so many people here, entrepreneur. Mereidi, nursing a pre-surgical injured ACL, joined us. We girls paddled tandem. Word on the street was that there’d been a whale fiesta in the sound. That word started with Josh actually, who had taken some heliski clients out for a casual tour around the Sound (Prince William Sound) on a recent Graybird Day and came across a herd of whales loitering around. My friend Scott Hocking with Chugach Coastal Cruising had seen a fin whale a couple days previously so I was hopeful we’d see some giant sea mammals. Alas, like my luck with snow, northern lights and wildlife viewing, the whales, along with virtually every other kind of wildlife that frequents these parts, took the day off. No porpoises either, just a lone sea otter.
Pictured from left to right: The Ingenue, Josh and Alison, Alison, the view
It was a spectacular day in Valdez on my grandma’s birthday this week. As far as the eye could see it was blue. In Valdez, when the going goes blue, the skiers get going.
Blue days like this are so incredibly beautiful they should be a local holiday. But today, the kids were in school and I was on my way to the School Bus on Thompson Pass. Thompson Psss has a reputation for lots of snow. Wikipedia claims is “the snowiest place in Alaska.” With good reason. In the winter of 1952–1953, 974.5 inches of snow fell—the most ever recorded in one season at one location in Alaska. The pass also holds the Alaska record for the most snow in a single day: 62 inches fell on December 29, 1955. This year is on track to break the records.
It was only my second time on the pass so I was grateful that veterans Alison and Josh were kind enough to let me tag along. Multi-talented Alison does a lot of things, like being a nanny, a researcher, a substitute teacher and heading up the kitchen at the Wrangell Mountains Center in MCarthy in the summer. Josh lives on his 27-foot sailboat in Valdez Harbor and guides multi-day sea kayak tours in the summer through his company Unbeaten Path Sea Kayaking.
There’s a lot of choices of places to go around skiing around Valdez so the hardest part of our morning was settling on a place to go. Brand new to the area, I was just happy to be along and listened and tried to learn as Alison and Josh debated various routes as we toddled up the Richardson Highway in Alison’s little red Subaru. The passenger side window was frozen half open and the suspension is missing in action but the brave little car got us to where we were going and back. Given time constraints and a desire to soak in the sun, the route settled on was to skin up Moonlight Basin, take a look around and then decide the best route to ski down. The skinning wasn’t all that strenuous; we got to the col around Noon. Each of the three of took turns breaking trail although Josh did the lion’s share of setting the track as Alison’s dog Thule bounded along. Aalison kept marveling at our good luck a) there wasn’t anyone else around us on this normally pretty popular route b) there were no snowmobiles c) it wasn’t windy. It was just a perfect day.
Looking at our options from the top of col we agreed to go “up and over” and ski the north facing slope known as School Bus. Made sense to me. The southerly slope we just skinned up was getting getting hit by the sun and the School Bus was in the shade. Looking down at School Bus, it looked wind affected, but looks can be deceiving. The School Bus delivered 3,000 feet of surprisingly soft, easy skiing snow. Sweet and deep!
Under normal circumstances we should have had to hitchhike back to Alison’s car. A pickup truck with a camper shell on the back was parked right where we hit the road and the truck’s kind owner Karen offered to shuttle all three of us and Thule back to Alison’s car. Sweet!