ALASKA OUTDOORS Wildlife

Alaska | Canoeing in Kenai National Wildlife Refuge

January 5, 2012

Sometimes our travel schedules are so jam-packed with things to do and eat, that we end up not fully enjoying the travel experience. On this trip, we planned a couple days of down time into our loose itinerary so that we could have an unplanned day like this one. We slept in, took long showers, watched crappy tv, ate a huge breakfast (and stuffed leftovers into our backpacks), and canoed down a lazy river.

We contemplated several options that afternoon – fishing (the area was extremely popular for salmon fishing), canoeing down one of the many canoe trails, hiking – there were so many options for outdoor activities that it was almost overwhelming. We decided to go canoeing, since it was something he had not done in a long time. After talking to a kind old lady at the canoe rental/campground, we decided to rent a canoe for just a half day, and canoe down the easiest/calmest river – the Moose River.

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The kind old lady helped us lift and secure the canoe to the top of our car (that’s Alaskan women for you) and pointed us in the direction of the boat ramp. We dragged the boat into the water and then I jumped in the front. Canoes are pretty stable once in the river, but oh man, every single time we launch a canoe, I swear I almost end up in the water. After some serious boat rocking and some excited cries, we were on our way.
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I forgot to mention – after hours of scouring and calling all the stores in Anchorage the previous day, we finally found Xtra-Tufs, aka the official shoes of Alaska, at a place called Alaska Industrial Hardware. That store was no joke. Anyway they were the perfect shoes for our little canoe trip.

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Once again, we found ourselves all alone in pristine wilderness, which I found amazing and unnerving at the same time. On the water, we could hear the tiniest of sounds for miles and miles. Everything seemed so amplified – the beautiful cloudy reflections, the sound of the paddle slicing through the water, the water cradling our canoe, birds chirping… It was crazy to think that not far off the beaten path, one could enter an entirely different world of solitude.

Our first animal sighting was a baby eagle. We noticed it right away because eagles are massive creatures, and sitting alone on the marshy banks, this guy looked abnormally large. As we continued canoeing, two birds swooped and flew over us (we think they were eagles, but for all we know they could have been vultures) as if beckoning us to follow them. We stopped paddling, had some lunch, and watched them play.

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And then we figured out how Moose River got its name.

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The moose seemed like such a natural part of the landscape, that we barely even noticed it until we were right beside it. The moose, in return, gave us little thought. Like most animals we have encountered in the wild, we were insignificant beings. They could care less that we were there.

As we canoed up river deeper into the wildlife refuge, the river narrowed and snaked and curved around tall grass more frequently. After a while, it started to feel a bit too Heart of Darkness for me. It was almost too quiet.

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Several hours in, we decided to turn around and head downstream. With the current gently pushing us forward, we were able to relax and enjoy the ride back.

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Yet another beautiful day in Alaska that made you happy to be alive.

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