With 60 years of experience providing reliable outdoor gear, Kelty enables everyone to embrace the outdoors with confidence. Add to that innovative carrying solutions including camera cases and lumbar packs from Mountainsmith, and we’re confident you’ll be well-prepared for your next outdoor adventure.
When you’re done shopping, have a look at how one of our very own embraces the outdoors:
Two years ago I found myself in a very fortunate place in my life. I was back living in the same remote Southeast, Alaskan wilderness that I had once called home as a child. It had been years since I had been back and strangely it seemed like no time had passed at all since I left. The only change was in my willingness to be there as an adult instead of feeling forced there as I had as a nine-year-old. I was looking for a summer of self-reflection before grad school in a place that I was comfortable exploring, while also giving me a new thrill to feed my adventurous spirit. It had been a while since I had what I like to call my “ultimate awe” moment. The moment when you get so excited and wrapped up in the natural elements around you that nothing else matters. I knew I needed to find that again. I didn’t want to be someone who took experiences that I was fortunate enough to have for granted. I wanted to have an “awe” moment so serene that it would make my adventure worth every second. I turned a glimpse of potential guilt into inspiration and set out on a 6‑day adventure into the remote Alaskan wilderness of Glacier Bay National Park.
The story below will tell of the adventure, but I finally had my “awe” moment and found something that excited me more than I could have ever imagained…
It was a Wednesday morning when we set out from Bartlett Cove at the Glacier Bay National Park headquarters. We loaded up our two-man kayak with enough gear and food to last us a week and set our sights on reaching McBride Glacier in three days; an ambitious 60 mile goal, especially for a beginner sea kayker. After paddling 15 miles on day one, we didn’t quite reach where we had hoped, but found a great campsite in the famous Beardsley islands and decided to give ourselves a rest for the night. My only fear during the entire trip was having a bad encounter with a brown bear and we hadn’t seen any up to this point, which had me feeling pretty safe at the spot we found for the night.
On day two we knew we had to make up a lot of miles and pushed it hard; we paddled 25 miles in a single day along towering mountain peaks, rocky ocean beaches and calm icy waters. We finally reached our destination around 6pm, which only put us 15 miles from the Glacier. Considering our previous days mileage, this was an achievable distance to reaching our day 3 goal. We were feeling safe after scoping out the camp spot and didn’t see many traces of bears; enough to keep me up anyways. We were already getting better at unloading the boat and storing our bear cans. Each time we arrived at a spot, we had to unpack everything, set up our tent, move our kayak 50 yards from our tent and our bear cans another 150 yards from camp. It became an exhausting process loading and unloading, but I think we both put on some much-needed muscle! We cooked every night in the intertidal waters to wash away any smells and lit small fires to keep the bugs away. We ate well and enjoyed spending time surrounded in the most beautiful area I had ever seen. Up until this point we had not seen another living soul since leaving the Beardsley’s. The East arm of Glacier Bay restricts any cruise ships so it still remains a place for true wilderness adventure.
I awoke the next morning to some bustling noise around our tent. In a state of fear I peeked through the tiny tent window and I could see a brown bear roughly 20–30 feet away. My worst nightmare was happening. I could see the headlines now: “Young Campers Mauled by Grizzly in Alaska.” I sank back into my sleeping bag and started to hyperventilate; I quickly realized that I wasn’t nearly as tough as I thought I was. I don’t think I have ever had such a gut wrenching feeling in my life. After a small and whispering argument over what to do, we blew our bear whistle as loud as possible. The bear immediately ran off in the other direction and although our first bear scare was over and it was overall a good encounter (minus my skyrocketing blood pressure), I couldn’t help but feel on edge anytime we were on land. Strangely, I began to feel much safer in the boat.
It took me awhile to calm down and load the boat as I was constantly banging rocks together and blowing the whistle to scare off any bears. We set off again for a 15-mile day to McBride Glacier. As we got closer we started to pass by floating icebergs and the water began to get much colder. We were definitely getting further up the East Arm and were heading into further seclusion. I have to admit, it’s a bit overwhelming knowing that you are the only people in such a massive and dramatic landscape, but it was truly breathtaking. By 3pm, we started to round the point where we knew the Glacier was. We had sore arms and swollen hands from all the paddling by this point, but stoke was high and our adrenaline had us paddling faster by the second. We pushed hard and finally made it. McBride is the most active Glacier in the entire park, receding 15–20 feet/day. We spent the night with a glacier view and could hear ice breaking off the glacier wall throughout the night. It echoed off the walls of the high mountain peaks and cliffs, aside from being completely amazed, the noise also made it easy for me to blame any bit of sound on ice falling in the water instead of a bear sitting in front of my tent with a dinner plate and fork.
We woke to a huge icefield of water that the currents had pushed ashore and enjoyed our last breakfast before making the paddle home. Just as we were getting ready to start packing, we looked across the bay and saw a large bear walking along the coast. I again, began to hyperventilate and even recall dumping all of my oatmeal and coffee into the ocean, frantically packing up the bear cans and pacing in a circle; a totally unproductive move and waste of a good meal. I’m your girl for adventure, but not when things get scary. I could only hope that the bear wouldn’t cross the frigid cold waters, but I was wrong. It jumped right into the water and swam with the icebergs over to our side of camp. I was armed with bear spray, but that was hardly enough to keep me calm. Once again, the bear continued along the beach, barely taking the time to even look over at us. Now that my panic had completely ruined breakfast and any chance at a morning meal (over nothing- really) we decided it was time to go.
We set off again to sunshine and calm waters, passing more icebergs, 6 more bears, eagles galore, sea lions, sea otters, moose and hundreds of species of birds. The trek back was just as magical as the trek there. We spent a day on a great beach watching the sunset, sitting by a fire and cooking dinner. We had originally planned to stay another night before our boat pick-up on Monday morning, but just as we had camp all set up the idea of a hungry bear sitting in front of my tent plagued me once again and I knew it was going to be a sleepless night. Luckily, it was solstice, so I was able to convince Scott that we’d have enough light to paddle through the night. My undying fear of the great brown bear quickly transformed into the most amazing experience of my life. It was cold, calm and clear. So quiet you could only hear the swift motion of our paddles pulling our boat through the water. The sea was glowing with bright green phosphorescence and at the very moment, nothing else mattered except the adventure we were on and the sights surrounding me.
Still, to this day and I imagine forever, my adventure will remain a memory that has become my escape to a ‘happy place.’