Tuesday, August 20, 2013

49th State: Alaska–Holgate Arm/Holgate Glacier (Aug. 20, 2013)

Me in the rear, partner Gary in front at the Holgate Glacier.

Don’t think for one second that Alaska is not a photogenic place… I have had to divide this Blog Post into sections to make it faster to load just so I could share this experience with all of my followers.  See links at the bottom for other pages on my Alaska trip.  This page will just be about the paddle itself.

As you may know, in the spring of 2013, I tried to become a driver/guide for a tour bus company in Alaska, training out of Phoenix, AZ, but my eyes didn't work good enough to insure that I would be a safe driver (that was Plan A).  They are 20-30, but I can't make out things like railroad crossings, caution yellow signs, etc. from 1/4 - 1/2 mile away. So I had to give up that Plan A and go to a heartbreaking Plan B in order to met my goal to kayak my 49th state in 2013.  Goals are important… but WHY? I’m not sure.  It was just important.

Had I gotten the job, I'd have been forced to live in a hotel (sharing a room with other people) and prevented from even sleeping in my  own camper van at night (after paying $1,200 to get it up there).  It would only have taken only a week or two of that arrangement before I'd have ended up in a hospital from breathing inside air anyway.  Even in Plan B, I became sick from just spending a few hours in my sister’s home, and a few more hours driving with them (they smoke but not in the vehicle with me in it) so I was forced to limit my stay to only three nights, and I spent those nights sleeping in the back seat of their truck, my choice, as I don’t sleep inside anymore.  It rained the whole time I was there – my sinus are not too fond of that either.

Getting To and From the Holgate Glacier  (READ MORE)


Dall Dolphins playing in front of the boat.

Finally, after more than three hours, we reached the kayak drop off point and begin unloading gear.


Can I take it home, Mom? Can I, can I?


Look at all the rocks, and Mom, I didn’t bring even one back.


I thought it was interesting to see the folks from either Norway or Sweden, just standing like that, waiting for our guide.  Americans were all scrambling about looking at stuff.


Our guide bringing gear ashore, and towing the kayaks from the boat to shore.


Ten year old Devon, our youngest kayaker, listening to instructions.  After a little training from our guide (blue jacket) we were ready to push off. 

Words fail me in describing the paddle so I am going to just let the photos speak.  Here is the paddle itself at the Holgate Glacier:

I learned from our guide that the ice calving off the Glacier NOW is 400 years old, so I determined I’d have to catch an iceberg and eat it… and I did and if was fresh and sweet and delicious (below).

IMGA0090 - Copy

Additional Holgate Glacier information - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holgate_Glacier


Do you see the small patch of sunlight? That’s all the sun we got all day, and no sun the day before or after this shot.


ONE spot of sunshine. Well, I prayed this day would be just a little bit better than the day before, weather wise… and here is the “little bit.”

Here is a You-Tube of it calving… we didn’t see anything this exciting, but heard the Glacier thunder and saw some small calving.  You-tube.


As we were about to shove off and return to port… one of the kayaks escaped and our guide had to go grab it with the dingy.  Then the boat when out to grab him.


Ashes overboard, R.I.P. David Swankie.

Oh, and my sister Cheryl made me promise to tell you this funny story…  about my husband’s ashes.  David Swankie was born in Seward Alaska.  He died in 2001.  Some of his ashes were spread in a Washington river at his favorite fishing spot.  I had kept the rest of them for 12 years but when I decided to kayak Alaska, I decided to take them with me and spread them during my paddle.  I took them with me… they were in the clear plastic dry bag in front of me in this photo, I forgot to spread them (call it a senior moment).


David Swankie went all the way to the Holgate Glacier with me, and almost returned to port in Seward, when I noticed the ashes in my dry bag (I was having so much fun I didn’t think about them once, not once), I yanked them out, jumped up hollering “I forgot to dump my husband’s ashes…” went running through the cabin of the boat, to the stern… repeating myself, people scattering out of my way, ripping open the bag and letting them fly… no photos as I had planned.  I turned to walk back into the cabin and laughingly exclaimed “Well, that was fuckin’ different!” and noticed people gawking at me in horror!  What can I say, you got to do what you got to do.  Heck, he wasn’t born at the Glacier anyway, he was born in town… so it is all good, and I know he was looking down on me from heaven laughing his head off.  I feel him smiling still.


In closing - a few people had donated funds last spring so that I could catch the ferry in order to report for the job in Alaska. Since the job didn’t work out, and I didn’t take the ferry, I would gladly give refunds, just let me know (charlene.swankie@gmail.com).  Please know that I appreciate each and every one of you and WILL pay your kindness forward.


The Road Trip–Anchorage-Seward-Anchorage.
Getting To and From the Holgate Glacier
Alaska Flora and Fauna
The Flights To and From Alaska
My Sister and Her Land

Next up, kayak Hawaii in May 2014 to celebrate the completion of my 50-state kayaking adventure and my to celebrate my 70th birthday.  Come along if you like.  (This is really important as in 2005, I could barely walk and was shopping for a wheelchair.)

Who is Swankie?

My photo
Anywhere, USA, Full-Time USA traveler, United States
In 2006, I was shopping for a wheelchair. By 2007, I had new knees, better health and by 2008 a kayak. In Aug 2013, I kayaked my 49th state, Alaska, at the Holgate Glacier and in May 2014, I kayaked Hawaii, my 50th state, to celebrate my 70th Birthday and the finale to the wonderful adventure of Kayaking America? Next up... Solo Hiking the Arizona Trail, 820 miles? Maybe. Still healing from shoulder and trying to decide.