Temperatures are increasing, ocean levels are rising, and glaciers are melting. Despite how adamantly certain politicians deny it. Since this is unlikely to be reversed any time soon, there are certain places you need to see now, before the landscapes are drastically altered forever. Alaska’s Kenai Fjords National Park is one of those places.
Board a boat in Seward on the Kenai Peninsula to head up Aialik Bay. Watch the icy water for orca whales, Dall’s porpoises, and Steller sea lions. Eat lunch in front of a tidewater glacier. Nearly 40 glaciers flow from the Harding Icefield, covering more than half of Kenai Fjords National Park. Horned Puffins dive under the water, re-emerging much farther away than you expected.
You can barely see the Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge as you pull into the lagoon. Dockside rocking chairs provide the first hint that the area is inhabited. Sixteen simple cabins are hidden among the pines. Protective boardwalks connect the cabins to the main lodge, where a wood-buring fireplace keeps the room cozy. Yes, even during the summer months. Temperatures may reach the low sixties, but when clouds or a gusty breeze move in, you’ll feel a chill. Walk along the dark pebble beach. The Alutiiq people once lived along the entire Southcentral Alaskan coast, though now you’re most likely to see sea otters and seals frollicking in the water, mountain goats and maybe black bears on the shore, and birds flying all around.
Dinner at the lodge is a communal event that begins with a glass of Chardonnay, appetizers, and stories from the day’s adventures. Four-course meals usually include locally caught salmon. With almost 19 hours of sunlight in July, sleep is hard to come by, though the sooner you go to bed, the sooner you can go sea kayaking–and explore a tiny section of the largest state in the United States–in the morning.
After a buffet breakfast that includes Alaskan blueberry muffins, homemade granola, and reindeer sausage, head out on the water. Pedersen Glacier is in front of you. In the fjords of Aialik Bay, you’ll pass floating glacial ice and sheer ice cliffs. The powerful silence is broken only by your paddle and calving glaciers. Pull your kayak ashore when you need a break and get hungry. The lodge packed lunch–in a reusable bag–for you to eat along your journey. You only have to share the beach with Black-legged Kittiwakes and Murres. Surrounded by rugged beauty, you’ve never felt so small. Or so sad, realizing how much the Kenai Fjords will change in the upcoming years.