The Bilgesnipe, you know. Huge, scaly, big antlers. You don’t have those?

For Raging Madness X we went big, on a multi-day sea kayaking trip in southeast Alaska from the islands in Prince William Sound to Columbia Glacier. In true RM style the adventure started in the airport, where Geoff’s flight to Sea-Tac had been delayed causing a cascade of missed connections, but every group member was on their phone or pleading with an agent in both Seattle and Anchorage, escalating the incident to a matter of executive concern and delaying the final propeller flight of the day to Valdez by enough time to have him driven to the gate. Anchorage airport is a good appetizer to real Alaska, with camouflaged men carrying sniper rifles in pelican cases with Sarah Palin ’08 bumper stickers and with a whole separate luggage check process for wild-caught salmon.

Noble Danny surveys the grey Initial beachhead

This is our first trip with guides but Anadyr Adventures did not disappoint, sometimes overdoing it towards luxury when we are used to the hygiene standards and self-reliance of backpacking. We chose this time of year mostly because it was calving season (both for icebergs and for whales), but additionally NOT mosquito season, which was heavenly. Another advantage of guides was that at least one had a geology degree, and we have always wanted a geologist so we spent the week pestering her about the tectonic collisions that formed the Aleutians, why the pillow basalt was the same here as in Thailand, and whether the iron pyrite near the abandoned copper mine was supposed to have right angles in its crystallites.

Sea lions: many. RMers: 9. Oops. Water that color is sort of more Hawaiian, no?

The animals were great from the start, too: bald eagles everywhere and a hundred otters and seals. We paddled too close to a colony of sea lions so the alpha male dispatched his sentries to bonk our boats and bark at us while we tried to simultaneously take pictures (Danny) and not capsize (me). One of the rocky beaches where we stopped for lunch has recently taken the name Whale Rider, because a couple from last year had actually been picked up by a surfacing whale and were so surprised they both fell out trying to take pictures. So worth it. When was the last trip where you can honestly say that you had real reindeer sausages for breakfast every morning for a week, at a total cost (measured in wounds) of two bandaged knuckles and a toenail?

Quite beautiful, once you go around the corner past the vast remoteness. Would you like whiskey with those ice cubes?

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