The Babkin: Alaska's Frontier
Aboard an old fishing boat turned charter and equipped with a quiver of Give'r gear, 8 friends set out to Anchorage, Alaska for a week filled with hiking, fishing, and kayaking some of Alaska's most sought after waters. This is their story.
After an entire day airports and cramped seats we had finally landed in Anchorage, Alaska. With numbness in our legs, we decided to get moving with a quick stroll around a nearby lake and alongside the coastline. We grabbed beverages and trusty coozies and geared up to get hearts bumpin’.
The evening walk was our first of many small adventures we were looking to enjoy, and while not why we were here, allowed us to all soak in the new environment with grins for what's to come.
The first 24.
Our first full day. We set our sights on a local hike called Little O’Malleys, a 5-mile roundtrip trek with 1,500 vertical feet in the Chugach National Forest. The hike takes place at the base of a glacier-created valley and encompasses a large set of switchbacks allowing you to ascend (quite quickly) the left side of the valley wall.
The end of the trail opens up in the saddle of the ridge exposing miles on both sides of the valley. Our first high-level views of Alaska and the Anchorage area. Back at the trailhead, we found ourselves headed in the direction of two different breweries – including the popular King Street brewery – to re-hydrate, of course.
The next morning, we then took a transfer to Wittier, the town where we started our adventure. In all her beauty, we were in awe as we boarded The Babkin – a small house-like boat with a cozy main floor, two seating areas, a kitchen, and a second level where the captain’s seat and quarters were.
We dropped our gear and met at the table for a rundown of the area with Alex, our kickass captain. One of our first tasks on the boat was grabbin' the shrimp pots to help make appetizers. Over 600 feet of rope was pulled from the depths below, requiring 3 people to do the job. After only shells remained, we were off to our destination for the night – Long Bay.
A skiff boat named Bob.
The morning kicked off with some rainy weather, but soon cleared up for a day full of kayaking and hiking. We took 6 kayaks and a skiff boat named Bob to a river opening which emptied into the bay where spawning salmon attracted a few black bears. Some seals popped up their heads curious about the new visitors.
Once at the end of the bay, we tied up the watercraft and made our way on a 1-mile hike towards Shrode Lake grabbing more blueberries and raspberries than we had ever seen before. A few of us decided to shed our warm layers and jump into the fresh water lake…considerably cold but refreshing!
The Babkin headed out to its next destination – Herring Bay. Three hours later, we piled into Bob for an early evening excursion exploring the new area. With fishing poles in hand, our sights were set on some halibut. An unsuccessful first attempt.
Pods and Porpoises.
We spent the first half of the next day kayaking the near-by Solf Lake. With ominous weather on the horizon, the group geared up for a wet adventure along with some River Runner Neck Coozies for good measure.
Paddling around with beverages close to our hearts, the group enjoyed the sights and spotted some red salmon near the shore. An empty cooler signified time to head back and prepare for the second half of the day. We were off to Jackpot Bay.
While en route, the Babkin attracted a few Porpoises who joined the charter. We laughed hysterically as the pod swam for several miles seemingly enjoying the playfulness of the boat as it cut a path through the waves.
Three hours later, we tried our luck at some fishing near the mouth of Jackpot Bay. Though fishing ultimately ended up unsuccessful (again), a few brave souls found success jumping from the top of the boat into the cold ocean water. Lucky them?
As the sun sank below the waves, we spent the rain-soaked evening swappin' cards and feeling grateful for the coziness the Babkin provided.
Don't mess with mama.
We departed Jackpot Bay in the late morning and set out to pick up our nearby shrimp pots. Turning up empty, we continued our journey to a nearby river determined to have better luck. A few members of the group went up the river on kayaks, while the rest of us used Bob to haul some lucky fishing rods. The kayak crew paddled to a small waterfall only to soon be joined by some locals. High up on a ridge, a mama bear and her cub watched as they moved through the waters below.
The rest of us unloaded the fishing gear further downriver and began walking up towards the kayakers ensuring to take the long way around and safely avoid the four-legged residents. But it wasn’t long before an Alaskan swarm found us and began feasting. We were covered head to toe in rain gear yet the bugs found their way into our eyes, ears, and mouths. A unanimous decision to head back down river. We said our goodbyes to the bears and climbed back into Bob.
The Chenega Glacier, a giant deep blue glacier that spanned at least a half mile wide and 500-1000 feet high, was our next destination. We immediately set out into the kayaks and began navigating through the small ice glaciers that patrolled the nearby waters.
Every few minutes a caving in the glacier followed by a deep boom would cause waves to swell our kayaks. We docked back at the boat, but before leaving, hosted an epic dance party on the deck with our drone high in the sky. And no party is complete without glacier-cooled beverages.
A fairty-tale ending.
Our final day started with picking up the shrimp pots we had laid out the night before. Our luck was starting to turn. We pulled in roughly 42 shrimp and stowed 'em away for dinner that evening.
With sights set on our second glacier, Tiger Glacier, we used kayaks to navigate within a quarter mile of the glacier wading through ice-filled water and spotting sea otters and seals along the way.
We were told to keep our eyes peeled for whales which are commonly found in the area. As luck would have it, there they were! We jumped into our warm gear and scurried outside as the marine life crept closer to the boat. A pod of 4 humpback whales greeted us every 7-8 minutes as they repeatedly dove to the deep waters below.
We approached our final destination later that evening, Drier Bay, and the group packed into our trusty pal Bob one last time and took an early evening joy ride around the area catching glimpses of more marine life. We were of course accompanied by cold beverages and our river runners, but couldn't fight the bittersweet feelings of the beginning of the end.
After indulging over a dinner full of fresh shrimp from the catch earlier in the day, a few of us grabbed our rods and threw some lines off the boat for one last shot at reeling something in. We dropped our bait a steep 150 feet down into the water. A few minutes later, we had something. Something big. What felt like a log began dipping and bobbing the more we reeled. As we fought to bring the weight to the surface, we caught glimpse of our targeted prize – a giant halibut.
Nearly 10 minutes later, the fish came-a-board. We erupted in loud celebration having successfully landed the reward we had sought for the past 5 days.
The halibut measured up at 63 inches long and produced over 32 pounds of fresh meat - more than enough for several families for several weeks. Our captain Alex went to work teaching us the nimble art of cleaning a fish of this size.
The evening was pure celebration, both for the fish and the memories. Teary eyed, the group reminisced over the last day and all the days leading up to it knowing damn well it was a trip all of us would remember – forever.