Kayakers take 'road less traveled' on trip from Seward to Homer

Posted: Thursday, February 22, 2001

KENAI (AP) -- This isn't a three-hour cruise, Gilligan.

No, Gilligan didn't plan on being away from civilization for any extended amounts of time, he didn't worry about bears and what the weather could turn into the next day, and he definitely didn't worry about traveling in a 17-foot sea kayak and the possibility of waves that could be twice the height of a man.

And, unlike Gilligan, the participants of this trip only had very positive things to say about its results.

''It really couldn't have been a better trip,'' Robert Ruffner said. ''The weather was absolutely phenomenal and I couldn't have asked for a better person to do it with.''

Kevin Schrier was the second half of the duo that took on the elements and the possibilities of a raging ocean to kayak from Seward to Homer last summer.

''This has been something that I have always really wanted to do,'' Schrier said. ''I started looking at maps about six years ago and saw this trip as a good-looking possibility.''

The duo took their Dagger-Apostle sea kayaks, a narrow, plastic kayak, into the waters of Aialik Bay, beyond the outer reaches of Resurrection Bay, and began their voyage in the early weeks of August.

The trip, which lasted 14 days, brought with it an amazing view of wildlife, including sea lions, tufted puffins, otters, a great blue heron and even a glimpse of a humpback whale.

''It was just amazing how many animals we saw,'' Ruffner said. ''It was a spectacular sight to see every day we were out there.''

Though food and game were abundant between the resources of salmon, blueberries and salmonberries throughout their trip, the pair came prepared for the worst. They packed freeze-dried foods, breads, peanut butter, fruits and vegetables, along with plenty of water and containers to fill along the way.

''We could have easily planned on catching more fish,'' Ruffner said. ''Rockfish are usually very easy to catch, but we didn't want to take a chance that something might go wrong.''

In fact, at one point of their travels, Ruffner pulled in a salmon with his rod and reel for the duo to feast on.

''We heated some flat slab we had found in the hot ashes of our fire and cooked it that way,'' Ruffner said. ''Between the two of us, we had seven meals out of that fish.''

They packed rain gear and radios and used their cameras to help record the natural wonders they witnessed.

The trip, which took them to such places as the Northwestern Fjord, Two Arm Bay, Nuka Bay and around the dangerous finger of Gore Point, found the kayakers traveling a distance of about 15 miles a day.

''We traveled about 200-miles in the way of paddling,'' Schrier said. ''Every day we averaged about six hours in the water.''

According to both kayakers, the only other people they encountered after their first day were beyond Gore Point, leaving more than half their adventure to be traveled in solitude.

''Whenever you go on a trip that might last two or three weeks, you never know how well you will get along with the person you are going with,'' Ruffner said. ''Kevin and I got along wonderfully. We have personalities that mix well and didn't have any problems.''

At one point during the journey, the kayakers made their way through 10-foot waves as they rounded Gore Point, the area that they had feared would bring dangerous conditions.

''The waves were big rollers,'' Ruffner said. ''We couldn't see each other for a few minutes at a time because we would be in between these huge waves.

''Luckily, none of the waves were breaking and neither of us came very close to tipping over.''

The next morning, the pair awoke to find almost 15-foot waves blasting about in the open sea. Common sense and kayaking experience, mixed with no sense of urgency, kept the pair from attempting the monstrous seas.

''We really only went out when we were comfortable with the situation,'' Schrier said. ''The next day was much calmer and we headed out again then.''

According to Ruffner, the greatest moment in the trip wasn't pulling into Homer or seeing all of nature's wonders. To him it was the sight of a familiar landmark indicating they were on their way home.

''At one point I looked up at the horizon and I could see (Mount) Redoubt,'' he said. ''Right then and there the feeling came over me that we had accomplished something -- that we had done it.''

Humor even struck the travelers as they came upon areas with dangerously suggestive names that had the duo wondering what they would be paddling into.

''We would look at out map and see these areas with really foreboding names like Dangerous Cape,'' Schrier said. ''Dangerous Cape was actually flat and calm; it sure wasn't that dangerous that day.''

Though their trip was fairly uneventful, the kayakers kept in mind they definitely had luck on their side.

''Our trip could have been much, much more difficult,'' Ruffner said. ''We were very lucky with the weather, and it made the trip much easier for us.''

The success of the trip left the two with a sense of wanting to do it again.

''There are many more trips to be taken,'' Schrier said. ''With all of our new information we could really have an adventure if we were to take that trip again.''

Ruffner agreed that there were many sights and areas he would like to travel to again if he could stretch the time of the journey into three or more weeks. But he also reminded Schrier that there are different adventures to be had and sights to be seen with the use of the versatile kayaks.

''There is a lot to do,'' he said. ''There is a lot of big coastline out there.


(Distributed by The Associated Press)


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