The End of a Season
on assignment with, ibex photographer, nelson brown
nelson brown 〡 January 7th, 2022
Traditionally, the end of a season is defined by the quarterly transition of sunlight caused by the Earth's tilt and its annual revolution around the sun. These seasonal transitions bring many opportunities for change: time to rest, time to grow, time to reach potentials, and time to shed and prepare for regrowth. For a small family of guides in Seward, Alaska, a five-month kayaking season consists of many similar opportunities. Together we learn and grow, we find new potentials and reach peaks, we shed layers and prepare for new phases in life. Each year, the guiding season ends with an epic multi-day trip that recognizes a collective evolution of change with a celebration of togetherness.
For the five months of a kayaking season, a group of roughly sixteen guides each year share one fridge, one four-burner stove, and the same couch. We share adventure, advice, a sense of comfort, and strength as we evolve from strangers into friends. We storm, we norm, we encourage each other everyday to be the best possible versions of ourselves.
I worked at Kayak Adventures for two summer seasons as a sea kayak guide, our goal was always to inspire wonder and a sense of awe in the natural world in those who seek to explore the dramatic coastline of the Kenai Fjords National Park. In celebrating our efforts and a full summer of guiding, the owners and leaders of this shop inspire adventure in all of us by planning for an epic adventure to cap off our season. This end-of-season trip means spending time running alongside one another instead of bustling past each other. It means sharing our love, our gratitude, and our sense of curiosity for Alaska.
This trip is a moment in time where we get to take all of our favorite people and go search for pure, unapologetic adventure.
We loaded our packs, layered the food that we had prepared and placed into ziplock bags the night before into our bear cans, threw on our crampons and began to cross the Root Glacier with the goal of setting up camp at Donoho Basin that same day. We lucked out and hit such beautiful golden light as we crossed the mile wide glacier. Time slowed as we took breaks every couple minutes to watch in awe as the sun dipped behind the horizon line. Eventually our team made it to camp in our headlamps to make our meals and set up our tents.
Getting perspective of the valley below from hiking these peaks is more than impressive, it's an intense and flooding reminder of how expansive this land is and how these glaciers and their movements shape this landscape. My curiosity and wonder are always heightened on these trips. The group energy feels limitless as we develop goals and aspirations for the day to then set out on an epic journey to achieve them. Days like this are truly unforgettable.
the summit of donoho:
Snow had fallen on the peaks that we visited just the day before. We packed up our gear, hiked back over Root Glacier, jumped on the local $5 shuttle and headed to our lodge for the night. We celebrated with drinks and tacos using a full kitchen at a local lodge. As we unpacked, we chatted about the plans and excitement for our morning of packrafting the Kennicott River the following day.
It was an eventful and long drive back to Anchorage. We encountered an alarming ‘thud’ crossing the iconic Kuskulana River Bridge. The van started to rumble right in the middle of the 525ft long and 238ft high one-lane bridge, as we recognized that we had a flat tire. We kept the gas on the pedal in order to get off the bridge. Without trouble, our team was able to remove the old and replace it with a new tire and leave with another story to tell about the trip.
The drive started to transition to reflecting on our memorable guiding moments from the summer to sharing new plans after the season’s end while we ventured through the Glenn Highway.
In the midst of a transition from fall to winter, I began to welcome a new direction - a fresh start. One of the more challenging parts of the end-of-season trip is recognizing, well, just that... the end. Some guides will plan to return for the following year, and others will plan to take on a new experience. After living under the same roof for a season and sharing so much time together, this trip and the last ride back to Anchorage makes me question about the next time we will all get to adventure together. It may not ever happen again, but to me that idea makes this trip all the more meaningful. Allowing us to spend the time that we have together in the present. With each guiding season bringing us the room to grow, to change and to become the best version of ourselves, one summer at a time.
A special thanks to Trent Gould and Hannah Lafleur at Kayak Adventures & Seward Wilderness Collective who inspire us daily with their passion and enthusiasm to collectively play in, learn about, and preserve the beauty of all outdoor spaces.
the GEAR LIST