In Valdez, we go sea kayaking around Prince William Sound. We'd wanted to go iceberg kayaking, but they've been unable to get a group together and don't want to take just us. So they sell us on a different, easier trip, promising we'll see wildlife and birds. I shrug them off with consumer's cynicism.
And boy, did they show me. We see eight million birds. About forty kinds of duck, at least four of which are black with white spots in esoteric places. Ordinary mallard ducks, taking a vacation from stalking cow. Sea otters diving for shellfish. River otters snuggling sleepily on a bank. A harbor seal who followed us to a beach and watched curiously. Bald eagles swooping over a hatchery. Seagulls. Some buteo raptor I didn't recognize at the distance. A golden eagle circling over distant mountains. Arctic terns swooping like swimmers overhead. Cormorants diving for fish. The fish. Little flitty song birds. Loons with their bizarre call. Coots. Grebes.
On the way back to the harbor, we paddle along the bank to minimize the effects of a sudden very strong wind. It's incredible. The bank is all banded slate, three hundred layered colors of rich warm brown, marked by hidden featherveil waterfalls, caves we paddle through and banded pillars we paddle around, and wind-twisted pine trees that look like bonsai.
Iceberg kayaking will have to wait for some other year. Disappointing, but I can't say I didn't have fun.