Windows on the Wild

Kachemak Bay Winderness Lodge

Children at play: bears frollicking in McNeil River Brown Bear Sanctuary    

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907-235-8910 >> www.alaskawildernesslodge.com

The lodge offers a single package, a full, five-day immersion, Monday morning to Friday evening, for $2,800 per person. Everything is included, even guides, whine, and boat travel from Homer (which is reachable by road or air). The lodge is open May through late September. Reserve a year ahead for July and August.

THE SINUOUS CHANNEL in front of Kachemak Bay Wilderness Lodge, just southwest of Kenai Fjords National Park, evolves with the tide into broad, salmon-rich China Poot Bay, reflecting the southern light and the colors of the forest and unnamed peaks beyond. And it all seems to belong to you. A guide grabs you after breakfast like your best pal on the first morning of a long school vacation. "What do you want to do today?" he asks. "Kayak, hike, fish?" For five days, you've got Eden to explore together.
AT THE LODGE Weathered docks, decks, and fanciful little buildings blend with big Sitka spruces, gray churt, and beach grass, giving it the feel of an old fishing camp. But inside a cabin where you'd expect to find a rusted cot and a coffee can of nails there appears instead fine art, antiques, and a tile-and-cedar bathroom. Each cabin is only a short jaunt down a forest walk paved with rounded beach stones to the sauna or hot tub. The ceilings of the main lodge are low-slung, the dark wood walls worn smooth by years of polishing. Instead of a grand entryway, there's a rubber-boot collection. After sushi on the deck, guests gather inside to feast on seafood, garden produce, and carefully selected wines.

THE SPORTS Paddle sports are supreme; on one day's journey you can kayak up China Poot Bay, hike an hour to China Poot Lake, and then paddle a cached lodge canoe, feeling Lilliputian amid the high peaks surrounding the placid waters. But the lodge's specialty is natural history: You can go tidepooling or birding, take a forest walk, or explore ruins left by predecessors of the Tanaina Indians. The staff recently included two biologists, an archaeologist, and a forest ecologist. Guest-to-guide ratios are four-to-one or lower.
BACKCOUNTRY FORAY Mako's Water Taxi (907-235-9055, www.makoswatertaxi.com) rents and delivers kayaks. The first day, paddle up China Poot Bay to a natural waterway that connects China Poot to Peterson Bay; then go east through the roadless artists' colony of Halibut Cove (stop for a bite at the Saltry Restaurant) to Halibut Cove Lagoon, which you can enter only at slack tide. Camp there, or stay in a Kachemak Bay State Park rental cabin. Next day, climb 2,600-foot Poot Peak. Start early the following morning to miss the day breeze, paddling out of the lagoon and along the shore to the state park campsite at Humpy Creek, a base for hikes to Grewingk Glacier or fishing in the creek. Arrange for Mako to pick you there.

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