Today’s entry is about our great sea kayaking trip with Seaside Adventure Eco-Tours, a small mom and pop outfit in Little Tutka Bay, just across Kachemak Bay from the lovely town of Homer, Alaska. You need to take a water taxi to get here, but the trip, and the entire experience, are worth the logistical difficulties. You quickly learn in Alaska that getting from point A to point B often entails travel by means other than an automobile.
I chose Seaside Adventure for our sea kayaking trip for two reasons. First, I needed a lower intensity trip than many outfitters offer, as we had a broad range of ages and physical abilities on this trip, from my 7-year old daughter to my septuagenarian in-laws. By staying in bays and coves, this trip would allow us to avoid the high seas, winds and currents often experienced with Alaska paddling. The second reason I went with Seaside was the focus of their trips – they want to teach you about Alaska. Seaside Adventure is owned by Rick and Dorle Harness, and Rick is a naturalist who knows more about the Alaskan flora and fauna than just about anyone around. But more importantly, Rick knows which plants and sea creatures are edible and which are not. He knows that a certain sea star tastes a bit like garlic. Or that some types of sedge grass add a mild and pleasant bitterness to some dishes.
So it only made sense that one our day of sea kayaking, we took a break on a remote island for a little lunch — some of Rick’s specialty Kayak Soup. OK, he doesn’t call it that or any other name in particular, but I’ll always remember this special meal as Kayak Soup.
As we were paddling, Rick pulled up a large, dark green piece of seaweed, known as bull kelp or bull whip kelp. He told us about this plant can amazingly grow up to two feet a day, how it’s loaded with tons of minerals, and is quite tasty, too. So he cut off a large hunk of this sea vegetable, and we paddled on.
When we landed at our designated island, Rick showed us where Alaskan natives used to cook hundreds of years earlier. We picked various grasses and plants to add to our soup, including the great-tasting lovage. We picked dozens of thumb-sized mussels off of some rocks. Rick and the other two guides were doing the prep work, adding some salmon that they had caught the day before and some rice as a filler. They sliced up the bull kelp into little olive-like rings. We then added the mussels that we had cleaned at the shore line. And then the local grasses. Boy, the soup smelled great on this cool afternoon, and frankly, I couldn’t have wanted anything more than I wanted this soup.
Rick showed us how the bull kelp changed color when it cooked, from a dark green to a much brighter, almost fluorescent green. He further demonstrated this phenomenon when he cut off a slice of the end of the kelp to make a ladle to serve the soup — the bowl of this “ladle” turned bright green. Very cool.
The soup was delicious, and I particularly liked the crunch and flavor of the kelp. Of course, the whole-grain bread baked by Dorle wasn’t too shabby, either. We were living off the land on a small island in Alaska. And living well.