We just got back from a week in Alaska. And guess what? We did not cruise, fish, or hunt. What then did we do? We glamped, baby!
You know when you know it’s time to unplug? You’re harping on small people for tracking dirt on the doormat. Or feeling frustrated when your offspring keep calling you ‘Mom’. Or wondering why is it that no one in this house has developed telepathic powers?! When the sometimes imaginary, mostly first world problems seem MONUMENTAL, it’s time to glamp, Alaska style. Or it worked for us anyway. Alaska was the ideal place to get back in touch with nature, and by nature I mean the wild, unhampered, undomesticated people that are my children and husband. (They could NEVER say that about me. Except every day, wink.)
“So, you get many narwhals in these parts?” I asked the driver of the water taxi on our way from Homer to Between Beaches Alaska, our chosen glamping spot. He was the stern and serious type. His mission – to transport us to MacDonald Spit, situated between Kasitsna and Kachemak Bays, on the Cook Inlet in Southcentral Alaska. He was apparently not there to entertain ridiculous questions from uninformed visitors.
In response, he let out a LONG and LOUD exhale. Crap, I thought. I hate asking stupid questions. (‘No question is stupid!’ I always tell my kids. But we all know there are those questions. The ones that make you scratch your head, wondering if someone will be living at home longer than anticipated.)
“Not even close,” he finally said. “Narwhals are in Canada.”
“Oh,” I said, relieved. “Well that isn’t so far.”
“The other side of Canada, near Greenland.”
This is when Oldest Child peeled her nose from the window, yanked out her ear buds, and hollered, “Hey Dad, how much you wanna’ bet we see a narwhal?” We Salatkas are an impressive bunch. However, it’s possible we need to bone up on our Nat Geo.
Our destination, MacDonald Spit, is a misnomer. It is significantly more miniature than a spit. A spit is a small peninsula. Homer is on a spit. Homer is an adorable doll-sized fishing village. MacDonald Spit makes Homer look like Greater Los Angeles. For the purposes of our trip, we coined a far more appropriate name for our spit – The MacDonald Gleek.
The Gleek is about a mile long and maybe one hundred yards wide, tops. Twenty homes reside there, boasting spectacular water views out the front and back.
One of the larger properties on the Gleek still belongs to an original homestead family, the MacLeans. They rent two on-site cabins to visitors, some who come in search of the Full Monty-laska experience, some who come to experience the absence of activity. That’s right, nothing! Nothing I say! if you’re in the first group, the opportunities for outings and adventure from the Gleek are endless. If you’re in the second group, welcome, friend. You, too, will love it here.
In truth, we did want to do a few things. We booked our Glampout on the Gleek during a week of low tides (code for any tide lower than -2). We explored the teeming tide pools that ran the entire length of The Gleek on the daily. The sea life we saw was unmatched by anything I’d seen before. Sand dollars dotted the beach. Sea stars in every size and color relaxed on the rocks. Two giant octopus lurked in the shallows, waiting for the tides to return and deliver them to the mother sea. Crabs of all variety frolicked hither and thither*. So much life, it almost made me suspicious. Did they just stock this place, like one of those awesome concrete “lakes” from my childhood? Is there any chance that a place could actually be this bountiful?
Another low tide activity we loved – clamming for dinner. I mean, I know I don’t get out much, but this was amazing! Both the activity and ensuing meal were fantastic. (Clams, existing outside of a glass case on ice? Next you’re gonna tell me gullible is not in the dictionary.)
When the waves rolled in, we paddle boated.
Back on dry land, it seemed like every bush we walked past was growing an edible berry. “Come, eat of my fruit!” they whispered as we ventured by. (Did someone just plant these bushes so it felt like we were in a food gathering fairytale?) FYI, there were also a few poisonous berries. This presented a great opportunity for the kids to play ‘Berry Police’ and refer to this berry book to ensure we were consuming safely. Once we confirmed we were out of harm’s way, we baked many a pie with our harvest.
We loved our daily stop in the native town of Seldovia, 7 miles from the Gleek, and uber quaint. There are a couple restaurants there that I will dream about for years. The seafood chowder at The Boardwalk Restaurant should be illegal. The chai tea and chocolate brownie at Amon’s, mmm.
Hiking trails abound. The Otter Bahn trail, a 1.5 mile hike from the center of Seldovia, was our favorite. It is maintained by the local high schoolers. How cute is that? After leading you through native forest, the hike dumps you at a pristine beach. Here is where you can finally stop to snarf the blueberries you have squished in your palm, the ones you plucked from the side of the trail when you were sure no one was looking.
Between Beaches is rustic without a doubt. The cabins are tiny, but oh, so cozy! What puts the GL- in glamp? Comfy beds and thick comforters. Antique sterling silver flatware in each cabin. Other lovely Alaskan touches. Hot, in-cabin showers. A sauna on site. A ceramic studio- the perfect thing for dodgy weather. Get ready to embrace your inner hippie! The kids loved the studio. Middle Child fashioned this narwhal for me. (You may be sensing a familial theme..)
At night we lit bonfires on the beach. Just past the flames lay a view of the forest where many bald eagles rested in their gargantuan nests. One could spot them from the beach because their heads looked like marshmallows sprinkled in the trees (And not just because I was at a campfire thinking about my next dessert).
Bald Eagle Sidenote- I’m a sucker for these symbols of our nation for many reasons. 1) They are bad-ass! Their big white head proclaims, I am so apex predator that I can’t hide for nothin’, even if I want to, which I don’t! 2) Although the massive ivory dome is bad ass, the whiteness of it says, I come in peace. Outside of the whole circle of life thing, they mean no harm. Their populations are finally back to healthy, though still protected because they are not what they were before near-extirpation. So, although their large bleached noggins are saying, I am badass and peaceful, what they really mean is, 3) I’m just happy to be here. What a great bird.
At night, we were early to bed in case Aurora showed her Borealis and we needed to rush the beach to witness the show. (Hey- who set up projector lights just outside our line of sight? No way that Vegas Sky situation is for reals.**)
Between Beaches Alaska is not for everyone. You must enjoy the –amp part of glamping. If you don’t like to light a fire, for example, this place is not for you. If you don’t like seafood or can’t stomach berries, this is definitely not your spot. Cell phone reception on the spit is decent, but non-existent in Seldovia. Wifi is free at Between Beaches but only available in the ceramic studio.
As I sat by the fire on our last night, watching bald eagles and alternating popping clams and raspberries like bon bons (Ew. Are you still paying attention? I definitely did not do that. I was obviously well into the pie course by then), I thought about when I could get back to MacDonald Spit. Next summer, I hope. It is just too incredible to not explore further.
I sighed, looking out at the bay, then practically blew hot cocoa from my nose. I could have sworn I just spotted a narwhal.
*Do you know how many times I have wanted to say hither and thither? Thank you, Alaska, for that opportunity.
**Mention this blog if you call to reserve and Kristi will stock the tide pools and arrange the Northern Lights show. Or maybe she’ll just surprise you with some other cool treat.