The invitation came at the perfect time, in the middle of a depressing winter. "Would you like to join us for an eight-day kayaking cruise this summer, in Prince William Sound?" The email was from Kenny Blum, an outfitter I knew.
He had no idea my personal life was in turmoil, priming me for a distraction like this. Though I had barely any experience in a kayak, I said yes instantly. Then, in a fit of enthusiasm, I booked a glacier trek in Juneau to follow. Might as well go all the way.
Fast-forward five months. I'm boarding a plane for Valdez, Alaska, with a suitcase of new gear. I'll be joining four highly experienced kayakers for this cruise aboard the 42-foot Denali. I, who have never kayaked more than 4 miles in my life.
I'm the last to arrive in Valdez. Is this a sign? From the Pangaea Adventures shop, I'm transported via water taxi to Prince William Sound to join the boat near Shoup Glacier. The sound is a roughly 100-mile-wide inlet studded with icebergs. Dan Ureda, the captain of the Denali, shows me my tiny cabin and tells me everything I need to know in a nutshell: "We have limited fresh water; showers are precious."
The rest of the group returns from kayaking. They're older than I expected, but much fitter than I am. There are three men, one woman, and the guide, Ben Smaha, who looks like he just got out of college. They wave to me, and we start chatting easily as we reload their kayaks onto the boat. Even though I'm the newcomer to this group of kayaking buddies, an easy rapport forms over dinner. We spend the night anchored in Sawmill Bay. I lie awake in the hazy midnight sun.