Tutka Bay Lodge — across Kachemak Bay from Homer, Alaska at the southern tip of the Kenai Peninsula — is the kind of place that even if it rained the entire three days we were there, it wouldn’t have mattered. So what if you get wet kayaking, when you have a large, comfortable cabin to return to where you can nap or curl up with a book. Or soak in the hot tub on a deck with a view of the bay and mountains across the way. The deck is huge, large enough for a helicopter, actually three helicopters for special events for visiting dignitaries like the King of Norway. Even if all of the guests (a maximum of 12) and the entire staff (also 12) gathered on the deck there would be plenty of room to lounge in solitude.
We kayaked every morning we were there, with the same guide assigned to us for our entire stay. Conditions varied over the three days. The first day the water was like satin and the sky like crystal. By the third day the weather turned moody, lending a dramatic, Alaskan quality to the setting as we silently glided past rocky outcroppings topped with tall trees, sometimes with stately bald eagles perched on high branches surveying their domain. At other times as we paddled through open water to explore islands, we crossed paths with sea otters, seals and dolphins. We even spotted a black bear picking his way over rocks and large driftwood logs on an isolated beach.
We also hiked on the private, rugged, two-mile loop trail through an old-growth Sitka spruce forest near the lodge. The narrow, rough trail follows the coast for a while, then plunges into the thick forest. There are lots of roots, rocks and ups and downs which kept me focused on my next steps and my legs in constant, varied movement. It was better than meditation or any stretching exercises I have ever done. Afterwards, I sat on the spacious deck with a beer looking at the scenery and the eagles flying by and waiting for the jacuzzi to heat up. There was plenty else to do – a sunset cruise on a boat to look for wildlife, hike other trails in Kachemak State Park (the first state park in Alaska), get a massage, fish off the pier, and, at an additional cost, go deep sea fishing or bear viewing. Or attend a cooking demo at the lodge or a cooking class at the Widgeon, an old wooden cargo boat that was dragged onto the beach a few years ago and furnished with a long wooden table, a demonstration kitchen, and chandeliers made out of spruce root balls.
Speaking of food, as I often do, the meals were extraordinary, featuring such dishes as spot prawn tacos made with fresh made tortillas, butternut soup with ginger oil, coho salmon with melted leeks and carmelized fennel and spinach, miso cod with bok choy, poached egg, coconut rice, pumpkin seed, furikake (look it up), and sea lettuce. Every afternoon there were fresh baked cookies served warm and moist straight out of the oven.
The company was another plus – educated, accomplished people with a love of the outdoors. We all ate together so mealtimes were lively, interesting, and engaging.
Maybe there were too many attractions. I could have easily spent another day just napping, reading and lounging around.
This was a tough place to leave, but we had other adventures waiting for us in Seward, less than a three hour drive away. Check back in a couple of days for an account of our two days of glaciers, whales and fine dining (yes, fine dining!) in this surprising frontier town at the beginning of the Iditarod Trail.