By Inge Davids, NOLS Alaska Equipment Coordinator
"Now I see the secret of the making of the best persons.
It is to grow in the open air,
and to eat and sleep with the earth."
The rainy afternoon is coming to an end as our NOLS group paddles the last strokes of the day and reaches a small stony beach in Cochrane Bay, Prince William Sound in Alaska. Allen and I are the first to go ashore, carefully stepping out of our kayak so we don't top our Xtratuf boots. We are today's "beach bosses;" it is our duty to check the conditions of a new campsite. We scout the beach and surrounding terrain with our tide chart and bear spray handy, calling a loud "Heeey bear!" every few moments to ensure we don’t surprise any new neighbors. The beach is slanted and small; no more than 5 meters deep and 50 meters wide. Not much space for a group of 15 people with five large tents, tarps and ten kayaks, but after a quick meeting with our Leaders of the Day we decide to stay. It has been a nice long day, and it is time to set up camp, get ourselves warm and, if possible, dry.
We empty our kayaks of all our gear, lift them up and carry them far beyond the high tide line. Our tarps and tents are set up quickly, while our instructors show us how to create "sleep levels" in the slanted, stony surface.
Once we are all settled in, a few from the group take off to go fishing. There are fish everywhere, we can see them jumping out of the water. It is not long before they return, carrying several big salmons with them. We gather around to admire the catch, and less than an hour later, our instructor Lloyd comes around with freshly baked salmon. There is something truly wonderful about sitting dry and warm underneath your tarp, looking out over the bay, enjoying a hot drink and eating a freshly caught Alaskan salmon.
We eat our fill, clean our pots with gravel and sea water and get ready for the night. I brush my teeth by the shoreline, the tide washing my toothpaste in the sea.
Later that evening, I crawl into my sleeping bag, feeling very "Alaskan." It is almost midnight, but it is still bright outside. It is cold, I am wearing all of my layers and my fleece hat. I cannot hear anything else but the sea washing on shore and the splashes from the salmon jumping out of the water. I can smell the salty water in the air. I know that there is nothing but nature surrounding us, endless water and wild lands. I know that we carry everything we need to survive and thrive in these conditions. And I know that tomorrow, the adventure continues.
About the Author: Inge Davids is a NOLS alumna from the Netherlands. After graduating with a BA in Interior Architecture from an art academy, Inge traveled throughout North America for two years in the pursuit of adventure. It was during this time that she found herself on a NOLS course, as well as working in Denali National Park. Inge now works at the NOLS Alaska branch, and previously interned for the school in Patagonia in Chile. During her free time she enjoys exploring, and using writing and photography to share her stories of exploration. Read more from Inge: "New Frontiers: From the Netherlands to Alaska"