Going Wild in Alaska's Sadie Cove
Seattle Magazine, March 2006
As I steer my kayak around the bend, I am breathless with anticipation. Yesterday at this time, at this very spot, my guide Marcee, who is now two boat-lengths behind me, had a close encounter with a black bear out searching for clams on the beach. But in negotiating the turn myself today, I realize that Marcee had not uncovered any habitual ursine behavior the day before, as our friend the bear is nowhere in sight.
But despite this, I realize that the very prospect of seeing a bear digging for clams highlights Sadie Cove's charm. It doesn't get much more remote than this, tucked into a fjord 10 miles across Kachemak Bay from the town of Homer, halibut fishing capital of the world, on Alaska's Kenai peninsula. Given my own newly developing affinity for the area, I start to wonder if maybe the halibut--not to mention the sea otters, bald eagles, mountain goats and black bears--are onto something. Indeed, the very wildness of Sadie Cove is practically tangible.
For those who like to indulge their wild side, the Sadie Cove Wilderness Lodge is the place to stay. Built by hook or by crook in the 1970s by Lower 48 expat Keith Iverson, the lodge and its facilities keep visitors one step away from the elements while indulging them with rustic luxuries. While those looking for five-star amenities might be better served elsewhere, the lodge offers visitors the opportunity to live a simpler life while delighting in the abounding wonders of nature visible in every direction.
Famished after my late afternoon kayaking adventure, I peel back my spray skirt and meander up to the kitchen, where I am greeted by the sweet smell of fresh-baked bread. As I walk through the door, Randi Iverson, co-proprietor of the lodge and Keith's wife of 8 years, is pulling piping hot loaves out of the propane-fueled oven for the evening's repast. On the counter lay a dozen neatly trimmed halibut steaks, patiently awaiting Randi's secret seasoning before their own upcoming appointment with the oven. My mouth is watering. It dawns on me that since the halibut I usually order in Seattle no doubt hails from these waters, I will probably never have such a fresh cut of fish as tonight. While she would love to chat, Randi informs me that she has to make a quick run up to the lodge's garden--actually a series of old skiffs filled with compost soil and planted with a wide array of sumptuous edibles--up the hill. I decide it will be in my own best interest to let her go, so I open the door for her on her way out.
With a few minutes to kill before dinner, I take a seat on a rough-hewn deck chair to survey the panorama spread out before me. To the south, Sadie Cove stretches out as far as the eye can see. Due west, the cove's opening yields a view of Mt. Augustine, an active volcano a hundred miles away in the Aleutian chain. As I scan to the right, a glint of light catches my eye, and before I know it, a bald eagle with a wingspan wider than I am tall swoops down to the beach directly in front of me, scavenging a dead salmon that had washed up on shore. The eagle picks up his dinner and flies back up to a nest in a spruce tree just 100 yards or so away, still on the lodge's property. There the majestic bird shares the meal with another eagle, presumably his better half.
Just then, the conch shell blows. While I would love to stay out and watch the rest of the eagles' show unfold, I would hate to disappoint Randi by being late to the table. And the halibut, just out of the oven, is sending me olfactory signals to boot. I guess "roughing it" at Sadie Cove is just what the doctor ordered.
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Alaska's Sadie Cove Wilderness Lodge
Inside Kachemak Bay State Park
Box 2265, Homer, Alaska 99603
1-888-283-7234 (Toll free)
907-235-2350 (within Alaska)
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This site was last updated on 09/24/2010