Alaska's Kenai Peninsula is the Bermuda Triangle of the Arctic: Spend a few days wandering its glacier-etched fjords, towering peaks, and cobalt streams, and you
may never leave. "I came for vacation and just stayed," says Alaska Sea Kayakers guide Sergio Simunovic, 25, who migrated from Boston two years ago. "That happens a lot out here." It's no wonder. The Kenai manages to pack Alaska's premier assets—dense coastal wetlands, old-growth rain forests, and wildlife, including black bears, moose, and whales—into an area the size of West Virginia. And during the first half of September, when summer crowds disperse and warm weather lingers, it'll be just you, the critters, and the locals—two per square mile (three square kilometers), to be precise.
Prince William Sound has a sound track all its own: the thunderous groan of a calving Blackstone Glacier. With Alaska Sea Kayakers (ASK), you can paddle close enough to Blackstone to see the ice explode before you hear its booming clap. End the day at Whittier's Swiftwater Seafood Cafe, a favorite of the ASK crew.
The Harding Icefield Trail climbs 4,000 butt-kicking feet (1,219 meters) in just four miles (six kilometers). The payoff: a perch atop Exit Glacier, with the 300-square-mile (777-square-kilometer) Harding Icefield spread before you. Down below, hoist a post-hike Alaska microbrew at the Salmon Bake pub. (You can't miss their "Cheap beer and lousy food" sign from Exit Glacier Road.)
Kachemak Bay's 30-pound (14-kilogram) halibut put up one helluva battle. But they can't outmuscle a 41-foot (12-meter) trawler from Sea Flight Charters (SFC). Back at the docks, SFC fillets and packs your catch (limit: two fish a day). For the perfect wine pairing, pick up a bottle of Homer-grown raspberry-rhubarb vino at Bear Creek Winery.
You'll be in good company rafting Sixmile Creek in September: "Salmon run it then and jump right up next to your raft," says Jay Doyle, owner of Chugach Outdoor Center, in Hope. But that's just a sideshow. Sixmile serves up a barrage of Class IVs and Vs, plunging 50 feet (15 meters) a mile (two kilometers) between 500-foot (152-meter) canyon walls.
Do: Alaska Sea Kayakers ($300 for a daylong kayaking trip; www.alaskaseakayakers.com); Sea Flight Charters ($195 for a daylong fishing charter; www.seaflightsportfishing.com); Chugach Outdoor Center ($145 for a five-hour rafting trip; www.chugachoutdoorcenter.com)
Sleep: Ballaine House B&B ($100; www.superpage.com/ballaine); Halcyon Heights B&B ($145; www.alaskaone.com/halcyonheights)
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