“…break clean away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods.” ~ John Muir
My wilderness hero speaks such wisdom, but how often I forget.
Finding my happy place in Alaska seems so simple, right? A travel journalist, out and about to all sorts of beautiful places on a regular basis, channeling my inner Zen? Not so much, lately.
Sometimes it takes a place like Kenai Fjords Wilderness Lodge to remind people like me about the forest, forgotten because of the trees. As in, I’m so wrapped up in these incredible places I forget to appreciate them as they should be, through the eyes of those seeing them for the first time. The best, first time.
Enter the lodge. Owned by CIRI Alaska Tourism, and operated through the Kenai Fjords Tours in Seward, the Wilderness Lodge is quietly emerging after a complete rebuild from its previous 1970’s-era structure. Celebrating a grand opening only last week, AK Dad and I were one of a handful of new guests deposited on the rocky shoreline of Fox Island to breathe in the newness and breathe out the stress.
Reached via Kenai Fjords Tour boats, guests have the option of three packages to complete their lodge experience; we chose the shortest tour (for our departure day), wanting to spend as much time exploring this craggy, crescent-shaped island as long as possible before returning to reality in Anchorage. Eight cabins and the new lodge are accessible to overnight guests; a day lodge is open as well, but serves mostly the day cruise passengers who choose to indulge in a delicious prime rib and salmon lunch before continuing on their merry way of glacier and wildlife-viewing. The facilities are sparkling clean, beds in the little cabins are cushy and reminiscent of a 1930’s woodsy decor, but it’s the Wilderness Lodge that takes your breath away.
Built to 3,300 square feet, the lodge is a place of private retreat on the south end of the beach, quiet enough to hear the smooth rocks clicking and clacking against each other with incoming and outgoing tides. Featuring bright wood paneling and rustic touches, the living room space is filled with natural light and a wonderful view of Resurrection Bay, and is open to guests 24/7. An attached dining room is intimately configured to allow for more natural light to come flooding over the tables, with full-panel windows making eating secondary to ogling the scenery outside. With a glass of wine, excellent cuisine, and good company, it is hard to leave the table. Have a special dietery need? Simply let the reservations agents know ahead of time, and your own meal will be prepared just the way you like, no questions asked.
Chef Bryan Eddy is a master of creating fresh, innovative dishes using local vegetables, meats, and seafood. Our dinner included fresh beach greens harvested that afternoon, and the salmon retained both its color and flavor, paired nicely with scallops and a glass of fine wine. He created a luscious creme’ dessert as well, which left little room for the bonfire s’mores offered by the on-site naturalist, another great bonus of staying overnight at the Wilderness Lodge.
The company has thought of everything; from kayak trips under the guidance of Sunny Cove Sea Kayaking, operating from the day lodge, to guided nature walks along the fascinating island shoreline. Heck, if sitting in a deck chair watching the world float by is what you’d like to do, be their guest; staff are there for any reason, any time. It is luxurious, it is heady, and it is not often found so close to Anchorage, and I loved every selfish minute of it.
Reservations for Kenai Fjords Wilderness Lodge are most often arranged as a package: Guests pay for transportation to and from the lodge, a tour, lunch, dinner, and breakfast the next morning (also lunch if you are staying until the 2 p.m. departure of your boat). Also included are snacks and select activities, like the aforementioned bonfire and nature hike. June is a desirable month to visit the lodge – guests receive 10% off their stay, making the $489/adult, $169/kids 2-5 price tag a bit more manageable. But remember, this is a bundled trip of a high-end scale; if you paid ala carte for such an experience it would be far more expensive. Do the math, and after you’ve sufficiently relaxed on the expansive deck, beer in hand, cares melted away, you can thank me.
More information and reservations can be found at 877-777-4053.
Break away? I think I need to do this, more often.