Six kayaks to 60 in six years
Wolfgang Kurtz | For The LOG
Rick Brown flashes his grin out front of Adventure Sixty North’s new digs on Exit Glacier Road, a block off the Seward Highway. Neighbors, friends and volunteers helped clean up the parking lot after Seward’s recent flooding.
Adventure Sixty North is aiming to make Seward Southcentral Alaska’s destination for outside the box recreational adventure. The humble beginnings in 2006, consisting of six kayaks in a little cabin at Knots So Fast Feed Store, have transformed into a bustling enterprise with a new location, new equipment and a vision for taking visitors to the limits of what the Seward area can offer.
I stepped into Adventure Sixty North’s comfortable and expansive new location on Exit Glacier Road to talk with Rick Brown, proprietor. The outfit made the move next to the Salmon Bake in March and ever since then “this place has been hopping,” according to Brown. After more than doubling their business this year with the new location and a spreading reputation for delivering the recreational goods, Brown has winter activities targeted for further development.
The most recent addition to the equipment inventory, a Snowcat, is opening up new territory for adventurers to indulge in cross country skiing, snowshoeing, camping or just plain sightseeing. As soon as there’s a foot or two of snow on the ground the ‘Cat will be trundling down Exit Glacier Road, delivering it’s passengers to their pursuits.
The upcoming addition of a snow groomer attachment will fuel plans to increase the inventory of prepared trails for skiers and a second Snowcat is in the offing. Working with local ski enthusiasts, he hopes to build Seward’s reputation as a winter playground for skiers. Another reason to hit Girdwood and then keep driving south.
Then the world comes knocking. Like when a fellow from mainland China stopped by and turned out to be scouting edgy recreational opportunities for a large Chinese tour company. “You never know who you’re gonna run into when you open the door,” notes Brown. There’s the family from Jakarta, Indonesia, whose first encounter with snow got them stuck in a nearby driveway during last winter’s first dump.
The next day Brown had them out in the Snowcat. They were more than a little reluctant to jump out into that strange stuff — petrified actually. However, with some demonstrations on Brown’s part everyone was soon making snow angels, a ploy that he often employs overcome snow anxiety in the uninitiated. Not that there’s much worry when out in the ‘Cat. “You don’t have to worry about getting stuck,” said Brown.
However, Adventure Sixty North isn’t all Rick Brown. He’s the first to credit his associate Lynzy Burke and office manager Michelle Schwartz as well as fellow Snowcat “pilot” Devin Putney. And the business couldn’t have grown to this point without the continuing help from the community, especially the “outdoorsy” types that have an affinity for what Adventure Sixty North is all about.
For next summer, ASN will continue to expand into expeditions rather than just offering the more orthodox sightseeing tours or Resurrection Bay cruises. Although the latter are the current bread and butter of Seward tourism, Brown thinks that creativity, planning and development are going to put the Seward area on the top of destination lists. There’s also a shift in the types of recreational opportunities that visitors are looking for.
These changing attitudes are also reflected by some of the corporate and media visitors to the Seward area like Apple, Patagonia and the Outdoor Channel, who trade on the cachet of outdoor recreational trends. Patagonia called Adventure Sixty North to stage a kayak expedition from Northwestern Fjord to Aialik Bay. The Outdoor Channel dropped by to film its kayak trip to Bear Glacier. It’s hard to figure what Apple was up to — Brown can’t say.
From paddling to Thumb Cove and sailing back to the small boat harbor to jumping on a helicopter bound for Bear Glacier, and spending the day kayaking, ASN continues to develop a wide variety of adventures beyond the ordinary. For example, winter kayaking is an option not typically on the top of the list, but Brown notes that on Resurrection Bay “there’s winter days when it’s absolutely gorgeous.”
Expanding ASN’s reach includes supporting other outfits to raise the intensity and variety of recreational experiences. Last winter Chugach Powder Guides spent three weeks in the area bringing helicopter skiing to virgin territory on the mountains just east of Seward. This winter, depending on snow pack and conditions, they may spend up to five weeks on area slopes.
Adventure Sixty North is shaping up to be a one-stop shop for anyone hitting the trails, the slopes, or the water. They offer rentals of practical articles like bear spray, boots and camp gear to backpacks, canoes and kayaks. Along with Ron Shurman of Seward Bike Shop, they’re setting up for bicycle rentals.
Right now the focus is on “getting winter stuff going on in Seward,” as Brown puts it, with a lot of people collaborating to “make winter work.” There’s 250,000 visitors to Alaska every winter and Adventure Sixty North want to see them all down here in some skis. Or snowshoes. Or even a kayak.
The contact information for Adventure Sixty North is 31872 Exit Glacier Road, 224-2600, www.adventure60.com.