In the middle of several crazy months of vacation, work, and out-of-town weddings, I just spent a week in southeast Alaska–and what a break from Louisiana it was. I don’t think there’s any better way to start this post than with this picture:
Yep, that’s four of us jumping off a perfectly good boat into 34 degree water in front of Lamplugh glacier in Glacier Bay. You only live once, right?
That was our second day in Alaska and right in the middle of a three-day cruise through Glacier Bay. Though it was cloudy, cold and rainy for most of those three days, along the way we saw otters, puffins, sea lions, seals, bald eagles, mountain goats, and even two wolves! There’s no other way to describe the sound of wolves howling to each other than haunting–it was an amazing thing to experience.
Over our first few days, we did some kayaking, shore hikes, kayaking, glacier viewings, and lots of wildlife watching from the boat. On day three, we woke up to kayak about 7 miles along the shoreline while keeping an eye out for humpback whales–and we saw three of them along the way. Plus we encountered a couple very curious seals and otters.
After disembarking, we spent a day in Gustavus (pop. under 500, about the same as our high school class) doing a lowlands and beach hike, checking out port, and getting ready for phase 2 of our adventure. We took a small prop plane flight south and landed in Wrangell for more hiking and one of the big highlights of our trip–a bear observatory. Virtually nothing separated us from black and brown bears while they caught dozens of salmon in the river below. We spent over three hours completely engrossed and watching individual bears, mothers with cubs, and eagles fishing and munching on salmon who were just trying to make their way up the small waterfall but often coming to a rather bloody end (I did not take that photo on the right!).
We headed back to Juneau by plane (it’s the only state capital completely inaccessible by road from the rest of the state) for the end of our trip, with our pilot happily veering off course to let us take photos of the coastal mountains bordering Canada, ice fields, glaciers, and bright blue-green bays. It was a beautiful and sunny day, apparently a rarity in the area since it rains over 200 days each year, and we even caught glimpses of the peak of Mt. Fairweather, one of the world’s tallest (15,000+ feet) coastal mountains that is usually obscured by clouds. We spent that afternoon on Mt. Roberts overlooking Juneau and hiking up to the alpine meadows over the city (living in a flat city reaaally doesn’t prepare you for climbing hundreds of feet quickly).
The next and final day of our trip was the other major highlight of the week:
Glacier hiking! We took a helicopter out to Mendenhall Glacier and spent two hours wandering around in crampons (spiked shoes for ice) on top of the glacier. In some spots where the ice has melted a bit on top, it’s a incredible shade of bright blue. Our guide works in Philly during the year and spends his summers on glacier in Alaska–perhaps it’s time for a career change?
Alas, then it all ended and it was on to a week of terrible flights, work, errands, etc. as we get back to our normal schedules. So glad we got the chance to join the trip–who wants to go with us on our next trip to Alaska?