May 22, 2018 - National Geographic Sea Bird
Haines offered us so many adventures today. We began the day splitting in two groups. A small group trekked up the 1,700-foot-tall Mount Riley, skillfully dodging puddles of boot-sucking mud and climbing the steep grade among centuries-old western hemlock and Sitka spruce trees. The varied thrushes and hermit thrushes sang their loud, melodic, whistling songs in the forest in an attempt to attract mates—typical this time of year. At the top of the forest, engulfed in the typical mist of Southeast Alaska, we came upon a muskeg—a type of bog, with acidic, mossy, spongy soils that are inhospitable to many plants. The mist and wind made for a mystical and beautiful—albeit cold—few minutes at the summit.
All the while, a larger group was floating down the Chilkat River, enjoying spectacular views of the snowy mountains and large numbers of bald eagles along the river. This spot is famous for the largest concentration of eagles in winter, and in November salmon run up this river. The importance of the bald eagle and raven in the local culture was evident during the powerful Tlingit ceremony in the village of Klukwan early in the morning. The relationship between nature and the indigenous people along the northwest coast of Washington, British Columbia, and Alaska is something special to celebrate.
The afternoon offered more fun activities for all, the highlight of which was flightseeing above the glaciers near Haines. The weather really opened up and people were able to enjoy sweeping views of the stunning glacial landscape, with tidewater glaciers, crevasses, seracs; some of us even saw bears along the shoreline near the glaciers, all from the comfort of a rugged small airplane. We were really struck by the power of glaciers to shape the inlets and the entire landscape in Southeast Alaska.
Many of us explored the town of Haines in the afternoon as well, sampling some of the local fare, including smoked salmon, smoked halibut, the local distillery’s gin and bourbon, and the local brewery’s Spruce Tip Ale, named after the spruce tip syrup that people make in Southeast Alaska in spring.
More adventure awaits tomorrow as we get up-close to glaciers on the water in Endicott Arm and Dawes Glacier, one of the most beautiful and bluest glaciers in Alaska.
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