They say you need “fair weather” to see the Fairweather mountain range in Glacier Bay, and we got better than that with almost clear blue skies and mountains peeking out through a thin layer of clouds. We started our exploration of the Glacier Bay National Park at Johns Hopkins Glacier seeing the immensity of the landscape from sea level up to the 15,300 feet peak of Mount Fairweather. Then it was onto Margerie Glacier where the little ice floes sparkled in the morning sun. However, the real treat was yet to come. As we traversed through Russell Cut, a lone gray wolf sat patiently on the shore of Russell Island as everyone got photos. On the opposite shore, a female coastal brown bear and its cub was spotted so we went to safely investigate while they meandered along the shoreline. After lunch we slowly drifted by South Marble Island, hearing the grunts of Steller sea lions and watching the tufted puffins fly in and out. To finish the day, we moored at Bartlett Cove and stretched our legs with some hiking into the forest admiring the porcupines!
National Geographic Quest
Morning fog swallowed the Southeast Alaskan wilderness. As we cruised into Ushk Bay, anticipation seized the vessel. This morning’s hikes and Zodiac cruises were to be our final operations of the trip; every last one of us was eager to be ensconced in the wonders of the Tongass once again. Following a delicious breakfast — prepared by head chef Paul Cotta and his dedicated team — we set out for shore. Through a light rain we cruised on Zodiacs toward our landing, scattering bald eagles and common mergansers that had congregated along the shore. Ushk Bay’s annual salmon run was nearing its conclusion —and we could smell it. The shoreline was littered with rotting carcasses of pink and chum salmon, many of which were picked apart by corvids, gulls, and bears. Whether or not any of these individuals survived long enough to spawn is a mystery, but there is one certainty amidst this carnage — their sacrifice is not in vain. Their carcasses will enrich this place, injecting the forest with nutrients from the sea. Our last afternoon was spent cruising toward our anchorage near Sitka. The final day of a Lindblad Expeditions cruise is always a hard day. We have all forged new bonds in the fires of wilderness. Every one of us has found ourselves challenged and rewarded, humbled and humored, inspired and inspirational throughout this week. Our new bonds will, thanks to modern technology, be preserved in photographs and videos. Many will be carried on through photos and emails, but this group will never be reconstituted. Though it’s hard to say goodbye, the impermanence of this troupe makes the experience all the more poignant. These adventurers will surely be missed.