The day began early with our destinations shrouded in mist and clouds. National Geographic Sea Bird was anchored in the harbor, and guests were shuttled through the fog to their various expeditions. Some headed off early for the tundra trek, which took guests up into Canada to explore true arctic tundra, a biome vastly different from the coastal temperate rainforest of Southeast Alaska. They arrived to clear views of the snow-covered peaks on the horizon. Tundra wildflowers bloomed in profusion while birds called from the knee-high tundra vegetation.
Those who opted for the Kluckwan village and Chilkat River float spent time learning about Tlingit traditions before hopping into oar boats for a float down a beautiful wide river valley lined with black cottonwoods. The Chilkat River is a great example of a braided river because it is so flat and interlaced with shallow rivulets that weave back and forth. Numerous bald eagles perched in cottonwoods and waiting for salmon were a highlight for most guests.
The coastal hike took guests out to Battery Point through Sitka spruce forests, along rocky beaches, and into boreal meadows where crowberries, blueberries, salmonberries, and deadly baneberries ripened in the warmth and long days of mid-July. Those who tackled Mount Riley hiked through the low-hanging clouds from the temperate rainforest up to the sub-alpine.
Fly fishing allowed guests to immerse themselves in the cold, glacier-fed water of the Chilkoot River while catching the whimsically named Dolly Varden, a colorful type of char. Many guests followed a morning of fly fishing with a bike ride down the coast.
As the morning clouds cleared, flight seers took to the air in a classic De Haviland Beaver for a flight up to Glacier Bay National Park. The mountains were awe-inspiring, especially as mist was still clinging to many of the peaks. Being able to see glaciers from the air whetted everyone’s appetite for our upcoming trip to the South Sawyer Glacier. Some spied moose, black and brown bears, and mountain goats as the pilot directed the plane along the high alpine meadows.
Back in Haines, some guests explored the Hammer Museum with its largest collection of hammers in the world. As we feasted on locally caught Dungeness crab back on board, we were treated to a gorgeous double rainbow as we sailed south towards Tracy Arm and the South Sawyer Glacier.