Today we were up early for a full day of exploration of Haines, the adventure capitol of Alaska. After our morning stretch class and early breakfast, we disembarked National Geographic Sea Bird to take advantage of a variety of excursions.
The first groups headed out for a float down the Chilkat River or a hike up Mount Riley. The village of Klukwan is home of the Jilkaat Kwaan Cultural Heritage Center, a wonderfully interactive museum where guests enjoyed presentations about Tlingit culture and art, as well as stories about the totem poles and intricate carvings found at this historic site. Next, guests boarded oar boats for a float down the Chilkat River where they saw bears and too many bald eagles to count. This is the site of the largest known concentration of bald eagles in the world! Guests navigated the complicated currents and channels formed by the water that pours down from the Chilkat Glacier.
Our flight-seeing guests were shuttled to the airport where they boarded a classic De Haviland Beaver for a flight up through the mountains to Glacier Bay National Park. Flying through the passes and being able to see glacial terrain from the air was a highlight for most of us. Some even caught glimpses of mountain goats and bears in the high alpine meadows.
We have been following in the steps of John Muir as we explore the glaciers of Southeast Alaska, so we were excited to pass over the impressive Muir Glacier. John Muir, intrigued by the then fledgling science of glaciology, spent time up here in Southeast Alaska exploring the glacial terrain and connecting these observations to his then controversial ideas about the glacial origins of his beloved Yosemite Valley.
Some guests chose a strenuous hike up Mount Riley, passing from the temperate rainforest up to the sub-alpine. The Tundra Trek gave guests the opportunity to cross the border into Canada and hike through the tundra, a very different ecosystem with wide open views, numerous tiny wildflowers, and towering mountains along the distant horizon. Other guests headed out to the Chilkoot River to try fly-fishing for Dolly Varden, a strikingly colored char named for a character in the Charles Dickens novel, Barnaby Rudge.
Back on the ship, we feasted on locally caught Dungeness crab. We were treated to a beautiful sunset cruise around the historic Eldred Rock Light, an octagonal lighthouse that was the last of twelve manned lighthouses in Alaska.