Today we woke to still water, overcast skies and the quaint dock fronting the small town of Wrangell, Alaska. After breakfast some guests opted for a trip up the Stikine River via jet boat. The Stikine is the largest river to cross through the Coastal Mountains into Canada, a large amount of this water flowing from the huge Stikine icefield. Jetboats glided past cottonwood and Sitka spruce up to large tidal flats filled with glacial till. Guests enjoyed threading their way through this complex system of braided channels, wetlands, islands, mud and grass flats, encountering ice washed downstream from the glacier. Running the flats was the best part for many—the pilot, James, had been exploring these flats since he was 11 years old!
A second group stayed and explored Wrangell Island. First stop was Chief Shakes house for a presentation on Tlingit culture-our local guide weaving together stories of his life growing up Tlingit with the stories intricately carved into the totem poles that lined the tribal longhouse. We then headed into the woods for a hike around some muskeg, a type of northern ecosystem characterized by vegetation adapted to a wet environment and peat deposits. We found soggy sphagnum moss, carnivorous sundew plants, stunted shore pines and abundant sedges (sedges have edges). The morning exploration concluded with a trip to Petroglyph Beach-an amazing place with centuries-old Tlingit petroglyphs carved into the intertidal rocks. We learned that John Muir sketched these same petroglyphs when he travelled to Alaska.
Our afternoon was spent exploring Wrangell, hiking up Dewey Mountain and visiting the Wrangell Museum. Walking up boardwalks and stairs (we counted 495!) to the top of Dewy Mountain was a trip through the coastal temperate rainforest dominated by towering Sitka spruce, western hemlocks and ripe blueberries to a beautiful viewpoint overlooking the town and bay.
Back onboard National Geographic Sea Bird, we feasted on locally sourced crab as we sailed south to our next destination-Misty Fjords.