Monday, July 9, 2012

Glacier Bay National Park

June 30- July 3rd-

Saturday, June 30th, 6am, we boarded the ferry as ‘walk-ons’ and headed for Gustavus. Again, the weather was foggy, with misty rain, but with hopes of a clearing forecast. We have not, however, let the rain stop us from getting out. We just layer up and keep our rain jackets  handy…… in other words, act like the locals.

We arrived in Gustavus, the gateway town to Glacier Bay NP at 11:30am. We were surprised to see just a long ramp going to a parking lot. No ferry terminal building. This ferry has just been offering service to Gustavus for a year. Before that, you would have to fly over to Glacier Bay. So….not much in the way of services.

We, and a whole group of other travelers, were met by the Glacier Bay lodge bus and taken the 20 minute road trip on to the Lodge. There we had lunch and waited (somewhat impatiently) for our room to be ready for check-in. The lodge seems to have a bit of a problem being ‘timely’…….and I was a bit disappointed in the quality… seemed more of a Holiday Inn than a Hampton….and not even in a charmingly ‘old’ kind of way. But, I can’t complain about the meals, which were very good, though a limited menu……nor the setting, which was beautiful…..

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The lodge sits up on a hill overlooking the little marina and docks….The water ringed by snow-capped mountains. We would be at Glacier Bay for 3 nights. Sunday, our first full day at Glacier Bay would be spent on a tour boat, heading up the bay to view the glaciers.


Glacier Bay is meant to be explored from the water… sightseeing boat tours….Or by kayak.


These kayakers were dropped off on a beach abut 1/2 way up the bay. They had hitched a ride on our sightseeing tour boat, which offers regular pick-up and drop offs. These guys will stay out for 3 nights, paddling around the area, before being picked back up.


You can also explore the Glacier Bay area on foot…..walking on the tidal beach…


And exploring the tide pools left behind. Tidal fluctuations, here, can be as high as 25 feet.

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And, don’t forget to look up! Most of Alaska’s 40,000 eagles are in Southeast Alaska……this whole Inside Passage area, which explains why we have been treated to seeing so many.


Glacier Bay, like all of the Inside Passage is a temperate rainforest…..with moss covered ground and trees. These moss covered tree branches are nicknamed ‘teddy bear arms’.

Ranger led hikes are a great way to learn more about a park. On Monday, we took a hike with one of the rangers. As we followed an ‘animal path’ through the forest, we noticed a lot of bear scat (poop) along the path. Unfortunately, we never saw the bear. There were several kids along on this hike, and I think that the bear may have been looking for a bit more peace and quiet.   : )

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We did get a good look at a belted kingfisher…..

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And a porcupine.


We looked for moose along the edge of this pond, where we were told they love to ‘slurp’ up the vegetation like spaghetti. We did not see any moose……

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But enjoyed looking at all the beautiful flowers – more of these in another post.   : )


When we walked back out that evening, we spotted these ducks settling in for the evening.

This eagle totem is carved into a live tree. it is a ‘property line’ marker for the Tlingit Peoples.


Glacier Bay is considered to be the homeland for the Huna Tlingit. These peoples can trace their heritage in this area back 8,000 years……through several glacial surges and retreats…….when the last glacial surge occurred in the 1700’s, it caused them to flee “as fast as a dog could run”. They settled in Hoonah, on the southern shore of Icy Strait.

When the glacier retreated 65 miles back, Glacier Bay was formed. With the establishment of Glacier Bay National Park, The Huna Tlingit lost access to their ancestral homeland. Efforts are now being made to incorporate the Huna Tlingit’s story into the park. Several Tlingit women come to give presentations at the lodge, and plans for the construction of a tribal longhouse are being made.

There are many different experiences of Glacier Bay……from land and water…… through time and culture. Our three days were spent getting a feel for this area that “sits in the place of the glacier”.

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