When I was 16 I got for my birthday a small photo book put out by the Sierra Club on Glacier Bay. I was entranced! The images of the glaciers and icebergs and wild animals could not have been more exotic to a boy from upstate New York but they resonated with me and stuck with me and tantalized me.
Fifty years later I finally got the chance to go to Glacier Bay and see the park for myself. It is not an easy place to get to- three flights to get to Juneau, a bush plane to Gustavus and then a 6 cabin boat to get up into the park. But it was worthwhile from the very beginning- every day had a time when I said to myself “Okay, this experience makes the trip, whatever happens later is just gravy.” Day 1 I paddled a kayak up into a stream squirming with salmon, their backs knocking against the kayak at they made their way upstream to lay their eggs and die. Day 2 I walked on the nose of a glacier, the ice crystal clear like glass. Day 3 I kayaked through small icebergs toward the nose of a tidewater glacier watching and listening to great chunks of ice calf off into the water. Day 4 I walked through a magical maze of stranded icebergs, some the size of a table, others the size of a small house. The blue color of the ice like a piece of the sky frozen into an icy sculpture. Day 5 I watched a cow and calf humpback whale playing with four young Stellar’s sea lions from a kayak- close enough to hear the splashing and feel the waves. Day 6 I rode a skiff to the mouth of a river and watched a family of wolf pups picking salmon from a stream. Day 7 I rested.
I haven’t even mentioned the two brown bears lolling on the beach or the eagles we saw every day or the glaciers perched on the mountain sides or the mossy forests or the fresh bear prints I followed (or was followed?) or the two kinds of puffins or even the chocolate chip cookies!
Of course the trip would’ve been far less if not for the boat- the Sea Wolf, the crew of the boat and in particular our guide Julie. She was the best guide I had every had- tolerant of my wanderings, extremely knowledgeable and willing to try new things and different ideas. There is nothing better than seeing a wonderful new location with a talented guide and a group of great friends.
I have been to spectacular places all over the world and I have become somewhat jaded with the just average spectacular, the everyday magnificent. Glacier Bay is beyond spectacular, beyond magnificent- it is more than I had dreamed it would be after 50 long years.