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The Glacier Bay – A Dream comes true

The Glacier Bay – A Dream comes true

Ring, ring! Ring, ring! 6:45 AM, my alarm went off.  Sleepy I managed to get out of my warm sleeping bag, taking on pretty much everything on clothes I had with me to get warm again. Quickly packing some slices of bread and cream cheese in my bag and then going towards the public dock, the Baranof Wind was already waiting there for its guests. I was there early and saved myself a good seat next to a window. More and more guests entered the boat and the seats slowly filled, but many stayed unoccupied, what may result out of the early time in the season I was there. Very comfortable. Once also the last guests found their way on board I was happy that the tour finally started. The captain, the crew and the ranger on board welcomed us over the speakers and reported about the procedure of today’s tour and what we would see today. A lot! Hopefully, they didn’t exaggerate.

Right at the beginning, I learned something: sea otters aren’t really a special thing. There are tonnes of them up here, wherever you were looking they were bopped up and down on their backs at the surface of the water. The one I saw on Vancouver Island before was now no speciality anymore.

Another hour passed by that I mainly spent with talking to other guests on the boat until we took the direction towards a smaller island in the bay. From far away only sketchy visible there was something laying on the rocks. And really a lot of this. Only as we came closer we identified dozens of Steller sea lions that were snoozing on the rocks. I was fascinated. I was hoping to see the one or another from this species but this island rather seemed overcrowded so many of them were there.

A large group of Steller Sea Lions lying on a rock in the middle of the Bay.

The birds sang, the sea lions howled and I listened to the chant of nature, enjoying to be part of this wonderful place. After what felt like 50 photos of this scenery the boat slowly moved on deeper into the bay. Slowly the slopes of the rock walls got steeper, the summits higher and the vegetation sparser.

Steep slopes, waterfalls, smaller vegetation. We were approaching the Glaciers!

Also, I noticed that the colour of the ocean turned from a deep blue towards a turquoise, Carribean blue. A sign, that we were slowly approaching the gigantic glaciers. But we weren’t there already and we still got a lot of information about the changing landscape, geological and geomorphological characteristics and animals that could be seen over the speakers of the boat. One time we were stopping close to the shoreline as there was a black bear strolling around searching for mussels. Later we saw a huge brown bear walking along the shore, then another one and also a couple of mountain goats climbing the steep rocks.

A surprised brown bear on the shoreline.
Some mountain goats on the rocky cliffs.

There really wasn’t too much promised, there were a lot of wildlife sightings. I didn’t even find the time to get inside the boat to eat my salmon cream because I always felt the urge to be on the deck to capture the nature and enjoy it, of course. I spent nearly all the time out on the deck. So far the weather stayed pretty good and no single drop of rain troubled our tour. On the contrary! Even the sun sometimes found its way through the clouds sending a warm, comfortable breeze over the deck. What a luck, that the weather forecast was so wrong… at least so far. But it stayed dry. Meanwhile, the water changed its colour again, now appearing in a milky, greyish tone.

Sometimes the colour of the water changed immediately when a creek brought grey water from the glaciers in the mountains.

This meant we nearly had to be there because the huge glaciers transport so many small particles that don’t sink to the ground immediately, so they change the colour of the water. We encircled another big rock and there it was. We saw the first huge glacier. It wasn’t already one of the tidewater glaciers which we came for, but it’s ice snout almost reached the ocean. We went on. Encircling a couple more mountains and then, finally, in the far distance, the first scarps of the tidewater glaciers were visible gleaming bluish and being so huge, letting the two cruise ships in the bay appear to be nutshells on the water.

This is a huge cruise ship, which has over 2000 passengers on it. It still looks so tiny in front of the glacier.

On the way closer to the glaciers we could spot two wolves on the beach, but they were only visible as two small dots, so far we were away from them.

Search game: who can spot the wolves in the picture?

We travelled until the end of the bay where the Grand Pacific Glacier moved out of the mountains. The Grand Pacific Glacier is the biggest one in the park but wasn’t really a tidewater glacier anymore, as it deposited so many sediments already, that those cut the glacier of from the ocean.

The Grand Pacific Glacier. It’s actually in Canada, so we were pretty close to the border.

But the Margerie Glacier falling into the bay from the left side was a tidewater glacier like in a storybook. Or like in the book “the Blue Bear”. I was there! I made it! My whole body was shivering, so excited I was. I couldn’t comprehend my luck. It was so powerful. It was definitely the most impressive natural phenomenon I ever witnessed.

An unbelievable feeling to be so close to the tidewater glaciers.

The finger always on the shutter I stared at the ice wall, waiting for the big bang that would happen when the glacier would calf a big iceberg. I felt exactly like in the situation of Lynn Schooler and the photographer Michio Hoshino, who were waiting for such an event for hours or even days. I wasn’t really sad about that we didn’t experience the glacier calving during the half hour we spent there. It would’ve been great luck if it would’ve happened exactly during this time. There were still more glaciers to come. The next one we approached was the John-Hopkins Glacier. We were only allowed to get as close as five miles towards this glacier, as the area in front of it was a protected animal sanctuary. But even from five miles away the glacier looked gigantic and the scarp was unbelievably high.

Five miles away from it and still so big. Imagine being directly in front of the scarp.

Unfortunately, the view was a bit dulled by some mist hanging in the valley so we could only imagine the extent of this big glacier. Meanwhile, lunch was served, but seriously? I had better things to do than having a lunch at that moment, so my sandwich stayed nearly untouched until we were really on our way back. Because directly after we moved on from the John-Hopkins Glacier we passed the Lamplugh Glacier. This was by far the most beautiful tidewater glacier on the tour since its ice got compressed so much, that it appeared in a magnificent deep blue.

The wonderful, blue ice of the Lamplugh Glacier on it’s way to the ocean.

I hung on the rail of the boat looking a the scrap but I wasn’t lucky again. But the deep blue burned a picture in my memory and I wouldn’t let this ever get out of my head again. The experience of being there was the most valuable gift that I would take home from this trip. On the way back we passed another tidewater glacier which also almost lost it’s contact to the ocean and therefore more looked like a usual glacier, travelled by the beautiful mountainous scenery, saw another humpback whale and I finally had time to eat my lunch.

The last glacier of the day. Still an impressive one!

Generally, I really enjoyed the luxuries on the boat, that I haven’t had during our simple travels. Coffee, hot chocolate, fresh fruits and even cookies were offered. For the 225 dollars, I even allowed myself to let the one or other fruit and two packs of hot chocolate disappear in my bag, so I could use them later on. But psst!

Around 3 PM we arrived back at the Bartlett Cove which welcomed us with bright sunshine. How was it possible that the weather forecast was so wrong? An absolute lucky shot! I lay down on the beach, only wearing shorts and a t-shirt reading two chapters in my book and then prepared an early dinner, as there was no wind. Couscous with tomato sauce. Like yesterday, and like the next day. Easy to transport, low weight, cheap and not much cooking effort. There it was again, the good, old and simple camper life. In the evening I visited the ranger presentation again and peered towards the book, that has brought me here and checked this point from my list. After the presentation, I went back to the campground, made myself comfortable in the warming hut, set up a fire in the wood stove, leant back and relaxed to the music of Bob Dylan.

Just the best place to relax and recreate from the mass of experiences on this day. The warming hut on the campground.

The last thing I can remember from that day was, that I cringed into my sleeping bag and cried. I cried because I was the luckiest human on this world. I cried out of awe, fascination and fear about what I was able to experience on that day, what wouldn’t be possible to experience for everybody, once the glaciers are retreating here as well and one day there might be no tidewater glaciers here anymore. And I cried because I really would’ve liked to share this experience with some people. People, that lie on my heart and people, without them this trip wouldn’t have been possible. May this text bring you as close to this beautiful place as possible. Thank you for this wonderful day!

Because they’re just so cute when they float on their backs. Here another sea otter in the end of this post.
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3 Comments

  1. Oda
    Saturday August 26th, 2017 / 10:44 PM

    Lieber Moritz, ich freue mich riesig für Dich, dass Du so viele wunderbare Erlebnisse genießt. Sie wirklich genießt, Dir das alles bewusst machst und uns teihaben lässt. Ich bin gespannt, was Heike und Jürgen erzählen! Wir genießen gerade Frankreich… Herzlichst Oda und Hubert

  2. Moritz
    Monday September 4th, 2017 / 11:01 AM

    Hey Moritz, your blog made my day!
    Nach mehreren kurzen Besuchen dieses Mal doch einiges mehr am Stück gelesen…wirklich beeindruckend! Ich weiss schon wen ich für meine Amerika-Reise auf jeden Fall konsultieren werd;)
    Schön dass Du so ausführlich berichtest und dir die Zeit nimmst.
    Dir weiterhin alles Gute!
    Moe

    • Tuesday September 5th, 2017 / 12:21 AM

      Hey Moe, vielen, vielen Dank für das positive Feedback! Klar, sobald ich (irgendwann) mal wieder da bin, können wir da auf jeden Fall mal drüber reden 🙂

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