We are starting to wonder if this weather is the new normal in Alaska. Yesterday was pushing 80 degrees and we were greeted again this morning with epic warm weather. The pink sky at 3:30am transitioned into various shades of blue until the sun was beaming on the Fairweather Range as we sailed up Glacier Bay National Park. The perfect reflection of the glaciers, mountains and forest in the water was a magical way to start our day as we made it all the way to the end of the bay. Just after breakfast, we visited Margerie Glacier and witness one of Mother Nature’s kind gifts of a calving tidewater glacier under a blue sky. As we made our way back down the bay, we encountered a brown bear sow and cub on the shore eating crustaceans in the intertidal zone, a few mountain goats on Gloomy Knob, and a couple of humpback whales breeching. What a perfect day in Glacier Bay National Park.
National Geographic Quest
Morning fog swallowed the Southeast Alaskan wilderness. As we cruised into Ushk Bay, anticipation seized the vessel. This morning’s hikes and Zodiac cruises were to be our final operations of the trip; every last one of us was eager to be ensconced in the wonders of the Tongass once again. Following a delicious breakfast — prepared by head chef Paul Cotta and his dedicated team — we set out for shore. Through a light rain we cruised on Zodiacs toward our landing, scattering bald eagles and common mergansers that had congregated along the shore. Ushk Bay’s annual salmon run was nearing its conclusion —and we could smell it. The shoreline was littered with rotting carcasses of pink and chum salmon, many of which were picked apart by corvids, gulls, and bears. Whether or not any of these individuals survived long enough to spawn is a mystery, but there is one certainty amidst this carnage — their sacrifice is not in vain. Their carcasses will enrich this place, injecting the forest with nutrients from the sea. Our last afternoon was spent cruising toward our anchorage near Sitka. The final day of a Lindblad Expeditions cruise is always a hard day. We have all forged new bonds in the fires of wilderness. Every one of us has found ourselves challenged and rewarded, humbled and humored, inspired and inspirational throughout this week. Our new bonds will, thanks to modern technology, be preserved in photographs and videos. Many will be carried on through photos and emails, but this group will never be reconstituted. Though it’s hard to say goodbye, the impermanence of this troupe makes the experience all the more poignant. These adventurers will surely be missed.