As National Geographic Sea Bird approached Margerie Glacier, signs of the changing season were abundant. An autumnal nip persisted in the air. The cottonwoods along shore donned their fall foliage, painting the valleys in a golden glow. Fireweed, too, displayed its cotton. Clouds hung low and skies were gray, but gray in Glacier Bay is not reserved for melancholy. Gray days are unparalleled in their tranquility, serenity, and opportunities for wildlife viewing.

Early risers were greeted to a show of calving when the vessel reached Margerie. Naturalists on the bow attempted to properly convey and contextualize the grandeur of what guests observed: the ice that fell as snow centuries ago had carved the fjord, continuing the grand hydrologic cycle that fuels life on this planet. Evidence of the power and spectacle of glacial force abounds at the face of these tidewater behemoths. The combined awe from the virgin eyes of the traveler and the experience of the naturalists ensured that the bow was buzzing for the entire morning.

We at Lindblad-National Geographic echo the mantra often: “Nature rewards the vigilant, and the vigilant are found on the bow.” Late morning cruising was accompanied by occasional glimpses of sea otters and harbor seals from the bow, and those braving the cold and wind were certainly rewarded for their vigilance. Peregrine falcons zipped above. Massive rafts of scoters dove synchronistically into the turquoise depths. All of this and more availed itself to all of us for the simple price of standing outside. A worthwhile transaction.

Gloomy Knob delivered its trademark excellent wildlife viewing. A mature coastal brown bear framed itself beautifully between a fireweed meadow and golden cottonwoods, making for unbelievable photography. Twelve mountain goats were spotted on the knob, including one that had met a perilous fate at the water’s edge and was being repurposed by scavenging corvids.

National Geographic photographer Michael Melford delighted guests with a presentation on Light & Photography during the afternoon. Shortly after, we reached South Marble Island, which was unsurprisingly abuzz with wildlife. Colonies of Steller sea lions and flocks of seabirds dotted the shore, their sounds and smells completing the experience. Puffins swarmed in numbers most of the naturalists had only dreamed of prior. Finally, we reached our first landing for the trip, Bartlett Cove. Hikers were treated to the wealth of wonders presented in the temperate rainforest. From the frailest fungi to the mightiest hemlock, every inch of the forest elicits profound emotion. Perhaps the best aspect of today was that it was unique to all: your reward was equivalent to the time you spent on the bow. For those handsomely rewarded, this lesson is sure to stick forever.