The gently rocking of the ship that had lulled us to sleep magnified as yesterday came to an end and today began. Fifty-knot winds during our traverse of Clarence Strait woke many of us up, getting some of us out of bed. Neither the midnight sleep disturbance nor the rain deterred the intrepid early risers who partook in the Zumba class offered by the multi-talented Hotel Manager, Valentin Coleto.
At the head of Short Bay, our location for morning activities, lay a vibrant green meadow sandwiched between an expansive intertidal flat and an old-growth Western hemlock and Sitka spruce forest. As the intertidal, meadow, and bushwhack groups explored, the tide steadily came in, eventually completely covering the intertidal flat. The area offered a quintessential Southeast Alaska walking experience: intertidal covered with rock weed; lush sedge-dominated meadow spotted with Alaska paintbrush, chocolate lily, wild-flag iris, and silverweed; and dense forest understory of lady ferns, thimble berry, and red elderberry.
Shortly after the morning walk, 16 brave souls intentionally jumped off an expedition landing craft into the 46-degree water of the bay. Cheered on by onlookers on the bow of National Geographic Sea Bird, all polar plungers reported having an invigorating experience well worth the temporary shock from the cold water.
The anchor was pulled, and we began our journey into Misty Fiords National Monument, a wilderness area of nearly 2.3 million acres in the Tongass National Forest. The geology of Misty Fiords was formed by volcanoes, glaciers, streams, and wave action. During the afternoon, Naturalist Alex Farrell gave a presentation on “Alaska Boundary Peaks.” The mist hung in the trees and a bear with cubs was spotted in a distant meadow - a great end to an amazing trip.