Exploring Glacier Bay

We’re always glad to return to Glacier Bay – it never disappoints. We covered almost 200 nautical miles in the bay this trip,and as usual there’s more to show you than one post can handle.

We always start with a visit to the Ranger Station in Bartlett Cove to see what’s up, and we like to see how the Healing Pole is weathering. This pole tells the story of the struggles between the Hoonah Tlingit people and the Park Service, and how the two sides have worked towards a productive partnership. I’ve written much more about the Healing Pole and the history of the Tlingit in the bay in previous year’s posts.

After seeing the rangers, we always like to walk the nearby Forest Trail. Nothing beats the relaxed feeling that comes from a simple walk in the woods.

The next stop on our usual route is to head up-bay as soon as the tide is favorable, bound for South Marble Island to check out the puffins and other sea birds, and the noisy colony of sea lions.

Do you get the feeling that these tufted puffins might be married??

Common Murres

There weren’t as many pelagic cormorants around, but there were plenty of common murres, and kittiwakes nesting on the cliffs. The sea lions were raucous – big fat sausages grumbling when a neighbor disturbed their nap. Don’t make the 1-ton beachmaster angry!

A few humpbacks snorted in the distance, but we didn’t see any very close. Sea otters were plentiful, clutching their little mini-me pups. They’re adorable, but they eat everything in sight and they will eventually eat themselves out of a territory.

In the mid-bay we like to anchor in North Sandy Cove – a lovely spot with good protection. The tides were big while we were there, opening up some shallow areas to explore by kayak. We spotted both black and brown bears in the cove, and I followed a brown bear from the cove as it walked along the shore of two nearby coves, even ignoring some kayaks pulled up on shore in the south anchorage.

Luckily this bear seemed to be on a mission, but some rangers in another part of the park had trouble with a bored brownie taking too much interest in their kayaks and tents, tearing up a life jacket and a water bladder.

These quiet back coves are wonderful places to look for birds – whimbrel, harlequin ducks, wigeon, scaups and spotted sandpipers (aka “teeter tails”). They can be well camouflaged against the many-colored rocks on shore.

We had time to cruise up the less-visited eastern arm of the bay – Muir Inlet. It’s not as flashy-splashy as the popular west arm, but it’s beautiful in different ways. We spotted more bears and lots of mountain goats, though they were fairly high up on the cliffs – a bit far for a photograph. One interesting glacier up there is the McBride. The face has retreated behind a mountain, but it’s quite active and its melt-stream can be a roaring maelstrom with overfalls and lots of ice.

The photo doesn’t do justice to the crazy rushing ice-laden water flow – it sure was an exciting sight! Just a little farther up the inlet the Riggs Glacier was beautiful to see up close.

Riggs Glacier

Notice all the fresh snow on the glacier and the rocks – more about that in the next post. Remember that I’ve been complaining about spring being so late? It was even more evident up here in the bay! Stay tuned…

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