A Glacier Bay Six-Pack

Drinking lots of beer in Glacier Bay National Park? No… this “six-pack” refers to the pack of wolves we spotted near Tidal Inlet in the park. Six black wolves, lounging on the beach. YOWZA! Wolves are so elusive – we’ve only seen them a couple of times in over six years up here, so it’s a huge deal to find a pack! Unfortunately they were very wary, and although we tried to angle the boat so it didn’t look like we were heading towards them, they bolted into the woods when we were still 3/4 mile away. No photos – too far away. But still… WOLVES. Awesome. Glacier Bay never disappoints.

We finally got a little break from the summer’s record-setting rain, enjoying three pretty days when we were up in the bay. Of course, the ranger station was mostly closed – we could talk to a ranger through a small plexiglass window, the Tribal House was locked up and the lodge was closed. We still strolled the Forest Trail and were happy to see the ponds nice and full after a couple of years of drought, and it was so nice to have it all to ourselves.

The bay was very quiet – there were very few boats, and we rarely saw any of them during a week in the park. The sea lions were fun as always – napping, lounging, rambunctious and noisy, and the setting just can’t be beat.

It was clear enough to see Mount Fairweather in the distance, over 60 miles away on the outer coast.

This late in the season we were happy to see a few tufted puffins still hanging around. By now most of them have headed back out to sea after nesting in burrows in the cliffs.

Gloomy Knob didn’t disappoint with mountain goats – we spotted just a couple, but that’s a treat that we don’t often see elsewhere. Gloomy Knob is a cliff that we can get very close to with the boat – the water is over 100′ deep when the anchor is almost scraping the rocks – so that allows us to get closer to goats scrambling on the heights…

…and looking around us we spotted pelagic cormorants, black-legged kittiwakes, and horned puffins – another happy surprise!

We see the impacts of Climate Change here in Alaska in many ways, and changes to the glaciers are one of the most dramatic reminders of how serious a problem this is. The Lamplugh Glacier is one example – we cruised the boat to within a 1/4 mile (minimum safe distance) of its face six years ago, and this year, the face has retreated so far back that there’s a wide dry silt flat exposed. We had to go ashore to explore and see all the grounded bergy bits. With no safe place to anchor, we took turns kayaking ashore.

Those chunks of ice were massive.

We spent time exploring several of the glaciers in the upper bay, and I’ll post more about them next.

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