We spent the last days in Glacier Bay visiting the Tribal House, taking another leisurely walk on the Forest Trail, and then heading out Icy Strait and making our way back to Petersburg.
The Tribal House remains a special place for us to visit, as we spent many years visiting the Tlingit carvers in Hoonah as they worked on the house poles and the decorative panels inside and out. We were there on the beach in the mist and gloom, on the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, the day when the Tribal House was formally dedicated. It’s truly a special place, and completes the third (equal) element of what makes Glacier Bay such a treasure. There are the glaciers, of course, and the wide variety of wildlife, and the native history of the people who have harvested food from the bay since time immemorial.
Ancestors are represented in the different faces carved into the walls and the poles. The stories of four different clans from the region are told in the house poles, and the story of the Little Ice Age that occurred around 1750 is told in the center panel. We’re always humbled to learn more about the Tlingit stories.
The Forest Trail never grows old for us – it’s a lovely walk through the woods, with Sitka spruce and western hemlock towering overhead, ponds with water lilies and other summer flowers, ducks, otters, and other wildlife. The variety of lichens and tiny mosses always catches my eye, and with spring coming so late the ferns were just beginning to unfold.
We bade farewell to the bay, with a sleeping sea otter pup snuggled on mom’s belly the last evening.
Cruising along in Icy Strait, we were met by a pod of Dall’s porpoise – they’re black and white and they’re rocket-fast! It’s not very common to see them, and we either encountered two different pods, or the same pod ran with us twice, an hour or two apart.
We still haven’t been seen as many humpbacks as usual – maybe their food sources are in other parts of southeast, or maybe they’re late arriving? We’ve mostly observed individuals, rather than big groups, so far.
The last evening before we headed back to town we were anchored in a favorite spot between a large island and the mainland. I’m always checking the beach for bears, but around 8pm Jim spotted something a little different swimming by.
It turned out to be a cow moose, swimming the distance easily. She looked like a funny horse when she got ashore, with such tall legs, picking her way through the rocks and disappearing into the woods. Wow!
The Summer Solstice has now passed, so even though our days are still crazy-long, we’re conscious of the fact that they are getting a little shorter. The sky was lit up with beautiful sunset colors around 10pm, and we kept running out to take more photographs.
Out of habit, I still looked behind me to check the beach for bears, and I spotted something. It walked into the water and started swimming towards the boat! It was the moose again, we thought, but then spotted small antlers sprouting – a different moose.
He swam near the boat to get a good look at us, then turned and headed for the island. We noticed blood running from one of his antlers – he must have caught it on something. Growing antlers are well-fed with blood vessels, so it would bleed readily. He seemed to be fine. Double-wow!
So that wraps up our first real cruise of the season. Hard to beat! We had to return to town to pack our camping and camera gear for a special adventure up in the main part of Alaska – to McNeil River Bear Sanctuary. Be prepared for a lot of big coastal brown bears.