Alaska Adventures: Incredible Glacier Bay National Park (plus, whales!)

I spent my freshman year of college in Lincoln, Nebraska. Around Thanksgiving time, my friends started asking me if I was going to bring back my winter coat after the holidays. A lifelong Californian, I replied, “Err, this is my winter coat.” I felt like that in Alaska on the morning of our visit to Glacier Bay. 

Wearing four layers, a fuzzy hat, and a deck blanket (dorkily wrapped like a skirt), I found my Sacramento-appropriate winter gear sadly lacking and seriously contemplated shelling out big bucks for an overpriced Princess Cruises fleece. Thankfully my cheapness won out because the coldest day of our trip turned out to be the hottest as well!

Morning time on the way to Glacier Bay National Park.
We picked up two park rangers in Barlett Cove near the entrance of Glacier Bay. Rather, they maneuvered a pilot boat close to the ship and boarded our vessel. Some people joked about pirates. Some people.
Iceberg, right ahead! (I know, I know.)
I think this is Reid Glacier.
As we sailed into the bay, the most beautiful sights were best seen from the Port side of the ship (that’s left, if you’re oriented toward the front of the ship).
John Muir spent time studying Glacier Bay in the late 1800s and helped to champion the theory that Yosemite Valley had been carved by glaciers instead of a flood.
Although helpful to block wind, these glass panels got in the way of my shots!
Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve includes 3.3 million acres of glaciers, forests, mountains, etc.
It surprised me how close we seemed to the shore, although it was probably a mile away.
In case you wonder, I have several hundred pictures of the ice formations. I’ll spare you.
Margerie Glacier.
The Fairweather mountains loom over Margerie Glacier. The park rangers told us that it is rare to see them as they are most often covered in clouds.
Doesn’t look real, does it?
That little brown spec is a bald eagle.
Would that this artic tern (or sea gull, I can’t tell) was an eagle!
So much silt is pushed into the bay by the glaciers that nothing really grows in the water.
Dig my sexy deck blanket skirt.
We “enjoyed” the Alaska fish buffet on deck for lunch. And by “enjoyed,” I mean I had a cheeseburger later. Why I thought a seafood buffet would be palatable is beyond me. (I did like the King Crab cakes though!)
Fish bouquet.
Busy deck railing!
Margerie Glacier.
Not everyday we get a self-portrait with a glacier.
The ship provided maps of Glacier Bay. I’m having a chuckle at some of the names… Fingers Bay, Gloomy Knob, Mount Bulky, Abyss Lake. Some sound like insults… “YOU’RE a gloomy knob!”
By early afternoon, the ship turned around to leave Glacier Bay making the cool sights on the Starboard side (aka where our balcony faced). The sun also came out and yours truly got a sunburn after spending hours and hours photographing glaciers and icebergs.
I kept my eyes peeled for wildlife and pretended to see lots.
With three full days of excursions planned, I didn’t feel guilty bumming around staring at the sea all day long.
Small world? Two of our friends occupied the room just north of us.

 

Sea lions basking.
Thick ice.
We plowed through these baby bergs.
And kept our eyes trained for movement…
…So we could see “calving” which is when the glacier sheds icebergs from its face.
Can’t imagine being in that little boat!
The area gets hundreds of FEET of snow per year. I can’t even fathom that.
A little friend with eyes for my club sandwich!
Not a bad view from our balcony.
So many seagulls.
In the late 1600s, the Tlingit Indians called what is now Glacier Bay home.
Glacier Bay is only accessible by plane or boat. Apparently any boat can go into the 65-mile passage with a permit. However, they limit cruise ships to two per day.
I think I shot 1,000 pictures over the course of the day.
It seemed surreal to see such vast beauty all around.
The iceberg is colored by silt, not soil.
I mentioned earlier that we picked up two park rangers for the day. Both ladies toured the ship, gave presentations about the park, and offered lots of information to visitors.
They even piped one park ranger over the PA system.
Unfortunately, her voice got under my skin.
She kept saying “Glacier Bay today” over and over and over.
And asked childish rhetorical questions that made me want to scream.
That said, I learned a lot!
The other ranger told us about moving to Alaska and how the ratio of men to women is 3:1.
A local told her: “The odds are good, but the goods are odd.” ha!
In the late afternoon/evening, passengers occupied almost every balcony looking for signs of wildlife.
When the lady up and across from me shouted “Whale!”, I squealed.
I underestimated how THRILLING it would be to see whales in the wild.
Whale tail!
It was really cool to be “together” with everyone else looking for whales.
That is a sea otter nose.
A sea lion, I think.
I contemplated skipping dinner to stare at the wildlife, but hunger won out.
When we saw a pod of whales in the distance, I may or may not have screamed!
Look at all of those plumes!
So cool!
T took video of the whales and hollered at me for squealing so much, but I couldn’t help it!
Humpback whale spray.
Trivia: Mr. T knows a million random details about whales thanks to his time as a child memorizing whale facts.
I asked him how many different kinds of whales there are, and he started listing them, Forrest Gump style.
I’m sure this is whale for “Hey, girl!”
A little whale wave.
Since I didn’t see one, I’m pretending this is an Orca.
Sigh.
Bye Glacier Bay!
Playful little things.

Up next: Skagway, Alaska and our Yukon expedition. Hint: There are BEARS involved.

xoxo,
shawna

Alaska Adventures:
– Hello from Alaska! 
– Bumming around Moose Pass and Cooper Landing 
– Trail riding in Seward
– Trouble takes a party bus Whittier
– Scenic cruising and the Hubbard Glacier

 

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