Glacier Bay National Park | 27/59

This park marks the beginning of our tire troubles.  We have had pretty good luck with our tires so far, so we weren’t too upset when we blew our first one.  It was pretty shredded though.  And on top of needing to swap the tire, I had to fix a fuel line that got cut as the shreds of tire ripped around and around.  We threw one of our spares on, fixed the hose, and forgot about it.  It provided a good opportunity to make some lunch too – so that was nice.

Sometimes Vladimir likes to help drive… with his back feet.

Once we got to Skagway, we jumped on a little flight to Glacier Bay.  I really love these little planes.  It is just so easy to roll up to the airport, walk out on the runway, and fly away.  I think all flights should be this easy.

The lines in the water from the sediment load of the rivers was so cool to see from the air.

Flying in Alaska is one of the best things.  You get to see so much!  I swear the mountains never end here.

It is 100 percent rainforest here.  The moss covers EVERYTHING.  I was worried that in the morning our sleeping bags and tent would be covered in moss and sucked into the greenness!


Along the trail near the Visitor Information Station, there is a whole humpback whale displayed!  These whales are a huge part of this bay.  They have been migrating here to feed during the summer for as long as humans have kept their records.  I think they just follow us tourists – they show up in Alaska in the summer and then cruise down to Hawaii in the winter.  The ultimate snow-bird migration.

When we were admiring the whale, we were sneak attacked by a porcupine!  Actually, he didn’t want anything to do with us; he just waddled right by.

The sky over the bay was incredible.  We stood on the rocky beach and watched the colors change as the sun went down.

The next morning we went down to the intertidal zone for breakfast.  We cooked all of our meals here, so we wouldn’t leave any scraps or smells for bears.  Leave no trace!

We forgot our spoons in the RV so we had to suck our oatmeal right out of the package!  Luckily, we were able to snag one at the Visitor Information Station the next day so we didn’t have to treat everything like finger food. (Thank you Glacier Bay Rangers!!)  It is amazing how essential a fork or spoon is!  #essentialutensil

We set off with the intent to kayak in the Beardslee Islands.  We heard that we would see all kinds of wildlife there.  The difficult thing is, to paddle there, we had to time the high tide to get through The Cut.  The Cut is a narrow passageway that connects Bartlett Cove to the Beardslee Islands.  High tide happens every 12 hours – so if we wanted to paddle both ways, we would have to be out there all day.

We decided that all day would be a little much, and since we can pack our kayaks on our back, we figured we could hike The Cut since it would be dry. This turned out to be a little tougher than we thought.

Walking along the beach was fine – it wasn’t until we got to the muddy Cut itself that we ran into problems.  It was SO sticky.  We literally could barely walk it was sucking our shoes so hard!

We quickly realized that we needed to walk through the forest instead.  So we turned back to the trail. When the trail neared the river, we bushwhacked a little to get to the shoreline.

As soon as we set off and paddled out to the middle of the islands, a torrential downpour commenced.

As we were getting rained on there in the middle of the bay, Madison and I couldn’t help but just laugh.  We were completely surrounded by wet.  There was no escaping it – we were soaked. And then at that moment – Madison said, “LOOK!  DOLPHINS!”  Right next to us a few porpoises kept surfacing.  It was a really unique experience to be so close to these majestic creatures of the sea.

The rain eventually stopped, and we made it all the way to Kidney Island.

We had a good time walking around the beach as we tried to dry off a little. In fact, we had a little too good of a time.  We didn’t pay attention to the time and high tide was upon us!  And we still had to paddle five miles back to the cut! Luckily we made it back just in time.  But holy smokes, our arms were about to fall off from paddling so ferociously.  Our total paddle distance was about 14 miles! We both had troubles lifting our arms that evening.

We were still soaked from our paddle, so we went straight to the warming hut near our campsite and started a fire.  This place seriously saved us.  In fact, everything was so wet, we just hauled our whole tent over there!  We were the only campers in the park campground, so we didn’t think that we would bother anyone.

Towards the end of our stay, Madison had laid down for a nap, so I pulled out my book with the intent to finish. I sat on a rock at the ocean’s edge, just on the other side of the trees from our tent.  As I read, a massive humpback whale surfaced no further than 50 feet from me!  His loud expulsion of breath about gave me a heart attack!  After recovering from my near-death startle, I watched the leviathan swim away, surfacing every now and then to take another massive breath.

As I turned the final pages I realized that my current read, “The Last Season“, had left a very real impression on me.

It’s a story about the mysterious disappearance of a backcountry ranger that was in love with the High Sierra of California.  It told how he sacrificed time, money, relationships, and eventually his life, to be in those mountains.  The mountains had a Jack-Londonesque Call of the Wild hold on him.

As I read, I couldn’t help but relate to Randy Mortgenson.  When I’m out here in the parks or in the other wild places we’ve been fortunate enough to frequent on our trip – I feel a very real pull.  There is something about being surrounded by wild that shoots me back to my elemental beginning.

It resets me.  These places help me clear away the fluff.  I see clearer.  I feel in place.

The feeling is always heightened after a successful coexistence.  For example – finishing a long bike ride through a heavily rooted forest trail, hiking out from a multi-pitch climb up remnants of volcanic activity, or being scared out of my wits by a friendly whale!  These interactions with the rocks, the trees, or the animals send a very tangible message to my heart, or perhaps my soul, that I’m part of it all. That somehow, amidst the complicated web of geology, ecology, and biological evolution – my piece to the puzzle is essential.  I belong.

And I think that’s the part that feels so good.  That’s what keeps me seeking those feelings.  A sense of belonging in the universe is one of the greatest blessings we, as human beings, can experience!

And that is why we, as stewards of these wild places, need to do everything we can to protect them.  We need to stand up for laws that will ensure that future generations can feel the sense of wild belonging.  I want my future children and grandchildren to feel as I do in these rugged landscapes.

The National Park Service has been trying to accomplish this goal for over 100 years now.  Not only do they strive to protect these special areas, but they try to provide opportunity to all to experience them.

Madison and I have had the great fortune of exploring these parks as a tribute to efforts made by the NPS.  Even though we barely scratch the surface of each of the parks, we see the unique value of every one.  Glacier Bay was no different.  We loved seeing the beautiful wild that this bay has to offer.  I hope that this place will continue to help its human visitors connect with Mother Nature and find their wild sense of belonging.

3 Comments

  1. Kerri Taylor

    Just looking at your photos, and reading your text puts me in a state of Nirvana. Ahhh,, i am relaxed, at peace, just for a moment, because of your journaling and photographs! Thank you Cees and Maddie. Loves always! Xx

  2. Dawn from Camano Island

    You two are awesome & amazing! I know zero people who have made the effort to really get into the Alaska NP’s like you have. Heck, I know people who have lived in Alaska for years & they haven’t experienced what you have!

    I’m wishing for sunshine & warmth for the two of you…

    • Cees

      Thanks Dawn! Alaska is a rugged place – we won’t lie – it wiped us out! We loved it, but it for sure wasn’t an easy place to get around. Thank you for the sunshine and warmth! We can use it! We feel like we are racing the weather to get the northern parks in before its gets too cold.

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