We have no idea when the ferry strike will be over and no way to find out so we are taking our time on this leg. For the past couple days the thunderous sound of glaciers calving into the water has taunted us and yesterday we finally got to see the source. We paddled up to the Grand Pacific and Margerie glaciers at the end of Tarr Inlet. As we approached the waters changed from brilliant turquoise blue to brown and thick with silt from the rivers at the glacial snouts. We paddled up the Eastern side of the inlet scouting for potential campsites along the way. Just before the end we found a muddy beach and set up our camp in a rocky patch on the ledge above. Incredibly, there are no other boats here. We are completely alone in this majestic place.
The Grand Pacific glacier at the end of the inlet is 2 miles wide at its terminus and 150 feet high. Its massive width became ever more evident the closer we got. The waters, already cold, got even colder. Our feet and legs became almost painfully cold as our boats give very little insulation from the frigid water below. The air took on the dry crisp cold feel that we are both so familiar with. Across the inlet is the Margerie glacier- the source of most of the thunderous noise. Margerie is 1 mile wide and 250 feet high. It moves at about 6 feet per day and drops massive ice towers into the water as it pushes forward.
All night we were serenaded by the glaciers moving and breaking. The ice cracks off like a gun shot and then drops to the water, the crash thundering off the surrounding cliffs so loudly that it would wake us. We enjoyed it so much that this morning we decided to spend another day here.
As we ate breakfast this morning Jeremy spotted a grizzly bear in the distance walking down the river mouth next to Grand Pacific. It looked like something from an ancient myth. The massive bear wandering down the barren wasteland of a two mile wide glacier. Walking through the rock strewn landscape, clambering over boulders and swimming across the rushing waters.
He stoped at the end of the beach to play with a massive ice chunk, pushing and climbing on it. He then galloped off to chase seagulls. Bears are curious and playful, similar to humans but on an entirely different scale. Grizzlies can weigh 1000 pounds and stand 9 feet tall. Their paws grow to 15 inches wide. We ate granola and watched him wander down the beach in our direction. As he got closer we gathered our things and moved back to camp, bear spray ready. He decided to take a swim, which gave us hope that he would just float by, but no such luck. He got out of the water right below our tent. We waved and talked to him to make sure he knew we were there and hopefully just move on, but our curious friend decided to walk right up into our camp.
General advice says to stay calm, look large and speak to curious bears, with a sort of balance between wanting to sound fierce enough for it to take you seriously but not to be aggressive. In real life that looks like me slowly waving a paddle above my head, Jeremy holding a camp chair above his and us ridiculously saying “Ugh, hi bear. Feel free to go away. You seem nice, but we don’t want to play today. You’ll hate our food and Jeremy’s feet stink.” Mr. Bear just kept walking towards us. At about 15 feet away, he stops and does the dance of uncertainty, a step closer, a step back. He stops and raises his head, his nose working as he sniffs the air trying to understand what we are. We can see in his eyes curiosity, uncertainty and the quiet confidence of living a life with no predators.
Do you know the feeling right before you get terrified? Where you feel ok, but your heart is thudding in your chest and your whole body is on edge, you know that things are either about to be totally fine and just a good story or #$&@ is about to absolutely hit the fan? We stood and stared into that bears eyes for what seemed like an eternity, waiting for him to make up his mind and give us an answer.
He turned and walked away.
Jeremy and I looked at each other and laughed. What else could we do? We took our chairs down to the beach so we could watch him. He kept walking and the beach turned out of our sight. We debated but decided to leave our amazing campsite because curious bears sometimes return.
Our boats are packed and we are ready to see what amazing things are in store for us next. We take one last look across the inlet at the glaciers and as we step into our boats our bear friend comes sauntering back up the beach towards us. We are happy with our decision to leave. We talk to him again and he sees us. He keeps his distance and watches as we paddled away.