Last day of Glacier Bay

Or last day paddling in Glacier Bay National Park was a great way to end our stay. We woke up early to paddle some 30 plus miles to set us up for a pickup. The next day we would be picked up by a boat that does tours in GBNP. We could of paddled out but we feel the best part of Glacier Bay is the upper most northern part of the park. So we stayed as long as we could there and made a big push that last day.

Out in front of Johns Hopkins Glacier

We pushed off from the sand beach where we had camped and waved goodbye to our new friends we had meet the night before. We paddled out to the center of the inlet to have one last look at the glacier and take it all in. The beautiful turquoise waters are filled with ice that had fallen off the glacier all night long and now collect around us. The massive milky dark gray waterfall that crashed down behind where our tent was, flushed from a glacier that we could not see due to the mountain that stretched to the sky. If we turn 360 degrees all we see is more mountains and hanging glaciers that flow off the mountains like moss on rocks. Flowers filled the flat area around where our tent was and many have just turned to seed to fill the ground with more flowers for next year. Baby seals float by on ice looking like they enjoy the free ride. Seagulls flock to the front of the glacier grabing up all the small fish and shrimp that get flushed to the top by the underground river in the front of Johns Hopkins Glacier. That glacier has carved these mountains for hundreds of years making many areas incredably smooth and some jagged that then have been able to collect green grass and small shrubs to grow on unexpected places. It is paradise.

Looking up behind our tent

We bob there for some time taking in all of the beauty and looking at each other with sadness, greatfullness and pride. It has been an amazing trip I am overwhelmed with the thought that this is pretty much the end of our trip but in a good way. I really loved this trip. It had all the good parts and the bad.

Last evening on the beach

We had set out to accomplish something we have both dreamed of doing for many years. It felt great to know that we could do it and more. It’s funny, I was worried about my body before the trip. I have racked up quite a few injuries over the years, many of which still nag at me. But I can say I now feel even stronger and younger, and like anything is possible now. I’m not saying over the hundreds of miles we paddled I was not sore and tired but it was a good tired. I feared boredom. I thought I was going to paddle for weeks and find myself looking for the trip to end. I thought I would have seen everything and experiences would run out (same kind of people, same scenery, and same wildlife). But to my surprise, around every corner it was some amazing beach, a hidden cove, massive waterfall or a glacier that touches the sea water and talked to us all night. The animals and sea life continued to surprise me from the masses of giant gentle humpback whales, salmon that tried to jump in our boats or just scare the crap out of us, to the small little mink that would scurry down to see what we were. We always had some type of animal that would surprise us just as we thought we had experienced everthing. But with my fears now resolved I wonder what’s next.

Waterfall in Johns Hopkins Inlet

As we paddle away from John Hopkins the ice chunks flow with us as the tide retreats south. We round the bend and come face to face with a gigantic cruise ship. It so large, that its size seems to diminish ship the mountains. A bell rings and a loudspeaker blares and echoes across the water “good morning passengers”. We are back to reality, people, boats and the closeness of the trip’s end. I look at Anna and she looks at me and we drop our heads with despair. We know we need to leave Glacier Bay to continue our trip to Skagway, but we are so conflicted on how beautiful it is and how much more we could see. “We could go back and get more food and stay for another 2 weeks” Anna says to me. But know that’s not really an option, we have our eyes on another goal.

Cruise Ship on the way out

So we slide past the giant ship and stop off at Lamplugh Glacier to look at this incredibly blue glacier that didn’t touch the sea water. Landing on the shore we pull our boats up and slip through the mud and silt as we walk to the base of the glacier. Large bus size ice chunks lay on the ground just out of reach of the tall wall of frozen history. We wander through the ice boulders taking pictures and touching the cold clear ice. We watch and listen as pieces fall into the small lake in front of the the hundred foot wall. This will be our last up close encounter with the massive glaciers

Walking among the ice at Lamplugh Glacier

We sit for some time, just watching and hoping for big chunks to fall. We talk to each other contemplating what we will feel when we pull our boats out for the last time. It’s hard to think of not being in the fresh air every day. Looking out to endless sunsets, finding hidden coves and pristine beaches. We talk about the joy of the silence in the mornings and the incredible colors of water we have seen.
As we load our boats in the water we hear a loud crack and boom and look back to see a massive house size piece of ice fall and make an incredible wave of water and ice chunks fly through the air. We drop the boat in the water and race up the beach to see the aftermath and laugh at how we just missed it. We get in our boats and paddle onward.

Kayaks in the mud at Lamplugh Glacier

The sun was hot and the time was dwindling to get to the pickup point. As we paddled down the channel we look to find a small opening in the shore to allow us to portage into Scidmore Bay. We were advised to go through at a very high tide, but the tide that day was only 11.5 ft so we needed every inch of water. As the temperature rises the wind picked up behind us and we decide to pull out the sails to make good time.

Sailing out of Glacier Bay National Park

Waves and wind push us along until we see our opening in the land. A guide we had talked to earlier said it was worth the hard work and not to many people go through, so we were all in. A small channel of water no more than 4 feet wide diminishes to nothing as we paddle inward toward Scidmore Bay. We get out of our kayaks and pull them as far as they will go until they touch bottom. Looking forward we unpack and shuttle our gear and boats the last dry 1/4 mile to the bay on the other side.

Making the portage to Scidmore Bay

They were right it was worth the work, more mountains with glaciers flank us on the right and the moon creeps up through the untouched valley straight ahead. As we pack our boats and slide them in we spot 4 whales jumping and feeding not to far off. “So should we go? It’s in the opposite direction” I ask Anna. “Isn’t that what we do” Anna quickly replies with a smile. So we paddle west and enjoy the creatures of the deep until it starts to become dusk.

Evening paddle

Enjoying the light from the moon we work are way along the shore as fast as we could knowing it will become dark soon. I grab my headlamp and wait until the last moment to turn it on. See, kayaking is incredibly fun at night but the only problem is not seeing the large boulders that lay just under the surface. Trying to find a decent place to land for the night with just your headlamp ten feet off shore is challenging.

Late night on the water heading to Mouse Bay

As I shine my light to the shores, Anna tells me to turn it off. Confused I look back at her and she tells me again to turn it off. I quickly shut it off, my eyes slowly adjust to the darkness and I hear her put her paddle in the water and take a stroke. Instantly her paddle starts glowing green and then I see fish lighting up as they dart back and forth making trails of green light under our boats. It was phosphorescence. Small algae that light up when you agitate them. It was magical. I didn’t think they would be up this far north but the waters were warmer in this bay. We sat there in awe dipping our paddles in and making designs in the water of brilliant green. What a way to say good bye to Glacier Bay. We giggled and slapped the water, not wanting to go in but I had located a decent spot to camp so we pulled off. “Is it even possible for this to get better tonight?” Anna asked as we pulled our boats out of the water. But it did. We stay at the shore throwing rocks into the water and before long we hear a loud splash in the distance. We run to the tallest rock and look out to see a whale in the distance jumping out of the water. You might ask how we could see this whale in the dark. Well this whale was lit up from the phosphorescence, and every time he would jump he would be covered in glowing green water. Every time it blew water it was green water. I have seen a lot of amazing things in my life but this was by far the most incredible. We sat until he decided to move on and then sat longer trying to make sense of what just happened.

Anna’s kayak in Glacier Bay National Park

2 comments

  1. Tears fill my eyes as you so eloquently describe the majesty of God’s creation. Your descriptive words bring joy to my heart and I feel blessed to be able to read your adventures! Blessings to you both! It amazes me to read about the creativeness of our God who created all this beauty and allowed you to witness so much up close!

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  2. In the “last day on beach” photo. I was looking for the bathtubs or at least the tray of Corona.
    You have many lasting and wonderful memories.
    Hoping many more are in your future.

    Bob

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