Glacier Bay NP, AK

During the Labor day weekend we went back to bear country for a couple of days to explore national park # 52 of 59. Labor Day weekend was the last operating weekend in 2015 at Glacier Bay NP. Because of this and the lack of TV and cell coverage, the park felt very peaceful. NPS had a number of scheduled programs and movies to keep us busy and interested in the evenings. Glacier Bay is the park with the most dynamic glaciers. A massive glacier covered the bay in ice in the the fastest known glacial advance, which dislocated the native villagers. Then, in about 100 years (from 1750 to 1880), the glacier retreated more than 40 miles up the bay. Today, it takes a few hours by boat to reach the face of Margerie Glacier – the northern most point in the park.

Margerie Glacier is massive. Hard to translate its size in pictures. Its height is 250 feet (76 m) and another 100 (30m) underwater.

Margerie Glacier is massive. Hard to translate its size in pictures. Its height is 250 feet (76 m) and another 100 (30m) underwater.

Scientists call Glacier Bay a living lab because they can observe life taking roots in bare rocks starting with lichen to later become lush, mossy spruce forests. The underwater life is rich and very significant as well. Every spring, the phytoplankton blooms and kick starts the new life cycle, from tiny organisms to giant whales who come here to feed. The bay is teeming with life, below and above the surface.

Living water in the bay. Do you see the little jellyfish?

Living water in the bay. Do you see the little jellyfish?

Lush forest covered with a blanket of moss

Lush forest covered with a blanket of moss

Snow the whale was injured by a collision with a cruise ship. It was found on the shore a few years ago and NPS decided to use her remains for educational purposes. The size of her bones is impressive. I can’t even imagine bumping into this creature in the water.

Whale named Snow.

Whale named Snow.

NPS is working closely with the Tlingit tribe, settlers of this area for many generations, to preserve their heritage.

Tribal territory marker

Tribal territory marker

The dining room in the lodge is decorated with native tribal art.

The dining room in the lodge is decorated with native tribal art.

We took the last boat tour in 2015 and had amazingly beautiful weather. We saw sea otters, wolves, bears, puffins, sea lions, seals, mountain goats, Eagles, many more birds and kayakers:)

Sea lions island. They were very loud.

Sea lions island. They were very loud.

Stalking wildlife

Stalking wildlife

Picked up a few kayakers on the way to the glacier. They kayaked for a few days in the bay and were very excited to see the boat.

Picked up a few kayakers on the way to the glacier. They kayaked for a few days in the bay and were very excited to see the boat.

There is a mountain goat on this steep rock wall.

There is a mountain goat on this steep rock wall.

Approaching the face of Margerie Glacier

Approaching the face of Margerie Glacier

Watching pieces of glacier collapse into the bay.

Watching pieces of glacier collapse into the bay.

Calm water of Glacier Bay

Calm water of Glacier Bay

Warming up by the fireplace after a long day in the cold

Warming up by the fireplace after a long day in the cold

The difference between low and high tide is very drastic and can be as much as 24 ft. This movement keeps the nutrients in the water moving and enriches the entire bay, creating a favorable environment for abundant sea life which in turn supports a healthy animal life above water.

When the tide is low, animals feast on mussels.

When the tide is low, animals feast on mussels.

This rock is underwater when the tide in high

This rock is underwater when the tide in high

Sunset on the shore of Glacier Bay

Sunset on the shore of Glacier Bay

We left on Monday and the lodge closed for the season. The leaving wasn’t easy. The rain that was forecasted for the entire weekend finally caught up with us and kept us trapped in Gustavos for an extra 10 hrs.

Keeping busy at the Gustavos airport while waiting for the sky to clear for small planes to fly. 10 very long hours of wait for a 20 min flight!

Keeping busy at the Gustavos airport while waiting for the sky to clear for small planes to fly. 10 very long hours of wait for a 20 min flight!

Finally boarding and leaving Gustavos

Finally boarding and leaving Gustavos

Happy to be flying back to Juneau.

Happy to be flying back to Juneau.

On the way to the park we stopped in Juneau for half a day, which allowed us to see the Mendenhall Glacier. We got there around 8 am before the tour buses and the crowds. We had it all to our ourselves, which was very enjoyable. We hiked to the waterfall and again there was no one there. Pretty awesome. On the way back crowds started coming by bus loads from the cruise ship.

Mendenhall Glacier from the side of the road

Mendenhall Glacier from the side of the road

Mendenhall Glacier

Mendenhall Glacier

Mendenhall Glacier visitor center sits on top of a rock carved by ice and has an amazing view of the glacier and the the valley

Mendenhall Glacier visitor center sits on top of a rock carved by ice and has an amazing view of the glacier and the the valley

Waterfall next to Mendenhall Glacier

Waterfall next to Mendenhall Glacier

Black Bear skin at the visitor center

Black Bear skin at the visitor center

Colorful Juneau, Alaska

Colorful Juneau, Alaska

Seafood lunch #1 at Tracy's King Crab Shack. The crab was good, but Costco in OC has equally tasty crab for less :)

Seafood lunch #1 at Tracy’s King Crab Shack. The crab was good, but Costco in OC has equally tasty crab for less :)

Seafood lunch #2 at Alaska Fish & Chips at The Flight Deck. Halibut fish&chips was yumm!

Seafood lunch #2 at Alaska Fish & Chips at The Flight Deck. Halibut fish&chips was yumm!

This sums up the activities in Juneau, Alaska.

This sums up the activities in Juneau, Alaska.

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