Month: June 2013

Even More 6/2: Glacier Bay Continues to Amaze

June2Part3-6Just toolin’ along, enjoying the afternoon.  It was now just after 3pm, and we still had a ways to go to get to the glacier.  Most folks had gone back inside to take a break, but a few of us hung out on the bow to follow the action and just enjoy the ride.

The humpbacks weren’t done with us – we saw one dive not too far from the ship. Then, we saw a big splash farther away.  There was a humpback out there slapping his tail in the water – with a lot of zoom we could barely see what was causing the commotion. He may have been breaching before as well.







Here we are, trying to figure out what all the splashing was about.  The gentleman smiling up at Lou was the official wildlife spotter – he had a good eye and was always out checking for all of us.





Ranger Fay told us we should start seeing more Mountain Goats soon, so we’re scanning for them – they’re still far away.  Each cabin is supplied with a pair of binoculars for your use during the cruise.





We did see a pair of eagles building a nest:





We passed some drop dead beautiful scenery:







And then, someone spotted a wolf on shore (I think it was Ranger Fay, but not sure).  The word was quickly whispered along, since we weren’t using the loudspeakers out in the quiet bay.  Can you spot the wolf in the following photo?



Don’t worry, I couldn’t either.  I was looking in the wrong place – it was further down the shore line:



Seeing a wolf from the ship is fairly rare, so we considered this our lucky day.  We watched for quite a while, being quiet and careful not to disturb the wolf as he or she foraged for something to eat under the rocks.

As we came upon Gloomy Knob, it was Mountain Goat time!  We saw several Nannies with their kids along the lower part of the cliffs, down near the water.



Zooming in (and cropping the photo): we get a better look at the goats.  The little ones were hopping around, having a good time:



In the next series, you can see how little Billy starts to follow Mom, then decides he’s not so sure.  Mom comes back and leads him to another path:

June2Part3-33Color me happy, very happy with the way the day had progressed.  I lost Lou with the mountain goats – I think he was worn out from all the excitement of the day.  We took a break to prepare for dinner (Alaskan Cod with Salsa Verde), and then it was time to get back outside and check out Margerie Glacier.  I will admit to being zonked by this time – while we took a few photos of the glacier, it was just too much wonder and awe for one day – not a bad problem to have.


The views did not disappoint as we cruised to Margerie Glacier; we saw a few whales in the distance as well.



June2Part3-50We arrived at Margerie Glacier as we were having dinner; it is 55 miles from Bartlett Cove so we covered some ground, especially since we stopped so often. This is a tidewater glacier, meaning it gets enough snow that it still pushes forward into the bay.  It is known for lots of calving – I believe there was some, but we missed it.

Margerie Glacier is approximately a mile wide at the face, and it stretches 21 miles back to the mountain range at the Alaska/Canada border.  It is about 350 feet tall, with 250 feet above water and 100 ft below.

200 years ago, Glacier Bay was solid ice, and since then many of the glaciers have receded, but Margerie is considered stable. There are 8 glaciers in the National Park that extend into Glacier Bay, and we’ll have a chance to see some of them tomorrow. Check here for more information on glaciers in Glacier Bay.


The mountainous terrain surrounding the glacier was also interesting:



You can see how rocks and dirt have been woven into the texture of the glacier as it pushes forward:



Our fellow passengers enjoying the glacier at 8:30pm:



A few more photos from the evening:

It was after 9pm by the time we pulled away from the glacier, headed to our anchorage at Reid Glacier:



What a day!!!

More 6/2: Just Another Un-Cruise Day…


You might think this post is going to be about whales.  You might be right – but keep reading, because there will be lots more than whales happening this afternoon.

June2Part2-1We left Bartlett Cove and headed north to get deeper into Glacier Bay.  Our first destination was South Marble Island, where there is another large haul-out of Steller Sea Lions.  The scenery as we progressed became filled with snow covered mountains, and we could even see a glacier.

As we came upon Marble Island, it was easy to find the Steller Sea Lions.  This is also a refuge for Pigeon Guillemots – these are the small birds you can (barely) see in some of the photos that follow.  People are not allowed to land on South Marble Island, as it’s protected for both the birds and the seals.



Those darn humpbacks kept distracting us as we were trying to find the Steller Sea Lions … check out the right hand corner of the photo:



Here they are – this is what we are searching for; there are more Steller Sea Lions on the main island as well:






There were quite a few frisky sea lions in the water:


There were a squillion gulls on the island, nesting and just taking life easy.  All of a sudden the air was filled with loud squawking and flapping wing noises.



The guardian gulls went after a mischievous juvenile bald eagle, and chased him away, squawking all the time:



We saw several bald eagles relaxing on the beach:



Puffins, Puffins, Puffins – as we were watching the Steller Sea Lions, the gulls, and a few whales, we happened to notice the puffins swimming about 50 ft off the starboard side.  There weren’t a lot of them, but we saw maybe 5 or 6 swimming near the ship.  I planted myself on the bench by the railing, and watched their antics off and on for an hour, snapping lots of photos (people probably thought I was nuts).  I did get some photos of the Tufted Puffins to share – harder than it might sound, since they are only about 15 inches long. This was our first time seeing puffins and it was exciting!

Just swimmin’ along:


Dunkin’ for dinner:



Takin’ off for a short flight (puffins can fly up to 50 mph, but often fly just short distances not far off the water when looking for fish):



Those pesky humpbacks just kept popping up everywhere.  Didn’t they know we had other things to look at? (Note – we never got complacent about seeing the whales.)

And, the Holland America Volendam was stalking us throughout the day. They didn’t linger in one place like we did, but their passengers could still enjoy the views and some of the wildlife sightings.


We circled around the island, and said goodbye to the Steller Sea Lions as we continued on:



Whew – this is enough for now.  And to think, all of the activity shown above took place in 2 hours, starting at about 1:15pm. It’s possible we’ll have some more action this afternoon as we un-cruise to Margerie Glacier, but it’s hard to see how we can top the day we’ve had so far.

6/2: Bartlett Cove – Glacier Bay National Park Headquarters


The itinerary for this week takes us to Glacier Bay National Park for three days, then to several overnight anchorages on our way to Sitka.  At 6am on Sunday, our first full cruising day, the scenery wasn’t too exciting:



We did see humpbacks shortly after 6am:



Coffee was ready in the lounge, and the windows in front made it a pleasant place to hang out:



Photos from the morning:

Breakfast was served and we continued watching for whales and other wildlife.  The scenery kept getting better and better, as we neared Glacier Bay National Park Headquarters at Bartlett Cove:













We reached Bartlett Cove before 9am.  Everyone got off the ship and had a chance to stretch their legs.  We chose the one mile forest walk and a short stop at the Glacier Bay National Park Lodge:

























One of the most interesting things we saw in the lush forest was a wide variety of fungi, most growing on trees:



More fungi:





We saw a moose at the tail end of our forest walk:



We continued walking a short distance along the beach, past our ship and some kayaks, and wandered back to the Lodge:











There was plenty of time to stop along the way and read some of the informational posters supplied by the Forest Service:





We thoroughly enjoyed the walk through the forest, and the opportunity to visit another of our National Park Lodges.  We were back on the boat for lunch and were heading deeper into Glacier Bay.  It was quiet for an hour or so; we saw a few otters and whales in the distance but didn’t linger.  We  were headed toward the Marble Islands and Gloomy Knob:









I wonder if that’s a baby otter the mother is holding in the photo below?  The otters were very far from the boat.



The weather was perfect as we cruised away from Bartlett Cove.  Ranger Fay joined us, and would be with us for the next three days.  Would we see more wildlife, and how about a glacier or two?  Check out the next post to see how the rest of the day went.

More 6/1: Embarkation Week 3: Glacier Bay National Park & More


We had nothing planned for our transfer day in Juneau.  We thought we would go up the Mt. Roberts Tram, or perhaps back out to Mendenhall Glacier, but the rainy weather put those options out of our minds.  We walked around town, did a little shopping, and had lunch.  Then we went back to the convention center where we used the internet and waited for the start of our next adventure.

A look at the more modern side of Juneau:



And, the “frontier” section, where many of the shops are located:



We saw this book in the window of a store, and it had more meaning than it might have had a week before:



We picked up a couple of smaller souvenirs, checking to make sure these were “handmade in Alaska …”



Walking back to the convention center, where our waiting room was, we passed several large murals (that’s the sidewalk on the bottom, to give some perspective to how large the murals are:



Jun1PM-6By now, we were ready for lunch.  We had vouchers for the Hangar Pub, so that’s where we went.  As usual, I had halibut & fries, and Lou probably had a cheeseburger. The food was excellent.




We tried to stretch lunchtime out, since we knew we’d have several hours before we would be boarding the Wilderness Explorer.  I entertained myself by taking photos of: my lunch, our drink, a neon sign, and the expensive souvenirs purchased earlier (not every moment is action-packed on this trip):



Jun1PM-42While waiting for boarding time, we visited with some folks we knew – there were over 20 passengers from Week 2 continuing on to Week 3 – and did the usual internet catching up.  One of us may have snagged a nap.


It really started to rain hard and was still raining at 5pm as we marched across the street to our new home for the coming week.


Fortunately, we were able to wait to board under a covered gangway (which could use some paint):



While waiting, Captain Danny and some of the crew from the Wilderness Discoverer came by – they tried to entice us to switch back to their ship, since they were sure we’d have more fun.  There was obviously a fun rivalry between the crews of the two ships.




Boarding was quick and easy, and we were soon checking out our cabin – No. 300 on the top deck, again just behind the bridge.  It is smaller than our previous cabin, but there is still lots of storage space.  Our freshly cleaned laundry was waiting, along with our luggage:




We peeked into the dining area as we came onboard; the layout on this ship is different.  The dining area is one deck below the lounge.  This works fine for dining, but did make the lounge seem crowded at times:



Shortly after boarding, we all mustered in the lounge for the first safety drill (the Wilderness Explorer was refurbished in 2012 and it was in very good condition, but I’m guessing the retro mirrored ceiling is left over from its previous glory days):



There was time to check out a little bit of the ship after the Welcome Reception.  While the inside seemed less spacious than the Discoverer, I thought the outdoor space was much better for photography.  There was some comfortable seating in the bow of the boat, and we had good access off the stern.  The outside area on the top deck was smaller, but views weren’t blocked by the skiffs and kayaks, since they were on a lower deck:




Saying goodbye to Juneau:

Jun1PM-43Dinner was a choice of Cod or Steak, with a delicious chocolate dessert.  As we were finishing dinner, there was an announcement – whales had been spotted.  Of course, one of us had to jump up to go check it out (hint: it wasn’t Lou).  I figured we’d been foiled by the Dall’s Porpoises again:


But … wait … these don’t look like porpoises …



What are they?  They’re not humpbacks.  It couldn’t be, could it?  Since the suspense is killing you, take a look at the next photo (you already looked, didn’t you?):


Believe it!  We saw Orcas on our very first evening – a mother with her youngster.  This was amazing, and we watched them play until it got too dark.  We were admittedly a little cranky earlier in the day, having to wait around to board the ship, but that evaporated once the Orcas came out to play … what will tomorrow bring?

Checking in From Alaska

Hello folks.  We are now mid-way through our adventure.  We have just disembarked from the Wilderness Discoverer after cruising through the inside passage for 2 weeks.  We have a day in Juneau, then board a different boat – the Wilderness Explorer, for a week long cruise through Glacier Bay and on to Sitka.

Not at all sure how best to share our story, but here are some wildlife photos from the past two weeks.  We haven’t seen a large amount of wildlife, but what we have seen has been outstanding.

Lou took these photos of this bear on the shoreline with the large lens.  These were some of the most popular photos taken during the trip, and he had many requests for copies.  Don’t feel bad for the old goat; it’s the circle of life, you know.


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And, for a sweeter look at mother nature, here is a mother sea otter with her baby:

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And, this is another otter that kept popping up to take a closer look at us.  We took these while touring around a secluded bay in a skiff (motorized dinghy):

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We saw lots of eagles during the trip:

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And then, we saw more whales …

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We also saw lots of intertidal sea creatures along our shore walks and skiff rides – I’ll save those for a later post.

We are looking forward to the coming week, and hoping the weather is at least half as good as what we’ve had so far.  We were fortunate to have sunshine for almost every day during the past two weeks.