I am now back in Bartlett Cove after a 22 day circumnavigation of Glacier Bay. I was able to go everywhere I wanted and it was just about the perfect amount of time. I was able to go up the East Arm and officially 'end' my Inside Passage trip at Muir Glacier and then continue on out, around and up the West Arm.
It was quite an adventure on a number of fronts. First, this is one of the most amazing places I have ever been. The Glaciers are unbelievable as is what they have done to the environment. Moving out of the lower bay and up into the East and West arms is totally surreal. Just beautiful, with tons of scenery and wildlife. The Sea Otters seem to be the most prevalent, although the harbor seals; sea lions; birds; and bears all show themselves.
The past 3 weeks saw the transition from summer to fall here. It rained on me 18 of the 22 days. I arrive back cold; wet; coder; and wetter;.... You get the picture. However, it was so special for me on a number of fronts. First, as I was camped on the 'River of Ice' at McBride Glacier, up paddles my friend and fellow Inside Passage traveler Christine and her Father. Her original travelling partner had to end her trip early so Christine's dad offered to join her. I know it meant a ton to her to have him with her. We camped together at McBride for two days and then paddled up the east arm to Muir together to finish the IP. It was a dreary, windy, cold and rainy day as we approached the Glacier.
For me it was the most emotional moment of the trip. My tears mixed with the pouring rain as I wept in Joy. It was 1300 miles at that point and I was so overwhelmingly proud of myself and my accomplishment! As I approached the Glacier in solitude, Christine paddled up beside my kayak and reached over and gave me a big hug. We both smiled and high fived at achieving something most can't even comprehend. I took my time savoring the moment before we retreated to camp and a dry tarp on the beach. We took the next day to hike over the hills and mountains to get a spectacular view of the Glacier from up high. The skies opened up for a bit and it was absolutely spectacular.
I paddled back down the east arm with Christine and her dad before bidding them farewell. I must admit to having a bit of sadness to see such good friends depart, but alas, I had the west arm to conquer. I set out in rainy and windy conditions, only to have the weather begin to deteriorate very quickly. Paddling in some of the roughest seas of the trip, I made my way to an Island (hoping to avoid bears) and set up camp in a small protected cove. The storm worsened and I was forced to stay there for two days. As the winds finally let up, I pushed on and up into Rendu.
Rendu Inlet was amazing with its tall ridge line and waterfalls that seemed to come down from the sky. It was really an incredible sight, and due to the weather I had the place all to myself. I made it to the Glacier and then camped on a morraine hill at the base of a smaller glacier. Just me and the water, it was solitude at its best. From there, it was down and out and then up towards the Grand Pacific glacier and the Margerie glacier. I made camp that night at a lovely little inlet and actually managed to have a small fire and dry some things out before heading on up to the glaciers.
The next day, after viewing Margerie, which was spectacular, I turned to go back and make camp. As I pulled up to the beach and was just getting ready to unload, I spotted a lone kayaker off in the distance. As I peered through my scope and into the rain and mist it was obvious that it was my good pal Wild Bill, my other solo 2009 Inside Passage kayaker friend. Wow, what a small world. Bill had gone all the way up to Skagway/Haines after we parted ways in Juneau and then having decided he was not done, he came back down and over to Glacier Bay and here he was!! The Universe was smiling down on me :-)
Bill and I decided to camp and travel together for the next couple of days, so in the AM we set off for Johns Hopkins Glacier and the famed Black Beach. We were both excited about this as most people had said this was the most spectacular of the Glaciers. As we paddled up the JH Inlet, we met a German family here on vacation who gave us some hot tea and good company on our break. On and up through the beautiful inlet, we were not disappoint at our arrival on the black beach. Just a stones throw from the glacier itself, this beautiful black beach stands in stark contrast to the water and ice surrounding it. The weather was dismal, but we were stoked to be here. The Glacier was calving like mad and we enjoyed our first day.
The second day brought more rain and fog, but also a lovely couple from NY with their kids and a guide. We had some great conversation; managed to get some food from Shelly the guide and then our German friends showed up. The black beach sits below the hill side, which was quite wet, but that is where Bill had his tent set up. I on the other hand wanted to camp on the lovely soft beach. As we lay in our tents trying to get warm, a tremendous calving takes place. Clearly on a much bigger scale that anything we had hear before. As I lay there looking out of my tent, I see what I am calling an Ice Tsunami!! It was a massive set of waves picking up huge boulder size chunks of ice and pushing them up onto the sand. With each wave the ice was getting thrown closer and closer to my tent. I raced out, grabbed my camera and began snapping pictures. The whole middle face of the Glacier was missing and the waves were unbelievably huge. Luckily things settled down and my tent was saved, but the ice was now within about 15 feet of my tent. Very scary indeed and lucky that there were no boats or kayaker out there. Had there been, something bad definitely would have happened.
So, after our excitement, we were able to settle down and then the next day we paddled out. The Reid and Lampugh glaciers were gorgeous and we were continually treated to spectacular wildlife. At one point I startled a Sea Lion and it almost upset my boat it was so scared and large!! The rain continued as did the wind and we made it safely back to the park today.
Now I must get things dried out and figure out what to do next. The weather has turned decidedly worse, and my plans of paddling to Sitka are definitely iffy at this point. The next 3 days are calling for 20-30 knot winds with some gale force predictions in there. The ferry from Bartlett Cove to Juneau has stopped running, so I am not sure what I will do. For now, I will get dry and warm and then some rest and figure things out tomorrow.
As I sit here in Bartlett Cove, I have added things up and have surpassed the 1500 mile mark in just under 4 months of paddling. What an amazing adventure it has been. I have met some of the most amazing people and have made new friendships which I am sure will last a lifetime.