Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log: June 14-September 14, 1971 by Ardis Hyde
(Ardis, David and Philip Hyde in Their Camper. Continued from the blog post, “Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log 10.”)
Part Eleven: Bartlett Cove, Glacier Bay National Monument to Juneau, Alaska
Monday, July 5, 1971: Sunny today. We will take a cruise to Plateau Glacier. We are up at 7 am and in a mad hurry to get packed and to the tour boat by 8:15 am. The tour boat had 29 aboard including crew of three plus National Park Service personnel of two. The surface of Glacier Bay is glassy and smooth. The Fairweather Range was out of the clouds. There was some low fog in the southern bay burning away fast. First point of interest was the marble islands, small rounded glaciated domes mid channel with low shrubby growth. Heavy concentration of nesting birds, gulls, pigeons, guillamats, Pelagic Cormorants, Tufted Puffin, Common Murre, Murrelets, Arctic Terns. We could see the cormorant nests in the rock crevice. We proceed into Muir Inlet but were turned back by the density of ice floating. We turned up Wachusetts Inlet. Wachusetts Inlet had much ice in it too but we proceeded thru with ice bergs bumping against the side occasionally.
The day continued dazzlingly clear and bright. The ice bergs were beautiful pastel shades of blue against the sparkling milky blue water. We saw some Eiderducks, showy black and white. We made it all the way to Plateau Glacier by lunch time. We ate the lunch provided by the cruise company for $3.00 plus the $25.00 cruise fare for each of us. Ice bergs as big as houses appear to be grounded underwater somewhere. The sunny side of the house sized ice bergs is pitted revealing the clear blue ice base. Arctic Terns are abundant, flying and feeding along the base of the glacier. I looked over the rail of the boat and saw the water teeming with tiny shrimp (krill?) Arctic Terns were also riding on small ice bergs around Wachusetts Inlet.
The cruise captain cut the motor and we floated in front of the glacier and up to the Arctic Terns. With the sunny and warm day, it was noticeably colder in proximity to the glacier. On our way out of Wachusetts Inlet we passed a patch of larger house sized ice bergs. One huge ice berg had a Golden Eagle perched on top. The cruise boat pulled near shore opposite Goose Cove to let Chuck Cox and his wife off in a rowboat. They would row ashore to be picked up by their Park Ranger friend who would take them to their tent raft in Goose Cove. Nearby we saw a cluster of Harlequin Ducks. More breeze on return trip but still a very mild day. David napped and was totally absorbed sitting in the pilot house across from the captain. He had a wooden microphone, wore the binoculars and made announcements to all. We passed close to an Eagle’s Nest in a cottonwood. An Adult Golden Eagle was visible on the nest.
As Mount Fairweather came into view again it was still absolutely clear, no cirrus that day, a few cumulous clouds over the Chilkat Range was all. Turned out to be the most perfect day possible for the cruise. As we approached the Marble Islands again a small rock was sticking out of the water because of low tide. The rock, covered with rock weed, also hosted at least eight seals basking in the sun. As we approached, they slid into the water. A whale had been sighted earlier but I didn’t get to see it. We all did see several porpoises however. On Marble Island we saw numerous birds. If only we could stick around…
I couldn’t identify bird species quickly enough. So I took the word of the Park Ranger, which was sometimes incomplete. A few of the bird species we saw for sure were:
+ Pelagic Cormorant
+ Canada Goose
+ Tufted Puffin
+ Common Murre
+ Arctic Terns
+ Harlequin Ducks
+ Glaucous Gulls
While chasing a whale that we never found, the choppy water and wind combined to make us late getting back to Bartlett Cove. Before we landed we found there were five others who wanted to have dinner at The Gustavus Inn. One of them was a friend of Sally and Jack Lesh who run Gustavus Inn. Sally Lesh said she would call for all of us from the Glacier Bay Lodge. This she did. Sally arranged everything including transportation to Gustavus Inn. Jack Lesh appeared in a short while with his Volkswagen Bus. We all piled in leaving Bartlett Cove. The Gustavus Inn more than lived up to its advance recommendations. The Leshs were very hospitable and their table was bountiful in a truly home cooked family style dinner with Roast Beef, Halibut, potatoes, white radishes, spinach and lettuce salad from their garden, plus string beans and hollandaise, homemade bread, Yorkshire pudding and gravy. For dessert they served berry Danish , grasshopper pie and Governor Miller Pie. I had a small piece of each pie. Delish! The atmosphere of a country ranch house and friendliness of the Leshes all added up to a delightful experience, more than just a dinner for $6.00 a piece.
The only flaw in our trip to Gustavus Inn was our need to hurry to catch the plane, which we did. This time we traveled on a Grumman Goose. Though it is a sea plane, we took off and landed on wheels. This made our third type of plane we had traveled in during our visit to Glacier Bay. Philip, David and I returned to Juneau feeling we had a wonderful experience. We were glad we did it regardless of cost, which was plenty. Our return flight to Juneau was over a land route more than over water as had been the Twin Otter. We flew very close to the mountains. Close enough to see goats and the three glaciers to the north of Juneau. We landed about 8:20 pm and drove right to the Mendenhall Glacier campground. We sorted all of our stuff and tidied up before going to bed. Philip took a shower. It was a nice campground with private parking slots in dense foliage.
Continued in the blog post, “Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log 12.”