John and Kathy Youngblood have just left Glacier Bay, one of the most beautiful spots in the world, on their 2004 Selene 53 Mystic Moon. The picture above shows Kathy in front of Reid Glacier, one of the 50 named glaciers there; it’s 11 miles long.
The Youngbloods have cruised some 35,000 nm on Mystic Moon in the Caribbean and the Pacific, so they’re not easily impressed by the works of nature. But when they were leaving Glacier Bay a few days ago they quoted one of their friends who talked about “such beauty so close to home.”
They wrote on their blog, mysticmoonvoyages, ”those words captured why we are back in Alaska and the USA. We knew when we left Alaska in 2006 we would be back, and in all our travels in the Caribbean and the Pacific, Alaska continues to be a land of such raw beauty drawing us back.” They added that, “you can cruise in Alaska for ten years and still not see it all or get tired of the nature and world-class scenery.”
Yet Glacier Bay, part of the Glacier Bay National Park, is changing. About 250 years ago, the entire area was covered by a one large tidewater glacier. It has retreated 60 miles since then; today the bay, with all its branches, inlets, and lagoons, has a coastline of 563 statute miles, and it’s surrounded by snow-capped mountains reaching from 8,000 to 15,000 feet. Seven of the largest glaciers are melting, calving icebergs into the sea. (Full disclosure: One of my daughters and her husband worked there for several years with the National Park Service, and absolutely loved it.)
On their way out of the bay, near the Sitakaday Narrows, the Youngbloods were passed by three orcas, moving fast (orcas can swim 35 mph). They also saw “hundreds and hundreds of otters and a gazillion ducks and a few porpoises.” (During the summer season, the Park Service limits the number of pleasure boats in the bay.)
Later, when they arrived at their anchorage near the little town of Hoonah, they saw four humpback whales. That evening John said he cast a line in the water “to catch some fresh fish and boom – several small flounder off a dried-up piece of salmon.”
Leaving ahead of a spring storm with 50-knot winds, the Youngbloods cruised over to Statter Harbor in Auke Bay, which is part of Juneau, even though it’s 35 nm from downtown by water (but only 12 by car). They plan to stay there a few days, reprovisioning at Costco, touring Juneau and taking a seaplane sightseeing tour over the glacier ice fields. They still want to see more of the “spectacular sights of glacier-carved, snow-covered mountains.” Read more: