We have visited Glacier Bay National Park every time we’ve come to Alaska. This was our 8th time (not counting the 1-day visit on a cruise ship in 2006) visiting the park and we still enjoy it. It is a wonderful combination of scenery, wildlife, natural history and solitude that makes every trip worthwhile.
Different from past years was that we chose not to get an advanced notice permit (obtainable 60 days in advance) but rather a short notice permit (48 hours in advance). That worked well this year on account of all of the disruptions we had to our typical cruise schedule (i.e., late departure and furnace repair). By being prompt with our application we were able to get the dates July 10-16 for our visit.
We left Juneau on Sunday, July 8 and headed to Excursion Inlet on the north side of Icy Strait. The forecast we for increasing westerly winds and we thought Excursion Inlet better protected than Flynn Cove our usual pre-Glacier Bay anchorage. When we checked the forecast on the morning of July 9, the forecast for the next day had deteriorated further so we phoned the Park Service and were able to get a 1-day permit to enter the park on July 9. This allowed us to anchor in Bartlett Cove (the park headquarters) rather than getting beat up in Icy Strait while entering the park on July 10.
We ended up spending two nights in Bartlett Cove but took advantage of the time to visit the Huna Tribal House and do the short forest walk around the pond. The tribal house is just gorgeous inside and we saw a moose with her calf while on the walk.
At our N Sandy Cove anchorage we had quite a bear show. It started with a black bear working the shoreline, followed up with a brown bear sow with two cubs and concluded with a confrontation between the sow and a male brown bear pursuing her. All of this transpired a few hundred yards away. The sow chased off the male once but as the sun set, the male resumed his dogged pursuit and the drama was not resolved.
The day we went up to the head of Tarr Inlet and glacial ice, we had calm conditions and very little floating ice to deal with. That gave us the opportunity to anchor in the small bight on the west shore of Tarr Inlet a mile or so south of the Margerie Glacier. We were rewarded with a view of the glacial face overnight (along with periodic rumbles and crashes) and bits of ice floating by. Fortunately, nothing large floated by to hang up on our anchor chain.
At South Marble Island we had the usual assortment of birds and sea lions. Unlike last year, we saw no goats on the cliffs of Gloomy Knob. Also not present in the numbers we’ve seen in the past were humpback whales. Research indicates that the number of whales in Glacier Bay/Icy Strait have dropped by over 40% from their peak in 2011. This is distressing news as humpback whales are such a key element to the Alaska experience.
Miles traveled this leg – 230.3; Engine hours – 37.1
Total miles traveled – 1489.9; Engine hours – 228.8