Day four: We woke up to another beautiful sunny day. We couldn’t have had better weather if we ordered it up special. What a bonus on a trip where we expected nothing but rain. Following another tasty breakfast buffet, we had two hike options to chose from on the Cascade Creek Trail, the rather ambitious hike or the waterfall hike. We took the old fogie option. I mean the waterfall hike. We saw lots of hemlock and some sitka spruce trees. Some clinging precariously to the side of the rock. In this area of southeast Alaska, everything starts out as rock. The lichens gain a foothold, making way for moss, which eventually eats into the rock enough for small plants to gain a foothold (or should I say roothold?) and finally trees. Even sandy seeming areas are glacial silt, ground from ……(what else)….rocks! We passed some moose scat on the boardwalk, and saw some flattened skunk cabbage where they had bedded down, but did not see any moose. No bears either.
We hiked to the waterfall, where everyone took some lovely pictures, then hiked across a bridge and on to a veiwpoint at the river. The trail from there went up a steep rock which the ambitious group had climbed earlier, but this group all said time to stop. While they milled around taking pictures of the river I climbed the rock. Just had to do it. Of course once you go up you have to come back down, but even the down was not as bad as it looked.
On the return trip the rest bypassed the waterfall without so much as a glance, but we lingered a bit while John asked me to go stand up near it for photos. So while I stood there taking a cold shower in the waterfall mist, the battery in his camera died.
We had time to paddle around Thomas Bay in the kayak before the ambitious group returned. During our lunch of turkey wraps and hot caramel apple crisp ala mode, the boat moved on toward Scenery Cove for the afternoon hike on Baird Glacier.
The terminal moraine(or farthest point the glacier ever was) is now well under water, but there is a rather shallow bay going a distance between there and where
the moraine is on dry land. The glacial river had spots deep enough to edge the skiff up to for a dry landing. The moraine has lots of round rocks, and boulders, ground off the mountain and rubbed smooth from eons of glacial movement. As the glacier retreats, new forest develops in its wake. The moraine was full of soft spongy moss, the starts of bushes, and even a few
infant trees. We could hear either wind blowing through the glacier, or the meltwater river roaring by. Probably a mixture of both. As we hiked farther inland, we found a moonscape of pyramidal formations in the silt. Several people had fun jumping around in jello-like mud patches. I kept my feet dry as I had chosen to wear my hiking boots that day rather than the trusty Alaskan tennis shoes. Bad choice. Later I did hear complaints of cold feet from people who had fun in the mud and ended up walking on ice with wet shoes.
John did not realize the first icy spot we crossed was actually ice until he went down,
dunking a large expensive telephoto camera lens into muddy wet silt. The ice and snow looked the same as the silt on the surface. He cleaned his lens the best he could and put it in the backpack, useless at least for this excursion. Back at the boat he found much to his great relief that he had only broken a filter on the end.
Formations around us got taller and icier until we realized we were indeed on the glacier. All that silt mixed in the ice
made it rather hard to tell where moraine ends and glacier begins. Off we went in pursuit of clean white ice. At first it loomed in the distance. After hiking awhile we could see the white ice over the next rise. Well maybe the next one. OK, the one after that. Eventually we came to the conclusion that the ice where we stood was the white ice we saw from several rises back. Hmm, take off the sunglasses and it does look somewhat white. Baird is a very dirty glacier, at least when you hike in from the sea. The hills got taller and the crevasses longer and deeper, and still the white ice always seemed to loom up ahead
or maybe where we had already been. We turned back when we reached an uncrossable crevasse. We took a bit different route on the return trip. When we came to a slick steep spot, Kevin, our expedition leader reached out, offering a helping hand to each person as they crossed. Most of them took it.
“I’m good,” I said. “I have my trusty walking stick.” Promptly, I fell. Lesson learned, next time take the pro-offered
hand. You look a lot stupider falling down than accepting help. I guess that makes John and I the klutzes of the group, nobody else fell, though some did opt to take the steep downs at a seat-slide.
Somehow I ended up at the back of the line. Perhaps because I walk slow. Anyway, we got to a large area of the squishy mud. It seemed to support the first person to walk on it (so long as they refrained from jumping up and down.) With each succeeding person, the mud got squishier and squishier, each one sinking in deeper than the last. So I found my own route and stepped where they didn’t. I managed to keep my shoes dry until we got to a crossing
where the only way to avoid the really deep boot-sucking mud was to step where everyone else did. Sigh, no choice now, I followed. And sunk down deep enough to get wet, muddy shoes. At least we were on the way back and I would not have to spend the entire glacier walk that way. In fact at that point I am not sure if we were even still on the glacier.
Back on the moraine we found the other group of hikers sprawled out on the moss like kindergarteners at nap time. Our group was supposed to be the long hike and theirs the short, but they seemed to have gotten farther into the glacier by taking a different route. They did do it faster though, so technically I suppose they were still the short hike.
“Try lying on this moss with us,” they said. “It’s wonderful.”
So we stopped laughing at them and joined in for a comfy snooze. The moss did feel something like a mattress. We rose only when our guide came back from the beach claiming we must leave because the skiff had arrived to take us back to the yacht. One guy said he did not want to get up and to come back for him tomorrow. Odds are he would not have enjoyed the cold windy glacial night alone in the middle of nowhere without so much as a garbage bag to keep him dry in the night mist if they had really let him stay there. On the way out, somebody spotted our wildlife for the day, harlequin ducks.
After we got back to the ship, John gave the stand-up paddle board a try, then decided to dive off the stern for a quick polar bear swim followed by a sprint for the hot tub. Having a huge aversion to immersing myself in glacial water, I skipped the swim and went straight for the hot tub.
That night an erie green light appeared in the sky above the mountains on the
horizon. If watched for a bit, the light would radiate and grow before shrinking back to its original glow, only to project skyward once again. The northern lights at last, one of the things I really wanted to see. John said it would take setting the camera up on a tripod for a long exposure to get a picture of them, which he did not do, but Kevin and Abby did.
InnerSea Discoveries and its sister line American Safari cruises are now known under one name: Un-Cruise Adventures.