A Fortuitous Change of Plans

We weren’t intending to go to Glacier Bay National Park.  When planning a long trip, a lot of effort goes into just getting there.  We had a rough idea of where we wanted to go, and some specific places were on our itinerary.  Then we ran across some friends in Sitka, and they told us that Glacier Bay is not to be missed.  After hearing their glowing descriptions, we revised our loosely held plans, and prepared to head further north.  Reservations are required, as the park service limits the number of boats coming in to 3 per day.  The permit lasts up to a week.  Usually, these reservations are made weeks ahead of time.  They reserve a few short notice spots, and we were hoping for one of these.  We applied online, and tried to stay in areas where we could receive confirmation by cell phone, but we heard nothing.  So, taking a leap of faith, we just headed toward the park.  The day before arriving, we finally made contact, and our application was approved!

We stopped at the Bartlett Bay ranger station to pick up our park map, and get the latest information on where we could and could not go in the park. There are protected waters for whales and other wildlife, and the boundaries sometimes change. Map in hand, we headed toward our first anchorage: North Sandy Cove. Thus began a journey we could not have imagined. We must have said the word, “beautiful” more times in this one week than we have in our whole lives.

The cozy cove where we anchored was empty of other boats, but full of wildlife. Whales swam in and out of the bay, and all around our boat as they went about their constant feeding. “Phhhhhf, Phhhhf” sounded day and night as they exhaled great gusts of air and spray. The sound was incredibly peaceful. People have asked if we were afraid, having them so near the boat. But they did not bother us even though they were close, and we did not seem to bother them. In the evening, they grew more playful, and we enjoyed watching their tail slaps on the water. When we moved on the next morning, it was with a sense of sadness at leaving our whale family behind.

A whale blows between Mike and Voyager

Throughout the park, we passed many otters, calmly resting on their backs in the water, some holding young pups. They would disappear if we got too close, so our pictures are from a distance. Also from a distance, we took pictures of puffins! These snazzy little birds captured our hearts. We saw bears regularly, in different spots, usually along the shoreline as they foraged for food at low tide.

Come relax with the otters!
Mama bear and cub

One rainy, cloudy day, we wanted to delay traveling to see the glaciers until visibility was better. Instead, we stopped along our way for Mike to try his hand at fishing. He had purchased a new line set up for halibut, and wanted to try it out. He caught two undersized halibut, which he threw back. He was on the verge of giving up when he hooked a big one! It was a 48-incher and it took him an hour to fight the fish to the boat. Then we looked at each other and said, “Now what do we do?” It took us a while, and we were messy, but we got the job done, and filled the freezer with delicious halibut. We have been enjoying it as much as the salmon we caught earlier in our trip.

Mr. Halibut

There was gorgeous scenery everywhere we went.  The woods were thick and lush with greenery.  Waterfalls trickled out of crevices and roared down granite walls.  Huge, snowcapped mountains jutted up all around us.  From our depth finder on the boat, we could see that the mountains began far beneath the surface of the water.  Use whatever superlative you wish, and it won’t be enough to convey the majesty and beauty we were surrounded with.  At the end of each day, we were in awe, and didn’t see how it could get any better.  But sure enough, the next day was even more amazing.  And who knew that glaciers could be so captivating?

There are several glaciers in the park, at the ends of long fjords. As we traveled through the steep walled canyons with the roar of waterfalls in our ears, we would round a bend to see the craggy fissures of a magical blue ice kingdom. It was breathtaking. Threading our way through icebergs that had entered the water when the glacier calved, we came as close as we could safely come to each glacier. At Marjerie Glacier, we decided to shut down the engine and just sit for a time. It was a great decision. We could hear the creaking and groaning as the slow glacial movement created huge pressures within the massive blocks of ice. Occasionally, we would hear what sounded like a distant gunshot – ice breaking apart. It was a thrill to watch the calving process whenever the face of the glacier let loose and slid to the water. The roar reached our ears after the fact. The resulting wave generated by the icefall could have been dangerous, had we been too close, but we had no problem. We decided to stay in a far nook of the bay overlooking Marjerie. We were the only boat, and the only humans present. It was amazing.

Ice wonderland
A little perspective… about 200 feet tall.
Live action calving.
Turn up sound

Too soon, our week drew to a close, and we headed back to the park entrance. On the way we passed whales, bears, more puffins, an otter convention, and mountain goats! Sorry, we have no pictures of the goats, but through our binocular lenses they were very handsome with their white beards. They were completely sure footed and comfortable on Gloomy Point, the craggy mountain where they were grazing. We will never forget our visit to this special place. We are so glad that our friends urged us to go, and if we get the chance to return someday, you can bet that we will.


Early morning serenity
Bonus video!
Turn up sound.

15 thoughts on “A Fortuitous Change of Plans

  1. You are having a trip of a life time. All I can say is ‘Wow’!! Very impressed with your fish, Mike. Keep enjoying and travel safe.


  2. Your trip through this area of Alaska sounds amazing. Thank you for the vivid description of this adventure. I could almost see it in my minds eye.
    I am tentatively planning a trip to Alaska next summer, it has been on my bucket list.
    Love to both and continued prayers for safe travels. Making memories is the best! Jackie


  3. I have to echo Ruth’s words – the trip of a lifetime! And that’s a very impressive fish, Mike. Yummy too! It’s wonderful that you now are such “regulars” that you encounter friends during your travels, especially those who can recommend great places to go. Thanks so much for sharing. Love from Dave and Peggy

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks!
      Stay tuned. We have internet today in Petersburg so more stories are in the pipeline.
      I’m ‘fixing boats in beautiful places’ and Beth is provisioning after weeks out.
      All the Best to you and Dave!


  4. Not sure you got the comment I just wrote. I’ll try it again. (I put our wrong email address.)
    Wow, you finally made it to Glacier Bay!! Your trip is out of this world, at least Murphys, anyway!! Thank you for taking all of us “with you” on your amazing adventure. That’s quite a halibut. We’ll be over for dinner. Had to buy ours at Costco. Lv, Kathi and Doug
    The right email is a gmail address.


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