This Travel Journal submitted by AdventureSmith traveler Alison Gardner details her stop at Hobart Bay aboard the Admiralty Dream's Glacier Bay and Island Adventure Alaska cruise. Submit your own AdventureSmith travel tales through our Travel Journal form.
We spent the night docked in Hobart Bay, tied to a fine modern wharf and gangway that seemed a strange aberration in a place of pristine wilderness, not a light or a building in sight in any direction. After bright sunshine the previous day, a dense fog descended across the entire bay overnight, so we awoke to a silent world wrapped in cotton wool without so much as a seagull’s cry to be heard. Only a few sharp-chiseled mountain tops hinted that there was land ahoy and that a blue sky day awaited when the mist burned off. As 12 early risers among the Admiralty Dream’s 55 guests set off on a 6 a.m. kayak exploration, they looked ghostly within a short distance of the ship.
We had come to Hobart Bay with the promise of a full day of discovery and adventure, presented as a rare chance to sample raw wilderness by land and sea as true Alaskans go about their business when they live in remote areas. Alaska Dream Cruises prides itself on delivering experiences that reflect "true Alaska." This day promised to be something of an immersion as we each gripped the wheel or paddle ourselves while using Rough Terrain Vehicles (RTVs), Zegos and two-person sea kayaks. The fleets of each of these forms of transport are stored at Hobart Bay exclusively for the use of Alaskan Dream guests. For some of us, the sight of them triggered apprehension that we would be unable to master these tests of Alaska lifestyle immersion; for others, they were already familiar tools in modified form and the day was anticipated as a fun challenge.
For me and my husband, both seniors, only the kayak was a familiar experience. I quickly reminded my husband that I have a rule of never driving in a foreign country, so I would be happy to ride shotgun on the RTV and Zego! With about 90% of guests between ages 50 and 83, and a number of those with knee and hip replacements in their recent history, I expected to see a few guests passing on at least one option, but not a single person stood down on their assigned times for the one-and-a-half hour adventures, delivered with military timing in order for all cruisers to try them out before we shipped anchor at 5:30 p.m.
The RTV was our challenge of the morning. This island once having hosted a now-deserted logging village, the potholed remains of rocky logging roads and wooden bridges served as our six-vehicle exploration route into the heart of the island, following in single-file formation behind our expedition leader, Lee Vale. Drawing on his rich Tlingit native heritage, Lee stopped to point out plants used for medicinal and food gathering purposes and to tell traditional stories about living in the wilderness. Our RTVs, complete with mini-pickup truck boxes are popular with remote-living locals, he explained, because you can maneuver them onto a beach for clam digging or along a narrow track for wild berry harvesting. However, despite wearing a heavy helmet, the engine noise was loud, leading to the unmistakable conclusion that it would warn wildlife for five miles around that they had better head for the hills!
Wider and more stable than similar one- or two-person water craft, the Zego is essentially an RTV on pontoons with a modest outboard engine on the back. After lunch, with mist now replaced by a rare perfectly blue-sky day for this part of southeast Alaska, we joined a flotilla of six Zegos, some single seat and some motorcycle-style double seat, to explore the bays and smaller islands that dot the protected waters around Hobart Bay. Again these vehicles are an inexpensive way for remote-living locals to do anything from checking crab pots to visiting neighbors on a relatively calm day, but for us it was all about the wildlife spotting ... from marine mammals in the water and bears on the beach to the ever-present bald eagles observing from their tree perches. The Zegos were about half the noise of the RTVs but still too machine-like for me to embrace with unqualified delight.
By 4:30 p.m. when our scheduled time arrived to double kayak, the water was like a mirror, perfection for a windless late afternoon ride offering significant upper body exercise and nothing but the soft splash of a paddle to startle the wildlife. We could hardly wait to try out the kayak launcher, an ingenious piece of on-the-wharf technology that makes entering and exiting a kayak as simple and graceful as I've ever seen. You just settle in with your paddle in hand, someone slides your kayak into the water and away you go. The same thing happens in reverse when you return to base.
Navigating a flatter shoreline with marshy river estuaries, we spotted juvenile and adult bald eagles making an easy meal of migrating salmon and got over-excited about a swimming bear out on the bay that turned out to be a remarkably bear-like log!
I wondered whether a case could be made for those true Alaskans sea kayaking around their remote coastal neighborhoods, but frankly it didn't matter ... the synchronized rhythm of kayak paddles making for the mothership and another fabulous meal aboard the Admiralty Dream made this final activity a perfect finale to our Hobart Bay day.
Editor/journalist Alison Gardner is a global expert on nature-based vacations and cultural/educational travel. Her Travel with a Challenge web magazine, is a recognized source of new and established operators, accommodations and richly illustrated feature articles covering all types of senior-friendly alternative travel. All images copyright to Alison Gardner.