This Travel Journal submitted by Terri Nickerson details her Sea Wolf Glacier Bay Adventure with AdventureSmith Explorations in Alaska.
From my first view of the Sea Wolf, docked in Bartlett Cove, I was hooked. She is a beautiful old wooden boat, with small but comfortable cabins, and common areas that encourage lounging. After a safety orientation and a delicious lunch, we suited up for our first kayak excursion of the week. We paddled around the end of Geikie Inlet, where we had our first glimpses of Glacier Bay National Park’s wildlife from kayaks. It was exciting to see our first Black Bear and Humpback Whales, but as a birder, I was also thrilled to see Bald Eagles, Black Oystercatchers, Caspian Terns and Black-legged Kittiwakes. After our paddle, we were treated to happy hour in the salon, and then a delicious dinner of crab legs, corn, potatoes, vegetables and strawberry rhubarb pie. The Sea Wolf’s chef, Meggan, prepared beautiful and delicious meals, and the food almost topped the amazing scenery! As we anchored for the night in Hunter Cove, in the east arm of the park, we were treated to a view of a wolf strolling along the shore.
One of the benefits of being on such a small ship was that the captain was able to change course and bring us closer to shore to allow us better looks at the bear.
On our second day, we kayaked near the Riggs Glacier. When we landed the kayaks to stretch our legs, we saw “bear beds,” which are indentations in the sand where bears rested on their bellies. Monica, one of the two naturalists on the Sea Wolf, pointed out bear tracks and told us about the lives of bears. I can’t say enough about how knowledgeable both Monica and the other naturalist, Beth, were about the plants and animals of Glacier Bay. On the few occasions when they weren’t sure about the identity of a flower or the answer to a question, they used the extensive library on board to find the answer. In the afternoon, we took the skiff to shore and hiked to a bay filled with icebergs from the McBride Glacier. The glacier itself is no longer visible from the beach where we were standing, but the scenery was still stunning. There we saw a black-legged kittiwake colony and some harbor seals hauled out on the ice. The aqua-colored icebergs were beautiful.
Back aboard, we saw more Humpback Whales, a Brown Bear and a black wolf. One of the benefits of being on such a small ship was that the captain was able to change course and bring us closer to shore to allow us better looks at the bear.
Day three started with the sound of Humpback Whales breathing near the boat. After breakfast, we paddled in Tidal Inlet, where we were treated to great views of a Brown Bear, marmots, Pigeon Guillemots and Harbor Seals. This was an easy paddle in a light rain. After lunch, we went ashore to hike near the Reid Glacier. The landscape was beautiful, filled with colorful wildflowers, with the snow-covered mountains in the background.
We picked our way through the icebergs in our kayaks to get close to the Margerie Glacier and watch it calve.
After breakfast on day four, we hiked up the rocky hillside next to Lamplugh Glacier. The purple lupines were in bloom and Golden-crowned and Fox Sparrows were singing everywhere. This was my favorite hike of the week, with all of the birds, wildflowers, the view of the glacier and the snow-covered mountains. The west arm of the bay has more boat traffic, but I was happy to learn that the number of boats allowed in the national park is strictly limited. From high up, a huge cruise ship looked like a toy next to the mountains and cliffs, but it made the Sea Wolf look tiny. After lunch, we motored up Tarr Inlet to the Margerie and Grand Pacific Glaciers. We watched a mother and two year old brown bear cub on the shore and listened to the sound of the glacier calving. We picked our way through the icebergs in our kayaks to get close to the Margerie Glacier and watch it calve. It sounded like thunder, but surprisingly produced only small waves.
We began the day watching two brown bears, a mama and youngster, flipping over rocks on the shore.
Day five should probably be named “The Day of the Bear.” We began the day watching two brown bears, a mama and youngster, flipping over rocks on the shore. On the way to our next stop, we saw over a dozen Mountain Goats hanging out on the side of the cliff. Captain Craig turned off the engine so we could listen to the Humpback Whales in the area breathe. Next, we saw a mother brown bear with three young cubs. As we approached the area where we planned to hike, at Gloomy Knob, there were three brown bears relaxing on the ridge, and another one in the creek. The salmon were jumping in front of the beach, and a Steller’s Sea Lion was fishing in the area. We weren’t comfortable hiking in that area knowing there were so many bears there, so we headed to Blue Mouse Cove. As we dropped anchor, a Black Bear wandered onto the beach and then headed into the woods. We gave it some time to leave the area, and then headed to shore for our hike, making sure to make a lot of noise as we walked. The highlight of this hike was the wildflowers and wild strawberries. After lunch, we moved to Sandy Cove, where most of the group went kayaking, but a few of us went ashore for another hike. Just after we landed on shore, a mother black bear and three young cubs came out of the creek and began to feed in the area. We watched them from a safe distance, and after they went into the forest, we decided to go ahead with our hike. In the mud, we observed bear, moose and wolf tracks, all in the same area. We wandered through an old growth forest on a bear trail, making lots of noise as we went. The ground was spongy with moss and lichens, and the huge spruce and hemlock trees were covered with moss too.
Our last day on board began with wonderful views of sea lions hauled out on several small islands. Their noisy interactions were very entertaining. We passed a Tufted Puffin colony and watched ten or more Humpback Whales in the area. A transient pod of Orcas were also in the area, and while we were watching them, we saw a female moose with a calf on the far shore. Then, way too soon, we were back in Bartlett Cove and having to say goodbye to the crew of the Sea Wolf. I was lucky, as this was only the end of the first part of my Alaskan adventure.
People have asked if I was on a cruise. My answer is always “yes, but this was not like any other Alaskan cruise.”
Cruising on the Sea Wolf was everything that I’d hoped it would be, and more! Spending so much time in Glacier Bay National Park allowed us to develop an in depth understanding of the area, without spending hours and hours cruising from one area to the next. The Sea Wolf crew were outstanding. Each of them was interesting, friendly and knowledgeable, and they were dedicated to giving us the best possible experience each day. Since I’ve been home, when I mention that I was in Alaska, people have asked if I was on a cruise. My answer is always “yes, but this was not like any other Alaskan cruise,” and then I describe the Sea Wolf and my adventure on her.
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