(Dick Jordan spent two weeks traveling throughout Southeast Alaska in June of 2008. Here’s an edited excerpt from the blog he wrote during the trip; look for more installments in the near future.)
(Tuesday, June 17). The sun was shining when we woke up this morning — two days in a row — it must be some sort of record for Southeast Alaska! After breakfast we drove about 5 minutes to a laundromat and washed our duds, picked up a sandwich at the grocery store, packed our bags, checked out of our Juneau digs, and headed for the airport.
Around 1 pm we hopped in a six-seat single engine plane operated by Air Excursions to take the 20-minute flight west to Gustavus, gateway to Glacier Bay National Park. The weather could not have been better for flying with only a few high clouds, lots of sunshine bouncing off the snow clad peaks surrounding Juneau, and boats plying the waters below us.
Looking at the terrain ahead, I figured that our pilot (whom my wife thought looked like Woody Harrelson in a T-shirt and shorts) would bank left and skirt the Chilkat Mountain Range lying dead-ahead. Nope. He didn’t fly over them either. He flew us right between the peaks, so close to the ground that I thought we were going to land in one of the snowfields. At one point, he turned sharply to the right and flew through the gap between two ridges. According to the passenger sitting next to me, the pilot was looking for mountain goats. Quite a ride.
After landing at the Gustavus strip we were met by a van from the Bear Track Inn which took us, and a family from Cincinnati that had been out halibut fishing, down the six-mile dirt road to the inn. The Bear Track will provide us with “room and board” and has arranged our flights to and from Juneau and sightseeing in the area.
The inn is set on a little less than a hundred acres. A path through boggy ground leads from the inn to a beach fronting Icy Strait. We walked through waist-high grass on either side of the trail at the start of our trek, which then gave way to various plants, including lovely Chocolate Lilies, lupine, and lots of little yellow flowers.
Although we had not donned one of the many pairs of mud boots that the inn keeps on the front porch for the use of guests, our Gortex shoes kept our feet dry even though the trail was composed of pretty gooey mud in places. (The boots—known here as “Southeast Sneakers”— are pictured at the top of the home page of Tales Told From The Road).
The weather was outstanding, about 65 degrees and sunny, with a light breezy, hot by Alaska standards. Snow on the mountains just to the east of the meadow through which we were hiking made us think of the Sierras in summer.
After about an hour we reached the broad beach (which probably extended another half mile to the water) at what obviously must have been a fairly low tide. Looking down at the the broad imprint of a bruin’s foot in the sand, we understood how the inn got its name.
On the way back, we found a couple of stout pieces of driftwood to serve as hiking poles allowing us to more easily hop the small creeks that run through the meadow like the strands of a spider web. We made it back to the inn about 5 pm, sampled some of the appetizers and other goodies left out for the guests, took a hot shower, and then enjoyed a steak dinner before calling it an early evening.
On tap for tomorrow is a cruise up to Glacier Bay itself. Thursday we’ll have a “day off” to loaf. Friday morning we’ll board a boat for a half-day whale-watching excursion, and then fly back to Juneau to catch the overnight ferry south to our next stop, Petersburg.