Monday, October 23, 2017

Glacier Bay Part II

Cruising Down the Inside Passage

Heavenly.  That is the best word to describe having lunch on our cruise ship with a view of Glacier Bay.  We ate slowly.  We drank a couple of glasses of wine.  We drifted ever so serenely by a landscape so beautiful that I couldn't believe it was real.

But around 2:30 pm, the ranger's narration woke us up from our dreamlike trance, and we bundled up once again to brave the cold wind outside.

We were entering John Hopkins inlet, an area of Glacier Bay that had been closed to vessel traffic all summer because it is a breeding area for the endangered Steller sea lion.  But it was now mid-September and the pups and parents had all dispersed.  The National Park had given us permission to sail to the inlet's terminus to see . . .

 this incredible sight.

  The John Hopkins Glacier is a 12 mile long ribbon of snow and ice that flows all the way to the water, pushing and scraping and carving up mountains of rock as it moves.  A wall of jagged thick ice marks its end.  It is a dazzling display of sharp blades of blue, green and lavender ice.  As big chunks break off and crash into the water, it causes an explosion called "white thunder."  We were to witness two such calving events that afternoon.

  I'm not sure if it was the cold temperature outside or the realization that I was seeing a remnant of the Little Ice Age, but I started to shiver.  This glacier, one of about 30 in the park, will be gone within a few decades. They are shrinking at an alarming rate.  I was seeing something that my grandchildren will never see.

To realize that 2,000 people were all outside and all quiet, as the captain neared this awesome wall of ice, was another amazing thing to behold.  I told my travel buddy that seeing this glacier was right up there with walking on top of the Great Wall of China or entering the ruins of Petra on horseback.  He agreed.
And because I could have stayed here forever, Glacier Bay has made my Most Beautiful Places on Earth list.  It is a harsh beauty, in a way.  Very raw.  But, oh so pure.  As pure as it gets on this over-populated planet of ours.

My day on Glacier Bay was a privilege.  I recognize that.

  It is a day I will never forget.

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