Alaska Glacier Bay

Glacier Bay: The Beginning

Saturday, October 03, 2015S.V. CAMBRIA

The vastness of Glacier Bay National Park cannot be stressed enough. The bay is sixty miles long and ten miles wide at its widest point with two major arms that branch off to the east and to the west, each with their own network of inlets. It’s the largest protected marine area within the national park system and the largest Unesco World Heritage Site – approximately 3.3 million acres with more than 450 miles of coastline to explore.

And 235 years ago, it was completely covered in ice.

The Master Builder chose for a tool,
not the thunder and lightning to rend and split asunder, 
not the stormy torrent nor the eroding rain,
but the tender snowflake, noiselessly falling through unnumbered generations. – John Muir

When asked, most people will say they prefer Tracy Arm to Glacier Bay. But you can’t compare the two. They’re completely different experiences. Tracy Arm is a constant barrage of the senses: It’s narrow and intimate with one incredible sight after the other. Glacier Bay is quieter, more relaxed: Mile after mile of the same view, tempting and teasing you with the thought of reaching it in hopes that, when you finally do, your time and effort will be rewarded.

For the first 20 miles or so out of Bartlett Cove, the landscape is fairly ordinary and uninspiring. Hours pass under the keel before the scenery starts to take shape and the landscape finally comes into focus. But once it does, it’s as if it’s as if time stands still. And yet, it passes passes more quickly: The earth grows younger, wilder. Marine life dots the waterway – sea otters, puffins, harbor porpoise. And massive, rugged mountains appear ghostlike in the distance.

Glacier Bay is an area in a constant state of flux – advancing, retreating, shaping itself, reinventing itself. Geologically, it’s new and raw. And it’s in this rawness where its beauty lies: Its bare slopes. Barren landscapes. Wide channels. Beautiful, but seemingly unapproachable . . . like a photograph you can’t quite find your way into.

Note: This blog was written on Monday, 06 July 2015.

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