I’ve been to a handful of National Parks in my existence, but never had I been to one only accessible by boat or plane. Glacier Bay National Park is a highlighted experience through the inside passage of Alaska with many of its visitors arriving by boat.
We obviously arrived by boat, and this full day of adventure was experienced from the comfort of our cruise ship. The ship sailed into this passage in the morning, and spent a large chunk of the day slowly moving throughout the park.
A prime example of how life is often best when we slow down and enjoy the journey.
The history of this park stems back to the late 1700’s, where Captain George Vancouver first created a rough map of the bay. Next up was John Muir, a more familiar name to me, arriving by canoe to study the glaciers. Muir eventually changed America’s perspective of Alaska from a cold daunting place to one of enchanting beauty.
I’d say his description was on point, the beauty was enough to give a Disney princess a run for her money.
Muir arrived in Alaska attempting to prove that his beloved Yosemite Valley was indeed formed by ice many years prior. Today the park is home to a variety of plants and wildlife, with 11 sea reaching glaciers. The remote vastness of this land is one you must see for yourself to truly experience.
While we stayed on the cruise ship, this park has the option to disembark and explore by foot as well.
For our trip, a park ranger came aboard our ship (without our ship even stopping) to provide us with narrated history as we sailed along. The big ticket item of this adventure was spending an hour sitting in front of Margerie Glacier.
The large walls of the surrounding mountains provided such a quiet environment that we could hear the ice calving off of Margerie from miles away.
This was probably the coldest day of the trip, and if you plan to visit in September like I did be sure to bring a warm jacket! You can view the park inside, but it’s not the same as standing on the bow of the ship and soaking it all in.
I did retreat indoors occasionally, spending some time sitting in my favorite area of the ship watching the cold world outside pass me by. I’d quickly make my way back outside once I was thawed to see the vibrant blue colors of the glacial meltwater.
The color of the water is such a deep arctic blue a photograph cannot convey the image quite like the memory burned into my brain. Pieces of floating ice bob like apples in a bucket of water on a sunny fall afternoon. Otters swim round and you wonder how anything could live in water so cold.
Many years ago people also lived at the bases of these glaciers. My poor blood circulation would surely kill me if I had to live on ice. Thankful for the indoor reprieve whenever I pleased, this sailing through Glacier Bay is one I’ll not soon forget. Perhaps someday I’ll return by plane in the warmer months and conquer a hike or two!
Q: Would you rather visit in the heat or cold?