Early morning mist at the Joh Hopkins Glacier in Glacier Bay National Park.
Cruising through Glacier Bay National Park just after sunrise last July, watching as ice broke free from the glaciers.
In a past life, she got someone where they needed to go.
She played tunes on her radio, that someone sang along to.
She drank more gasoline than the owner expected.
She broke someone's heart when she was sold.
She lives on in the memories.
(Night. 120 seconds. Full moon covered in clouds. Lit with Streamlight Stinger flashlight.)
the taste of your lips
before we said goodbye
on a summer night
wind blowing in my hair
as if I could close my eyes
and vanish into the sunlight
kissing your cheeks
like a memory
of a time
we walked on water
on our way to paradise
while rainbows dripped from your smile
and for a moment
you were mine.
Joshua Tree National Park is one of my favorite National Park’s for so many reasons. I love the unfamiliar landscape, gorgeous Joshua Trees, big skies and rock formations.
Last spring, during my most recent visit, the sky was covered in rain clouds shortly before sunset and then the skies opened up and gave us an awesome sky.
Day 4 began at 4:30am with the alarm clock sounding in a Juneau hotel room. It was time for Casey and I to head to the airport and fly back to Gustavus to continue our adventures in Glacier Bay.
The Juneau airport is an interesting place. There's no such thing as a security check, and calling what we did a "check-in" feels exaggerated, but we were happy to get back on track with the original adventure.
Juneau To Gustavus, By Air
After a beautiful morning flight, one that Casey was actually able to photograph, we landed in Gustavus. It was only 6:15am, but we managed to negotiate a ride back to the dock with the Glacier Bay Lodge van taking guests to the hotel in Bartlett Cove.
By 9:20am we were back in the boat, heading north towards the glaciers once again, almost as though we never even left the water.
During the 4-hour trek north, I found myself staring at the snow and glacier capped mountains, imagining how cold it would be if my feet were planted deeply in the snow, rather than enjoying the warmth of the sea level temperatures.
That was actually one of my favorite things about traveling on the boat, gazing at the surroundings, because unlike a car, there are things to look at every few feet. In those moments traveling freely, surrounded by landscapes of grand scale, it was difficult not to feel small. There were no roads, lanes or other vehicles to distract from the beauty, and in Glacier Bay National Park, it was no shock there were glaciers everywhere.
The Cerulean Waters
The further we advanced into the bay, the lighter and more teal the water became. Once we rounded the last mountain and began our trek into the John Hopkins Inlet, we began to see icebergs.
I had to get closer, so while the boat floated around and everyone was snapping photos of the glacier, icebergs and seals, I hopped in the water.
When I made it back to the boat, it didn't take much convincing to get Joe in the water. It was only his second time on a paddle board and fortunately for him, his balance and skill allowed him to stay dry.
Most of the trip is difficult to put into words. I felt alive, unlike I ever have before. My mind constantly felt stimulated and my soul was filled with a fire that was burning hot.
If I had to pick the strongest, most vivid memory, it would probably be the 12 hours we spent in the Reid Inlet.
We dropped anchor 100 feet from the shore inside the inlet at 6:10pm. It took a few moments before I was able to grasp what I was seeing. At the end of the cove, down to the water's edge, was an enormous glacier.
The four of us wandered around the deck of the boat for only a few minutes before we decided we needed to head to shore, grabbing only our iPhones as we stepped onto the paddle board and into the skiff.
We wandered the rocky shoreline for almost a mile, discovering flowers, wildlife and even a few small icebergs, but the entire time I was focused on standing next to the glacier at the end of the cove.
I had seen glaciers before, but never so close to feel crisp air and mist on my face and the roar of the melting glacial ice, louder than the thoughts inside my head. There were also sounds mimicking explosions, sounds of thousand year old ice cracking and breaking, creating history as I stood a few feet away.
Nearly two hours had passed by the time we started the walk back. It was nearing 9:00pm and golden hour had just begun. The sunlight kissed the mountains and clouds with a beautiful glowing amber and we had the entire shoreline to ourselves.
For a moment, while walking back towards the boat, we all looked at each other, almost as if to say, "I wish I grabbed my other camera."
We all said it aloud a few moments later and laughed, but we knew the freedom and experience we had without our gear was worth more than the images we would have taken.
The light was perfect. The landscape was breathtaking and we were alone; the whole cove and shoreline to ourselves, but we actually lived and breathed in the moment.
In an instant, the dream-like state vanished when we realized the tide had come in and the skiff had floated into the middle of the bay.
Casey began to run and I followed. As I got closer, I could see that the paddle board was resting safely on the shore, though just barely, which meant we at least had a way of retrieving the skiff that didn't involve a swim in some very cold water.
After returning to the boat and cracking open a few beers, we turned around to discover we were going to end the incredible day watching the full moon rise over the Reid glacier.
Since I started paddle boarding back in 2013, I have always wanted to paddle in icy waters and my recent trip to Alaska allowed me to do that.
It was exhilarating and also a bit nerve racking because the ice was moving incredibly quickly around me, despite not much of a measurable current being present.
The icebergs you see in the water here all fell from the John Hopkins Glacier in the background. Over time, the ice leaves the inlet and makes the way out into open water where it is broken up into smaller and smaller pieces, melting until the pieces have vanished.
I took my DSLR onto my paddle board this morning to get a few unique shots amongst the ice. I was nervous to say the least, but the camera was inside a protected and inflated dry bag until the moment I was ready to take a photograph.
At 4:10pm on Friday, July 16, the Marguerite made a radio call to Bartlett Cove, to announce our approach to the Glacier Bay National Park waters.
The conversation was brief, but we were reminded to maintain a one mile distance from shoreline and a maximum speed of 13 knots, as we were in whale waters. Half an hour later, we docked in Bartlett Cove and headed for the Ranger Station, where Joe took a mandatory boating orientation and the rest of us showered.
We anchored in Bartlett Cove overnight and the next morning, we awoke at 6:00am and ventured into the bay to head deeper into Glacier Bay.
South Marble Island
Two hours later, we reached Marble Island, a protected island where otters, puffins and hundreds of Stellar Sea Lions lounge around and fish.
When we got within 1/4 mile of the island, the stench was overwhelming, but just as the smell began to take over, I picked up my camera and started shooting, forgetting it had even bothered me to begin with.
Grizzly Bear Sighting
From there, we continued north and stopped a few hours later when I spotted a Grizzly Bear, through binoculars, along the shoreline.
He ducked into the shrubs shortly after he was spotted and remained mostly out of sight, but we always knew where he was because the trees and brush shook at the mercy of his strength as he continued to search for food. In the hopes he would eventually emerge from the thick shrubs, we stuck around for almost an hour and just as we were about to leave, he walked the shoreline for a few hundred feet before disappearing again.
After our bear spotting, I was hoping to get the paddle board in the water for my first paddle in Alaska.
We approached a very tall rock face, called Gloomy Knob, where I inflated the paddle board and dropped it in the water.
The water was very calm and a light wind rippled the top of the water. It was perfect.
While I was out paddling, Casey McCallister was getting ready for his polar plunge, something he had mentioned wanting to do prior to us landing in Sitka, and he had created an elaborate plan to capture the moment. I would sit on my paddle board and snap photos. Natalia would take photos from the boat and Joe would also remain on the boat, capturing it with his GoPro.
Joe made sure the boat was positioned well, with the snow-capped mountains in the background, while Casey debated over which type of jump he would take. The backflip idea was tossed around first, but he was slightly worried he might injure his shoulder, so he went with the tried and true swan dive.
Casey's feet left the boat and all I heard were shutter snaps, followed by us all hollering, "Yeah!" as he hit the water.
When he came up for air, we noticed he wasn't swimming well.
I heard him say, "I dislocated my shoulder."
At first I thought he was kidding, because there was no way he could have dislocated it when he shied away from a backflip to prevent injury, but he was definitely hurt.
We barely got Casey into the boat, the Marguerite has no actual swim step, then gave him a chance to rest. Casey quickly realized he wasn't going to be able to pop his shoulder back into socket, and nobody else onboard had experience with this kind of injury, so we headed toward Bartlett Cove at maximum speed.
Casey was in pain and cold, sitting in wet board shorts, for the entire 2 hour trek back to the harbor. As we neared Bartlett Cove we were able to radio in the emergency and the Harbormaster responded with three options; (1) having a nurse practitioner waiting at the dock upon our arrival, (2) a bush plane flight to the Juneau emergency room and (3) a MedEvac to Juneau, Anchorage or Seattle.
Casey admitted that the third option sounded ridiculous and even the second option sounded a bit unnecessary, so we asked to have the nurse meet us at the dock.
About 5 minutes later, we received a call on the radio that the nurse didn't feel comfortable handling his shoulder and the next option was a 4:00pm bush flight to Juneau for ER care.
Within a few minutes, Casey and I were sitting in a Ranger truck, heading for the Gustavus airport, on the other side of the island.
I had never been in a small plane before, but there was no opportunity to feel uneasy about it, so we carefully climbed in the back of the plane and the pilot warned Casey it could be a bumpy and uncomfortable take-off and landing.
The flight was a quick 30 minutes to Juneau, with a short "layover" in Hoonah. We flew at low altitude over the stunning landscape and small towns. Casey was urging me to take tons of photos as he sat in discomfort, watching out the window, trying to distract himself.
Once we landed in Juneau, we headed straight for the ER in a cab. By the time we had completed the hospital paperwork and Casey was admitted to a room, it had already been 4 hours since the accident. Casey's arm was now numb, but he was finally in the right spot to receive care.
Around 7:00pm, two hours after we arrived at the hospital, Casey was released, and though his shoulder was sore, it was back in place.
We took a cab downtown to grab a much needed beer and then caught a few hours sleep before the very early flight back to Gustavus the next morning to reunite with the boat.
We left Sitka, Alaska at 12:48pm on Thursday, July 14.
I have spent many years longing to travel to the beautiful state of Alaska, but I knew that if I visited, the experience would need to be unique. When the opportunity to see Southeast Alaska on a private boat was presented to me, I had to say yes because I knew it would be an adventure that would have a significant impact on my life.
That being said, I would be lying if I didn't say I was a bit nervous about spending a week on a boat, since I have experienced some sea sickness in the past. I was determined not to let my nerves get the best of me and I also packed a variety of medication to help combat the motion sickness, should it ever decide to creep up.
What transpired over the next seven days was nothing short of amazing. We spent hours observing some of the most incredible shorelines, beautiful mountains, glaciers calving, critters meandering the shoreline in the water and on land, calm and rough waters and misty sunrises.
I met Natalia Stone, Joe Azure and Casey McCallister on Google+, back when the social media network was thriving. We have remained close friends over the last few years and continue to drink together, shoot together and travel together.
We had no doubt the boat quarters would be tight on this trip, but even by the seventh day, we were still laughing and enjoying each other's company.
Joe was our fearless captain who made sure the Marguerite and crew stayed safe during the week long trip. He navigated our boat to some incredible locations, thanks to weeks of research prior to our departure, and stayed calm during a few stressful times (you'll read more about this later).
Tenakee Springs, Alaska
We arrived in Tenakee Springs just before 8:00pm and the sun was still high in the sky, though masked by clouds. As we entered the harbor, I heard a few gun shots and spotted a few people wandering below the tide line.
Once we docked, we had one mission for the evening, to find the bar Joe had visited years prior. As we walked the streets, Joe explained to us that the town was free of cars and at that moment, we heard the sound of an engine behind us and stepped aside to watch an ATV pass us. One woman was driving and a second woman was sitting in the trailer, pulled by the ATV, both carrying shot guns, slung over their shoulders.
Dozens of homes line the shoreline of this town, many with vegetable gardens surrounded by chicken wire to protect the crops from wildlife. The town is small, with a population under 150, but complete with a post office, bakery, general store and a bathhouse, but no bar. After chatting with a local, she informed us the hotel and bar burnt down a number of years ago.
When we left Tenakee Springs and headed for Glacier Bay, we re-entered the Icy Strait, which is whale territory, so we continued our search for Humpbacks. As we rounded Point Augusta, we finally spotted half a dozen whales.
We had been watching the whales for about 5 minutes when we observed them swim away from one another, then dive and flip their flukes to the sky. About 3 minutes later, we witnessed an amazing and rare behavior known as bubble feeding.
Bubble feeding occurs when a pod of whales swims below a school of fish, blowing bubbles, forcing the fish up to the surface. The whales then swim up through the bubbles with their mouths open, catching hundreds of fish. We were very lucky to have seen this performed four times.
I just returned from a 10 day trip in Southeast Alaska, where I saw my first Grizzly Bear in the wild.
We watched this bear forage for roots, grass and other plants for almost an hour from our boat, 60 feet from shore.
This medical building, part of a once active and very busy Georgia State Hospital, opened in 1929 and operated for fifty years before shutting down in 1979.
I haven't been awake photographing sunrise in a few months, so naturally, I miss mornings like this peaceful one from back in February.
I set my alarm with the hopes I would see low fog on the webcams when I woke. Despite there being no fog, I crawled out of bed and made the trek to the north bay anyway. Funny thing is, 95% of the time, it's worth getting up early and taking a chance, but when we are lying in our cozy beds it never seems that way.
You can't get the shot if you're not there.
Pano taken at an aircraft boneyard in Arizona in February 2015.