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.