Seeing a glacier up close had been something I was dreaming about for all of the months leading up to our trip. And when I saw the fog that morning, I was hoping that it wasn’t going stay a dream. The fog hovered above Auke Bay as we transferred from the Zuiderdam to our catamaran operated by Allen Marine Tours. Quickly the Zuiderdam was swallowed by the fog as she sailed on towards Juneau. We would be meeting up with her in about five and a half hours. In the meantime, we made ourselves comfortable on the second heated level of the catamaran just in time to see the signature hump of a humpback whale. Our captain stayed in the area for about 10 minutes allowing the port side to get a fantastic view of the whale before we moved on towards our goal–South Sawyer Glacier.
The catamaran was equipped with padded seats and a pair of binoculars for each passenger. We sat on the second level which provided quick access to the open air decks, but offered us a place to warm up from time to time. On the first level there was a galley with complimentary hot chocolate, tea, and water. Alcohol, soda, and food were for sale as well.
The aqua water was deceiving, reminding me more of warm Caribbean beaches instead of the frigid Alaskan icebergs that were periodically floating along. One step out of the heated cabin onto the frigid deck ,and I was quickly reminded that I was in Alaska and not headed to some Caribbean island.
Our entire trip up Tracy Arm Fjord was loaded with scenery. From waterfalls to glacier-carved mountains, the view did not disappoint. Our skilled captain maneuvered the boat close enough to the granite rock faces that we could feel the waterfall spray as the water plummeted to the bay below.
As we progressed further up the fjord, the icebergs became more frequent, dazzling us in both shape and color. The phrase ice blue has new meaning after seeing South Sawyer Glacier and her icebergs that floated down the fjord.
Before we knew it, we were rounding a striated rock face and before us was the glacier. A tiny shelf in the distance. Geoff and I decided to climb to the third deck at this time so that we could be on the railing when we arrived at South Sawyer Glacier. It was in this next hour that I was so happy for the layers of clothing I brought. The wind cut through every scrap of clothing i had on. I spent a lot of time hopping from foot to foot to keep my blood flowing, and even though I was becoming my own type of iceberg, I was not about to give up my prime real estate along the railing for people-free pictures.
The captain, who had my complete confidence, expertly negotiated the dense ice field bringing us within a quarter of a mile of the glacier face. While we weren’t rewarded with any calving here, we were able to see several harbor seals lounging on icebergs. The star of the show was glacier itself. Nearly a mile wide I felt dwarfed by it’s massive wall. In the crevasses the blues ranged from lighter shades of baby to deep royal and indigo. With popsicle fingers and hundreds of pictures, we returned to the heated cabin to enjoy our sail back to Juneau.
As we made our way towards Juneau, the weather, which was perfect on our trip up the fjord, quickly started to deteriorate . That wall of fog we had left behind with the Zuiderdam was waiting for us along with rain. To pass the time, Geoff and I shared a turkey wrap Coke, and caramel corn and watched tiny puffins float by the side of the boat. The warm cabin, my full belly, and the rocking of the waves put me to sleep on our way back to Juneau. It was a good thing that the weather was so dreary that even if there was wildlife to spot, I would never have been able to see it. And just like that, we arrived in Juneau. I woke up from my cat nap wondering if the beauty I had just witnessed was truly just a dream. Thank goodness I have the pictures to remind me it wasn’t .