Big Surprises in Misty Fjords
By Sarah Bernstein, Expedition Guide on the Legacy
Sometimes when you’re cruising and exploring in Alaska, you just don’t know what you’re going to see. Southeast Alaska is a rainforest, which means the typical weather is rain. The trip started off as such with a light mist that eventually turned into angry, watery tears falling from the sky. But on our final day of activities, we encountered some big surprises after a few rainy days in Glacier Bay and Icy Straights.
As we headed south towards Ketchikan and the Misty Fiords National Monument, we found ourselves in the least misty “Misty Fiords” I have ever experienced. It was downright sunny and dare I say, almost HOT! I have never seen this fiord so clearly.
The steep granite walls rose thousands of feet above the water. Blue skies, smooth water – it was perfect. So, we went off on a skiff tour to see the marvelous wonders of this glacial carved fiord. After a good forty minutes of enjoying the sunshine and geology of the area, we decided to drive through the narrows to get a look at Owl Face.
From a distance (maybe a mile), I spotted an interesting white dot on the beach. As we got closer, I thought maybe it was a whale bone. But then we got close enough to get a good look with the binoculars, and it was one of the strangest things I have ever seen. It was a mountain goat – on the steep, cliffy shores of this glacial fiord.
This goat must have wandered down to lick the salt and minerals from the rocky shoreline. Shocked is a good way to describe how I felt when, as the naturalist guide, I discussed some of the reasons these goats would wander down to the shoreline. What was most surprising is that this goat picked a vertical cliff to descend instead of taking a more gradual river valley approach.
It was a highlight of our trip and probably my wilderness guiding career to see this low goat in my most favorite intertidal environment.