Big Surprises in Misty Fjords

07-26-2019

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.

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