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Springtime in Glacier Bay National Park


By Christian Lloyd, expedition guide, Wilderness Discoverer

Glacier Bay has always been a cold place, but previously, I’ve visited in late spring or early summer when most of the snow has melted and the only white is from the glaciers and the mountain tops.

Mountain Tops

Snow covered mountain tops in Glacier Bay National Park

This trip aboard the Wilderness Discoverer is our first time visiting Glacier Bay National Park this season. It was marked by a number of differences from years past including a nice white, powdery coating down to the waterline in the upper bay areas.

Lamplugh Glacier, a normal haunt for a hike, was gilded with glistening snowfields reflecting on the glacier itself, which was white and fluffy. Glaciers are mostly made of ice, rather than snow, and you can usually tell the difference when you look; the ice is blue and striped with dirty streaks, and filled with crevasses, whereas snow is nice uniform white. Needless to say, the blue Lamplugh was brighter than usual, and the hills were alive with white.

Lamplugh Glacier

Lamplugh Glacier

Conversely, the waters of Glacier Bay were relatively ice free and quite clear. Possibly this is because in early spring there isn’t enough meltwater to bring all the glacial flour (a fine rock dust from the glacier grinding up rocks) down into the fjord. It is also possible that the glaciers do not calve as much in the winter when the temperature drops. As it was, navigating through the waters was easy with so few growlers (bits of ice about 1-5 meters across) floating about.

Wilderness Discoverer

The 76-guest Wilderness Discoverer in Glacier Bay

We visited during a fortuitous stretch of sunny weather, which brought all the animals out to sunbathe. With vistas of the Fairweather Range to the Northwest and mountain goats and a brown bear roaming Gloomy Knob, we savored the peaceful sights.

Peaceful, that is, until we rounded the corner of Gloomy Knob and discovered a new Steller Sea Lion haul-out. These blubbery and powerful beasts like to find places to sun themselves and to play king-of-the-hill, and are starting to do this noisy battling at the southern end of Gloomy Knob.

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