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Temperate Awesomeness in the Rainforest


By Bryant, Wilderness Explorer

On the Wilderness Explorer’s arrival in Bartlett Cove, our first stop in Glacier Bay National Park, I disembarked the boat in the Alaskan rain that makes even the hardiest reassess the idea of venturing out. I expected almost no participants to show up for my one mile loop hike. Then, like a multi-colored vision of hope, I soon had twelve hikers suited up in varying colors of Gore-Tex standing before me in elements that would make most take a gander out of their windows, shrug, and say, “Maybe tomorrow.”

As we headed up the dock ramp towards the trailhead, it began to rain even harder and the noise of raindrops the size of small frogs pinging off of REI’s best jackets permeated my interpretation of the area. The pattering became a soundtrack that I could guide to and as we entered the woods, the old growth canopy calmed the rain and we began to take in the wonder of the forest.


Moss, fungi and lichens adorn stumps in the rain forest

One of the most amazing things about the old growth temperate rain forest is the proliferation of mosses, lichens, and fungi that cover the ground and create a patchwork quilt effect. The ground is so covered in these tiny plants that it appears the forest floor is made of them. Nestled in between the mosses we saw a multitude of flowers such as shy maidens, shooting stars, and chocolate lilies. We continued our walk to the kettle ponds, reminders of glacial times that now create habitats for birds who enjoy lakes and ponds such as the Goldeneye and the Great Blue Heron. We spotted both of these birds and even heard a brave Varied Thrush venture his voice into the cacophony of rainfall as we walked past the Tlingit carving that honors the people who were here before us.

Tlingit carving

Tlingit tree carving

As we rounded the last bend in the trail that leads us back to the National Park Headquarters and the interpretive museum within Glacier Bay Lodge, optimism reared its head again. People were joking and shaking water off around me and I realized, without the rain we wouldn’t have the forest, and without the forest we wouldn’t have the people. Without the forest we wouldn’t be able to delve into the magic of Alaska, mostly because there would be no magic. There would be no rain forest and no patchwork quilt to follow through the old-growth trees. There would be nowhere for the creatures we come miles and miles to see to call home.

Water here is everything and is connected to everything and that may be why the adventurers that call the Wilderness Explorer home, even for just a week, enter into their voyage with optimism, hope, and hardiness. That may be why, in the early rain-filled morning, twelve adventurers made their way onto the dock to experience the rain in all of its finest glory and the temperate awesomeness that is Glacier Bay National Park.

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