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Glacier Discovery and Beginning Kayaking in Alaska

Alaska Cruise in the morning

It's always the start of a good day when you wake up to clear skies. Rain is common in Southeast Alaska and though it rarely cancels activities, its absence makes the world seem that much brighter.

Baird Glacier was on the docket for today. Baird was once a tidewater glacier but it's retreated to become a hanging glacier and the guides on the Wilderness Explorer tell us that it's the fastest retreating glacier of any they've seen. Every year the glacier moves further back into the valley. Just last season the ice calving from the front of the glacier formed a dam with a lake of melting ice behind it. You used to be able to hike to the lake and then climb up on that ice. That ice has since broken and now it reminds me of Superman's northern palace in the original movie with Christopher Reeves, with enormous columns and jagged shards of ice poking up out of the water. We hiked over boulder strewn fields to the glacier and watched the moving pieces of ice, looking for a way to get up on the ice but it was broken so much since last season that now it's just a place for a view.

That afternoon was Cassie's first time paddling a kayak. The launch system for kayaks on these ships is fantastic! You get in on dry land, get all secured, and then they push you into the water. Wilson helped us with a kayak 101 class and then we paddled into Scenery Cove, really, that's it's official name! It's a fairly long cove (well, long when you're in a kayak with a 9-year-old) ending in a grassy area with a stream flowing into it. The water color here is a beautiful clear green, you can just tell that it's clean. It's different from the water around the corner which is fed by Baird glacier; the glacial flour in that water makes the visibility nil and it's almost like soup. 

Cassie wasn't too sure that she liked kayaking that much, she said it was tiring and she was wet because she didn't have her rain pants and she was dripping water into the cockpit (totally my fault). But then Mike and Lori said that they had just heard a huff from the shoreline that probably meant a bear and that piqued her interest. We paddled over and the bear never did come out of the bush but a few minutes later something small and fuzzy did come out; a mink! I've seen a lot of things in the wilds of Alaska but never a mink. It's part of the weasel family so it moved a bit like a ferret but it was small, brown, and had a slightly striped tail. It wandered around the sheer rock face for a minute and then fell into the water almost accidentally. I was a bit worried about the little guy but it was apparent that minks can swim as it paddled along like an otter to the shore where it climbed up onto a crack in the granite that gave it better footing. That was all Cassie needed to declare kayaking a success. 

Want to see the Baird Glacier for yourself? Talk to me about traveling to Alaska on one of our small ship cruises. Read about our experience with a Tlingit cultural presentation or see what Cassie thought about our trip to Alaska, her visit to the Dawes Glacier, and our Day in Wrangell. 

Your Alaska Travel Expert,

Rachael Garrett

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