From the National Geographic Sea Bird in Alaska, Thursday, May 20, 2010
The sights in Alaska are so big, it takes more than just your eyes to really take them in and experience them completely. Today we were given a beautiful smorgasbord of samplings to see, hear, smell, taste and feel. The wee hours of the morning brought National Geographic Sea Bird to Kelp Bay, on the western side of Chatham Strait. Hikers went into the woods, listening for the calls of the thrushes, bald eagles and other birds. The trail wound its way over roots, under low-hanging branches, through a muddy, mossy muskeg, and we giggled at the occasional “sshlooop” of the mud that fought to take our boots from our feet. Our noses took in the bitter, green smell of baby blueberry shrubs surrounding us. A lucky few were even treated to the sight and the perfume of rose-purple-colored fairy slipper orchids.
Back at the beach, those in kayaks could tune in to the more subtle sensations of the bay because of the glassy silence that came with the wonderfully calm conditions. The slippery rock weed on the way down the shore accompanied by the crunching mussels. The distant bald eagle’s hello. The breath of a harbor seal, lifting its head to peer at us from a safe distance. In the shallows of low tide, we had a taste of an underwater salad. Salty eel grass and green sea lettuce, blue black mussels and bright red sea cucumbers with orange spikes. Some stayed near shore to more closely taste the delicacies just out of reach in the shallows. Others felt the air on the faces and tasted the freedom of gliding smoothly across open water in their boats.
We continued south in the afternoon until we arrived at the entrance to Red Bluff Bay, which gets its name from the bluffs that stand watch over its entrance. They are especially noticeable because their composition inhibits the same dense rain forest growth that covers the rocks on either side. It’s an especially magical bay because of the cascades and waterfalls that adorn the towering, glacially carved walls, flowing from the tops of the cliffs. We breathed in the waterfalls, the delicious misty air, as if looking long enough could fill our lungs. As we left the bay, making our way to Frederick Sound, our hair was whipped about and our skin tingled with the rising winds. And as the wind grew, so did the waves and our ship rose, fell and rolled while our stomachs did much the same. But our tummies were given a quick reprieve as we ducked back into protected waters and a smoother ride. As the evening passed and we cruised into the night, a thick, cool fog settled upon us. It draped itself over our shoulders and hugged the ship as we crawled into bed, our tummies full of the sights and sounds of another amazing day.