We beach the kayaks on silt delta at the foot of Riggs and McBride glaciers. This was a stunningly dramatic place. The two glaciers don’t quite reach sea level anymore but Riggs in particular was impressive: a clean white, blue, one mile wide ice wall!
After pitching the tent and sheltering from the rain, we eventually hiked out towards Riggs glacier over gravel terrain but were stopped by a deep outflow channel from McBride. So instead we hiked to McBride over moraines and alluvial rocks for a close up view. Martina sank into the porridge like “quicksand” of one of the cold glacier run-off streams and got wet up to her hip. After that we beat a retreat back to the tent to warm up!
In the fine grey mud and silt around the bottom of the glacier we saw a lot of wolf tracks that looked quite fresh (given how much it rains here). I was hoping to hear some howling at night but none was forthcoming.
Day 11 It drizzled most of the night but the sun came out in the morning as we paddled off north to get right under the nose of Riggs glacier where it meets the sea. The edge of Riggs is currently tidal but we were lucky that a high tide allowed us to paddle right up to it (based on the previous day’s experience we guessed that the silt under the glacier would not have born the weight of a walker but in the kayak, it was impressive to get so close).
Having enjoyed a good potter around the ice, we turned back south to float down the east side Muir Inlet past an estuary defended by about 1/2 mile of small icebergs.
The water roughened up a bit from there and we were glad to find a sheltered cove below the small hill marked on the map as The Nunatak (a lovely Inuit word meaning “an isolated peak of rock projecting above a surface of inland ice or snow”). Past here we crossed the well named ‘Goose Cove” and passed numerous alluvial gravel river outlets.
Beaching to the south of Forest Creek as the sun came out again and gave us a great opportunity to warm up and dry the clothes and camping gear after a couple of wet days. Luxury!
Exploring behind the beach we came across moose tracks and an interesting set of bear prints worn through the thin layer of ground moss leading to a tree with bear scratchings. It must be a common trail for the bears.
The afternoon paddle was shortened by a strong westerly wind, annoyingly pushing waves against the sides of our kayaks and we soon made land (after an impressive 15 miles paddling) to camp at a good pebbly spit between the fjord and a small dried up lagoon. A pair of gulls started aggressively diving at us here We soon discovered that their nest with 3 eggs plus was very close by where we had landed. As well as the eggs, the nest also contained one pebble of similar appearance in size, shape and colour to the eggs. We could only guess why… for camouflage maybe? Once we knew what upset them we happily found another spot to camp a few hundred meters along the spit to leave the gulls in peace, just to discover that slightly further on was a pair of oystercatchers also wearily guarding a nest. But we managed to keep out of either parent’s vicinity and were harassed no further.
We were now nearing two weeks into the trip and started to feel pretty grubby(!) despite the odd cold sea swim. We still had plenty of food but had to start planning our departure. The tourist boat had several potential pick up points and another option we had considered was paddling back to the Park Centre which would have cut our food supply very fine and would have required us to leave the relative shelter of the inlet for more exposed water. Since we had found the sea conditions a challenge in our sheltered part of the Park, we dismissed that last option and decided instead to aim for a pickup point below Mount Wright that was two more paddly days away.
Day 12 Packing up the boats we carefully tiptoed around the nest and thankfully the gull stayed put. We paddled off, rounded our little spit and disturbed a big raft of harelquin ducks who promptly panicked and flew off. They left one duck behind who was immediately attacked by a bald eagle that had been lurking around nearby. The other ducks and we could only watch as the eagle repeatedly swooped on the little bird and it dived under the water for cover. Eventually the eagle flew off, the duck bobbed up and rejoined it’s raft. Plucky duck !
We paddled on and at the mouth of Adams Inlet to the south we met some people- wow! It was a guided group packing up their kayaks after breakfast with five identical double kayaks on the shore. We couldn’t resist paddling in for a chat, our first for over two weeks. I think we kind of ranted at them as they were less interested in talking to us, but hey it was fun meeting others out here anyway.
We took a side trip eastwards into estuary like Adams Inlet and shot along with wind and tide in our favour. About 5 miles in we put ashore on a lovely silty area backed by meadows only to see lots of signs of moose including a beautiful well preserved skull and vertebrae.
We waited for high tide to come in at this pleasant spot with snowy mountains as a backdrop before paddling back out west followed playfully by a harbour seal for about 20 minutes. The wind and waves picked up again as we reached the mouth of Adams Inlet so we stopped to camp on a pebbly beach. We were now within about 5 miles of the Mount Wright pick up point where the tourist boat was expected to appear about 9.30am each morning. So our plan was to get up super early in the morning and hope that the weather calmed down a bit, so that we could paddle there round an exposed coast before tidying our gear up to be collected by the boat. The day had been gray again but we were a little demob happy and looking forward to a shower.
The wind picked up to a gale into the evening and heavy rain came in, so we decided to set an alarm for 4am to check for improvement then….
…it was drizzly and a bit bleak pre-dawn but the wind was now down to a breeze so we decided to pack the gear into the kayaks and get going. Breakers made for a tricky and wet entry into the kayaks but we got in and headed off in a stiff south westerly. Slow progress was made into the waves which heightened as we reached the more exposed point. We spotted Garforth Island off the coast ahead and we hoped that would provide some shelter from the weather when we reached it. Added to the wind we also had a big swell. Brian’s kayak was unceremoniously dropped onto a huge submerged granite boulder by a dip in the swell, the fiberglass groaned and crunched but I stayed upright and at last we finally made it to the lee of the island for a rest from the weather.
Along the rockier final shore we hit choppier conditions again and the sea wasn’t giving us up easily but we finally rounded the headland to run the kayaks up the beach below Mount Wright- made it! Its was a bit of a grim and forbidding place in the dull windy weather but at least it was solid ground. We were hours early for the boat and passed the time with sorting our gear and exploring the beach pebbles and seaweed.
We eventually heard the faint sound of the boat and it came into view about 9 am- hoorah!
The boat was of course full of tourists doing a trip around Glacier Bay west arm so we settle in for a relaxing and scenic day out in beautiful scenery with breakfast coffee and cookies! Later that evening at Bartlett Cove we camped (the lodge cost $200), but had that much sought after shower and a Mexican meal with beer. What a great trip.