A Travellerspoint blog

Wednesday, June 8 – Cascade Creek and LaConte Glacier

Former new snow and old

overcast 57 °F

Today it was raining lightly as we got up and got going. Most of the cabins, ours included, open onto exterior walkways that are covered, so we look out our window and see the rain, but we don’t get wet when we leave the room, though we do feel the ambient outside temperature.

After breakfast, our choice of activity for the morning was a walk to Cascade Creek Falls. So we dressed in our rain-proof attire, boarded one of the skiffs, and off we went. The skiff drivers like to go as fast as is safe in existing conditions, so it’s an exhilarating, somewhat bumpy ride to the rocky shore.

We disemebarked and followed our guide along a trail into the woods. We saw lots of interesting plants, some of which we had heard before and some were new. We saw (and smelled) skunk cabbage. Each leaf is about 2 feet long - the plant came up to our knees. d1c4cf10-edc1-11ec-a9cf-75f52a09e923.jpg
We tasted spruce tips, the almost open buds of new spruce growth – kind of tart, bitter, and a bit lemony. We saw dwarf dogwoods, also called bunchberries. It is low growing, about 4-5 inches tall, with about 4-6 ordinary looking dogwood leaves and one dogwood flower. a998b0b0-edc1-11ec-a9cf-75f52a09e923.jpg

There was the devil’s club, an exceedingly spiky, thorny, woody stem with large (about 8-12 inches across) bright green leaves. The leaves looked ordinary on top, but were covered with thorns on the bottom side. Supposedly the pith of the plant makes a great muscle-pain balm. They skin the thorns and outer layer off the stem, shave the center core (the pith) into a pile of shreds, cook the shreds with beeswax and a bit of olive oil in a crock pot for 12 hours, strain it, let it cool, and use the waxy balm on sore muscles.757f0620-edc2-11ec-93a4-6342b23f87d0.jpg

We saw a great example of a nursery log, which is a large tree that fell over but caught on something on the way to the ground. Over time, mosses and lichens broke down the top surface of the horizontal log, allowing tree seeds to germinate on top of the log. The trees we saw growing out of the log were quite small, but likely a few decades old due to their inability to send good roots down into the soil. There was a 6 foot air gap the roots had to cross to get into the ground.ad269260-edc1-11ec-a9cf-75f52a09e923.jpg

We also saw wild blueberry and raspberry bushes, different kinds of lichens and mosses, some fiddlehead ferns, b4d46720-edc2-11ec-93a4-6342b23f87d0.jpg
and more things I can’t remember.

After about a half mile walk, we reached the falls. They weren’t that tall, maybe 30 feet, but the volume and velocity of snow-melt water (former new snow) coming down the falls was mist-ifying (bad pun). Our waterproof clothes were quite damp when we left the falls due to the quantity of mist kicked up by the falling water.c4967af0-edc1-11ec-a9cf-75f52a09e923.jpg

We came back, hung up our rain jackets and rain pants to dry, kicked off our knee-high rubber boots, and enjoyed bison chili and cornbread for lunch.

As soon as the skiffs came back from the Cascade Creek, the ship set out for the inlet of LaConte Glacier. This activity was one of the most creative, imaginative, and fun ones yet. The ship anchored near the part of the inlet that was rather shallow, where the ice bergs (former old snow) that calved from LaConte were known to congregate, stranded when they drifted out of the main flow of the channel and near the shallow shore. It was also low tide so the biggest of the bergs were grounded and not moving around. We skiffed out to the iceberg parking lot. That’s kind of what it looked like! c7406540-edc1-11ec-a9cf-75f52a09e923.jpg
Like a bay of derelict, defrosting ice sculptures. Or a parking lot of randomly parked enormous art cars. Most of the bergs were shades of white, but a few still had their fresh-from-the-glacier blue ice. caef8a90-edc1-11ec-a9cf-75f52a09e923.jpg
There are not words to describe moving between and around these humongous chunks of amazingly shaped ice. 6f3b0520-edc2-11ec-a9cf-75f52a09e923.jpg
I found it fun to find shapes in the bergs, like when looking at clouds. I saw a dragon, a merman/Neptune, one berg looked like blue cotton candy. When we got close to the bergs, we could see each of them raining from the underside of any elevated surface. 6d1a6f10-edc2-11ec-a9cf-75f52a09e923.jpg
It was so tempting to go underneath some of the overhanging pieces of the bergs, but our skiff pilot today(who was also the ship’s first mate) kept us safe. Which was good. We saw one berg fall apart and drop huge chunks into the water. And as the tide continued to come in, one berg apparently refloated and flipped over as we watched. This berg was bigger than 3 houses, so we were glad we weren’t next to that one when it decided to reposition itself!

A couple of harbor seals became curious as to what we were up to whilst we were among the bergs. 71fd0b50-edc2-11ec-a9cf-75f52a09e923.jpg
We saw them several times. An arctic tern, which is known to migrate from the north pole to the south pole and back every year, flew past us as well.

When we came back to the ship, we removed all our excess (to indoor temperatures) layers, went down to the lounge, and partook of triple chocolate cookies and hot cocoa. The perfect end to the events of the day.

Oh, wait, there's more to see! After supper, the ship went through Wrangell Narrows; it has the most navigation aids in a single stretch of water in the US. You pass through the town of Petersburg as you enter the Narrows from the north.
This town supposedly has the highest per capita of millionaires in the country. There are no mansions on the waterfront, or fancy yachts. I guess the millionaires in this part of the world have other priorities. And something I thought of a time or two - it's much easier to heat a smaller house then a bigger one on a freezey Alaska night.

The forecast is for 10 foot seas this evening as we traverse the islands to our next anchorage. More on that adventure tomorrow....

Posted by dasafish 22:27 Archived in USA Tagged alaska ice_bergs wrangell_narrows cascade_falls

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