Last Woman Standing

It has been a busy week with lots of massage, hiking, and Zodiac cruises. Once again, we had amazing weather (until this afternoon when we hit high winds and stinging rain).  I led several hikes including one at Port Houghton, where I and most of the other naturalists, including the expedition leader, have never been. It was so beautiful with all the wildflowers in bloom and tidal pools with starfish, sea urchins, and hundreds of mussels. I led a longer hike with less interpretation (meaning I don’t stop and identify every plant we pass) and we walked along the river to a lake. Harbor seals played in the water, slapping their tails and casting a curious eye toward us as we made our way along the rocky shore. On our way back we spotted some moose tracks before ducking into the dense forest carpeted with spiny devil’s club and fallen trees. A bit of bushwhacking brought us to a black bear scratching post scarred with deep claw marks and flecked with coarse hair. Luckily, though, no sign of the bear. We ended the hike by taking a few minutes to sit on the grassy meadow and enjoy the beautiful mountains and green forests.

Another highlight of the trip was the LaConte ice fields. We took Zodiacs out among the icebergs, some as tall as 70 feet. I wrote a DER about the morning, and you can read it here. I’m always amazed at the diversity of the icebergs – the colors range from clear, to white, to a dark, iridescent blue, to a clear, diamond-like aquamarine. The sizes also vary from huge towering sculptures, to tiny bits that you can scoop out of the icy water and use as ice cubes in your evening cocktail.

Glacier Bay was also interesting for a few reasons. We saw a pair of black bears on shore in the morning, which was a treat because we vary rarely see the black kind. Later in the morning one of the guests spotted a brown bear climbing up a rock face, feeding on flowers and very dexterously navigating the crevasses, ledges, and steep slopes. Unfortunately, I was in a massage and I didn’t get to see the bear. If I had known he was scaling up a rock mountain, I would have given my guest a bathrobe and stepped outside to watch… We were also in the park with the Sea Bird, which almost never happens due to our different schedules, so it was fun to see our sister ship pass by us as we left the face of Marjorie glacier. After dinner both ships were docked at Bartlett Cove, so the two crews got to mingle and catch up on boat life.

We’re losing (and gaining) a few staff members this turn-around day, which I’m pretty sad about. It has been such a good group of people and I don’t want it to change! But I’ll have to get used to it because people are constantly coming and going. William is heading back to Mexico. Stephanie is off to her home in England for ten days, then to Bali for three weeks and finally to the Explorer to sail the Arctic seas – I’m so jealous of her travels. And Doug is heading north to Denali to lead Lindblad’s pre and post trip excursions in the park. So it’s me, John, Tom, and Jeff left, with three more staff arriving tomorrow, all male – hence the title of this entry. At least I’ll have my own cabin…

I have five more weeks on this contract, which I’m sure will go by fast because these weeks fly by. I’m hoping for some more good photo opportunities and more good stories!

The New York Yacht Club

This week is slightly different from our other trips aboard the Sea Lion. It’s a charter, which means that the ship and the itinerary are essentially in the hands of our guests, the New York Yacht Club. They have ‘rented’ out the ship for a week in Alaska and so far it has been pretty good. They’re all really nice, if somewhat high maintenance (they love their cocktail hour and they had the hardest time accepting the fact that they need to hike in their mud boots). I’ve also been looking at the wedding rings on the women and some of them are ridiculous…

On the first day we saw a bear and a pod humpback whales, which surrounded the ship, so everywhere we looked we saw whales. It was amazing and everyone was really excited. We went to Elfin Cove, a tiny fishing village that has only 11 year round residents. There are a few lodges for visitors to stay at while they fish in the summer and a nice gift shop, but the whole “town” can be seen in about 10 minutes. The houses and buildings are connected by boardwalks and everything is green and mossy with snow-capped mountains in the distance, giving Elfin Cove an elfish feel.

I haven’t been doing much off the ship because of massages (although I did go on a nice hike at Lake Eva the other day with a few crew and one of the younger guests). But it’s nice to just stay on board and watch the mountains pass by. Most of them still have snow on the tops, which make them even more majestic. Today we were in Glacier Bay National Park and the morning started out rainy and cold, then by mid-day it was just cloudy and now (at 9:30 pm), the sun is shining and there’s a blue sky. I gave five massages, so I didn’t have much time to enjoy the park, but I did see a mama brown bear with her two cubs moseying along the shore. We watched them for about 20 minutes, then a big old male came out of the the forest and the mom fled with her babies. The natualists onboard said that the mom could have taken on the male and she probably would have won because she’s protecting her cubs, but it wasn’t worth the risk since the male wasn’t threatening her. Apparently, like lions, male grizzlies will kill young cubs because they want their genes to succeed.

I had a really good dinner with two couples, one from New York and the other from San Francisco. One of the women, Susan, is/has been recovering from mercury poisoning from eating so much fish. Her metal levels were up to 87 (I’m not sure what that really means, but it’s bad), and now they’re down around 10, due to a very detoxifying diet and health regime. Because her immune system was so shot from the mercury poisoning, she also got Lyme disease and she said that if she and her husband hadn’t had the money they do to spend on treatment, she would be dead right now. So now she and her husband make short documentaries about these kinds of issues and try to spread the knowledge about how harmful toxins are and what people are aren’t being informed about. The movie “The Cove”, which I haven’t seen yet, is about the illegal dolphin killing in Japan, and tests have shown that the dolphin meat, which is being sold to schools and markets, is obscenely high in mercury levels. Susan and her husband filmed the 20 minute post-video documentary about mercury and how harmful it is. She also gave me a list of other films to watch, some about foods and another about Lyme disease and how prevalent (and widely unnoticed) it really is. I can’t wait to watch them!