Sunday, August 7, 2016

Alaska 2016 | Day 77 | Johns Hopkins Glacier

Spoiler: in a summer filled with outstanding days, this may be the best day yet.

Let’s start with the weather. The wind was gone. So were the clouds. Just sunshine and calm seas.

Before breakfast we took the dinghies the mile-and-a-half to Reid Glacier. Since Reid Glacier is no longer a tidewater glacier, it’s easy to see up close. Land the dinghy on the beach and walk around. Seeing Reid up close is magical—the colors and textures and sounds and smells are right there.
Crazy blue ice
Anna and me on Reid Glacier
Wandering around Reid Glacier
Super cool to see this up close
After exploring for an hour or so, we headed back to the boats for breakfast. Our plan for the day was to head up Johns Hopkins Inlet and to Johns Hopkins Glacier, then anchor for the night in Blue Mouse Cove, towards the mouth of Glacier Bay.
Heading back towards the boats
As we were eating breakfast, and the weather was just perfect, I thought about taking the dinghy to the glacier. It’s about 12 nautical miles each way, or about 40 minutes by dinghy. Airship would be following behind in case we had any problems or the weather deteriorated. Cruising in the dinghy we’d be able to see the inlet up close…hmmmm….yeah, let’s do it!

Getting to Johns Hopkins Inlet requires passing Lamplugh Glacier. When I visited in 2012, this was an active tidewater glacier. Today, only a few small parts seem to touch the water. It’s still beautiful, but it’s amazing how quickly the glaciers up here are changing.

We continued onwards from Lamplugh. Each mile brought magnificent new scenery. The water was flat calm. We were cruising at an easy 18 knots, totally in awe of our surroundings. And then we made the final turn towards the face of the glacier, still about five miles distant. In front of us was as beautiful a scene as I can imagine. Johns Hokpins Glacier twisted and climbed towards jagged, snowcapped peaks, some as high as 12,000 feet. In isolation, each element of the scene was beautiful. Together…well, words can’t describe it.
First glimpse of Johns Hopkins Glacier
Every direction is stunning
Side view of a random glacier.
It felt too beautiful, like we weren’t supposed to be there. Not a boat in sight, surrounded by icebergs and glacier-scrubbed granite walls. A dozen or more glaciers in view. Waterfalls everywhere. Massive mountains in the background. And us, in a 10-foot-long rubber boat.
iPhone pano
We continued up towards the face of the glacier. The dinghy is so small and maneuverable that it was easy to make 15 knots or more the entire way to the glacier face. We shut the engine off and drifted, listening as thousands of years of ice creaked and groaned under the force of gravity.

And then we got the first good calving. Best I’ve ever seen. Huge chunks of ice cracking off the glacier and crashing into the water. Walls of water displaced, spray flung a few hundred feet in the air, giant wave gently rolling towards us. For the next three hours we watched this unfold over and over and over. Magnificent, thrilling, spectacular. Best day ever. Being in the dinghy made it better, too. Being so close to the water, out in the elements, makes me feel more connected to nature and more vulnerable to it.
Going...look at the middle
And more...
Airship in front of Johns Hopkins Glacier
The trip out was easy and quick, but a bit disappointing. Who wants to leave such a beautiful place?

Back on Safe Harbour, we decided to spend another night in Reid Inlet. Airship again rafted alongside and we had happy hour on the top deck with glacier views all around. I had to pinch myself …does it get any better than this?
Airship rafted to Safe Harbour

28.3 nm in the dinghy

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