Monday, September 6, 2010

Alaska Highlights

Signature Quote:We are not going to die.” (Expedition leader Karl … as a pod of humpback whales suddenly turned onto a collision course with our skiff.)

National Geographic Moment I: Brown bears catching pink salmon below the falls at Pavlov’s Bay.

National Geographic Moment II: Bubble-netting humpback whales surrounding the skiff with their bubbles. Time to reverse.

Best Amphibian: The western toad, formerly known as the boreal toad. Green as moss, but even great camouflage doesn’t work if one hops across the trail.

Most Impressive Creature: The Dall’s Porpoise. Seriously. Brown bears, humpback whales, and 376 pound halibut are impressive creatures. But the Dall’s Porpoise is the fastest sea creature we have ever seen. Think torpedoes that sending up rooster tails of spray as they zoom by. So fast that no one on this adventure even got a photo of them.

Best Glacier: Dawes. A symphony of blues and whites in the rare Alaska sun. Very cooperative in calving, shooting, and sliding. A great kayak.

Worst Glacier:
McBride. It calved so much that we couldn’t get near it.

Best Book: John Muir, Travels in Alaska.

Missed Connections:
Orca, Kittlitz’s Murrelet, Moose, Black-tailed deer, Hoary Marmots, Mountain Goat.

Funniest Critters: A flock of juvenile Harlequin ducks, rendered nearly flightless by their molt, flapping across the surface.

Moment of Unexpected Levity: A 3-minute safety briefing to start a 2-minute bus ride.

Gem of a Store in the Morass that is Tourist Juneau: The enamel pin and zipper pull store of Bill Spears.

Best Warning:
At the Mt. Roberts trail head in the hills above Juneau (paraphrased): Keep dogs on leash. Unleashed dogs that run ahead on the trail, may come running back to their owners with a bear in pursuit.

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