In the stormy waters of Lynn Canal sits a small island surrounded by majestic, snow-covered mountains. This island, Eldred Rock, has been the home of the Eldred Rock Lighthouse for over 100 years. Sailing past this iconic lighthouse as the sun set was the finale to a wonderful day spent by National Geographic Sea Lion in Haines, Alaska. Our wakeup call came a little earlier than usual as our expedition leader announced breakfast and reminded hikers to get ready for an early departure for a strenuous hike up Mount Riley, the highest peak on the Chilkat Peninsula. An enthusiastic group of hikers met the challenge and were rewarded with views of the rugged Cathedral Spires to the west, the Takshanuk Mountains to the north, and the jagged Coast Range to the east.
As the morning progressed, we left the ship for a variety of excursions, including fly fishing, cycling the coast, rafting down the Tsirku and Chilkat Rivers, or exploring Haines, the adventure capital of Southeast Alaska. All our adventures were exciting explorations of some truly wild parts of Alaska. The landscape around us was a vivid reminder of the glacial history of this land. The mountains surrounding us were rounded to about 2,500 feet by glaciers that have only recently receded. Nunataks, the jagged peaks that protrude from glaciers, towered over us. The intricate, ever-changing channels in the braided rivers we rafted down were milky white with glacial silt. Bald eagles, adults with vivid white heads and tails as well as mottled black juveniles, perched high in the cottonwoods and down on sandbars to watch for salmon. We hiked through meadows with towering fireweed and cow parsnip that buzzed with bees, all edged by the deep, dark Sitka spruce forest. We clambered down rocky slopes to the rockweed-covered intertidal.
Our day ended with a messy but delicious feast of Dungeness crabs. We enjoyed a presentation about the glaciers we will be exploring tomorrow as the ship makes its way down to the stunning Endicott Arm Fjord and Dawes Glacier to a circumnavigation of Eldred Rock. All in all, today was a day that embraced the wildness of Southeast Alaska.