We woke up to another rare gloriously sunny day in Southeast Alaska, navigating in Misty Fjords National Monument. In the morning, we explored the area by Zodiacs, learning about how glaciers and ice sheets sculpted the landscape over millions of years, and learning about the individual efforts over the ages to protect spectacular places like this one.

Misty Fjords National Monument, 2.2 million acres, was designated by President Jimmy Carter in 1978 during an unprecedented push to preserve 55 million acres of Alaska as National Monuments and National Parks. Nearly a hundred years before the proclamation of protection for this area, the environmentalist John Muir came up to this area and other fjords further north to investigate how glaciers sculpt U-shaped valleys in granitic mountains, analogous to the formation process for Yosemite Valley. We learned that these fjords were unburdened from the ice sheet far before some areas further north in Southeast Alaska and the mountain sides had been open to plant colonization for much longer and therefore have developed mature forests, unlike areas which only recently became exposed from underneath glaciers.

After a beautiful Zodiac cruise through the Owl Pass, witnessing the National Geographic Sea Lion go through the narrow pass, we headed to Punchbowl Cove – a cove surrounded by sheer granite cliffs much like Yosemite’s El Capitan and Half Dome – for a leisurely kayaking session in the afternoon. We all enjoyed the beauty, serenity, and silence of the cove in the afternoon and did not want the last day of our journey to end.