Sucia Island, Washington State Park, 5/1/2023, National Geographic Venture
National Geographic Venture
The sky was a mix of sun and clouds as we stopped outside the steeply sloped inlets of Sucia Island. Briefings were truly brief, and soon we were snuggled inside Zodiacs to look at trees, birds, and spectacular scenery.
Exotic birds stood on the shores or paddled their small, webbed feet along the shore. Spring has arrived in western Washington. Canada geese proudly displayed their young while keeping a close eye on the brood. The forest is a rich canopy of thick trunked Douglas fir trees and the colorful bark of the madrone trees. We hiked in the homes of wild barred owls.
Our naturalist guides explained the boundaries between the United States and Canada. It was a fabulous tale of a renegade pig, a degree of latitude, and uncompromising coastline.
For the past 20 years, Marylou Blakeslee has traveled the world sharing her love of wild places. She lectures on a number of topics from the bears and wolves of the Arctic, to the leopard seals and whales of the Antarctic, as well as the turtles and ...
After a morning that threatened rain, the clouds lifted just enough to see the top of the hills that surround Hanus Bay and the river that flows from Lake Eva. We landed on the beach as the tide rose, stepping gingerly over large fields of blue mussels and razor clams before finding the U.S. Forest Service trail that leads to the lake. Later in the summer, these waters are filled with returning pink, coho, and sockeye salmon, which feed not only the brown bears of Chichagof Island, but the forest as well. More than 70% of the nitrogen these trees need comes from the returning salmon as they are dragged through the woods by hungry bears, eagles, ravens, and scavengers. All too quickly, it was time to lift the anchor, and National Geographic Quest wound its way towards Peril Strait, Sitka, and the end of our two-week long adventure. A final beautiful evening on deck served as a perfect capstone to an unforgettable journey that began in the urban cities of Washington and British Columbia and has concluded amongst some of the wildest places left on Earth.
We awoke at the Inian Islands, known as Eey X’e, or “Mouth of Tidal Rapids,” in the Tlingit language. Located north of Chichagof Island, this site is known far and wide for its abundance of life. Our morning Zodiac tours went down in our voyage’s history as one of the best adventures yet, with a whopping 24 bald eagles, rafts of frolicking Steller sea lions, frisky sea otters, fragrant seabird rookeries, canoodling river otters, stealthy killer whales, and three humpback whales surfacing side by side against the shoreline. Today we celebrated the biodiversity of Southeast Alaska in all its unique flavors and sounds. Afternoon hikes took place on George Island, situated in Granite Cove. Guests had the choice of several hikes, all of which traversed vibrant green trails sprinkled with fiddleheads, banana slugs, mammal scat, and the ethereal song of the Pacific wren. Many guests paddled turquoise waters in a gentle mist, while geologically inclined folks tickled their fancy by gazing at a monolith of a rock standing regal on a beach, and history buffs contemplated an 18-ton gun emplacement at the end of the trail. Bald eagles cackled. Pigeon guillemots squeaked. Life continued to enamor us the whole live-long day. Our day closed with a boisterous recap on the conservation history of sea otters, the importance of plankton, the beauty in a wren song, and the life histories of our Zodiacs. With the trip winding down, we are reminding each other to bask in the serenity of ship life. We have one more day. We’ll make it count.
We woke this morning cruising up the west arm of Glacier Bay National Park. Surrounded by thick alders, budding cottonwoods, and young spruces, it was hard to imagine that the land around Russell Island was covered in ice 120 years ago. But the ice has receded, and a parade of life has followed with humpback whales, brown bears, mountain goats, and a rich diversity of seabirds. So many animals call this magical place home. We got to see several of these animals today, including a couple of napping bears and several mountain goats on a dramatic rock face called Gloomy Knob. After a quick stop at South Marble Island to observe some rambunctious Steller sea lions, we docked in Bartlett Cove, home of the park’s headquarters. We got a quick chance to stretch our legs and enjoy a beautiful sunset before casting off and setting course for the Inian Islands.