My recent trip through the Inside Passage of SE Alaska, my third in the area, broke all of my personal records for whales, brown bears, and photos.
I’ve managed to pare down my more than 1000 photos taken over 7 days to about 100. So, grab a beer, find a comfortable place to sit and scroll through some of the most stunning shots I’ve ever taken. I’m not bragging mind you. Its more a testament to the beauty and bounty of SE Alaska than it is to my skills as a photographer.
First the boat. Wilderness Travel, my host for this trip uses the MV Westward, an 8 passenger, 86 foot wooden yacht built in 1924, the first charter yacht in Alaska. Unlike the huge cruise ships that dominate the market, its small size made it possible to get into coves and fjords that larger ships can not, as well as creating a far more intimate experience. The trip was fairly active. We did a few hikes, ranging from short and easy to a 3 mile roundtrip hike with lots of roots, rocks and up and down. Also lots of fresh bear scat on the trail to remind us that we were not alone.
One of our hikes took us to a natural hot springs beside a roaring river. The first couple of photos show how we got to the trail (mostly on a boardwalk) that took us to the hot springs. We also kayaked almost every day. When we weren’t hiking or kayaking (or eating, more on that shortly), we watched the scenery go by from the boat. As you can see the scenery was stunning but probably the most awesome site was Dawes Glacier at the end of Endicott Arm. But it was the wildlife that was most impressive of all. We saw almost 20 whales, mostly humpback but also including 2 orcas, over two days, with multiple sightings of each. Several of the sightings were very close, including a whale breaching just a few feet away from the boat (no photo, it happened too fast). Just as impressive as the whales were the bears, which we were able to observe up close at a fish hatchery. The bears were more interested in the fish so we were pretty safe. BTW almost all of the bears we saw on this trip were brown bears, cousins to the grizzly. To my fellow Philadelphia Eagle fans (as we say in the City of Brotherly Love, go Iggles!!), here are a few photos of our favorite avian mascot. And to round out the inventory of our wildlife viewing (not including insects, seals, porpoises, small mammals and other birds), we also saw sea lions and jellyfish (no joke, the jellyfish were among the most fascinating of all). Special kudos to our crew, Capt. Bill who drove (does one “drive” a boat?) the boat all over the place in pursuit of wildlife and glaciers, and managed to avoid hitting any of the many ice bergs and “bergy bits” in our path; Caroline, our very knowledgeable and personable naturalists and guide; and especially surprising, our excellent chef (not cook, chef) Tracie, who prepared the most amazing meals, usually based on her own recipes. These meals rivaled in quality and creativity the best meals I’ve eaten in cutting edge restaurants in Los Angeles. I don’t usually take photos of food (when food is placed in front of me, my first impulse is to eat it, not photograph it), but after a couple of days I decided that I needed to record the meals before they disappeared. I won’t even bother trying to describe these dishes.
Don, this is really quite impressive and compelling, as always. Phenomenal photos and commentary! I particularly enjoyed the Alaska link, which I apparently missed in the past. My family and a couple of friends are planning to cruise to Alaska next summer, but your piece opens an option we had not even considered. Keep doing it!
I strongly recommend this trip, as well as the boat and the company. I would be happy to discuss in more detail if you want.
Oh, your trip was so much more eventful and gorgeous than ours, we’ll just have to do it again!
I strongly recommend the company, boat and trip. It was one of the best trips of all time. You would love it.
This looks fabulous! We have decided to do it!!
You’ll love it!!!
Loved this article and the photos. Pllanning a trip next May to Alaska on a small quirky ship from Juneau. Any tips? We are going with Uncruise Adventures.
Thanks. Make sure you have a good camera. Good binocs will also help. And good sunglasses for the glare off the water and the glaciers. Take advantage of every opportunity to go ashore or get in the kayaks.
Love seeing the images of my home many years ago. I lived on a boat and worked all over Southeast Alaska. My heart and soul is still in Alaska. I worked all over Alaska for 20 years and hope to develop a plan to return annually and a trip like yours sounds like a perfect way to do it. How far was your trip?
Thanks Ken. It was a great trip, one of my all time favorites.In response to your question, the trip started in Sitka and ended in Juneau a week later.