August 14, 2013

Going Wild in Gustavus (Our Alaska Adventure Part 1)

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you know that I just returned from a 2 week trip to Alaska.  Glacier Bay was the starting point for our adventure, my kids’ first trip to the 49th state.  Most people visit Glacier Bay by cruise ship, but I wanted to spend several days there, to have more time to enjoy the unique beauty of southeast Alaska.  Few visitors actually stay overnight, so this would give my kids an authentic experience in a small Alaskan town.

The “Gateway to Glacier National Park” is the tiny town of Gustavus, home to no more than 500 year-round residents.  The airport in Gustavus is an interesting sight, as the tiny terminal stays empty all day until the sole Alaska Airline flight arrives (the TSA agents are flown in to meet the jets by a small local air service.)  But that doesn’t mean it’s not busy, small private planes and charters constantly fly in and out.  We were told that just a few weeks earlier, the airport was shut down because a bear ambled onto the runway, and it had to be shoo’ed away by a fire truck!

Gustavus airport
Arriving in Gustavus

Alaska Airlines terminal
The quiet Alaska Airlines terminal
Gustavus is the kind of town where the lone gas station has old fashioned pumps that you only see in museums these days, and everyone knows to watch out for moose #1 who’s really ornery.  There are no rental cars, so lodges transport their guests wherever they need to go.  We became quite familiar with one main intersection in the middle of town:  one road led to the ferry, one to the airport, one to Bartlett Cove, and the last to our lodge.  Nothing is more than 10 miles away.

Our wonderful home for 3 nights was the beautiful, and thoroughly Alaskan, Bear Track Inn.  Meals and transportation are included. and we ate like kings.  A chef and his assistant worked diligently in the kitchen adjacent to the dining room each evening, serving up 4 gourmet choices each evening. 
Bear Track Inn, Gustavus
Surf & turf night!
Breakfast was cooked to order every day, including amazing muffins made with wild blueberries, and the best pancakes my kids ever tasted.  On the rare chance you were at the lodge for lunch, you got gourmet sandwiches, and if lucky, some leftover chowder from the previous evening.  The owner, Janie, who opened the lodge in 1997, told me about some of the amazing experiences she can arrange for my clients, to create the trip of a lifetime.
Glacier Bay's Bear Track Inn
The cozy lodge

Glacier Bay's Bear Track Inn
Relaxing in the evening (yes, evening)
What to do in Glacier Bay?  Enjoy the scenery – by kayak, boat, foot, or air.  A must do, of course, is a full day glacier tour out of Bartlett Cove.  On the small boats, you travel close to the shoreline so you can see the scenery up close, and also get a good view of the glacial silt and ice bergs.  If there’s something interesting to see, such as a calving glacier, a bird rookery or wildlife, they have the luxury of stopping for a short while so everyone can get a good view.

Glacier Bay cruise
Entering Glacier Bay

Glacier Bay
A brown bear on shore!

Glacier Bay
The scenery never ends

Then if you want more time on the water, I’d suggest a kayak tour.  If you are experienced you can rent kayaks yourself, but you can’t get very far in a few hours.  I’d suggest going with a tour operator who will take you by boat to more scenic location for kayaking, where you might even see whales.  For the more adventurous, there are overnight trips kayaking & camping next to glaciers. You can also go whale watching, or go on a fishing charter.   And then there’s hiking, either in the gorgeous rainforest along the waterfront, or up into the hills for panoramic views.

Kayaking in Glacier Bay
Paddling through a kelp field in Bartlett Cove
Whale watch boats in Gustavus
Boats ready for fishing & whale watching
Glacier Bay
Rainforest walk

We left via a slightly different mode of transportation.  I originally planned to take the ferry to Juneau, but found it did not run on our departure day (oops).  Instead we booked a flight with a local air service, which was actually cheaper than Alaska Airlines.  Our family was the only passenger in the 6-seater plane, so hubby got to fly shotgun, while the rest of us took pictures. 
Glacier Bay
Our plane has arrived
Glacier Bay flight
A happy husband!
It was a clear day with no turbulence, so our pilot took us right over the mountains, which was thrilling.  Now THAT is the way to travel in Alaska!

Alaska flightseeing
On the way to Juneau
Alaska flightseeing
Glacial lake
Alaska is one of my favorite destinations.  I’ve traveled all over the state, including above the Arctic Circle, and I've even driven all the way from California, returning via the Inside Passage ferry!  So if you'd like to plan your own adventure in Alaska, just contact me at suzette@family-treks.com
Glacier Bay cruise

1 comment:

Suzy said...

It sounds like a very relaxing area!