Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Gustavus and Glacier Bay

We're travelling mostly by Alaska State Ferry (the Alaska Marine Highway) and had a planned stop for one night in Juneau in order to get to Gustavus, a small community on Icy Strait near Glacier Bay.  A few days prior we decided to fly to Gustavus instead so as to avoid a 7 AM ferry departure.  Thus I had my first ride in a Cessna bush plane where Lloyd got to ride beside the pilot.  There was room for only two more passengers (me and one other) in front of a lot of cargo behind a mesh.
Approaching Gustavus--very flat!
Gustavus reminded me of Cherryville and Clearwater in that there is no actual town centre.  Instead they have "the four corners"...
One corner is an L-shaped building with the Fireweed Gallery and Coffee shop (excellent espresso) along with the Clove Hitch Cafe (and a cement brown bear in the middle...)

And the opposite corner is the gas station

Cycling  is the perfect way to get around.  
We stayed at Homestead Bed and Breakfast which could really be called Homestead BBB (bed, breakfast and bicycle).  For the first time in years we were riding single speed bikes with pedal brakes which took a little getting used to.  The pace of life in Gustavus is nice and slow--EVERY driver gives cyclists a wide berth as well as a friendly wave. Drivers actually pay attention to the posted speed limits (25 and 35 miles per hour). There are about as many cyclists as drivers.  This area was home to the Tlingkit people about 400+ years ago until they were pushed out by a mini ice age and an encroaching glacier.  In fact a glacier blocked what is now Glacier Bay when Captain Vancouver was sailing these waters.  The glaciers started to recede 200+ years ago and are still retreating.  What is now the community of Gustavus was originally homesteaded in the 1920s.   It must have been a really hard life--in fact I think anyone trying to farm in Alaska would have a difficult time because of the long cold winters.  Gustavus was originally known as Strawberry Flats because of all the wild strawberries, one of the first plants to colonize an area after glaciation...

We took a day tour up Glacier Bay to see the Glaciers, icebergs, sea otters, brown and black bears feeding on the beaches, eagles, and whales...

Sea Lions--juvenile males


Glacier with huge cruise ship in front--that cruise ship had 11 decks which gives you an idea of the size of the glacier.

Lloyd with a bergy bit

We left Gustavus on Saturday mid-afternoon, this time as the only passengers on a Cessna that could have carried about 8 passengers.  We stopped at Hoonah and off-loaded a lot of groceries--a resident must have called in an order to a store in Juneau and this is what was delivered:
...complete with a couple pizzas on top ready to pop in the oven...being unloaded by a couple of young women.

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