Gliding into our anchorage in the middle arm of Kelp Bay this morning revealed the humbling beauty of this 49th state. Patchy white clouds in a deep blue sky atop mirror reflections set the stage for an equally tranquil scene ashore.

We lightly bushwhacked through sun-dappled temperate rainforest to a lush open meadow surrounding the epitome of a tranquil mountain lake. Fringed with flowering yellow pond lilies and standing dead trees (from a beaver dam raising the lake level) this meadow oasis was also home to many birds. The most unexpected was a pair of short-billed gulls nesting in one of the standing dead trees. The notion of a gull building a nest of sticks and moss in a tree is something I’ve only read about — but today I witnessed it for the first time. Red-breasted sap suckers, Townsend’s warblers, and even a flyby from a northern pintail made for an avian-rich morning.

Chatham Strait, one of the planet’s longest and deepest fjords, was our afternoon course heading; following it north toward tomorrow offered us classic Southeast Alaska views, such as sun-dappled mountains perched atop a labyrinth of waterways.