Our all too brief expedition through the coastal wilderness of Southeast Alaska has been bookended by trips up and deeply into the dramatic fjords that are characteristic features of the mainland here. We’ve seen the rock canvases created by dynamic glacier paintbrushes, some moving with abrupt, century-long strokes like the Grand Pacific Glacier and its tributaries in Glacier Bay National Park, others like the Sawyer Glaciers and their more deliberate millennial-scale advances and retreats, which we saw today in Tracy Arm. Most are losing their mass and their power at a rapid rate, as is the case in the glaciers we saw today. As the gravity-driven, downward flow of ice has slowed and the loss of ice from the terminus increased, Sawyer Glacier is already moving above high tide, while South Sawyer still dips its toes in ocean water but may be on the verge of running up against the embracing rocky constraints of its valley.
The final day is always one of reflection as well as exploration, as we try to put in perspective the variety of natural artwork that we saw this week. A final evening meal with friends new and old, summaries of the voyage, and the shared final slideshow pulled together the experiences and ideas of a memorable trip. But wait! We still must pack! Reality-check, and off we go.