Cascade Creek Trail
After anchoring, we took a zodiac to stretch out our sea legs on land on the Cascade Creek Trail. The National Park Service built and maintains the trail which provides some beautiful landscapes. We were offered the opportunity to hike only a portion of the trail. The crew offered us 3 options: strenuous, moderate, and easy. The difference was the pace and length of the trail. Being avid hikers, we chose strenuous.
The trail follows the roaring creek through a lovely, very dense temperate rain forest or huge spruce and hemlock trees and dense undergrowth. We followed the trail from the bay, up to a small but powerful waterfall along a rugged, three-mile trail up to Swan Lake, at the base of the Baird Glacier.
How rugged can a trail with a mere 800-foot elevation gain spread over three miles actually be? First much of the uphill portion requires navigating many sets of steep, irregular, mist and mud-covered steps and equally steep and narrow steps cut into fallen tree trunks. Sounds easy, right? Wrong.
The muddy trail continues past the falls and goes up and down. One must navigate through boulders and tangled networks of tree roots. Add to this the guides’ warnings of the dangers of grabbing onto branches and ferns as many are covered with sharp thorns or can cause itchy rashes.
The foliage and the rushing creek are lovely. But we were so focused on navigating the treacherous terrain and worrying about the dangers inherent in going back down the slippery muddy granite steps that we decided to turn around and take a leisurely walk back down while appreciating the lovely scenery. We’ll let the other who made it tell us what we missed (it turns out, not much).
Upon returning to the boat, we had lunch and had time to kayak around a couple of spruce-covered islands.
The Glaciation Process Explained
After dinner, our ship made its way back to Frederick Sound. During the trip, the crew gave us a briefing to prepare us for our next few days in fiord and glacier county. A naturalist explained the glaciation process and how glaciers covered the western part of the state. Not, surprisingly, mountains blocked the rain and snow from reaching the much colder central parts of the state. She then explained the reforestation process:
- Beginning with the emergence of mosses, lichens, and a few other very hearty plants on the barer rock exposed by retreating glaciers;
- How this leads to the emergence of deciduous trees, especially elders, which fix nitrogen in the soil which,
- Paves the way for Sitka spruce, and how these
- Gradually give way to hemlocks.
Frederick Sound and Wild Life Galore
By evening, we were back in Frederick Sound where we were surrounded by ocean animals. A number of porpoises were riding the wake of the ship’s bow. Further ahead we could see several humpbacks breaching in the distance. By sunset (between 9:30 and 10:00), which was itself lovely, we were literally surrounded by whales. While some were just passing by, spouting and briefly surfacing as they passed. A group of five or six whales was spouting, surfacing, and re-submerging almost in unison. We were told this was probably part of the feeding process. Whales will work together to encircle large volumes of krill. They then swim through the center with their gaping mouths capturing huge amounts of krill, expelling the water through their baleen filters. Unfortunately, taking a picture of these magnificent animals is hit and miss. And we mostly missed. But we still have the images in our minds even if we can’t share them with our readers. So much nature and beauty!
We turned in that night while our ship proceeded to Tracy Arm, our next destination.