Alaska

5/24: Misty Fjords National Monument

Today was our last full day of cruising and we were going to anchor in Misty Fjords. Popping out on deck before 5am, it looked like we would have another good day, even though it had been a little choppy last night.

We must be close – it looks misty around the bend:

I had read a little about Misty Fjords National Monument, but didn’t have a good idea of what to expect. We’d been to Milford Sound in New Zealand – which is really a fjord – would it be like that? We got some history from our guides about Misty Fjords National Monument – proclaimed a National Monument and Wilderness Area by Jimmy Carter in 1978. It includes 2.3 million acres of the Tongass National Forest, and is 40 miles east of Ketchikan.

From Wikipedia:

The area is called “The Yosemite of the North” for its similar geology. Light-colored granite, about 50 to 70 million years old (Eocene Epoch to Cretaceous Period) has been sculpted by glaciers that gouged deep U-shaped troughs throughout the monument. Many of the glacial valleys are filled with sea water and are called “canals”, but they are not man-made in any way; the walls of these valleys are near-vertical and often rise 2,000 to 3,000 feet (600 to 900 m) above sea level, and drop 1,000 feet (300 m) below it.

We anchored before breakfast, and the serious kayakers left shortly after.  We were impressed with the number of people who kayaked every chance they could – sometimes out for several hours at a time on the longer guided tours.  This was the same group who always picked the most strenuous hikes.  And, age wasn’t a determining factor for who joined the Active Group – people in there 70s were right there with some of the younger folks.

Our Skiff Tour was at 9:30am.  While it must have been great in the kayaks, I was glad to be in a skiff and able to take photographs – photos from today are some of our favorites from the trip; our only regret is we didn’t take the good cameras. The natural beauty was beyond expectations, and the combination of mist, calm water, and being right on the water made the reflections seem almost magical.

Too soon, we were coming back to the Wilderness Discoverer.  Misty Fjords National Monument is a treasure, and one you have to see to believe.  This morning matched Tracy Arm and Sawyer Glaciers for jaw-dropping awesomeness.  And, we still had more to come.

The crew had one more surprise for us before lunch.  It was Polar Plunge Day !!!  This is another one of the crazy ideas where people can jump into the icy cold water.  There were quite a few jumpers – and some went in more than once.  No one stayed in the water long, that’s for sure.  We were told it was about 45 degrees F.  Here are some photos of some of the crew doing the Polar Plunge – there were plenty of passengers who jumped as well.  Meet Chris, the Bartender and Unofficial Ombudsman; Niles, the Hotel Manager; and Paul – our Wellness Instructor (he should know better! )

Lunch options today included Vegetable or Ham & Cheddar wraps, Split Pea Soup, and Penne Salad with Bay Shrimp.  We spent the afternoon awestruck over the sights of the steep walls of the fjord, many cascading waterfalls, and more.  We saw a few birds and waterfowl, but no other wildlife.  And, you know what?  It didn’t matter that we didn’t see a whale, a bear, or a mountain goat today – the scenery was just that spectacular.

Here is a sampling of our afternoon – I think we all had sore necks from gazing upwards:

Tonight was the Captain’s Dinner, and the menu choices were tempting.  We chose the Beef Tenderloin with Dungeness Crab, and as usual, everything was great.  We also had a chance to thank the crew for their outstanding service during the week – both with applause and by adding our gratuity to the week’s tab.  Gratuities on the Wilderness Discoverer were split between all of the crew members.  This was a fair system, because everyone jumped in to do whatever needed to be done, and all of their job roles contributed to a successful Un-Cruising Week.  The recommended gratuity is 10% of your booking fee.  This may be more than on the large cruise ships, but the extra level of service on the small ship was worth it.

It had been a very full day, but almost everyone stayed up for the after dinner presentation.  The guides put together a slide show for us from photos they had taken throughout the week.  We all had some laughs as we watched the show.

This was the last night of Week No. 1 of our three week Ultra Un-Cruise. We would wake up in Ketchikan.

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