Scrapbook: A Cruise by Expedition Ship Into Alaska’s Inside Passage

Passenger mega-ships frequently ply this scenic coastal waterway in the Pacific Northwest between the Gulf of Alaska and Puget Sound. But a Juneau to Juneau trip on a small expedition ship (such as UnCruise Adventures’ Safari Endeavor) allows for getting deep into the nooks and crannies of the region and getting up close to glaciers and wildlife on kayaks and SUPs. I’m headed to the Adventure Travel World Summit in Anchorage, so we’ll do a little exploring around that city, too. Let’s go!


Alaska-bound on this 9/11. And remembering that scary, surreal day 15 years ago (I had just driven past the Pentagon, and was at Nat Geo HQ in Washington, D.C., that morning.)


Flying into Juneau.


A canoe ride across Mendenhall Lake takes us to Mendenhall Glacier, in Juneau’s backyard. Like many glaciers in Alaska and around the world, it is rapidly retreating.


Glaciers are beautiful. Too bad many are going away; let’s do what we can to save them. Mendenhall Glacier.


Ice is nice: A glacier can lose up to 9 inches off the top on a rare sunny day like today. Mendenhall Glacier. Cool start to #ATWS2016.


Fifty shades of gray: Near Icy Strait.


Johns Hopkins glacier at Glacier Bay National Park, southeast Alaska. Named for the university attended by the one of the area's early scientists/visitors. It groans and cracks and calves every few minutes or so.


Perfect morning for a kayak at Neka Bay, Inside Passage.


The sky was overcast and the water cold. Harbor seals and porpoises, bald eagles and kingfishers came out to play. Alaska’s Inside Passage.


A mushy, wet walk in the woods: Despite this tranquil scene, our band was yelling “Hey, Bear!” loudly and proudly. Bear attacks are rare, but have occurred. Neka Bay.


A wet and wonderful kayak ride: One of hundreds of cataracts tumbling into the fjord at Red Bluff Bay. Inside Passage.


The 88-passenger Safari Endeavor anchored at Red Bluff Bay, Alaska, in the liquid sunshine.


Spotted all sorts of rock formations on an all-day kayak around the Keku islands. Inside Passage.


The zen of the kayak: The bays and inlets of the Keku islands are calm and sheltered. And the islets are small enough to easily zip around them. Sitka spruce and western hemlock dominate. Black bears live here, though we didn’t see any. So do whales, seals, otters, and many kinds of birds, all of which we did.


Glaciers are moving, figuratively and literally. Groaning, popping, crunching, calving, splashing, a wondrous sight to behold. South Sawyer Glacier at Tracy Arm.


Unsinkable: Blubbered up and ready for #ATWS2016


Water, water everywhere. Southeast Alaska.


Zipping through spruce and hemlock. Juneau.


Juneau to Anchorage.


Vern Halter, former Iditarod champion, trainer, borough mayor, and raconteur extraordinaire, talks about this most amazing of races--more than a thousand miles from Anchorage to Nome on a sled pulled by 16 dogs. Mat-Su Borough.


We are at an Iditarod training school for both dogs and musher wannabes run by former champion racer Vern Halter. And visitors get to see what it takes to win “The Last Great Race.” Mat-Su Borough.


How do sled dogs train for the Iditarod in the fall? They slosh through mud and puddles while pulling a tractor with six people. Mat-Su Borough.


Sled dogs, they're just like us: some are loud and outgoing; others are quiet and shy. At the Dream a Dream Dog Farm, near Willow.


There was, and still is, gold in them thar hills. The abandoned Independence Gold mine, now a historical Park. About an hour outside Anchorage.


Green and gold: Autumn in Alaska. Hatcher Pass. Mat-Su.


Alaska is a fitting venue for the annual gathering of the adventure travel industry. In this big, bold state of glaciers and grizzlies, it’s a treat to see so many friends and colleagues (too many to tag!). Thanks to David Kasser and crew for showing off Anchorage and the rest of the state in its autumnal glory, and to Shannon Stowell and team for the inspired assemblage of people trying to transform the world through responsible travel. #ATWS2016


Photos © Norie Quintos.