July 23 – We had two more museums left to see in town, but it was an absolutely gorgeous day. Our campsite was in a state park along a bay that was protected by a narrow inlet. Across the bay was a range of mountains with glaciers between them – Rainbow Glacier and Davidson Glacier. One of the glaciers looked like it made it all the way down into a low forest and we had heard that it was possible to hike to the glacier. The bay had been very choppy the day before but today there was no wind and the bay was calm. We took the kayaks down to the boat ramp and headed for the glacier with a simple plan – kayak to the river of melt water and then hike along the bank until we reached the glacier. Simple enough we thought. On our way to the river a seal stopped by and checked us out, but stayed just far enough away so that pictures didn’t come out. We reached the river in just over an hour and landed on the western bank. We carried the kayaks up on the shore and tied them to a fallen tree and headed up the river. The river was fast flowing and deep so we were unable to walk in it so we walked along the bank for a while, but were stopped by an impenetrable tangle of Alder trees that reached out over the edge of the bank. It looked like the east bank would be easier as it was comprised mainly of Sitka spruce which don’t grow close together. We returned to the kayaks and paddled to the other bank. Again we carried the kayaks up a ways and tied them off to a fallen tree. As we were crossing a mud flat near the river we were reminded that we were in bear country by a very large paw print. We made more noise than normal as we worked our way through the woods along the bank. Every so often we would venture out to the bank of the river and make sure that the glacier was ahead of us. An hour into the hike the river took a hard bend to the west and was no longer headed towards the glacier - instead it was going up a valley. We had to decide on a course of action – it was possible that the river would turn back towards the glacier or it was possible that we were following the wrong river (the visitor’s center had no maps available after all). We had seen several busses parked further east of where we landed and another kayaker had told us that there was a road that led to the glacier. We decided to play it safe and turned back. We launched the kayaks again and paddled over to where the busses were parked and found the dirt road. We found that the road ended at the busses so we started walking the other way. After some time we ran into a group of people walking towards us on the road. They seemed very surprised to see other people, but told us that the canoe launch was not too far away. The glacier, however, was a mile and a half from the canoe launch. We kept walking and arrived at some buildings and a bathroom. There was a trail leading away and as we walked along it we ran into a good number of tired looking tourists, all wearing boots and life jackets. We arrived at the canoe launch and ran into one last person who asked us if we had forgotten something on the boat. He was quite surprised when we told him we were hiking and asked how to get to the glacier. He pointed out an overgrown bear trail that ran along the lake and said it was probably two miles. We thought it might be nice to bring the kayaks to this place by truck and explore the lake and asked for directions. “You can’t get here.” was his response. So we asked the question – where is here?
We were near Davidson Glacier in a place called Glacier Point. There was no road linking the area to anywhere else. The road was built specifically to take tourists from the beach where boats dropped them off to the canoe launch area. From there they boarded large (8 person) canoes and used motors to go up the slow moving river to the lagoon where the glacier was. After touring the area and seeing the glacier they paddled the canoes back to the launch area. Only a few guides for the canoe trips lived out there. With the knowledge that we were close to the middle of nowhere, we started out on the trail to the glacier. The trail was thick and overgrown and we soon abandoned it in favor of walking along the bank of the river. We saw many moose tracks and Stacie was hoping she might finally see one. After a while we went around a bend in the river and saw the glacier and the landscape it had created. We were used to glaciers that end in a deep lake or the ocean, but this was different. We were in a wide valley surrounded by gravel piles and ponds. No plants had moved in yet so it really looked like it could be the moon. As we crossed this terrain we were constantly thwarted by small ponds and arms of the lake that were too deep to cross. We realized that the only way to actually make it to the face of the glacier would involve a long hike along the edge of the valley. It was past six in the evening at this point and we knew that it would take several hours to get back to camp so we abandoned our quest and hiked back to the canoe launch. We ran into the same guide and he was surprised that we made it to the glacier (or maybe that we made it back!). We got to the kayaks and were on the water by 7. Unfortunately the wind had picked up and our nice calm bay was filled with small waves and occasional 2 foot swells (well within the limits of our kayaks). The good news was that the wind was mostly at our backs and that helped us on our way, but steering was tricky (the waves wanted to turn us one way while the wind tried to turn us another). Once we crossed the bay we were in more protected waters and the waves subsided. By 8:15 we were back at the campground dock. Our day would have ended there (and we really wanted it to since we were quite tired), but we needed ice for the coolers (why Dave didn’t pick any up at the glacier we don’t know) and had to get to town before the grocery store closed. We made it in time and also grabbed dinner since we didn’t want to deal with cooking.
We slept well that night.