We flew from LAX to Juneau and as we arrived at this inlet of South Eastern Alaska, I'll admit I had butterflies. The view out the window was snow covered jagged peaks for miles and it looked like the tips of the wings of the plane were scraping the sides of the sheer green mountains as we were coming down to land. We had been talking about this trip for months and now that it was here, I wasn't quite sure that we were ready for the wilderness of Alaska. Truth is, no matter how much we travel, every trip starts with a little adrenaline of equal parts excitement and trepidation.
Our first destination was Haines, a four hour ferry ride from Juneau up the Lynn Canal, the longest Fjord in America.
Also called "Valley of the Eagles", Haines is a small town nestled at the base of towering mountains sculpted by glaciers.
Originally settled by Tlingit Indians who valued the area for its mild climate and abundance of salmon and other seafood. Haines then drew gold miners during the great Klondike gold rush and later was used as an US Army base in 1901. In 1879, John Muir was invited to visit Haines by Tligit elders, he was admired for his famous ethos "when we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe,” emphasizing the interconnectedness of all things, an attitude that echoed the worldview of the Chilkat Tlingits.
The ride on the ferry was spectacular, gliding past massive glaciers on both sides with Bald Eagles soaring overhead and a magnificent whale sighting. It was the perfect introduction to Alaska, it turned that mild bit of anxiousness into excitement at the prospect of seeing so much grandeur.
We spent five days in Haines- fishing, swimming and hiking through lush coastal rainforest. In the evenings we rested at the house of our friends which sat across the inlet from Rainbow Glacier. As the sun didn't set until nearly 11:00, the evenings lasted for hours. We spent that time staring out across the bay studying the cracks and crevasses of the great blue glacier with its incredible water fall below. The waterfall made a roar that we could hear three miles away across the bay.
Glaciers are fascinating to me, without seeing them it's hard to imagine their significance in forming our planet. After all, our beloved Yosemite that we visit every year (and informs pieces in my Sierra collection) wouldn't exist if it weren't for a giant glacier carving a beautiful U shaped valley through massive granite. Even though I've read this a hundred times, until this trip, I didn't quite get how that was possible. On top of that we recently learned of how important the glaciers are for bringing minerals from deep in the mountains out into the ocean, not only because salmon use those minerals that run off the glaciers as scent to find their spawning home, but it actually helps create oxygen for our atmosphere. (For more on this watch the first episode of One Strange Rock ) Everything is connected!
As each evening went by in this first week of travel, we all learned to settle in to a new pace, a glacial pace of watching and observing. Letting the mind settle on small details and big textures, listening to the roar of the waterfall, the gush of the wind in the pines, the eagle chatter and the crows caws. Watching the fish jump and feeling the cool wind. Just quieting the mind enough to watch the world work and feel connected to it.