July 27, 2018 by Deborah W. Trotter
Summer in Alaska, when the sun stays up long enough that even after a day spent cruising the entire length of Glacier Bay and back (see previous post), there is enough daylight left to go ashore and take a hike.
Bartlett Cove sits on Point Gustavus on the southeastern side of the entrance to Glacier Bay. It is the location of the Visitor Center and Park Headquarters, and a place where you’ll find access to several hiking trails and a campground. The small town of Gustavus, Alaska, and a public airport are nearby.
When we disembarked at Bartlett Cove in June, we had a guided hike on the Forest Trail, an easy one-mile loop through dense temperate rain forest. The mosquitoes wanted us, but either the onset of a light rain or our disappearing into the woods made most of them lose interest.
The forest was mainly spruce and hemlock trees, and without sunshine, it seemed eerily the same no matter which direction you looked. The forest showed signs of decay and renewal, with lots of downed trees among the vertical ones, ponds scattered throughout, the predominant colors greens and browns on that cloudy day. Among the brown features was a large fungus on many of the trees, one we had never seen before. It is known as artist conk (ganoderma applanatum) and has some unique characteristics. Hard to the touch and with great staying power – a conk can live and grow for many years on a tree trunk – its white bottom provides a canvas for artistic endeavors. When it is scratched, it turns brown permanently in the scratches, thus preserving what is drawn upon it.
Near the end of the hike, we passed Blackwater Pond at the same time as a cow moose was foraging. Oblivious of our presence on the viewing deck, she worked her way around the pond, finally plunging in to swim to the other side and vanish into the forest.
After the hike and before we returned to our boat from the Visitor Center, we paid our respects to Snow, a humpback whale who was a beloved, longtime seasonal resident of Glacier Bay, killed by a cruise ship in 2001. Her bones were painstakingly cleaned and reassembled for display as a loving memorial to a majestic denizen of the deep.