We left “No Name” cove in the morning to travel up Tracey Arm to see the Sawyer Glacier, a tidewater glacier with two arms that can be reached by boat. The challenge in visiting these glaciers are the icebergs and “bergy bits” that come from calving of the glaciers. Of these, the bergy bits are actually the bigger challenge, as some of them are clear and very difficult to spot in the water.
The glaciers are about 25 miles up the Fjord, and to the left is the North Sawyer Glacier, which is often easier to reach. Sometimes it is possible to also continue on to the South Sawyer Glacier, but on this trip we had heard others say there was too much ice, and friends in past years have not been able to make it in either, so we didn’t have high expectations.
We made it to the North arm easily, only having to slow down once to pick our way through. Ted and Sarah observed that the route was much clearer than their previous visit in 2014, good for us, but a bad sign of climate change. We got up to the head of the inlet and there was the North Sawyer glacier rising from the water up the valley.
It was a magnificent sight…couldn’t find the words to do it justice. We went in fairly close to get a picture of the boat in front of the glacier, and from our electronic charts, we could clearly see how much the glacier had receded since the chart was made. You can see the symbol from our boats over the hatched area that represents the glacier. The green is the radar overlay showing the actual position of the glacier.
After viewing the North Glacier, we decided to proceed down the South arm to see if we could at least get close to South Sawyer.
A couple of high speed tour boats went by, so it was clear that we could make it, but this time we had to slowly pick our way through in many spots.
On the way in we saw mountain goats up on a rock outcropping.
Turning the corner from there, we saw another magnificent vista – the South glacier is much larger than the north and obviously goes through much more calving, reflected by the number of icebergs at the head of the inlet.
We stopped for pictures again, admired the scene, and then turned around to work our way out.
All in all a fantastic day… our first opportunity to see tidewater glaciers up close. Our friend Ted says it was one of their best days on the boat… high praise indeed from these long time Northwest boaters.
The weather has continued to be spectacular. No rain, sunny and warm. The only downside has been the beginning of smoke in the sky, we assume from the forest fires up in the Seward/Anchorage area. It is nowhere near as bad as what we experienced in the Gulf Islands of BC last summer.