Hiking to Baird Glacier

Yesterday I guided one of my favorite hikes in all of Southeast Alaska, the trek to Baird Glacier. We dropped anchor in Scenery Cove, just off Thomas Bay, and then headed out in our small inflatable boats.

The ship anchored in  the emerald waters of Scenery Cove.
The ship anchored in the emerald waters of Scenery Cove.

After battling our way through a strong river pushing against us at five knots, creating rapid-like conditions, we landed on a beach of rounded rocks, unloaded, and began our hike.

Our driver, Céili, navigated us through the rapids, which are full of hidden rocks.
Our driver, Céili, navigated us through the rapids, which are full of hidden rocks.

This area is one of the most uniquely beautiful places I have seen here in Southeast Alaska– as the glacier retreats, it leaves behind a barren landscape that nature begins to fill back in. Delicate, bright green mosses and lichens grow on bare rocks. Small Alder saplings have taken root, and smaller still are the Sitka Spruce saplings just beginning to grow. Dwarf Fireweed decorates the landscape with pops of pink.

The glacial till leading to Baird is covered with bright green mosses and lichens, dwarf fireweed, and alder saplings.
The glacial till leading to Baird is covered with bright green mosses and lichens, dwarf fireweed, and alder saplings.
Dwarf Fireweed
Dwarf Fireweed
As you get closer to the glacier, the ground transitions from rock to mud.
As you get closer to the glacier, the ground transitions from rock to mud.

the vagabondist: walking to Baird

We found wolf tracks in several places on our route to Baird.
We found wolf tracks in several places along our route.
As you get closer to the glacier, the landscape transitions from rock to mud, decorated with small alluvial fans.
Small alluvial fan.
Patterned alluvium.
Patterned alluvium.

the vagabondist: gnarly branch

Baird Glacier & her moat.
Baird Glacier & her moat. I was told by earlier visitors that it wouldn’t be possible to reach the ice because of the deep the water that surrounds it….
Despite the cold water, a few of us managed to get out onto the ice!
… but despite the cold, cold water, a few of us managed to get out onto the ice!
Most of my group stopped here.
Most of my group happily stopped here.
This is the ice I was standing on. You can clearly see the coarse, hexagonal crystals.
This is the ice we were standing on. You can clearly see the coarse, hexagonal crystals.
We were able to get a bit further than this before turning back. The ice we were climbing on was floating and felt too unstable.
A few of us were able to get a bit further than this, but the ice we were climbing on was floating and felt too unstable, so we turned back.
The walk back was a bit wet... In true Alaska fashion, it was pouring.
Our walk back was a bit wet… In true Alaskan fashion, it was pouring.
We carefully chose paths where we could walk on bare rock, to protect the delicate first-growth.
We carefully chose paths where we could walk on bare rock to protect the delicate first-growth mosses and lichens.
More dwarf fireweed on the walk back to the river, where we boarded our small boat back to the big boat.
More dwarf fireweed on our walk back to the river, where we boarded our small boat to head back to the big boat.
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