Glaciers slide by, deities of a higher calling. They speak a language beyond my ability to comprehend. Their breath stirring the marble water that laps at their feet. From the seat of my kayak, Glacier Bay towers above, beneath, and around me. It’s a land of extremes. Intimidating mountains thousands of feet high. Obliging fjords thousands of feet deep. Serac steeples. Arete cathedrals.
It’s been an hour since I was dropped off in the West arm of Glacier Bay. Usually when I paddle it’s in the company of clients. But not today. I feel my heart slow. My mind let go. Glaciers are now my landlords. Bears my neighbors. Black Oyster Catchers the noisy couple next door.
The ice age whispers on the wind. The bay is defined by ice, chiseled by it. 65-miles of glacial architecture. 65-miles to find yourself or lose yourself, whichever is necessary.
Harbor Seals follow at a distance. Their deep liquid eyes conveying skepticism as they watch. It wasn’t long ago they were hunted from boats the same shape as mine.
I make my way towards Reid Inlet, its glacier, and the sublime. Surrounded by a beauty man can only dream of matching. No blueprint could conceive of equaling this masterpiece.
The bay reminds me that in the lives of an epoch, ours is nothing but a shiver. It’s easy to feel small out here. Alone but never lonely.
The land quiet but never silent. A wolf howls. A humpback surfaces. I prefer it this way. May it always be this way.
The June sun fades as I reach Reid Inlet. Even in summer the wind blows cold off the glacier, and for the final half mile I paddle against a nasty headwind. At last I hear the sound of rocks against the bow of my boat.
The glacier beckons. Here is where the beginning and the end meet. Rebirth and destruction in the hands of ice. I seat myself on the rocks and stare into the glacier’s face, into the silhouette of another age, and the bay fades to black around me.