As I stepped out on the deck of Un-Cruise Adventures Wilderness Explorer, a blast of fresh air, bright sunshine, and incredible scenery hailed a greeting of pure delight.
Tracy Arm was the first stop on my week-long expedition along the Inner Reaches of Alaska’s Southeastern Coves. Named for the Secretary of the Navy, Benjamin Franklin Tracy, this area is a dramatic, winding fjord with sheer granite walls and hundreds of cascading waterfalls. At the heart of Tracy Arm is the Endicott Arm Fjord. To get there, you must travel down a u-shaped, narrow passage, with a deep and cavernous channel—it’s well worth the view!
At the end of the Endicott Arm Fjord is Dawes Glacier. It was here that I inhaled the sheer rugged crispness of the air; quite unlike anything else I’ve experienced. Azure blue crystal is the look of Dawes Glacier, and as I viewed the scene, I squealed in delight when I spotted a few harbor seals lounging on broken icebergs. We got amazingly close on the skiffs to see the glaciers at a closer range. This is truly the privilege of being on a small expedition vessel, as they offer access to areas larger ships can’t visit and the chance for much more experiential and spontaneous opportunities. A special highlight was that while I was looking on in awe, a thunderous roaring sound occurred, and then the glacier caved, breaking off pieces into the water. It’s like the earth shakes for a moment, and the site of the crumbling ice is spectacular. While not life threatening, we all certainly experienced that thrill of seeing and experiencing something really special.
Tracy Arm is the second largest protected area in the entire world due to the amazing eco-system that survives here. The combination of striking glacier, the snow-capped mountains, and the lush greenery of the hills makes for an absolute sight to behold. Wilderness Explorer provides binoculars for each guest so everybody can capitalize on the wildlife viewing, of which there is plenty. Each time I thought the viewing was complete, and settled back into reading my book on the top deck, someone would yell out a wildlife sighting. On one particular instance, there were Mountain Goats wandering along on the vertical landscape of the rugged mountain ranges. Shortly thereafter, we all scrambled to the port site to view two large black bears and a smaller bear as they playfully ambled along the shore line.
Skiff rides afforded the opportunity to view the towering Hemlock trees and the lush surroundings up close and personal. We stopped to embrace the beauty of a waterfall hidden between two crevices. I wasn’t quite expecting the “chilly” air and probably should’ve had the forethought to bring my gloves! The sound drowns out most everything but your spirits soar as naturally as bald eagles that are perched above.
While on board, I experienced exceptional cuisine and one of my favorites was a delicious meal of pecan crusted cod with zucchini fritters. Each night were options for a meat, fish, or vegetarian dish, and this was served, plated, in tables of 6-8 people. The Alaskan White is one of their specialty beers and easily enjoyed along with snacks in the lounge. The ship is set up for casual but friendly interaction. With only 46 guests on this cruise, (maximum is 70 passengers) there was an ease of conversation and friendly comradery almost instantly. Each evening after dinner there is a lecture that you can attend. My favorite was a fascinating presentation on whales.
A final cap to an evening is the opportunity to use their inviting top deck hot tub and enjoy a beverage while soaking in the steamy water under the blanket of stars!