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© David Williams
A walk in the woods - Alaska style

18 July 2001

Gustavus is a small settlement in Alaska on the north shore of the aptly-named Icy Passage. The local area was once called Strawberry Point because of the many wild strawberries found here, but today Gustavus` importance is its role as the main gateway to the magnificent Glacier Bay National Park. It is also a renowned centre for whalewatching as many humpbacks are attracted by the rich food stocks found offshore during the summer months.
This is Bartlett Cove which is a small inlet in the spectacular Glacier Bay.

It had been a remarkable experience in Icy Strait. Time after time a huge humpback whale played to its audience as it smacked the water with its five-metre-wide flukes, causing the sea`s surface to shudder. All the boat`s passengers took the same pictures. And all at the same time.

Once the boat had tied up at the dock at Gustavus we climbed into an aged yellow school bus that was now used to transfer tourists from place to place. We were treated to a hilarious Cook`s Tour of the village; the corner shop, the gas station and all the other important tourist sights were pointed out. The locals waved, we waved back and laughed at the guide`s jokes. It had been a good day.
Once settled in the hotel at Bartlett Cove we decided to walk along the beach, first of all passing the pier where next day`s boat trip to Glacier Bay was to depart from. After an hour we ran out of beach to explore and found the path through the woods that would take us back to the hotel. The ground beside the path was rather swampy in places so we were glad to have liberally doused ourselves with strong-smelling citronella oil to ward off the biting mosquitoes we presumed would be found here.

The woods were quiet, with no other walkers and only a few birds. Just lots of trees and the hardy vegetation which had colonised the land since the glaciers had started to recede. To the landward side of us the woodland stretched towards Gustavus but between the path and the beach were some large ponds ringed by many trees, some dead or decaying. We hesitated to linger there for fear of being bitten alive by mosquitoes.

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