The Last Frontier: Days 2 & 3, Hubbard Glacier and Icy Straight Point
Updated: Aug 27
Day 2: Hubbard Glacier
I generally prefer land exploration to cruising during travel, but I made an exception for Alaska because so many of the places I wanted to see in this state are located along Alaska's Inside Passage, which stretches for 500 miles north to south and 100 miles east to west, along the Pacific Ocean. Many popular Alaskan coastal towns including Sitka, Ketchikan, Juneau, and Skagway are most easily accessible by boat on this route, as are approximately 1,000 islands and numerous coves, bays, and fjords.
And because Alaska has daylight for almost 19 hours per day during the summer, cruising allowed me to see all the beautiful sights out of my stateroom window almost anytime I wanted. This photo was taken at 11 p.m.
Every time I opened the drapes, I was sure to see glaciers, fiords, mountains, forests and/or whales.
Our first stop on this cruise was at the Hubbard Glacier. As we approached, many icebergs (freely floating pieces of ice that have broken off from the glacier) floated around us. Some were as large as buildings.
The captain approached cautiously, while I took in the beautiful mountains, the crisp air, and the enormity of the glacier. The glacier is 600 feet at its terminal face. 350 feet is exposed above the water line while the other 250 feet lies below the water's surface.
With a length of approximately 76 miles and a width of 7 miles, Hubbard is North America's largest tidewater glacier. It is so big that it spans both the Wrangell–St. Elias National Park and Reserve in the United States, and the Kluane National Park and Reserve in Canada. Scientists started measuring the Hubbard Glacier in 1895. Since then, it has been growing at a rate of approximately 80 feet per year. The glacier is advancing so much that it has temporarily blocked the nearby Russell Fjord twice in recent history, causing water levels there to rise over 80 feet.
What I found so surprising was that adjacent to this icy monolith, were lush, green mountains with cascading waterfalls, surrounded by blue waters.
Day 3: Icy Straight Point
Gondola Cables Up to the Zip Line
On day three of my week in Alaska, we docked at Icy Straight Point. For me, this stop was all about chipping away at my fear of heights, also known as acrophobia. I don't recall exactly when it began, but I started to notice that I would have a palpable reaction (sweaty hands, increased heart rate, dizziness, shaky legs) anytime I was at a height. These feelings overtake me whether I am standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon or sitting in the nosebleed section of a stadium or sports arena.
In researching acrophobia, I learned that the worst way to deal with it is to avoid heights. The best response is to expose yourself to heights whenever possible and then engage in coping mechanisms (I won't get into all those details here).
My first step was to get in the gondola and ride it up, up, up the hill to check in for my next adventure. You can see just how steep the ride up the mountain was in the picture above. Those cables you see are the gondola lines.
Once at the top, I checked in to ride the world's largest zip line, which happens to be in Icy Straight Point, Alaska. As the poster shows, the platform of this zip line is higher than the Great Pyramid and the Empire State Building.
The view from the gondola drop-off point was spectacular, but if I am honest, I couldn't really enjoy it because I was feeling pretty stressed about my impending zip line ride.
After stepping off of the gondola, we had to hike to the zip line platform. This gave me time to remind myself how irrational my fear was. After all, thousands of people before me had ridden this zip line safely and enjoyed themselves, right?
What would have been rational would have been a fear of encountering a bear, which was apparently quite likely.
And even though sign after sign warned me of this very real and rational danger, I was still fixated on the zip line.
We neared the end of our short hike and I could see the platform.
I decided to get closer to inspect the structure for reliability because well, I have no engineering experience whatsoever. Another extremely rational move on my part (shake my head).
View from the Top of the Zip Line
And then it was time. There was nothing to do but get strapped into the harness and face my fear. I, unfortunately, did not get any footage of the ride down because I had a death grip on both straps of the harness. As such, holding a phone was simply out of the question. There are plenty of videos like this one online though, if you are interested in seeing the ride down.
The ride was exhilarating and something I actually think I would do again. Whether you are a bona fide thrill seeker or a trepidatious acriphobe, I highly recommend riding this zip line. Now that I can reflect more objectively, it is one of my favorite experiences.
The Crab House, Icy Straight Point
After the ride down the zip line, I stopped to get a bite to eat.
Dungeness Crab Legs with Melted Butter and Lemon
After lunch, I sat near the fire overlooking the water and ...
... watched the salmon jumping. After a stressful, but very worthwhile morning, the peace and relaxation of this moment were especially cherished.
On Board Entertainment
Shortly thereafter, it was time to board the ship. I decided to check out some of the onboard entertainment. On previous cruises, I can only recall comedy and game shows. Either cruising has evolved, or I got lucky and chose the right cruise line.
The show I saw was full of theatrics, stunts ...
... and acrobatics. I would describe it as Cirque du Soleil on a smaller scale. A much, much, much, smaller scale. It was very entertaining and the athleticism of the performers was extremely impressive.
Dinner was with new friends at Cagney's Steakhouse; one of several restaurants on the ship.
I generally don't order crab cakes because they are usually loaded with far too much mayonnaise, an abundance of fillers, and a paltry amount of crab meat. These crab cakes were made almost exclusively of crab meat and cooked very well.
Grilled Rib Eye with Creamed Spinach
7 Layer Chocolate Cake
I am neither a big dessert, nor chocolate fan, but this cake was ridiculously good.
The Sun at 11:36 pm
I wrapped up day three in Alaska with a very long walk on the deck, while watching the sun on the horizon and the ocean waves.