Steep, Colorful, Wet, Mossy, Granite Cliffs

Here are some exquisite examples of this granite, moss-covered and tree-lined cliff at Rudyerd Bay  near Ketchikan.  Most of the world’s fjords (i.e. Norway), which are glacier-formed narrow inlets with steep cliffs, are found in only a handful of countries and some of the most beautiful ones are in the Misty Fjords National Monument.

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“C’mon Big D. Fly!!”

Big world out there!  One cormorant stands out among its fellow sea birds.

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Bald Eagle

Another first along this journey – but not the last, not by a long shot!  Did you know the bald eagle is BOTH our national bird AND our national animal??  Furthermore, as kangaroos are to Australia, it is the only sea eagle indigenous to North America!  Lucky us!

FACTOID: Why is the eagle the national emblem of the United States?

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“The Yosemite of the North”

It’s a term often used for Misty Fjords – the words heart-stopping and jaw-dropping just aren’t enough to do justice to this area of natural beauty.  Misty Fjords National Monument covers 2 million acres (vs. Yosemite’s 761,000) of the Tongass National Forest, with trademarks that include steep granite cliffs that plunge over 3,000 feet to its valley floors.  This is why a one-photograph post won’t cover it!!

On a sunny day such as this, it’s deep blue waters meander through emerald green forests.  The area can only be accessed by air or sea.  Prior to 1980, the area was slated for mining for molybdenum (a valuable rare metal), but local fishermen and environmental protection organizations joined forces to hamper the mining activities for full protection of the area (Alaska National Interests Land Conservation Act signed into law by Jimmy Carter), a testament to the power of a few concerned citizens.

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Pinnipeds

Yay!  Finally!  First close-up sights of harbor seals in the Misty Fjords!  Harbor seals are 1 of 6 species of haired seals found in Alaskan waters, and typically use glacial fjords as a home base.  They can grow to 5 or 6 feet and can live 25-35 years.  Their hair is short and bristly and colors can vary from gray to dark brown to golden, usually with light spots on a dark background or vice versa.  Harbor seals can’t get their hind flippers underneath them, so when they get out of the water, they have to roll along (think of an animated caterpillar).  Unfortunately, when “hauling out”, they’re vulnerable to predation (bears come down to shorelines to steal pups, or orcas can snatch one up as they come/go to/from sea/land).  In fact, as we were headed upstream and before we saw these seals, we saw a pair of orcas (aka killer whales, and, too quick for the cameras) headed downstream toward the Inside Passage.  Hopefully, they hadn’t just filled their bellies!

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Our REAL Cruise Ship

Absolutely perfect!  Is she not a beauty?

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Sunset on the Behm

Behm Canal in the Misty Fjords in the Tongass National Forest

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Momentarily Changing Tunes, er… I Mean Tones

Traveling upstream in the Behm Canal headed toward Rudyerd Bay and points north, all of which are part of the Tongass National Forest, the nation’s largest national forest, which covers most of Southeast Alaska, surrounding the famous Inside Passage. It offers unique chances to view eagles, bears, spawning salmon, and the breath-taking vistas of “wild” Alaska.  Wildlife eluded us, but not for long.  Surrounded and awestruck by beauty everywhere every day.  (Since the trip ended, though, post-editing can drive me batty once in awhile, hence some graphics alternatives.)

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New Eddystone Rock, Misty Fjords

This distinctive 280-foot pillar of basalt came from fractures in the floor of Behm Canal, indicating it was part of a volcanic vent over the last 5 million years.  It stands at the entrance to Rudyerd Bay, one of the most scenic waterways in the Misty Fjords area.  As a prominent landmark, the rock is cited in many historical references, including that of Captain Vancouver, who named the rock after England’s Eddystone Lighthouse.

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Behm Canal

Approaching the Misty Fjords National Monument, the 108-mile Behm Canal is a natural channel that separates Revillagigedo Island from mainland Alaska.  We’re about to behold yet another scenic wonderland…  and heck!  we were on the lookout for owls, whales, sea lions, bears and other wildlife!  However, unbeknownst to us at the time 

… I have since learned that the Behm Canal is also the home to a U.S. Navy Submarine sound testing range that’s used to ensure U.S. Submarines are as quiet as they can be.  Apparently, it works!!  We never had a clue!  We could have been looking for subs as well!  Check out this 1990 news article, “Alaska Town Split Over Plan to Test Submarines” and more re: SEAFAC (Southeast Alaska Measurement Facility).  There’s also (I kid you not) this 1988 article from page 55 of the “Bulletin of Atomic Scientists” re: the $50M training range on Back Island, located on one side of the canal.

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