“You are new. Who are you?”
This was a common question I was asked in April when I first arrived at my new home in Glacier Bay National Park near Gustavus, Alaska. Everywhere I went, people
accosted me introduced themselves, asking me dozens of questions.
“Where are you from? Are you working at the lodge? When do you open for the year?”
I felt like a celebrity, and it made sense: Gustavus is a tiny town with 400 hearty residents. The high school had a graduating class of two this year. There are only a few businesses, the most important being the liquor store which is only open from 4-6pm, three days a week, during the winter.
Gustavus is also extremely isolated, accessible from Juneau only by a four-hour ferry trip or a 25-minute flight that is as nerve-wracking as it is spectacular. Anyone new in town is a novelty, someone else to talk to, especially in April after a long winter.
Although curious, everyone was extremely welcoming and friendly. At least for the most part. Everyone here waves when passing in cars and I failed to do this on my first day while driving a company van. My co-workers got an earful from a local who felt shunned, and in turn gave me an earful. I now dutifully wave at everyone. The post master was also mad at us because we had several weeks of mail and boxes clogging his diminutive building.
Now that I’m all settled in to my new digs, let me be a good host and give you a tour of Gustavus and Glacier Bay National Park.
Glacier Bay National Park, Bartlett Cove Area
The area around Bartlett Cove is where I work and live. We have some wild neighbors, like black bears, killer whales, bald eagles, park rangers, porcupines, river otters that like to copulate right outside our door, and moose.
A common refrain here is, “Are you going up bay?” The raison de etre of the park is the magnificent bay and the gargantuan tidewater glaciers that spill into the the headwaters 60 miles from Bartlett Cove. A tour up the bay is one of the top experiences in Alaska and sightings of sea lions, seals, porpoises, otters, bears and mountain goats are all but guaranteed. During the summer, the mouth of the bay is thick with whales.
I hope you enjoyed the tour of my new home. If you ever get the chance to visit Glacier Bay National Park, you should definitely do that. It is spectacular. Just don’t forget to wave at the locals.