A Photo Tour of My New Home: Glacier Bay National Park and Gustavus, Alaska

Gustavus beach at sunset.

 

“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.

Gustavus, Alaska

Mt. Fairweather sunset

The expansive Gustavus beach at low tide with the sun setting behind Mt. Fairweather.

Gustavus, Alaska

Gustavus, Alaska.

Gustavus gas station.

The charming gas station.

Photogenic boat

One of the many photogenic boats at the small boat harbor.

Gustavus beach at sunset.

Gustavus beach at sunset.

Gustavus at low tide

Gustavus small boat harbor at low tide.

Icy Straight and Gustavus beach.

Icy Straight and Gustavus beach.

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 Tlingit carving

A Tlingit carving,

The forest loop trail.

A mossy branch hangs over the boardwalk on the forest loop trail.

Bartlett Cove at Sunset

Bartlett Cove from Halibut Point at sunset.

mushrooms and moss

Mushrooms and moss cover everything in the rain forest.

Lupine on the beach

Lupine and other wildflowers cover the beach in spring.

Boat in Bartlett Cove

Boat in Bartlett Cove.

“Up bay”

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.

Marble Islands Glacier Bay

The Marble Islands are covered with Sea Lions.

Mountain goats glacier Bay

Terrestrial animals, such as bears, goats and wolves, can be seen from the boat tour.

Hanging Glacier.

Hanging Glacier near Jaw Point.

John Hopkins Glacier

John Hopkins Glacier.

Marjorie Glacier

Marjorie Glacier.

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.


Have you ever been to southeast Alaska or Glacier Bay National Park?


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47 Comments on “A Photo Tour of My New Home: Glacier Bay National Park and Gustavus, Alaska

  1. With scenery like that you don’t really need to travel anywhere else in the world, do you? Alaska is one of four states I have not visited. I want to get there…now more than ever. Thanks! Oh, and get this. I took a break from writing my newest post and read a few blog posts, and then came across these words in your post: raison d’etre. It’s funny because only a few hours earlier, I had written that very phrase in my post. It’s like what they say about “Great Minds” is all I’m saying! Another great post, Jeff. Missed you…where you been, moving? And do you work at the lodge?

    • Thanks for the comments and hopefully our minds are great since they think alike. I suppose the inverse could also be true.

      If you haven’t been to Alaska, you need to do it. There is no state like it. Last night, for example, I was on a little rocky peninsula at sunset. There shoreline is covered in wildflowers, a porcupine was in the trail, a bald eagle flew by and snatched a seagull out of the sky and started eating it on a rock near me, oyster catchers were guarding their nest squawking and a pod of humpback whales started slapping their tales and blowing vapor into the sky. I’m not exaggerating at all. It is totally magical.

      Yes, been moving and working a lot. I have a few posts lined up that I wrote this winter that didn’t make the cut. Some might be strange. Enjoy.

      • Brother…I wish you’d have posted this a month ago when I was trying to decide whether or not to fly to the States. I had Hawaii in mind, but then that faded. But I still had the ticket home. Had I read this, I would have visited Alaska this summer, for sure. OK, nothing’s for sure for me. Can I get a job at the lodge?

  2. Glad to hear you are all settled in and now understand all the proper etiquette of your new home. The views are stunning and I look forward to following along as you explore.

  3. Wow, such a unique place to be working in…Alaska is one of the places that I dream of going although I don’t know how well I will be able to adjust to all that cold since i’m more used to the weather here in SEA..but quite an interesting move, what do you do there, if you don’t mind me asking…😁😁

    • Sha,

      I work at a lodge in the National Park. It is a lot of work but fun and I get to live in Alaska.

      You know, it really isn’t that cold here in the summer. It has been about 18-23 degrees Celsius this summer. It is a land totally different than southeast Asia, something you ought to see.

      Where do you live?

      • Ahh, I see…I’m from Singapore…unfortunately, anything below 25 degrees is cold to me…haha..but I’m still OK with those temperature ranges if it is so…I will try to make it there one day…it’ll be a totally different world to me…how exciting! 😆😆

  4. Great post- love the photos. Interesting mention on the park rangers? Have you seen any in the wild yet? Heard they can be a quirky bunch. Hope you don’t find any copulating outside your door. 😉

    • Park rangers can be an interesting bunch. One thing I will say, is that every single one of them are passionate about their jobs and national parks. All good people. And yes, hope there is no copulating outside the door by rangers. This winter when we lived in Anchorage, some homeless people were copulating on our porch. True story. It is nice to be in the wilderness where it is otters and not homeless people.

  5. looks wonderful. I like remote places that I don’t have to share with too many other people 🙂 What exactly is it you are doing? I’d love to be up there for half a year or so…

    • Hi Suze,

      I work in the tourism industry at the Glacier Bay Lodge. If you have permission to work in the U.S., you can easily get summer jobs in tourism. Depending on what you do, you can make some decent money, plus most come with cheap or free room and board. Have you been to AK before?

      • That’s good to know. I am getting my Visa in less than 2 months. The tourism industry up there has always been fascinating to me. I haven’t been to Alaska, I can’t wait to get my ass up there though! Thanks for your help!

      • The great thing about the tourism industry is that you get lots of perks, so you can do tours for free which will save a lot of money. Not sure what your background it in, but if you do end up looking for a job up here I can help. Just message me at jefferybell7@yahoo.com

  6. Stunning pictures!! What a lovely place, I think you made a good choice. Good luck!

  7. Ah you make me homesick for my Yukon days Jeff. Gorgeous photos of gorgeous scenery. And yes I’ve been to SE Alaska (Skagway a few times), but not to Glacier Bay. Also I know about the waving thing having lived in the tiny community (400) of Atlin for many years. It’s 50km south of the Yukon border and at the end of 100km of gravel road. You had to really want to go there. Spectacular scenery though. I echo badfish’s questions. Also want to know where you chose for your next big trip. Seems to me that was the subject last time you were around 🙂
    Alison

    • Hi Alison,

      I’m working at a lodge in the park and really enjoy it. I am very busy (hence the lack of posts) but I really enjoy it.

      We drove a U-haul over from Anchorage and stayed the night in Beaver Creek before getting the ferry in Haines. At Beaver Creek, reception for the hotel was in the bar, and we ended up drinking with an assortment of locals and university students visiting from Quebec. It was a great time. Every square inch of Alaska, the Yukon and BC are drop dead gorgeous. The natural beauty is redundant.

      Next big trip…Your Burma posts make me really want to go there, but right now we are leaning towards Mexico and Cuba. I really want to visit Cuba before things change too much, and Mexico is cheap and close. We are thinking of traveling across Mexico by bus from north to south. I did it once before about 14 years ago and want to do it again.

      Thanks for commenting.

      • Well you sure can travel in comfort in those Mexican buses, unless you mean local buses which would be less comfortable but much more interesting. We also would like to see a lot more of Mexico, and Cuba is on my radar too for sure.
        Alison

      • I have put off Mexico for many years because it is so close and so many Americans go there, but I want to see the less touristy places. I’d say our 2nd choice would be to go to Burma, Bangladesh and India. Maybe we will do that next year. I feel a certain urgency to go to Cuba before change happens.

  8. We’ve been on a cruise that visited Glacier Bay National Park and the College Fjords. It was spectacular, especially seeing the glaciers calving! Seeing your pictures made me miss Alaska. After the cruise, we rented a camper and drove all the way up to Denali National Park. My hubby and I are for sure going to be working on getting back there, by hook or by crook! 🙂

    • I remember reading some of your posts about the trip. Alaska is addictive – I hope you make it back someday. I think cruising is a good way to see it, but renting a car is unbeatable. Where was your favorite place in AK?

  9. Ohhhhh – thank you for this! I miss Alaska and you reminded me of all the wonderful scenery up there. And the wonderful people!

    I did a bunch of work in Juneau and Ketchikan, so I will say to you – ENJOY the sunny days! Usually SE Alaska is soggy and humid and cloudy and rainy. Still very green, though! But I know from experience that getting out in the fresh air and moving around a bit can keep the drizzly days from feeling too depressing.

    Take care of yourself!

    • We are being spoiled by sunny days this year. I know the rain and drizzle is ahead. We have actually been in a burn ban off and on for most of the last month.

      Do you have any plans to visit Alaska again?

      • Yes I see from my Facebook feed that the AK weather has been awesome this year!

        Unfortunately I don’t have any visitation plans, no. I would prefer to move back, actually, once the kids are raised or mostly raised. I don’t think I would move to SE Alaska, although Juneau would be an excellent choice; for me, I can’t decide between Seward and Fairbanks.

      • Palmer’s not too bad – they do have a lovely minimum security facility not too far out of town. 🙂

  10. Having been living in Indonesia throughout my life, so far, it really fascinates me to think of people like you who live in such a tight-knit society — 400 people in the entire town! That’s probably the entire staff occupying two floors at my former office. However the scenery and wildlife seem truly incredible, Jeff.

    • Yes Bama, it is tight knit. Even more so, I work about 10 miles from the town with 55 other people. We are a very tiny community, but everyone is likeminded and seems to be getting along very well.

      You probably see 400 people on your way to work each day. It is definitely different.

      Are you getting excited for your trip? When do you leave?

  11. A beautiful photo essay, Jeff. I laughed out loud when I read about the otters… now that I think of it, that reminds me of the time I brought a friend from Minnesota around Hong Kong. We were in the Botanical Garden (where there’s a small zoo) when we came across two copulating tortoises. They were grunting like nobody’s business.

    The waving at strangers must be a small town thing. My brother was visiting his girlfriend’s hometown in Canada last summer and was perplexed when random people waved at him as they drove past. You’d never see anything like that in Hong Kong!

    • If you tried to wave at everyone in Hong Kong, your arm would fall off eventually and everyone would think you are crazy. I am from a town of 13,000 people that is on a major highway. Gustavus is 400 people on an isolated island of land. Gustavus is the opposite of Hong Kong.

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