My Itchy Travel Feet | The Baby Boomer's Guide To Travel

Hiking on a Cruise to Alaska?

2011/05/03by Donna Hull

Hike and cruise. Do those words even go together? If you’re active baby boomers cruising on an InnerSea Discoveries ship — no problem. Last September, Alan and I had the opportunity to try out several of the hikes that are offered on the adventure cruise company’s itinerary, Alaska Inside Passage: Eastern Coves. The hiking excursions are rated by level of difficulty, which makes it easy to choose one that is appropriate for our boomer fitness level.

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Hike to Cascade Waterfall in Thomas Bay, Alaska

Cascade Creek Trail

After spending the night anchored in Thomas Bay, we wake to a mystical scene as mist plays about in the trees that crowd the shoreline. Boarding the skiff, our Level 2 hiking group motors to land and the start of Cascade Creek Trail. Water from the creek roars beside us as we make our way on the boardwalk path to the foot of Cascade Waterfall. After stopping for photos, we hike up wooden steps that climb the hillside, surrounded by temperate rainforest of spruce and hemlock, with salmon berries decorating the thick undergrowth.

“Look,” says InnerSeas Discoveries naturalist, Nikitakua, pointing to moose droppings.

The group clusters around the moose’s calling card, some of us secretly hoping for an appearance.

The trail continues uphill to a bridge that crosses near the waterfall. After a few hundred feet, we stop for more photos before turning around. Negotiating the wet, slippery boardwalk trail back to shore, and the waiting skiff, is made easier by the poles that the ship has provided.

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Exploring Baird Glacier in Southeast Alaska

Baird Glacier Trail Hike

When the ship anchors in Scenic Cove, Baird Glacier is just a skiff ride away. Arriving at a rocky beach, we step out onto the glacier’s terminal moraine. This Level 2 hike offers a possible wet landing and slippery surface, so Alan and I wear rubber boots provided by the ship. Once again, my trusty poles (again, courtesy of InnerSea Discoveries) give this baby boomer confidence on the uneven surfaces that the hike traverses.

At first, the hike (there is no trail), negotiates land left behind from the glacier’s exit. Mossy fields are littered with stones, both large and small, rounded by glacial action into smooth globes, some sheltering nurseries of tiny evergreens as the earth claims what the glacier left behind.

The sound of water permeates the air – dripping, gurgling, streaming glacial runoff. To climb onto the top of the glacier, we skip lightly across a spongy stream of mud before the last, brief climb onto the top of the ice. What do we find? Another world. Ridges, hills and valleys of ice as far as we can see. But the ice isn’t pure white — that resides farther up the valley. Instead, the ice around us is a dirty brown with embedded chunks of debris. With its peaks and valleys, the surface reminds me of the peaks of meringue on a chocolate cream pie.

Since we visited Baird Glacier on a rare sunny day, waterproof safari pants over long underwear kept me warm. A hat and gloves provided protection against the cold wind blowing off the glacier; but a visit during rainy weather would require that baby boomers wear rain gear and a cautious attitude due to slippery conditions.

boomer-hike-american-safari-cruise

Hiking across the muskeg bog on Three Lakes Loop Trail

Three Lakes Loop Trail

If you’ve ever traveled on a cruise, you know the feeling of needing to go for a vigorous walk — on land. Meet Three Lakes Loop Trail, near Petersburg, Alaska. Once again, we begin this Level 2 hike by motoring to shore from the ship. The mostly boardwalk trail (some parts are gravel) loops around Sand, Hill and Crane Lakes. In the process, there is a gradual climb through the forest to areas of prairie and muskeg bogs. The approximately 4.5-mile round trip hike offers possible wildlife sightings of black bear, moose and beaver.

Wolverine Creek Trail

In Yes Bay, InnerSea Discoveries guests visit Yes Bay Lodge in the Tongass National Forest. The muddy trail behind the lodge negotiates a hillside, overlooking a creek that’s known for good bear watching. With small obstacles along the path, baby boomer hikers are advised to watch their footing. Depending on how far you hike, this is designated a Level 1 or Level 2 hike.

So there you have it – four hiking trails that are part of a cruise itinerary that will keep active baby boomers happy. Who said you couldn’t hike on a cruise?

Congratulations to InnerSea Discoveries on the recent christening of the adventure ships – Wilderness Discoverer and Wilderness Adventurer. In addition to the Eastern Coves itinerary, the two ships will cruise the Western Coves of the Inside Passage as well as cruises that stretch from Seattle to Juneau or Juneau to Seattle. And if you’re looking for a more upscale small ship cruising adventure, try their sister company, American Safari Cruises.

Have you hiked on a cruise in Alaska? Post a comment to share your experiences. Alan and I think it beats sitting on the deck by the pool any day.

Disclosure: InnerSea Discoveries and American Safari Cruises provided this travel experience. We cruised on an American Safari ship, Safari Quest, but experienced InnerSea Discoveries excursions and itinerary.

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A boomer travel and lifestyle authority who is exploring the world one activity at a time. Besides writing and publishing My Itchy Travel Feet, she also writes about boomer travel for My Well-Being Powered by Humana, Make It Missoula and is the author of My Itchy Travel Feet: Breathtaking Adventure Vacation Ideas.

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous May 4, 2011 at 11:35 am

Those look like wonderful hikes. Don’t know how I’d do on the slippery surfaces, especially since I’m still nursing a bad knee, but the others sound divine. The boardwalk through the bog looks particularly beautiful. I’m jealous.

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Donna Hull
Twitter:
May 4, 2011 at 12:53 pm

Barbara, they are such fun hikes. And Baird Glacier isn’t that slippery on a sunny day. I can’t imagine what it would be like during the usual mist and rain that one finds in Alaska’s Inside Passage.

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nopotcooking
Twitter:
May 4, 2011 at 3:58 pm

Wow! These sound like great hikes. I was disappointed when we were in Alaska – our trip to the glaciar got cancelled so I never got to walk on one.

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Donna Hull
Twitter:
May 4, 2011 at 4:19 pm

Brette, our first glacier experience (on a different cruise) was cancelled, too. Alaska weather plays havoc with cruise excursions.

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Donna Hull
Twitter:
May 5, 2011 at 12:09 am

Brette, our first glacier experience (on a different cruise) was cancelled, too. Alaska weather plays havoc with cruise excursions.

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Skraft May 4, 2011 at 4:58 pm

One of our most thrilling adventures was to hike on a glacier during a cruise to Alaska. Of course, I haven’t traveled nearly as much as you, so it might pale in comparison to some of your experiences/1

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Donna Hull
Twitter:
May 4, 2011 at 5:08 pm

Sheryl, I bet your hike on a glacier was just as special as mine.

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Jane Boursaw
Twitter:
May 4, 2011 at 9:16 pm

It all sounds very mystical and Hobbit-ish!

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Donna Hull
Twitter:
May 4, 2011 at 9:31 pm

It was all that and more!

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Mark H May 4, 2011 at 10:40 pm

I love the idea of getting out and exploring on foot. Much more Alaskan intimacy than just seeing it from a ship. The glaciers, waterfalls, wildlife – some great hikes.

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Donna Hull
Twitter:
May 4, 2011 at 11:03 pm

Thanks for commenting, Mark. This was a very intimate look at Alaska by way of a cruise. The fact that the ship anchors each night in a secluded cove makes it special. There’s nothing like waking up to the sounds of morning in Alaska.

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MyKidsEatSquid May 6, 2011 at 7:48 pm

I love the idea of pairing an active hike with a nice relaxing cruise experience.

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Donna Hull
Twitter:
May 6, 2011 at 8:02 pm

It’s a great combination!

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Ruthpennebaker May 6, 2011 at 8:48 pm

we’ve intended to take a cruise to alaska for years. this looks wonderful, so thanks for reminding me.

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Donna Hull
Twitter:
May 6, 2011 at 9:04 pm

Hope you’ll be going soon, Ruth.

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sunny lockwood September 18, 2013 at 7:11 pm

On our Alaska Cruise last May, we had a wonderful time in Sitka exploring the Russian cemetery. We had been looking for unusual photo opportunities and this stunningly beautiful cemetery offered endless possibilities.

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Donna Hull
Twitter:
September 20, 2013 at 7:36 am

Thanks for the tip, Sunny. On our next trip to Sitka we’ll have to visit the cemetery.
Donna Hull recently posted..Three Ways To Really Connect With Your Next Destination My Profile

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Robert Fowler
Twitter:
February 19, 2014 at 6:34 pm

That’s a great picture of you hiking across a bog. The color of the grasses is brilliant. We did Hike Maui but never in Alaska. I bet it is gorgeous.
Robert Fowler recently posted..Retirement PlanningMy Profile

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