The water is mirror-smooth. An eagle circles, spirals, drops talon-first to glance the surface, rises away. I walk out over rain-slick rocks toward the point with the belching seals. They’re sunning in their improbable rock-top crescent balances, nose and tail pointed skyward.
Yesterday, we skimmed out to the head of the bay to explore the three glaciers. Our rubber dinghy bottomed out in bubbling gray silt while seals rolled and watched. We hiked as close as we dared to all three: beside a river on a gray flat expanse, then climbing rock to rock towards a waterfall to watch the ice chunks fall and break on the mountainside, then along wolf and bear cub tracks on a dry sand river towards the third.
The glaciers toy with scale, distort distance. What looks like low shrubs are a grove of cottonwoods. The ice seems close but we walk towards it for an hour or more. Flat land turns to boulders you couldn’t climb, and the shallow-looking stream shoves in fast currents too high for your boots.
Lituya Bay has rocks you want to touch, examine, break apart, put in your pocket. There is pure white translucent quartz streaked with yellow or green and sandwiched in granite. A band of black crystals shimmers in a giant boulder. Sediment layers break apart to reveal fossilized shells. Boulders are striped, marbled, streaked, speckled. The ones by the bay’s mouth are marble-round from waves; by the glaciers, they’re cloven from falling debris.
Today, we ran the boat out to the Paps at the mouth, beach walking day in warm sun. The section by the tide rips was perfect gold sand interrupted with meters-high boulders and otter tracks. Out on the sea edge, seals and sea lions jockeyed for position on rocks just behind the breakers. An enormous bull seal undulated and yawned on his own monolith in the sun. We let our shore anchor sink beneath the tide, so we read on the beach waiting as boulders re-emerged.
During the rain days, I was ready to leave, but now in the sun, my breath sighs out long as I think of untying the shelter lines, folding tent poles.
I’m lingering on a beach rock in the last rays of golden hour, dinner long past, the sea otter cracking shells in the cove. But the wind is coming up before the light fades, and I know it’s time to go.