Sunday, June 16, 2013

From a rain forest to the moon and beyond?

Yesterday we started a hike that began in a rain forest on West Mendenhall Glacier Trail.  It was lush and green and about 78 degrees.

Two hours later and about 1500-2000 feet higher it seemed like we were on the moon.

It was stark, barren, rocky, windy and about 20 degrees colder.  We had made our target.  We were standing on a large Alaskan ice cube known as Mendenhall Glacier. 

It was not what I had expected it to be.  You hear and read about the glacial silt, but the glacier was more black than white on the surface.  All that blue ice that you see is not on the top or the sides.  I guess 1000s of years of grinding through the mountains must take a toll on ice.

Once on the glacier everyone told us to look for the waterfall, "You will know it once you see it" they said.  We found it and hiked, traversed, slid and dodged boulders to the base of the waterfall and then we turned around.... there it was, a large mouth staring at us...

...the mouth of the Mendenhall Glacier ice cave.  Many said, "Enter at your own risk.  The first 25 yards is the danger zone".  "Watch out for falling ice and rocks."  So do I enter or not?  Do I risk the entry for the experience?  Do I venture into the belly of a 1000 year old ice flow?  

Another hiker came along and asked if I wanted to go in with him...He would if I would.  Without even a pause I said, "Of course!"  So, with Gwen staking out the entrance as our Safety Officer,  Ryan and I ventured into Mendenhall Glacier.

Once past the entrance and light from the outside and past the "danger zone" we entered a world of total blue.

To say that it was "amazing" is an understatement.  We actually went from the rain forest, to the moon, to a different planet.  This ice has been in the glacier for 1000's of years and I was able to walk in and view it, experience it, be dripped on by it,  and I even touched it...The belly of a glacier.

Now, I still have 100s of images of water flows on the glacier, formations from the glacier and rocks in the glacial ice.  But for today that does not hold a candle to the experience of walking under a glacier.  Fear not, those images will come soon.  I just need a few rainy days so that I can process them.  For the last 4-5 weeks it had been unseasonably sunny and very little rain.  Great for taking pictures but bad for sitting inside and processing them.

P.S. the rocks even help you sometimes...

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