AT LAND’S END – ALASKA, PART 8

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Homer Spit is a place that immediately hits you on a visceral level – almost desolate yet peaceful and with a dreamy diffused light that has an ethereal beauty. It hit my photographer’s bullseye and I had to take a few “artsy” photos, so please indulge me. I hope these next pics gives you some sense of what we felt:

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HORSESphoto courtesy of Lenore

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Fortunately there were only a few reminders of civilization:

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Once again we will be visiting a glacier – called Grewingk which sits atop of its own lake, but to get there we must take a small boat to an even more remote area of Kachemak Bay.

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As we motor by, a group of clouds linger over a Kachemak Forest mountain peak – giving it the illusion of a smoking volcano – not unrealistic, given the territory:

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And again I see clouds hovering just over land – I am determined to find out what this phenomenon is called:

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How can I not include this image as my camouflage hat made the rounds:

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It was a little disconcerting as we disembarked to see that  we were left on a stark beach which looked completely uninhabited:

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Undeterred, we head off immediately into the forest to begin our climb with Lenore taking the first steps in and then J taking over for the longer trek up:

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It is lushly beautiful in the forest but we are again cautioned by J that there might be bear and/or moose.  Indeed, as we travel up the trail we see a number of piles of bear and moose scat, some only hours old adding a frisson of fear to my brain.  Fortunately we did not come upon the owners.

There are also a number of plants to steer clear of and while I am saving a description of Alaskan plants and flowers for a separate post, these bear (no pun intended) mention now.  Those maple looking leaves on either side of J are “Devil’s Club,” a dense plant in the ginseng family which can grow up to 8 feet tall.  Not only do the leaves have spines on their veins and stems, in August, its red berries also have thorns.  The latin name “Echinpanax horridum” is particularly apt as the berries are toxic.  Ironically though, extracts from this plant are used extensively as medicines by the indigenous peoples.  There are edible berries along this trail such as the common blueberry, but although a few brave trekkers tasted them and declared them sweet – I opted to pass:

grewingk blueberrycourtesy of Lenore

The dense forest trail continued and I loved the quietness of it – broken occasionally by the sounds of a bird or squirrel who were too shy to catch on camera:

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However soon we started to see glimpses of Grewingk Lake so we knew we were          approaching our destination, this being the shorter but steeper of our hikes:

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And then there it was – Grewingk Glacier and our very own glacier lake beach:

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Even from a distance we were struck by the aqua color of the ice:

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And we had closeups of our very first icebergs that split as we watched!

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There was more.  You may have noticed that J was carrying a horizontal contraption on the bottom of his pack – a foldable picnic table that was now set up for our treats.  John and J had smoked halibut, salmon, scallops and had other goodies for us to nibble on while we sat in awe of our incredible surroundings:

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Our adventure was not yet over as we were soon to discover on the Saddle Trail heading back down to the beach for our boat pickup.  A different route than our uphill trek, this was decidedly windier, steeper, with tree roots seemingly grabbing at our ankles and given recent rains, very slippery.  This would have been the perfect place to employ my walking stick for additional leverage but given that it was at the hotel I was forced to figure out alternative methods to get down this winding trail.  And, as a crowning point to our most difficult downward hike, we had to navigate this in order to get down to the actual beach  (taken after the descent):

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Although these stairs looked rickety, they were actually quite sturdy.  What you can’t quite see, for at this point my camera was stowed away as I had more pressing concerns,  was an initial beach bed of large rocks and boulders – definitely not for the balance-challenged – but with ony one near splashdown I did manage to get to the smoother, pebbly beach that also had clumps of barnacles, mussels and sea urchins:

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Back on the boat, we say farewell to Grewingk Glacier and head back to Homer Spit for a lovely farewell dinner where even the flowers are edible.

But our adventure is not yet over.  Stay tuned for our spine-chilling flight into the clouds and a landing into a most unique bar.

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