Did you know that Alaska gets 40 minutes more light on average than the rest of the country? That’s because the sun rises and sets later in Alaska due to time zone boundaries. In addition, during my visit during the summer, the sun didn’t set until after 11PM. All this extra daylight allows a great opportunity to keep on going – and Alaska is just packed with adventures you just don’t want to miss. Day Three was no exception – although the beginning was not auspicious as a thick fog had descended obscuring our destination:
Fortunately by the time we finished breakfast, the fog began to dissipate:
Soon it was clear enough to see the valley below our next climb, The Exit Glacier which flows out of the great Harding Ice Field in the height of the Kenai Fjord National Forest and Mountains:
Exit Glacier is one of the 50 glaciers that flow from the Harding Icefield covering 700 square miles. Created more than 23,000 years ago during the Pleistocene Era at the height of the Ice Age, the Harding Icefield was a small piece of the vast ice sheet that covered much of South Central Alaska while at the time, ice blanketed one-third of the Earth’s surface. Exit Glacier filled this entire valley above, but now like many glaciers and indeed the Harding Ice FIeld as well, it is retreating, having melted back almost 1,000 feet.
Here is our trail, which leads from the Center through a cottonwood forest up past the toe of the glacier to the very edge, a distance of two miles looped and an approximate elevation of 1000 feet. I don’t have exact figures on the height we reached so am taking a guess – if someone has more accurate reading let me know and I will revise.
The large mass of loose rock below the toe of the glacier is called a scree, a mass of small loose stones that form or cover a slope on a mountain. The side of the glacier also was rock – strewn – with many sizes, making it particularly treacherous to traverse, especially downhill. But it was worth it as the dazzling blue ice was mesmerizing. Here is what I saw as i climbed closer and closer – shot by shot so perhaps you can feel my awe:
Incredible right? The vibrant blue was almost unworldly. And to dispel doubts that this is like the Moon Landing that some people still believe is phony – here is a shot of me at the glacier’s edge. Note that at the bottom of the trail I just had my sleeveless top and leggings – when we got to the glacier the air swooping off the ice chilled the air considerably. It’s all about layers!
More to come!