Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Hiking Matanuska Glacier

When I arrived in Alaska a little over a year ago I jumped right into my role as an intern. With VBS just a week after I arrived I was quickly introduced to the people of the congregation and region of Chugiak, Alaska.

 Pastor so graciously took me to all the typical tourist places and one of the first places I went to was Matanuska Glacier. At 27 miles long by 4 miles wide, it is the largest glacier accessible by car in the United States. Its terminus (snout) is the source of the Matanuska River. Pastor and I did not walk on it but seeing it from afar was amazing.

Fast forward two months and my fiancé Adam arrived. I took him to Matanuska Glacier to share with him my fascination as we paid the park fee to go hiking on the glacier.

Now, more than a year later I wanted to see the glacier one last time before I leave Alaska. The new DCE intern Ryan arrived here Friday. When Monday rolled around I offered to take Ryan to see it because, well it’s the Alaska experience and it's quite something to see.
Mile 49.9 of the Glenn Highway

The drive there is half the beauty. North, past Palmer is several scenic overlooks with spectacular views. Once on the glacier we hiked our way past the dirty, silt covered ice onto the beautiful white and glacier blue ice mound. As we hiked further onto the glacier we crossed more and more little streams of melting ice.

We reached an impasse at a wide stream of glacial water. We couldn’t jump over it so we had to backtrack. We discovered that we could not take the easy trail as it lead to the stream. So we did what any explorer would have—we broke out the crampons (ice cleats) and Yaktrax to gain traction and hike not on the flat easy trail but up and over a steep peak upon the glacier.
Each of those peaks are upwards of 50-100 feet tall. It's deceptive in the photo.
Walking on the glacier
Look at the people for perspective and comparison.
One foot in front of the other and we made it. We saw a little ways in front of us an ice waterfall. It seemed like a great site so we decided to hike over to it. The waterfall on its own was beautiful but the pool of glacial water below was stunning. The color combination from the reflection of the sky above and the ice around blended a mix of blue, gray, and green. I joked that all we needed was a polar bear and it would be an “All-in-one Alaska photo”.

We took pictures and Ryan lost one of his Yaktrax in the process. He was going to retrieve it too, but doing so would have meant a sharp decent down 7 foot of ice toward the icy water below. Even if he would have gotten down i'm not sure he could have reached it as it sank to the bottom.

Ryan's Yaktrax at the bottom of the icy pool of water.
Waterfall (look closely to the left it blends in with the ice)
Love the color of the water.
My shoes are not untied-those are the straps from my crampons
With our destination complete we made our way back to the car. As we jumped over the streams of ice water, and crevasses of ice my water bottle fell out of my side pouch and landed in the water below. It was rapidly rushed down stream before Ryan or I could grab it. I feel terrible and it was not my intention to "trash Alaska" but like Ryan's Yaktrax there was no way to retrieve it...not to mention it continued down stream and is probably halfway to Palmer via the Matanuska River.

We eventually made it back to the car and back safely to Chugiak. It was a great day and a perfect bookend to my Alaska internship. With a week left and my days numbered I take comfort in the fact that I have gotten to spend a year in this great state. I am ready to be reunited with my husband-to-be, but will still miss this place and these people. I love this place!

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