Getting close-up and personal with a enormous river of ice. Whilst we still can!
On the last day of our stay on the Kenai Peninsula the sun finally decided to poke its head out from the clouds. Full of hope we decided this would be good time to go and explore a place we had wanted to visit all week – the romantically named Exit Glacier. The glacier is actually a National Monument and as we approached the Visitor Centre on the entry road there are markers on the roadside with dates going back into last century. The markers show where the front face of this glacier was in that year. Exit Glacier is as it’s name suggests is “exiting” – retreating back up to the Harding Ice Field from whence it came, waiting for the next appearance of global cooling before starting its next march forward. The retreat is inextricable and scarily rapid – we’re just glad to be here to see Exit before it exits.
As always we go the Visitor Centre first to get the lay of the land and to check out the Junior Ranger program. Emily as ever is enthusiastic to earn her badge, Jack more reticent – sees himself above being a “Junior” Ranger – but as always we bully him into it and as always he is happy to get the badge. We get into a bit of a debate why glaciers emit a cool blue light and the Ranger is a little miffed when we question his theories so we decided to allow him to wallow in his clouded delusion and take one of the trails.
Our route wiggled through the trees and brush and brought us to the cold, fast flowing river that is entirely the creation of water melting from the great glacier. The river is narrow in comparison to the flood plain which is covered with smooth, pebble like stones from a time when then river was much larger or indeed in a different place. We leave the trail to cross the river plane. After leaping over couple of tiny tributaries we were able to walk right to the face of Exit Glacier. Here you can touch the glacier, observe the crystalline structure and hear the sounds of the glacier; cracking and creaking under the pressure of millions of tons of ice and waters melting into numerous streams that eventually congregate and join to form the river below. We are all stunned by this experience. From the glacier face we take another trail which brought us to the side of the glacier where you can see the tortured structure of this frozen river – deep crevasses starting at the glaciers top surface and dropping down tens of feet. The sun light penetrates the outer shell of the glacier and is reflected back giving the glacier its steely blue ice color. This was an almost spiritual experience.
Sadly, it was time to leave Exit Glacier – we could stayed all day but it was also time to leave Seward and head back to Anchorage for one more night. It was a lovely day and the views are spectacular and we made a few stops for photos on the way back – including a few more moose shots. Never have to many of those – at least as far as Emily is concerned.