Be sure to read part 1 here.
After what was probably one of my worst night’s sleep ever (Thanks Princess for horrible accommodations…I’ve have slept better in chairs in the ICU before!), I was exhausted, but more than ready to set out on an adventure of a lifetime. However, getting to the glacier was no easy task; it involved an hour bus ride, a plane ride, another bus ride, and a 2 mile hike!
Due to the lack of roads (Juneau, the state’s capital, has no roads connecting it to the rest of the state!) and because of the state’s size, 1 out of every 70 Alaskans has a pilot’s license and many families own a single engine prop plane or float plat. Some of the pilots have figured out they can make a living by serving as air taxis for tourists. I used one of these taxi services and everyone at the airport seemed excited for the flight, except me. Yes, the small plane was cool. But to me, a plane is a plane. Maybe I wasn’t impressed because my dad, who was a pilot, likes to ramble on and on about anything having to do with flying to the point that I now tune it all out. (Sorry, Dad!) Basically, part of the plane has to be on fire before I get excited. (Which has happened to me and, no, that was not the good kind of excitement.) Despite my lack of enthusiasm, the views from the plane were amazing!
I also wasn’t looking forward to the two mile hike; I just wanted to get to the glacier. Yet, it turned out to be enjoyable. I did, however, find myself wishing I brought my hiking boots rather than just tennis shoes. Not because the trail was hard, but because I’m a klutz. I found myself distracted by the endless scenery rather than watching where I was going and I rolled my ankle a couple of times.
Brian, the main tour guide, only contributed to my lack of ability to focus because he was incredibly knowledgeable about glaciers, mountain climbing, and the nature surrounding us. For example, I never would have guessed that the picture below is a glacier.
I thought it was dirt or part of a mountain. Brian explained that as the glaciers move, they carve paths through the earth and soil gets mixed into the ice. The sun melts the top layer of ice and as the water runs down, some of the soil runs off with it. But the soil is heavier than the water; thus more of it gets left behind. When enough of the dirt builds up, the glacier is no longer white. Interestingly, the soil acts as insulation and causes the rate of melting to slow down. As time passes, the wind, snow, melting, or the other half the glacier (that is still white and moves at a faster rate) pushes the dirt off and the process begins again.
Ever wonder why the water on glaciers is blue? I have and I thought it had to do with the light reflecting. Nope. Again, it has to do with movement. As the glacier slowly creeps along, the pressure on the ice builds up and the more pressure the ices is under, the bluer the water is as it melts. Brian did a good job explaining the science behind this, but science was never my best subject and I didn’t retain the knowledge.
The next post, will be part 3.