In honor of National Parks Week (and Earth Day), I'm finally getting around to posting about our big trip to Alaska last summer. We spent 2.5 weeks up there at the end of August and the beginning of September, doing a kayaking trip in Kenai Fjords National Park and a backpacking trip in Wrangell St. Elias National Park.
|Morning sky over Resurrection Bay|
Unless you're a very experienced sea kayaker, you can't rent kayaks to do your own trip. We went with an outfitter, Kayak Adventures Worldwide, and it was absolutely the right move -- the conditions in the fjords can be unpredictable and even dangerous, and it was reassuring to be with folks who knew the area inside and out. We had two guides on our trip: Dave, the company owner, and Jamie, an experienced guide he was training to lead this particular trip. Both were warm, enthusiastic, and super-knowledgeable.This company works hard to be environmentally aware, and to educate as well as lead fun trips. The night before our trip, we had an orientation meeting, in which we talked about gear and safety, got set with PFDs (hardcore life jackets), spray skirts, etc, and chatted with the guides about what we hoped to see (me: Orcas, Orcas, and did I mention orcas?! Someone went to Sea World a few times too many as an impressionable kid :-)
|Aialik Glacier. Notice the bits of ice floating in the bay.|
|View from the water taxi, heading into Cataract Cove|
|Kayaks pulled up on the beach in Northwestern Lagoon|
|Campsite on Northwestern Lagoon|
|Walking across moraine to the foot of a glacier.|
Glaciers are not stationary objects. They move, due to the slope of the surface and the pressure of snow and ice above. Sometimes from a distance a glacier will look almost like a river -- you can actually see the pattern of the flow. In addition, glaciers retreat over time, or grow smaller, a process that is rapidly accelerating in the modern world, thanks to global warming. As glaciers move, they pick up gravel and huge boulders from the earth beneath them. This gravel is left in the wake of glaciers as they retreat, in the form a moraine -- gravel and boulders. That's what we're walking across in the photo above.
|Nose of the glacier, up close|
After our short exploration, we came back to camp, made dinner, and had a relaxing first evening. This was the view from our first campsite at twilight. Even in late August, and fairly far south in Alaska, darkness comes late, and twilight seems to linger forever.This picture was taken at probably10:30pm.
The following day, we paddled out into the lagoon and got up close and personal with some calving glaciers. More on that soon!