Our guide for the Mendenhall glacier trek told us that there are 3 kinds of fun. Type 1 fun, is just "fun fun." Its good while its happening and afterward you remember it as fun. Type 2 fun is the kind of thing where you do something and even though you might be totally exhausted or in pain when its all over you remember it later as being an awesome thing to do. Type 3 fun, is no fun at all, it sucks when you do it and it doesn't get any better in your memory over time.
Yesterday was all about Type 2 fun. Today was 8 hours of hiking, rock scrabbling, and walking on the glacier. The last two and a half hours of hiking were in pouring rain. But already, just one day later we are remembering yesterday as an awesome day.
We left the ship at 8:15AM to meet our guide, Gabe, who drove us out to the trail head. Gabe had backpacks for us with our glacier gear in them, a hiking pick axe, a helmet, a harness, and crampons. Also some light snacks. We were in our Alaskan layers of Dry Fit, Kuhl Fleece, and North Face. To this we added rain pants and a rain jacket. There was a light rain falling at the beginning of our hike, but that stopped somewhere along the way. The hike starts out pretty easy, and gets gradually more difficult the closer you get to the glacier. There was one point where we were truly climbing up the rocks next to a small waterfall. It was great, but it wasn't easy.
After only a half a mile, people were stopping to shed layers of clothing like crazy. We continued this process for a good portion of the hike.
After two and a half hours of hiking and climbing over rocks we were really getting close to the glacier. With Gabe's help we did some estimating on where the glacier would have been the last time we were in Alaska. It was really interesting to take a picture from that point and to see how far it has receded.
We took a short break to get our glacier gear unpacked and to gear up for our trek on the glacier itself. About this time it started to rain a bit harder, and it even looked like a few snowflakes by the time it hit the ground, so we cooled off very quickly while we were getting ready.
On the glacier, we found some cool blue ice holes and practiced walking with our crampons. Then Gabe asked if we would like to try some ice climbing. Why not?! The vacation has been injury free so far so we might as well try something new. This was really a blast even though it was just a short little climb to get the hang of it. Ice climbing involves driving your crampons straight into the ice wall, while hanging from two pick axes. Of course we had a safety line so we wouldn't fall, if we lost our grip. It was really fun but took a lot of effort. Brian and I made it all the way to the top, and Jane and Holly both made a good run at it.
At this point we had been hiking and on the glacier for about three and a half hours. We knew we had two and a half more to get back so we were just about at the point to say it was time to head back, but Gabe had one last surprise for us. He took us over to the side of the glacier where we took off our crampons and hiked down to a spot where there was a cave. We hiked right inside the glacier. There was a little stream flowing into the glacier, and the ice was really amazing. Overhead the ice was glowing blue from the light filtering in from above. On the sides it looked like polished metal, which was because the ice was dirty and there was no light coming in from that direction. The idea of being inside this glacier, with the blue glow all around us made the whole day worthwhile.
When our spelunking was finished it was time to pack up our gear into the backpacks again and head back. By this time our feet were dead tired and the rain was coming down very steadily. Up until now the day had been all type 1 fun, but a two-and-a-half hour death march back to the car in the rain turned it into type 2. One fun little bonus on the trip back was that we saw some salmon swimming up one of the small streams. After catching them and seeing them jumping in the ocean it was interesting to see them heading up stream.
We got back to the ship, and headed to the hot tub. That did wonders for our legs, but we were so tired we didn't even bother to dress for dinner in the dining room, we just threw on some clothes and went to the buffet. I believe this may be a first for us in skipping dinner in the dining room in favor of the buffet! Holly was sound asleep well before 10:00, I went to the magic show, and along with Jane made it to 10:30. Gone are the days of partying on the ship until midnight or after I guess.
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