Alaska. What pops into your head when you hear that? Wide open space? Truly epic, unspoiled natural beauty? Giant peaks? Glaciers? Those are all reasons I was so excited to visit Anchorage back in August, especially since I’m a huge fan of the outdoors and an even bigger fan of stunning natural vistas! So when the opportunity to go Glacier Trekking came up, I simply couldn’t resist!
Glacier Trekking? Like walking across ice? Yep! And let me tell you, it was a pretty incredible experience!
And don’t worry, you’re not going to slip and slide thanks to this wonderful invention called crampons; essentially spikes that attach to your boots which keep your feet firmly planted in the ice.
A boot and crampon fitting is exactly the way our day began on that bright and sunny summer morning. Settling in at Mica Guides, which, along with the Hilton Garden Inn, was kind enough to host us for the day, we could see a white wave rolling across the mountains in the distance. That, we were told, was our destination, the Matanuska Glacier.
We piled into their vans for the short drive to Glacier Park, which, strangely enough, is located on private property that doesn’t include the glacier itself but includes the means of accessing the glacier. Upon arrival, we set out on the rather muddy path to the glacier itself.
Water was everywhere. “Glacier runoff,” we were told. It was summer and the glacier, which is constantly changing, was melting, though there was still plenty of it to go around.
The trail turned into boards, crossing over what appeared to be a muddy surface. But the boards weren’t there to keep your feet clean. No, these boards were here to save your life! See, tap this mud with your foot and it takes on the appearance of Gak, a slimy children’s toy, and effectively behaved like quicksand!
Finally, we cramponed-up and hit the ice, being led through the glacier. Our guide noted the dramatic changes that had occurred since his last visit a few days prior, including things that were tiny cracks that were now huge crevices. It was a stark reminder that this really isn’t an environment you should explore without a guide.
Our guide pointed out that glacier ice is always blue rather than white like snow (look carefully and you’ll see that in a few different photos). That and the runoff that seemed to be happening all over the place was perfectly potable, despite not having passed through a water treatment plant. We all took the opportunity to refill our water bottles with crisp, cool glacier water straight from the source!
Meandering through the icy environment was fascinating and exhausting! Despite the crampons, walking through the ice was hard work! But on we went, passing through surreal features that mimicked solid land, like canyons, valleys and hills.
Stopping at a small lake, our guide indicated the stunning formation in front of us. He called it “The Waterfall” and it wasn’t hard to see why!
Making our way out (and onto our next stop, a truly awesome outdoor zip line experience run by the same company), we took a last look around the sea of ice that surrounded us and I couldn’t help but think about how thrilling the experience had been. Just to witness the pure power that the ice had over the surrounding land was, in itself, mind-boggling!
Though it was just a little taste, it reinforced all of those thoughts about just what Alaska is. And though there is so very much more (including an unexpected food and craft beer scene), to me, Alaska is adventure. And I just can’t wait to be back to experience more of it!