By Janelle Eklund
We left Walker Glacier at 10:15am. Clouds came in and there was light rain off and on most of the day. The river carried us fast passing glacier after glacier, each hanging between tall mountain peaks. It looked like glacier alley, one spreading out over a wide low valley. We went through another run of rapids with the skills of the oarsman keeping water from entering the raft. The river widened into a broad valley.
We stopped on a gravel bar for lunch. A delicious pasta salad that was made the night before helped warm us up including our cold feet. The sprinkle of rain stopped and the warmth of the sun peeking through clouds helped add to our comfort.
Our destination at Alsek Lake wasn't too far ahead. We stopped to climb a hill to observe our route around Gateway Knob into Alsek Lake. The top of the hill afforded us a spectacular view. Giant deep blue icebergs filled the lake in all kinds of shapes. There are three routes into the lake called the Channel of Death because of the icebergs. Channel one was the only door open, with the water too low in the other two. The current helped carry us into the lake. With a backdrop of three glaciers, the scene was mesmerizing as we rowed between icebergs sculpted by eons of time.
By the time we stopped to camp the rain came back, forcing us to put up tents in the wet. It is obvious we are close to the Bay. The ceiling is low and socked in. We had a fine meal of pesto shrimp fettuccini for dinner under the protection of the tarp.
The glaciers boomed in the distance dropping huge chunks of ice. So far away, yet its impact sent a small wave rolling by our rafts. Rolling hills across from camp were dressed in heavy mist until the air became so thick they disappeared.
The next day was a layover day on Alsek Lake. Rain showers and sun played a dancing game with each other all day. We took a walk around the rocky shoreline at the base of Gateway knob listening to the glaciers heartbeat as they roared in the distance. As if shedding skin, one glacier would drop a load and another would resound the rhythm, a ritual in response to summer heat. Their screams reached our ears well after their shedding was laid to rest. Massive land oceans, these glaciers and mountains hold megatons of water and moisture. Their perspiration gives birth to thick dark clouds that shed their fury continuing their cycle. A giant iceberg rolled in its death march to the river. Clouds born from the ocean moved with great speed to clash with those born of mountains. Waves of changing weather rolled around us. Wind, rain, sun kept us busy changing our attire to suit the conditions. A couple of us tried to walk around the other side of Gateway Knob but were stopped in our tracks by a cliff wall with a watery base, forcing us to turn around.
We took this surrounding blanket of dynamic beauty, wrapped it around us, and retreated to our tents.
To be continued
From my light to yours-
Who We Are
WISEfriends are several writers connected with Wrangell Institute for Science and Environment, a nonprofit organization located in Alaska's Copper River Valley. Most of these articles originally appeared in our local newspaper, the Copper River Record.