Glacier hiking in the dog days of summer

A few years back, before coming to McCarthy, I worked a two summers in Glacier Bay National Park. The glaciers there, however, were not very accessible. For one thing, they were Tidewater Glaciers, meaning that they terminated in the water, i.e., the Pacific ocean.

One summer I worked on a tour boat, so I saw them every bloody day, but actually getting up onto the glaciers was a whole ‘nother story. Watching the glaciers, day after day, made me feel a bit like a Medieval peasant gazing up at the lord’s manor, up on the hill.

In Glacier Bay, just getting to the glaciers required an investment of at least four days. It meant acquiring a kayak and gear and all the supplies for a multi-day camping excursion — and even then it wasn’t easy to actually get on top of them and explore. Hence I wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself when I came to McCarthy five years ago and found that there were miles and miles of flat glacier to explore, right in my backyard.

A few days ago, I went out on a hike on a trail that took me along the Root Glacier, following the Erie Mine Trail. Miles and miles of glacier ice.

Root Glacier Alaska 2018 hike
Erie Mine Trail, along the Root Glacier. 2018, Kennicott, Alaska…..And that’s only part of the glacier. For a sense of perspective, I put the width of that sucker at about a mile, at least.

Despite that yuge chunk of ice, I still got myself a bit overheated. We’ve had a lot of sun, and by Alaskan standards, it’s been a heat wave. I felt a bit of the cool air from the glacier, wafting up to cool me down, but the sun was going strong all day, and never let up. It was a scorcher.

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Jonathan Erdman

Writer. In the summers, I live and work in the incredible state of Alaska, in the bush community of McCarthy, as the Executive Director of the Wrangell Mountain Center. When not in McCarthy, you'll typically find me in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California, writing and working with local activists. My primary writing project right now is a novel set in remote bush Alaska, of the magical realism genre wherein an earnest and independent young woman finds a mysterious radio belonging to her grandmother, a device that has paranormal bandwidth and a disturbing ability to mess with one's mental stability.

5 thoughts on “Glacier hiking in the dog days of summer”

  1. When I lived in Mesa, AZ, many years ago, there was a bar down the street called The Lost Alaskan. (Perhaps it was a play on “The Lost Dutchman” of the Superstition Mountain) Anyway, I always laughed at it when I drove by.

    Just saying that reminds me of a Texan friend of mine who went to Alaska one summer and came home all upset because some Alaskan told him that They were thinking of splitting Alaska in two and making Texas the Third Biggest State in the union!

    Good medicine for a Lost Texan!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha ha. That’s funny. It also happens to be one my favorite Alaska-Texan jokes. Alaska gets shrunk down on all U.S. maps so most folk don’t realize just how massive this state really is. Most people don’t realize that if you divided Alaska into two equal parts, the land mass of each part would still be bigger than Texas.


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