ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Come to Alaska: III Walking North from Juneau

Updated on December 17, 2016
juneaukid profile image

Richard F. Fleck is an active hiker and leads Sierra Club "Hike and Write" treks in the foothills of the Rockies of Colorado and Wyoming.

Mendenhall Glacier

Mountaineering Essays

Walking North from Juneau

I just happened to be in Juneau, Alaska during the summer solstice. I wanted to get up early to walk along the coastal highway northward until I came to the Mendenhall River where I had rafted on the day before. I had trouble going to sleep as it remained so bright outside, even though the clock said midnight. It seemed like only minutes later when I awakened in the bright light of the morning sun. Had I overslept? Dressing quickly, I rushed downstairs and immediately searched for a restaurant. Scrambled eggs and toast had never been gulped down so quickly. Out the door I flew as I checked my watch to see that it was three o'clock in the morning! Oh well, I'll just have more time to see the Mendenhall Glacier.

As I strolled along the coastal highway watching bald eagles fly from bare branches near the sea, I constantly looked up into the coastal range flanked with bands of alder trees amid Sitka spruce forests. Each valley either had been glaciated or was dominated by an active glacier creeping downhill from the immense Juneau Icefield now concealed in cloud. Perhaps two dozen glaciers spilled downward from up there toward the sea including the giant blue-white Mendenhall Glacier that John Muir had seen back in 1879 before the existence of Juneau and when this glacier had the named of the Auk.

John Muir came to Alaska primarily to study glaciers at least five times between 1879 and the 1890's. He wrote two books published posthumously about his Alaskan journeys, Travels in Alaska (1915) and The Cruise of the Corwin (1917). He often wondered how it was that great masses of ice could possibly simply flow over jagged rocky surfaces. He made many attempts to study the surface of glaciers, but how could he get to the underside of them? He writes in his journal that "after both the body and soul of a mountaineer have worked hard, engaged hard, that they are most palpably separate...the nimble spirit [freed of its body} wanders alone down gorges, along beetling cliffs, or away among the peaks and glaciers of the farthest landscapes." It was from the body-free perspective that his spirit discovered how glacial ice flows over a much softer more pliable substance that was created by the weight of the glacier itself.

At last I came to the Mendenhall River formed by the melting of the Mendenhall Glacier. I took a trail back into the valley for several miles and occasionally heard sharp cracking sounds. The closer I got to the glacier, the louder these "rifle shots" became. The trail led me up and along the side of the Mendenhall where I could actually witness ice fracturing. I had read that some of these fractures produce canon-shot that can fly out over hundreds of feet at very high speeds. One would not be safe walking at the very base of a glacier as the characters out of a Jean Auel novel do. It was utterly amazing to sit and watch the movement of a giant glacier that proved to be as restless as the sea. Its wrinkled surface and gashes and gulleys and lateral lines of dark rock seemed unearthly. It constantly grinds and scoops out rock from the sides of mountains to produce, eventually, as John Muir contends, "future yosemites."

I found it difficult to leave this spot in Alaska. I could have stayed till midnight quite easily if my stomach had not demanded that I return to Juneau. And so I descended to the road leading back to where I came from but not without my turning around dozens of times to get another look at the Mendenhall Glacier.

Many cruise lines stop in Juneau giving passengers time to take a ramble or two in and around Juneau.


© 2009 Richard Francis Fleck

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      8 years ago from London, UK

      I am so glad I found your hub. You must have had such experience one can't imaging. Thank you for writing this hub and sharing it with us. Looking out for some more.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)