Alaska- June 4

Snowshoes would have been good today, as would poles, crampons, and probably some other equipment. We tried to hike up to the Harding Ice Fields, but only made it about a quarter of the way up, due to the steep slopes deeply blanketed with snow. At the point we decided to turn back, the trail was doing switchbacks on a mountainside meadow, which would have made the most exciting sledding hill I’ve ever sledded. We backed down, carefully jamming the toes of our shoes as deep into the snow as we could. There were holes where people had thrust poles into the snow; the brilliant blue of the snow down those holes was amazing to me.

We finally made it down past the snow and continued downward, waterfalls of snow melt cascading over the trail. Along the way we kept our eyes open for bears; the National Park Service signs at the trailhead warn of both black and grizzly bears. The warnings are most encouraging: If a grizzly bear attacks you, play dead. If it starts to eat you, fight back. 

On the hike down, during which we saw no bears, I heard a song a I thought I recognized from my Birding by Ear CD’s– a Wilson’s Warbler. I searched and he appeared– a beautiful male Wilsons’s Warbler– another first for my life list!

We then hiked out to Exit Glacier. See the tiny people at the base of the glacier? They aren’t really tiny; the glacier is immense! It was COLD near the glacier, with the glacial wind air conditioning the entire surroundings.

Exit Glacier with people at the base
Zooming in on a crevasse
Stephen and me; Exit Glacier behind us

We hiked in the Outwash Plain and I painted. While there, we learned from a friendly ranger who passed by that the gray water in the glacial streams in caused by the gray stones, called Graywacke (pronounced “graywacky”) rubbing together, producing “glacial flour,” a very fine dust that makes glacial outwash streams gray. Clear streams are from snow melt. I loved the outwash plain with its open views and gurgling streams.

After hiking we went to dinner in town and, while waiting for our food, I painted the view out the window. Stephen took this photo from outside of me painting with the mountains reflected in the window. I especially like that he is also in the reflection.

On our way back to our cabin we passed Harbor Seals swimming in the bay beside the road.

We walked to a pebbly beach before we went to bed and saw my first Violet-green Swallows. While I was studying them through my binoculars, a small flash of sunset pinkish, orange-red shot through my field of view– my first Rufous Hummingbird, a fitting color with which to close my day, since I won’t be awake for the sunset after 11:00 tonight.

New birds today: Rufous Hummingbird, Violet-green Swallow, Wilson’s Warbler, Northwestern Crow

2 Replies to “Alaska- June 4”

  1. Loving to read about your adventures! Keep posting. Missed you both in church Sunday.