What do you do with giant glaciers? Go hiking on them. Take some pictures. Fly around them. Maybe designate the whole thing into a park. Use the ice for mixed drinks. Here are some select images from this summers many Root Glacier adventures. Pictures on Ice, shaken not stirred.
Every summer the Hidden Creek Lake, a glacier lake ten miles north of town, busts it’s dam. This usually happens during the first few weeks of July. When Hidden Creek Lake drains it floods nearby waterways, including the Kennicott River. The banks corrode, and large chunks of ice charge downstream.
For about twenty four hours this is the hottest ticket in town. It is also an excuse to stand on the bridge that crosses the Kennicott River. The water rises about fifteen feet relatively fast. The bridge wobbles. It’s all very loud. From here a person has the perfect vantage to drink beer and taunt advancing icebergs. Think lieutenant Dan during the shrimp boat scene in Forest Gump. “Is this all you got?”
In the picture above, one of the larger pieces of ice is cart-wheeling towards the bridge at damaging speeds. Half the people have already fled the bridge, fearing a piece of solid ice the size of a school bus could damage the pillars. However, the one guy wearing the blue shirt, standing on the railing, demonstrates what it is to be fearless. Luckily the ice missed the pillars, but might have struck and warped the bridge downstream.
One of the great things about McCarthy, or small towns in general, is that events like these are big news and are talked about for days. In fact, I can’t remember this much excitement since the great Grizzly/Moose chase through Kennicott. That created such a buzz that the event was reenacted by costumed performers in the Forth of July parade this year. Maybe next year someone can build a float that looks like an iceberg and another like a bridge. The floats could then crash into each other. It sounds fun to me.
The Root Glacier, the ancient conveyor of ice, recedes near McCarthy. This part of the glacier is covered with moraine – rocky debris scraped from the mountains at it’s source. Underneath this debris lays the actual white ice most people associate with glaciers. The toe of the glacier, as it’s called, is a wild place to hang out. For one, exposure from the sun and lowland temperature result in melting which causes moraine slides and rock falls. With all the crashing and collision of rock it’s like hanging out at a bowling alley on league night. It’s a loud, thunderous environment. At the toe of the glacier there are also vast reflective pools of melt-water. Upon first seeing the pools I immediately thought about how cool it would be to procure a canoe and paddle the waters.
Well, it wasn’t long afterwards, during a day hike along the east side of the Root Glacier that I found an old aluminum canoe stashed in a dry ravine. Sitting just a few feet from the water, it begged to be commandeered. What an amazing find (pictued right).
Yesterday, I returned to the canoe with paddles and my coworker Matt. As I’ve found out, the canoe belongs to someone around town – Old Wild Bill So-and-So. Something like that. Because I couldn’t find So-and-So for permission, this canoe outing became sort of a friendly hi-jacking, carried out under secrecy.
Matt and I snuck along the back edge of town, on old game trails to the trailhead leading out towards the glacier. Sure enough, the canoe sat in the same spot, brush growing around it. With the utmost care and respect towards someone else’s canoe we lowered it into the water and enjoyed a sunny day floating amongst the 10,000 year old ice of the Root Glacier.
So to Bill, or whatever your name is: Thank you for use of your canoe. It was much enjoyed. The canoe handles like a dream – very responsive. You should know that we washed the mud off of our shoes before entering the vessel. We also avoided shallow spots and rocks. The canoe was placed back in the exact same spot. Also, kudos on the old ice ax converted into an anchor. Nice touch.
The “moose pond” is a seasonal branch of the Kennicott River. This is a popular swimming spot for humans and moose alike. This picture was taken during a rare moment of calm water. When not rippled by the wind, peppered by mosquito, or disturbed by rain, the pond reflects the Bonanza Ridge and Porphory Mountain in the distance. While shuttle driving I pass this spot numerous times a day. Today I was able to stop and admire the view and snap this picture.
image taken using the Panasonic DMC-ZS1