Woke up to a quiet campsite bright and early the next day. It was cloudy and raining a little, but nothing to major, nothing that probably wouldn’t pass in a bit. I made some sandwiches for lunch, grabbed a baggie full of pretzels and scarfed down a granola bar for breakfast. One of my tour mates who had her own tent let me get dressed in hers, so I wouldn’t bug TM. The shuttle picked us up across the river at 8:30am and we thought we were all there when the driver said there was supposed to be 5 of us. We tried to figure out who was missing before we realized it was the Russian, but she takes forever, so after one of us ran back across the river to find all this out, we just left without her. There was no way she would make it on time. We chatted with the other passenger who was going on the half day hike as we bumped down the dirt road to Kennecott where the offices were located.
I was the only one doing the full day glacier hike from our group, but there were 4 older people and one guy about my age in my group, so it was nice to interact with different people for the day. They just kitted us up with crampons and thankfully one of the women didn’t want to use both her hiking sticks, so she let me borrow one, which was perfect! It really helped me a lot for the day. Another thing I didn’t have, but noticed that another of the women had an extra and wasn’t using it, were those large clip thingys that hang off of backpacks or water bottles. I don’t know what they are called, but I really need to buy a pack because I stole hers (I am sure she thought I was so weird, that I just reached over and took it, but whatever) and clipped my crampons onto my backpack. Super helpful! After gearing up (and using the toilet) we were off!
We had a really nice walk through Kennecott and the guide pointed out certain sights and it was really interesting. My favorite part was the tallest (16 stores!) wooden building in the entire United States is there! How cool is that? The place is pretty much a ghost town as it was built for mining, which of course, doesn’t take place there anymore. We then got on the flat path and it was about a 45 minute walk up to the last bathroom before the glacier. We then put on our crampons and jumped on the glacier! The first half of it is covered in dirt, but we by-passed most of that on the trail, but at the beginning there was still a little dirt and these little molehill type things that were kind of hard to walk on. Thankfully I had the walking stick, which helped me with my balance a lot.
The walk was really cool and very unlike the hike in New Zealand. I felt like, while the guide was all about safety, there was less fear about falling or walking where you weren’t supposed to. If I remember New Zealand correctly, we had to walk in a straight line most of the time and always follow the guide. I felt like on this hike, we walked in a group and could wonder more because there was little fear of falling into a crevasse. The glaciers in Alaska are huge. 35 miles LONG and 1-2 miles WIDE is not uncommon for glaciers. If you loose something down a crevasse, you are not going to see it again in your lifetime at the rate they move (unlike NZ where lost hiking sticks come out at the end all the time). We hiked around, saw some non-existent pools (which later filled to 2 feet deep!) and “waterfalls”. The sun came out and we ate lunch and filled our bottles up with water (my favorite!!!). The “rivers” started running a little higher as the sun came out and everything started to melt. The clouds passed and we saw the top of a giant glacier, which apparently you can only see the top of 10% of the time, so we got really lucky! Because the clouds cleared, the planes started flying and a bunch came around and flew over us as we walked around and off the glacier.
There are these giant ice caves down the side of a cliff that we “slid” down too and while the walk down (and again up) sucked really bad, the caves were totally awesome. Apparently they have been there, like that for a really long time. You just have to see it to believe it. At this point our group caught up with some of my tour mates who had done ice climbing and we all arrived back at the headquarters at the same time.
We walked back to the main office, unloaded and took the shuttle back to the river for dinner. Our guide had a late night and spent the afternoon making chili. It was kind of funny because usually I am the lamest person ever when it comes to spicy things, but this group could not handle spice AT ALL and kept loading their bowls up with soul cream. Turned out, chips actually did a better job cooling things down. After dinner, a bunch of us went back into town to “Tall Tales Night” at the Golden Saloon (and to use an actual flush toilet). I bee-lined it to the bathroom when I arrived and grabbed a beer before heading outside as inside was PACKED with pretty much the entire town. After only being around for about 1 day, I recognized so many people, including my guide from earlier that day. There was a silent auction taking place in the back and the stuff on offer was just so typical small town. In between stories, they also auctioned off people to help out around their businesses and homes with certain chores. The whole thing just reeked of small-townness. It was like Stars Hollow had come to life, I kid you not. I freakin’ love it, but after two stories, petting some dogs on the porch, drinking my YUMMY beer and checking out the auction, I was pooped and found some people walking back across the river to camp and joined them.