Day 44: Cooler Than Being Cool
Packed up, and set out to touch a glacier. Seven miles round trip with a 1,300 foot gain, one of the most challenging trails yet. There was a near vertical climb up the crevice of a trickling stream to clear the first ridge. It made my heart jump to my throat, and dearly wish for climbing gear. Only my steadfast resolve to touch the glacier saw me through. The last half of the trail was high, barren ridges of crumbling shale overlooking Mendenhall Lake. No animals, few plants, and only small, sparsely placed cairns to show the way. A biting wind blew in firm gusts off the ice fields, cold and fast enough to steal your breath.
But, it was entirely worthwhile. Reached the west side of Mendenhall Glacier a little after noon. I stuck out both of my bare hands and planted them firmly on its mesmerizing, crystalline surface, soaking in ancient ice fractals. A tunnel to the lake had formed where the underside of the glacier had begun to melt, aqua above newly deposited rock below. The cavernous ceiling was glowed with refracted light, and echoed the sound of dripping water, glacier music. I ate lunch there, and sat awhile with it, letting its sheer existence press upon me.
Hiked back out, and emerged thoroughly smeared in fine glacier silt. Grabed a shower at a campground, so I wouldn't look too destitute for the brewery tour I wanted to take. The standard beer in Alaska seems to be the Alaskan Amber, a solid ale from the Juneau-based Alaskan Brewery. They offer free tours and tastings, so I went to check it out. The amber is good, the white and stout are great, but their latest creation is phenomenal. Alaskan Xtra Tough is the smoothest double IPA I've ever had.
Dinner would be my last meal before my elective juice fast, so I splurged on an Alaskan favorite. On recommendations from locals I went to The Hanger On The Wharf and ordered halibut and chips. Ended up in a conversation with an old sea captian, who had been commercially fishing southeast Alaska every summer for the last thirty years. Very interesting. Said goodbye, and boarded the ferry back to the lower 48.
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