The Road to 65, Mile 197: Southeast IS Northwest, Day 6 at Mendenhall Glacier

272June 13, 2015, Juneau- I elected to spend this Saturday, as an extra day here, so as to spend several hours in the vicinity of Mendenhall, the nearest and most accessible glacier- as well as being a prime example of the changes which our Earth is undergoing.

The glacier’s stewards have carefully marked its retreat, and masses of people from all over the world come here to walk the Trail Through Time, on which a docent carefully points out the now solid ground that was covered by the  Mendenhall, on given years in the not so distant past.  Now, it, along with Le Conte and other glaciers in southeast Alaska, is calving icebergs constantly, each year.


Despite its retreat, Mendenhall remains a thing of wonder.274

This is the closest that visitors can get to the great ice field.281

The icebergs, in turn are feeding this glacial lake.  Perhaps it, someday, will revert to ice.


Nugget Creek, and its great Falls, are new wonders, that have only recently been released from their prison of ice.


A random daredevil chose to test the temperature.  A ranger was en route to check on his well-being, as I headed for East Glacier Loop trail.


Part of East Glacier Loop is contained within the Trail Through Time, which tracks the glacier at its peak and through its retreat, by showing where Mendenhall was, in what year.293

This tree-hollow cavelet would have been far under ice, in 1950, for example.


So, too, would this rain forest floor.295



As with all retreating glaciers, great boulders are left in Mendenhall’s wake.301

East Glacier Trail offers a “top-down” perspective, on its creator.302

AJ Falls, west of Nugget Creek, is the cascade of one of two tributaries of Nugget Creek.303

Notice that ice is not the only expansive element in this area.  Moss is everywhere, in the temperate rain forest.305

The clarity of the Mendenhall’s ponds lends itself to some intrepid families allowing children to swim in them, provided there are no bears present.308

Nugget Creek, compared to its Falls, is a modicum of serenity.314

These are views from the crest of East Glacier Trail.



I spent some time at the crest, talking with a local tour guide.  She has lived in Juneau for over 40 years, Steep Falls

and has, to her chagrin, watched Mendenhall shrink, inexorably.  She, like many hikers, took a

counterclockwise approach to the trail.  I hiked in a clockwise direction, as is my wont, and thus went down these stairs, instead of up.319

Steep Falls, at the west end of the trail, is the second tributary cascade of Nugget Creek.



It remains to be seen, as to which direction the glaciers of southeast Alaska,and of the world, will go, as our planet’s history progresses.  Mendenhall, Tracy Arm, LeConte Glacier and Glacier Bay, are all worth monitoring, and that’s just in the southeast.  The rest of the Last Frontier more than hold sits own, in the ice field department-for now.

5 thoughts on “The Road to 65, Mile 197: Southeast IS Northwest, Day 6 at Mendenhall Glacier

  1. Great shots, Gary! I first saw Juneau in about 1990, and I can really see the difference in Mendenhall Glacier! How sad, but how good to have the walk through time as a demonstration of all sorts of things! When we flew in, it was so foggy that we did two fly-by’s, then flew to Sitka and refueled, then came back to the top of the stack trying to land in the fog — such is a normal day in Juneau!


  2. I understand the emotion to be in front of a geological phenomenon and its evolution during the time, present and past .
    In the Alps on the side of valleys in altitude we see the amounts of various rocks left by the ancient glaciers of the glacial period of the quaternary era .
    It was another scale than now.
    Your photos are wonderful
    In friendship


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.