June 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.
This is the closest that visitors can get to the great ice field.
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.
This tree-hollow cavelet would have been far under ice, in 1950, for example.
So, too, would this rain forest floor.
As with all retreating glaciers, great boulders are left in Mendenhall’s wake.
East Glacier Trail offers a “top-down” perspective, on its creator.
AJ Falls, west of Nugget Creek, is the cascade of one of two tributaries of Nugget Creek.
Notice that ice is not the only expansive element in this area. Moss is everywhere, in the temperate rain forest.
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.
Nugget Creek, compared to its Falls, is a modicum of serenity.
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.
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.