Mendenhall Glacier is part of our tour package but for those who aren’t on a tour and wish to check it out there are regular shuttles that leave from Franklin Square by the Mount Roberts tramway station.
Meanwhile back on our tour bus, Phil handed out Nature Valley Bars and bottled water as a snack before our hike to the glacier. The Mendenhall Glacier is one of 37 glaciers that flow down from the 1500 square mile ice field. The glacier stretches approximately 13.5 miles from the ice field right into the valley finally ending in Mendenhall Lake.
The Glacier once covered the whole valley reaching it’s fullest extent around 300 years ago. Since then it has been in retreat. When Sandy and I planned out trip we joked we wanted to get to Alaska before the glaciers all melted. Scientists predict that Mendenhall Glacier won’t be visible from the Visitor Center in another 40 years if it continues it’s current rate of retreat. Maybe our joke wasn’t such a joke after all.
Meanwhile the retreating glacier often spawns large icebergs that drift across the lake.
The area is known for it’s wildlife sightings as well as the glacier but today at mid-day we didn’t see much in the way of wildlife.
At the edge of Mendenhall Lake is a beaver lodge but even the beaver were missing, maybe taking a siesta?
We started our hike to the lake on an easy trail through more of the rain forest. Phil stopped often to point out different mosses and lichen.
The trail opened out into more open, dryer land. Phil explained that the type of soil didn’t retain the water as well as the topsoil in the rainforest which resulted in the more sandy, open area. We could see a waterfall churning it’s way down the mountains. At this time of year, spring, waterfalls are everywhere as the snow melt makes it’s way into the valleys. By summer these torrents will be little more than a trickle if they exist at all.
While we waited for stragglers to catch up and enjoyed the sunshine, Phil told us the story of Romeo, the Glacier Wolf. I’ll share that with you in another post.
With everyone together again, we started downhill to the shore of the lake and the glacier views we’d been looking for.
Sure enough. the lake was filled with ice bergs.
The glacier glowed blue in the shade of the mountain side.
I am so glad the sun decided to come out today. They say the glacier is pretty in the rain but I find it hard to imagine it could be any prettier than it was today with the sun shining and the icebergs floating on the cold lake.