Standing on the edge of the vast icefield, I looked ahead. Before me, over 800 sq. miles large, laid the Harding Icefield, burying most of the Kenai Fjords peaks under deep ice as far as the eye can see. Below Exit Glacier left the field, from up here a rather small tongue of craggy ice, sending a sensuous lick towards the lowlands. Beautiful.
The climb was challenging, about 4 miles up, the last mile and a half on the snow that had not yet melted in late June. We passed though the lower forested area, and up though lower alpine vegetation, led by our guides Heather and Dave, seasoned Alaska guides. The day before we drove down here from Anchorage – this was the third day of our Jewish Alaska Adventure. Looking from up here at this vast land, and feeling mighty small in the scheme of things, it was hard not to reflect on what we had just learned, that the whole state of Alaska might still be part of Russia today if it were not for several Jewish furriers from San Francisco who lobbied Secretary Seward back in the 1860s for the purchase. They had wanted the fur trading posts and access to the vast natural wealth (at least the poor animals whose hides they sought), and evidence to this purchase is in the name of Seward, the closest town to our campsite in Exit Glacier, and the place where we would embark on our glacier tour tomorrow.
Indeed, Alaska is a special place and throughout our 8 days I could not stop thinking about how small we seem in relation to this grand and unbound nature. Where I live in DC, and in the surrounding areas, there are hardly places I can travel to without being reminded that humans were here before, and have been here before, and have left their mark. It could be an antenna, an old logging road, something.
Not so in Alaska, where you can lookout into mountains and see no sign whatsoever of human presence – but just wilderness. Overwhelming wilderness that grounds us, humbles us, and reminds us of our place in the grand scheme of things.
I will definitely be returning to Alaska – and am looking to share these adventures and others with you on our July 2016 trip!
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