Got an R&R on a content analysis piece I've been working on with a student for about a year. Great news! This will dig a little bit into my sabbatical work time, but it'll be worth it.
I also have a sabbatical work "accountability buddy", a grad school friend who is also on sabbatical and working on a book project. Should be good in forcing me to get work done.
This trip has been superb (minus some bad weather in Denali). On our last day, we did one final trail which I had been looking forward to almost as much as Harding Ice Trail: Crow Pass. Now, the FULL ON Crow Pass Trail is 24 miles or so and requires some real technical skill like going through rivers. We obviously weren't doing that- we were doing a 6.2 mile offshoot of the trail which is way up in the mountains. It was a perfect sunny day and this trail did not disappoint. It was everything the photos online promised: giant, steep, dramatic hillsides, some changing color in the rocks, a beautiful glacial lake and stream at the end where there's a lean-to style cabin. The only thing we didn't see were mountain goats. We left our bear spray at the end of the trail because we didn't end up using it. Perhaps another group will take it and use it themselves. Images below- this hike was stunning. Maybe the prettiest of all the hikes I've done in Alaska.
I'll end this series with my absolute favorite poem by Robert Service: The Land of Beyond
Have you ever heard of the Land of Beyond,
That dream at the gates of the day?
Alluring it lies at the skirts of the skies,
And ever so far away;
Alluring it calls: O ye yoke of galls!
And ye of the trails overfond
With saddle and pack, by paddle and track, Let’s go to the Land of Beyond!
Have ever you stood where the silences brood,
And vast the horizons begin,
At the dawn of the day to behold far away
The goal you would strive for and win?
Yet ah! in the night when you gain to the height,
With the vast pool of heaven star-spawned,
Afar and agleam, like a valley of dream,
Still mocks you the Land of Beyond.
Thank God! there is always the Land of Beyond
For those who are true to the trail;
A vision to seek, a beckoning peak,
A farn-ess that never will fail;
A pride in our soul that mocks at a goal,
A manhood that irks at a bond,
And try how we will, unattainable still,
Behold it, our Land of Beyond!
Another day where I don't have to use my legs so they can recover from Harding Ice Field Trail. Today we drove back up North a bit to a tiny, tiny town called Whittier. To get there, you can to go through a one way traffic tunnel, which is the longest tunnel in the US. There are designated times you can travel each way. The entire thing looked like a mine shaft. See below. By the way- at one point in time, the entire town of Whittier lived in one building, which is now a condemned abandoned monstrosity that looks like something from soviet Russia.
Whittier is a secluded harbor town surrounded by mountains and glaciers. We took a kayaking tour of the area which featured some coves where enormous schools of salmon and a rookery of thousands of seagulls perched on the cliffs next to a large waterfall. Below if you look closely you can see lots of birds near that waterfall in the photos. We also saw a bald eagle flying around the fish cove, which was awesome. Sadly didn't get a photo of that.
My calves are DEAD from the Harding Ice Trail. Luckily the next two days don't involve walking. Today we did a boat tour through Kenai Fjords at the edge of Seward. It's our second national park on this trip. The conditions were absolutely perfect- sunny and visible. We really lucked out on this tour- we saw three humpback whales breach the surface of the water and one of them straight up Free Willied himself completely out (didn't get that photo unfortunately). But that's the dream when you're looking for whales- a full on breach. Below is the best shot I got of a whale coming out of the water. Zooming in helps.
Here's another whale- you cant really see him but its a cool shot because of the water you can see shooting out of the blow hole.
Below are some seals hanging out and conserving energy, which is what they do for most of the day.
We also pulled the boat directly up to a glacier. This thing was making NOISE. You could hear it cracking and then it "calved" which is when pieces fall off. We probably saw 3-4 chunks fall off and into the water. It was pretty disconcerting but it happens often. If you can believe it, this glacier moves 6-7 feet per DAY. When you get up close to these things you can see seals all along the bottom hanging out. You can also see how blue the ice gets when it's compressed.
The visuals around us the entire time were stunning- gigantic green mountains with snow streaks. There were chunks of ice in the water near the glaciers and lots of picturesque boats floating by with tours, fisherman, kayakers etc. It was a perfect Saturday and everyone was out on the water after many days of cloudy skies. My favorite image is below. You can see a small white boat at the bottom.
That night we hit up a bar and everyone was cheering for Lydia Jacoby, the Olympic swimming who won the gold a few days prior. She was swimming in real time and we got to see her hometown crowd go nuts. It was a pretty unique experience.