The blue light of a glacier has to be one of the coolest colors in nature. It is striking, eye catching against the often brilliant white of the surrounding mountains and in the case of Portage glacier the ice and snow covered lake it tumbles into. Like so many other glaciers in Alaska Portage is actually quite accessible. This time of year Portage becomes a highly visited spot. The lake is frozen and there are multiple ways to cross the lake to get right up to the face of the glacier. Today, Brooke, Jim and I drove down the Turnagain arm under another brilliant blue sky. We skate skied across the lake to the glacier. One could have easily walked, or snow biked across the lake as well. It is clear by the number of tracks on the lake this journey has been pretty popular lately. It was hard to miss why given the beauty of the surroundings.
While we were playing around at the base of the glacier I started asking Brooke about the glacier when she was younger. The first summer I came to see Brooke almost 14 years ago the glacier was still visible from the visitor center across the lake. She remembered when she was little and the lake was almost non existent as the glacier was right there in front of the visitor center. To think about how far (almost 3 miles) portage has receded was a bit scary. This is not a really long time. There are all sorts of wild pictures about the rapid shrinking of glaciers but it is always more impressive when you are standing out in the wild sharing the air with the sleepy behemoths.
The other powerful feeling of being in the mountains or at the face of a glacier is that reminder of just how small we are in the world. It is so easy to forget how little we really are. We spend our days worrying about little issues. We can feel big or important but when you find yourself standing next to a glacier the strength of mother nature is so impressive. We didn’t see any calving as we were there early in the day but the evidence of recent activity was hard to miss. In the last year I have often been very emotional when I get back into the mountains or into extremely beautiful areas. I don’t always know why. Mostly it is because I get some fear that I may never see such sights again if I end up stuck in a hospital, or that I just wonder why I can’t be hanging out in these spots all the time (although some would say why not there are obvious reasons why I can’t). Today I wasn’t very emotional about being there. I don’t really know why the change but I will admit it felt wonderful to be out there and I am very glad we went. I think more than anything the day highlighted the need to try and reconnect to nature if I can. Although I am outside everyday lately, I need to keep finding those spots where I am awed to keep my spirit alive to keep up the battle against leukemia. It never hurts to have mother nature spurring you on.
Head Up, Heart Strong. I need a cure.