Sleeping Near a Glacier

No route on a map looks very interesting. There’s just no imagining what a place looks like when you stare at it on the map. A topographical map might give you an intellectual idea of whether you’d be going uphill or down and at what sort of grade… Google Maps or Google Earth might show you a snippet but you never get a feel for the lay of the land unless you drive it or walk it or bike it.


The Glenn Highway doesn’t look like much on the map, either. And what would we see if we stopped where it says, “Matanuska Glacier” in green print between Glennallen and Chickaloon?


Like so many of the glaciers we’d seen, there was no capturing the size of the Matanuska Glacier. A photo, taken across a valley floor, can’t show you how high it reaches, how wide it stretches. A photo makes an immense slab of moving ice look like a fat river you could strike out to cross in short order.


Look closely and you’ll see the trees are tiny. They look like thick blades of grass. Yes, it’s a big glacier. But nowhere near as big as it once was. Every time we gazed on a glacier, whether close like this one, or when we spotted one in the cavities of mountains nearby, I took a deep breath and hoped that if we made the same trip in another ten or twenty years that we’d still be able to see them.

The glacier’s meltwater forms the Matanuska River, which the highway would follow all the way past Palmer to the Knik Arm just north of Anchorage.


Far down this valley we would find our spot for the night, right alongside the mighty Matanuska River.
We parked, opened some windows for fresh air, and hopped out with our cameras:


Capturing the grey color of the glacial water was tricky — either the color was off or it looked true but unreal at the same time. The water, silty and silvery with the sediments it collects, made a nice backdrop for the fireweed that cropped up along the rocky banks:


Photos done for awhile, it was time to relax and enjoy the evening (yes, it was about 9:30 p.m. when I took this photo of Bob)…


We scanned the riverside and the nearby peaks for wildlife…


..but we weren’t to be gifted that night with visits from the wild.

About Ellen

Fiction writer and photographer, I travel the country with my sweetheart of a husband as a "full-time RVer."
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