Alaska

02 Jul Alaska

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I stared at the turquoise blue water and wondered: How will I feel tomorrow if I don’t jump?

We were several miles into a hike across the Root Glacier in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. Crampons strapped to our boots, we traversed a wide blanket of ice, compacted over hundreds of years, full of crevasses, underground streams, waterfalls and ridges that looked like wrinkles in an enormous white sheet. From a distance, the glacial pool looked like a sapphire eye. Closer, we could see it was in fact about 30 feet long and several hundred feet deep. And cold. Extremely cold. As cold as you might imagine.

Our guide Kristen said, “if anyone wants to jump in, I’ll do it too.”

We thought she was joking. But she went on: “I have an ice screw and rope for safety, and I’ll stand on the edge ready to help you out. I can even heat some water and make coffee for you afterward.”

No one standing on the glacier wanted to take off their clothes and jump, but we all stood and stared and thought about it. It was a hot day by Alaska standards, 80 degrees and sunny.

I thought about Phoenix, my hometown, where it was 115 degrees. I thought about what brought me to Alaska in the first place — the wild places, the monstrous mountains and glaciers and thousands of miles of shoreline. The water. The chill that I craved every day in the desert.

I knew I had to jump.

And yes, it was as cold as it looked.

No, I don’t regret it.

My name is written on a board in McCarthy Alaska, a hall of fame for the few who are brave (or stupid) enough to take the plunge.

Jumping was the perfect exclamation mark to end a week of adventure. This travel assignment took me to a handful of national parks in seven short days in honor of the upcoming National Parks Centennial.

I criss-crossed southeastern Alaska in 8 tiny planes, their wings so close to ridge lines that I felt like I could stick my arm out the window and grab a handful of snow. I sea kayaked with humpback whales and harbor porpoises while bald eagles circled overhead. I saw moose and porcupine and tasted wildflowers and spruce-tip ice cream. I ate seafood the way it’s meant to be eaten — hours old, rustic, divine.

Over the next few months I’ll be writing more about this travel assignment for various clients. I can’t wait to share more stories with you about the 49th state…which coincidentally is MY 49th state to visit.

Stay tuned.

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