Monday, May 22, 2006

Across the Bay

Date: May 19 and 21
Mileage: 26.9 and 65.3
May Mileage: 287.4
Temperature upon departure: 39 and 48

Good weekend - went on my first bicycle ride where the temperature passed 50 degrees, and took my first trip across the Bay. Granted, in order to get across the Bay I had to join 12 teenagers on an eighth grade geology class field trip - but it was still a good weekend.

A teacher at Homer Middle School (who seems to have taken a shine to me after I wrote a series of newspaper articles about education programs at his school) invited me to join a trip to Grenwingk Glacier. How could I say no? It was basically a guided tour of the violent geology still ripping across Kachemak Bay State Park - the gravel-strewn moraines and retreating glaciers. The trip also included a float-by of what has to be the most beautiful coastal community in America: Halibut Cove. And it wasn't exactly a sedentary sit-and-wonder kind of a trip. The teacher even dragged everyone an extra two miles just to play on the hand-pulled tram that crosses the glacial creek.

All told, we probably hiked seven or eight miles. I was really impressed with the kids' stamina. I was braced for the worse, hiking with twelve 13- and 14-year-olds. But for most of the trip, we old folks had to practically jog to keep up with the kids. One kid even shared his dried mangos with me after I made the very juvenile mistake of forgetting to bring a lunch.

But the most interesting part of the trip was the actual field-trip aspect. You know. Education and stuff. It's amazing, really, how dramatically the area's ecology changes across just four miles of open water. The Homer side of the Bay is relatively new, with stair-step hillsides, spruce forests and mud bogs. On the south side of the Bay, the steep Kenai Mountains jut straight up from sea level. The face of the landscape changes in equally dramatic succession - beach grass climbs into old-growth cottonwood groves which change to ponderosa and spruce forests and finally to alpine tundra. Above that is the Harding Ice Field, which spits out several glaciers that are currently in dramatic retreat. The point where I stood to take this photo was buried beneath hundreds of feet of ice as recently as 50 years ago. Believe what you will about global warming, but Alaska is melting.

I couldn't complain too much about global warming today, however, with the sun out and temperatures rising comfortably into the mid-50s. Today was the first day all year that I rode with just one layer of clothing. Maybe someday I'll even be able to ride with actual skin exposed, maybe even pull out my bike shorts from the dusty cardboard box they've been stuffed in since I moved here. I can dream.

3 comments:

  1. Hey, thanks for a great blog. I live virtually in AK. By that I mean, I always wish I were there. I loved the blog and will read frequently.

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  2. Love your blog... and found your post about the melting from Global Warming especially poignant/scary/fascinating! Definitely something I will share at cocktail parties... as soon as someone invites me to their swanky cocktail party, that is. Anyone? Anyone?

    Keep up the good work...

    -Alyson from thisnext.com/blog

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  3. Anonymous1:55 PM

    My wife and I got married at the foot of the Grewingk Glacier July of 2004. What a gorgeous place. Our marriage officiant was a friend of ours who lives in Homer and flies for Smoky Bay. We're waiting for an opportunity to return to your lovely town.

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