From a splendidly placed saddle near Callisto Peak, you can see Bear Glacier and it’s iceberg-laden lagoon.
The ridgeline isn’t an easy trek, or well marked at points, but it is there and it is possible and I did it. One evening after work, two friends and I packed our bags and journeyed out to Caines Head’s North Beach, watching the tides and rolling in just in time to enjoy the late sunset while we set up camp.
The wonderful evening spent along the shoreline, drifting to sleep with a soundtrack of gulls and lapping waves, wasn’t the impetus for our trip, though. We wanted to see Bear Glacier.
So, we followed trails and hiked up, and up, and up. At one point, after hours of hiking were behind us, my friend pointed to the saddle and said, “That’s where we have to go.”
And so, we did. We scrambled and hiked, and scrambled and hiked some more, and then crested over the ridgeline to see the lagoon below us.
The view was breathtaking. Large icebergs floated along the lagoon unassumingly, looking like small dots on a canvas but in reality, measuring nearly the size of a football field. The glacier itself was beautiful, stemming from the awe-inspiring Harding Icefield behind it.
I had seen Bear Glacier before, but always from the water. I’ve been lucky enough to pass by and spot it from Resurrection Bay on clear days. I’ve been even luckier to paddle in the waters of the lagoon, but I had never seen the glacier from above.
One of my hiking partners, though, had done the same hike the year before.
“Well, it’s definitely smaller.”
This past May, Bear Glacier, which is in Kenai Fjords National Park, experienced a “very large calving event,” according to the National Park. The calving plummeted a large portion of the western part of the glacier into the lagoon, filling the water with ice.
“Alaska’s glacier landscapes are dynamic and subject to dramatic, sudden change. Currently, the majority of Alaska’s glaciers are shrinking, and the glaciers of Kenai Fjords are no exception,” Kenai Fjords National Park wrote.
And so, as we stood at the precipice, overlooking Bear Glacier, I wondered how long this climactic vista would be around for.
For how much longer can we call the Bear Glacier Overlook the Bear Glacier Overlook? As glaciers recede, landscapes change, and nature reacts, what will we lose?
Since, I’ve added another reason for Alaska adventures. Instead of just, “Can I do it and will it be fun?” I’ve decided it’s prudent to ask, “For how much longer will it be possible?”
Because I think for many adventures, vistas and trails on my bucket list, that number is dwindling. It might be time to make a visit to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge or to fish the waters of Bristol Bay, just in case I run out of time.
By KAT SORENSEN
For the Clarion