“Where will you being going next?” is a common question while amongst fellow travelers, backpackers and wanderers alike.
I asked myself this question too, “Back to the Desert,” I’d reply, but where exactly I was still unsure. San Diego to Ventura is about three to five hour drive depending on traffic conditions in L.A. But this wasn’t an urban trip and I still had a week left so I decided to take the long way around as more desert landscapes were yet to be seen. I left the coast and carried on my way. Anza-Borrego, the Salton Sea, Joshua Tree and Mojave were on the list.
Here we go!
Soaring through the air, I felt wraithlike, fighting feelings of disbelief. The forest passes by underneath with subtle but obvious speed. Braided rivers, now forest, now white capped mountains, now glaciers… Winding our way up a pathway of ice, we approach, closer and closer, touch down. We exit the plane into an icescape of sheer ruggedness; the south face of Denali can be seen just 15 miles away. Am I dreaming? How did I get here? In utter incredulity I retrace my steps in my head to be sure this is actually real.
It wasn’t supposed to be sunny. But as the day progressed a good weather window became apparent and after a week of solid rain we were ready. In the afternoon, shortly after my last commitment for the week was satisfied, three of us jumped on the opportunity to take a closer look at the glacier that looms at the end of the bay.
We paddled past the all too familiar Slate Island and landed with perfect sunshine on Aialik Beach, a little spit of land that get’s you as close as you’d ever want to get to the face of a frequently calving tidewater glacier.
We walked across this spit to shout, holler, and throw ice back at the glacier, which responded in kind with the returning echo of our voices. Ice the size of cars, busses and houses fell from three hundred feet into the water with a resounding thunder. We hooted and hollered some more, as is customary when bearing witness to such a spectacle. I just couldn’t get enough but after a significant amount of time we decided to paddle onwards.