I’ve gotten a nickname since arriving in Alaska. I’m the Yes Girl. Want to skiff across the bay? Yes. Want to camp on the beach even though we might get swallowed by the tide? Yes. Want to go pick mussels at midnight? Yes. Want to ski a chute that requires hours of bushwacking and post holing to get to? Yes. Want to take a sea plane to a glacier, ski for three days and raft from the glacier to the ocean?

Um, are you kidding?!

The Wosnesenski Glacier is considered small among Alaskan glaciers, but when you’re talking about glaciers, size is negligible. A glacier is a glacier: a mass of grumbling ice surrounded by rocky peaks that breathes, expands, retracts and by way of melting provides the world with water its been storing for over 3000 years.

A glacier is a glacier and glaciers are captivating.

Alayne’s friend Kenton also has a nickname: the Wizard of Woz. He has spent a lifetime exploring the nooks, snowfields, serac colonies of the glacier. He arranged the float plane and he, Alayne and I landed at the mouth of the Woz late on a Wednesday evening. We cooked a feast of mussels we’d gathered the night before. We hid from hoards of mosquitoes that bit our faces, arms and legs, even through clothing. We slept excited, fitful sleeps.

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The amount of gear required for a summer glacier expedition is staggering: skis, boots, crampons, ice axes, ropes, tents, sleeping bags, food, more food, chocolate, clothes, and even a couple of mini skirts. Braced against our overloaded packs, we picked our way up the moraine, a wide fan of lumpy cracks and fissures where glacial ice meets land. We playfully nicknamed our crampons snow leopard claws. Ice turned to snow, we traded claws for skis, skinned up a wide snowfield, admired seracs along the way. We set camp in a rock nook at 3,300 feet and hid from the relentless sun.

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And then, we skied. For two days we toured among the towering rock faces and snow fields. We left our signatures in figure eights down mountain sides. We scouted each line, first checking for cravasses, then yipping and hollering as our knees dropped telemark turns into velvet corn snow. In the afternoon we hid from the sun that burned so hot and bright I felt my brain was melting.

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On the third day we packed up camp, skied 3000 vertical feet to the glacier mouth. Skied within feet of gorgeous serac colonies. Picked across scree slopes so steep and loose I forgot to breathe while crossing them. Finally, our feet were on the ground but the next phase of the journey was yet to come: the river.

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The Wosnesenski River is a glacier-charged channel of water that snakes and winds 16 miles from the glacier mouth to the ocean. We’d packed in a raft, which we pumped up and loaded down with piles of gear. We pushed off across the lake around 5 pm after having spent the entire morning skiing and hiking. And then we floated, charged, skid, scuffed, bumped, waded but mostly cruised for five hours until our raft met the ocean.

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The journey from water to air to lake to glacier to snow to summit to snow to glacier to lake to river to ocean was complete.

With adventures like these at the ready, how could I say no?

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For the next two months, this blog will be devoted to traveling around and experiencing the great wide beauty of Alaska. 

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I’ve entered another world. It resembles worlds I’ve experienced in the past–great coffee shops, art galleries, local bands, dive bars–but it’s surrounded by glimmering water, jagged snowcapped peaks and a sun that doesn’t set until midnight. A six mile ride out on the spit–a straight six-mile finger of land that extends into Kachemak Bay–unveils a completely new landscape of harbor filled with schooners, skiffs, crab boats, all sorts of vessels designed for water exploration, and gritty bars where fisherman gather to swap tales of winter crabbing in the fierce Bering Sea.

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Water is a way of life here, but so are the mountains. If you have a friend with a boat you can access the perfect complimentary adventure of a sea to ski. On Saturday morning, we met Alayne’s friend at the harbor, loaded skis, skins, ice axes, packs into his small boat named Vamanos and motored across Kachemak Bay to the snowy peaks of the Kenai Range. Hours of uphill hiking among moose tracks and bulging piles of bear scat led us to alder bushwacking, soft snow skinning. We paused for lunch–king salmon that had been smoked by a friend, dark chocolate–and gazed at the bowls and ridges around us that bordered the sea.

“This sounds naiive to say,” I started, “but I had no idea life was so good in Alaska.” Alayne and Dan both smiled like they knew a deep secret I was just beginning to grasp.

Hours later we reached the high point of the ridge and gazed into Grewingk glacier. A haiku came to mind:

Granite icebergs burst

from a solid sea of white

ribbed with tints of blue

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We skied patches of soft corn snow and slowly picked our way back down among the alders, the moose tracks, the bear poop. We paused along the trail to collect fiddleheads and devil’s club shoots to cook later in the week with some newly acquired King Crab. By the time we reached the black sand of Hawaii Beach, it was nearly 11pm and the sun was iridescent on the water. At midnight, as we drove up Alayne’s driveway, we spotted a mama moose and her calf.

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How did I not know the wonders of this place before? It is as though I’m being let in on a great secret. Perhaps what makes it so secret is that you never really know the depth of the place until you experience it first hand. This is just the beginning.

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