Around the World... One Journey at a Time. Around the World... One Journey at a Time.

North to Alaska - Live!

by Kathy 29. June 2011 22:20

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Hiking on Root Glacier


While staying near the old mining town of Kennecott, we jumped at the chance to do some hiking on a glacier. Yesterday, we had taken a historic tour of the town with Dan, from St. Elias Alpine Guides. Today, Dan would be escorting us out on the ice.

Our family with Dan:

Joining us was a lovely family from Pennsylvania—Ken and Jeanne, with their two kids Alex and Daria:

We couldn’t have chosen better hiking companions.

The river of ice that we would be tromping around on today was called the Root Glacier. It starts about seven miles away and comes to a screeching halt when it intersects with the much larger Kennicott Glacier. The intersection can be seen in the photo below--Root Glacier is the white triangle on the right side, and the sea of light brown is the Kennicott glacial moraine that stops Root Glacier in its tracks.

The fact that Root Glacier’s forward progress was blocked by the larger glacier made it fairly stable—perfect for hiking.

To reach Root Glacier, we walked along a narrow trail from the town of Kennecott, along the moraine fields. We crossed over a streambed with a small waterfall:

Another view of the bridge with all four kids—Daria, Sebastian, Genevieve and Alex:

Dan led us down to the end of Root Glacier, where other hikers were also beginning their treks:

We then put on the most important piece of equipment for today—crampons!

This spiky steel footwear allowed us to stick to the icy surface with confidence. We quickly learned the art of stomping down and sticking our toes out like penguins for maximum traction!

Climbing up the side of the glacier:

Off we went, with Dan and the kids in front:

Sebastian, next to a blue stream:

In the distance, we could see Stairway Icefall, which rises 7000 feet above the beginning of Root Glacier:

Genevieve noticed that little bits of dirt, and sometimes small leaves, would create pockets of water in the ice:

Sometimes the pockets would expand over time, joining with other pockets, and evolving into a deep pool:

Yes, the color was really that vivid in real life! The turquoise is caused by the way light rays are absorbed and reflected by the glacial water.

The glacial pools came in different shapes. Some were long and skinny, like this one:

Making sure that my feet were firmly planted, I would carefully lean over and peer into the eerie depth of each pool.

I had to keep pulling my mind back from the dark land of “what if’s.”

The largest pool was fairly shallow:

Here, Dan led the children down the bank to the water’s edge:

Then he tested out the water and found a spot that was the perfect depth.

The next step had us all roaring with laughter! He carted each kid out to “the spot” for a photo-op!

First, Sebastian:

And then Genevieve:


The return trip:

Dan and the kids, safe and sound:

Some of the streams on the glacier disappeared into holes called “moulins.” A moulin is a tubular pathway that bores down into a glacier until it eventually reaches the bottom. Let’s just say that you wouldn’t want to fall into one.

Genevieve, next to a small moulin:

Dan held onto Sebastian as he peered into a gigantic one:

The bottom wasn’t visible, and what I thought was a distant airplane roar above us turned out to be the rumbling of rocks being tossed around deep inside the moulin.


Dan even gave us some instructions on how to use an ice axe to climb up a hill:

Another beautiful turquoise pool:

And one last family photo:

After we had removed our crampons and stepped off the glacier, Dan challenged the kids to a race on the single track trail leading up the rocky hill. The rules were that he would start out in the lead, and if he reached the top with even one kid being five seconds (or less) behind him, he would buy them all ice cream. (If they lost, they were to bring their parents coffee in bed the next morning.)

Off they went!

Genevieve remained within steps of Dan, and when he reached the top and looked behind him, she was right there with a big grin.

Sharing some ice cream treats was the perfect way to celebrate today's adventure.

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Comments (3) -

6/30/2011 7:17:01 AM #


favorite post yet!  i can't wait to follow in your footsteps in the next few years.  seriously, why be original with your family vacations - when yours look so amazing?!

becky United States | Reply

6/30/2011 10:02:54 AM #


Ahh, Becky, you are too kind! Glad you liked the story. I'd be happy to share any information that you need to plan your upcoming trips!  And you might come up with some destination ideas of your own that inspire US to venture somewhere new.

Kathy United States | Reply

6/30/2011 10:00:25 PM #


i was just thinking the other day that i was ready to go back to the dominican republic (the real DR, not bill gate's compound resort on the beach) and told nick we need to get a group together - and mentioned you guys specifically (i knew you'd appreciate it)...from the salt water lakes filled with crocodiles and the merengue tipico clubs and cockfights and carnival - it's definitely a cultural experience not to be missed.  okay, patiently waiting for your next post.  it's definitely more fun reading this live, build the anticipation for the next adventure to come the next day.  be safe, happy and say hello to the kids.  

becky United States | Reply

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Places We’ve Been, w/Quick Links

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Anais Nin