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North to Alaska - Live!

by Kathy 6. July 2011 11:48

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The Changing Face of Child’s Glacier


Leading away from Cordova is a road that stretches for almost 50 miles and then fizzles out after crossing the Million Dollar Bridge. Although some may think so, this is not a “road to nowhere,” as it ends near the massive face of Child’s Glacier—surely one of the most beautiful glaciers in all of Alaska.

The glacier face is taller than a 20-story building, and the size is difficult to convey in a photo:

We have already seen quite a few glaciers on this trip--even hiking on one and kayaking into the ice caves of another. But Child’s Glacier was the first one that allowed us to witness “calving”—a term that refers to the glacier’s release of large slabs of ice, often with an accompanying crack and thundering roar as the ice plummets into the water below.

The resulting waves would glide across the Copper River to our viewing area on the opposite river bank.

None that we saw exceeded 2 or 3 feet. However, in 1993, a 30-foot wave rose up and supposedly swept a woman from her perch.

It was hard to believe that a wave could reach us. However, warning signs were prominently posted showing the possible heights of a wave:

Much of our time at Child’s Glacier was spent just sitting and watching the ice--in sun and rain and bone-chilling wind—listening to the loud pops and rumbling. And waiting.

Ben and the kids:

Ben, solo:

Me, in the cold rain:

Sebastian and Genevieve:

While waiting, we kept an eye out for wildlife and spotted a few seals, who would pop their heads up occasionally from the chilly water:

We also saw bald eagles soaring above:

And we witnessed one bald eagle swoop down and aggressively shoo away a seal:

We later learned that a pair of bald eagles had a nest high up in a nearby cottonwood tree, so the eagle was probably protecting its territory.

During long stretches of waiting, the kids amused themselves by piling up rocks to create a protective shelter under some tree roots:

The shallow cave area kept the raindrops off their heads on the second day:

We took a break from glacier watching and hiked along the river. Genevieve found a tent spike, and we played a game where each person took a turn inventing a “use” for the spike—a candy cane, a sword, a magic wand, a shot dispenser, a monocle, a sewing needle, a calligraphy pen, and so on.

About a mile down the trail, we reached the Million Dollar Bridge—a former railway bridge that cost over a million dollars to build in 1910.

About half of the bridge is shown in the photo below:

Up close:

We walked across the entire bridge, and I have to admit that it stretched my comfort zone. The lack of a tall railing, combined with the narrow width and the age of the bridge, kicked my mother instincts into high gear; thankfully, both Genevieve and Sebastian listened fairly well to my mantra of “Stay away from the edges!”

Sebastian and Ben:

The bridge was once part of the railway line that extended a couple of hundred miles over the mountains from the Kennecott copper mines to Cordova. After the mines closed in 1938, the tracks were no longer used. Since Cordova had no roads to connect it with the rest of Alaska, some people in the 1950’s envisioned building a road (the Copper River Highway) over the old railway line. The plan was abandoned in 1964, however, after a 9.2 earthquake dropped one of the bridge spans into the river.

A woman we met at the Cordova museum told us that the Million Dollar Bridge should really be called the “$17 Million Dollar Bridge,” as the U.S. government had recently spent over $17 million to repair the dropped span.

Looking at where the fallen span had been reattached to the rest of the bridge, I couldn’t help but think that for $17 million, the engineers could at least have aligned it correctly:

At the end of the bridge, the Copper River Highway curved to the right and disappeared behind some trees:

The road is only supposed to continue another mile or so. However, we didn’t see it for ourselves. We had already walked a fair distance, and we weren’t curious enough to want to test the bridge’s weight limits by driving our RV across to reach the dead end.

Back at Child’s Glacier, we spent many more hours in front of the face, becoming intimately familiar with the temporary ice formations, giving many of them nicknames and predicting which parts might slide off next. Right before we left the glacier area, we finally witnessed the fall of a colossal spire, about 15 stories high, that we had been calling “the finger”:

It was the grand finale to our time here.

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Our travel map

Places We’ve Been, w/Quick Links

   Bumthang Valley
   Gom Kora
   Paro Valley
   Punakha Dzong
   Sangdrup Jongkhar
   Wangdi Phrodrang

   Janko Marca
   La Paz
   Laguna Colorada
   Laguna Verde
   Salar de Coipasa
   Salar de Uyuni
   San Pablo
   Santa Rosa
   Sud Lipez
   World’s Most Dangerous Road

   Banff National Park
   Battle Hill Nat'l Hist. Site
   Boya Lake Prov. Park, BC
   Burns Lake Bike Park
   Canyon Sainte-Anne
   Dawson Creek
   Eastern Townships
   Fort Nelson
   Jasper National Park
   Kluane Lake, YK
   'Ksan Historical Village
   Lake Louise
   Liard Hot Springs
   Niagara Falls
   Quebec City
   Thousand Islands
   Vancouver Island
   Watson Lake

   Forbidden City
   Great Wall at Mutianyu
   Hong Kong
   Summer Palace
   Terracotta Warriors
   Tiananmen Square
   Yungang Caves

Costa Rica
   Arenal Volcano
   Finca Corsicana
   Hanging Bridges
   Manuel Antonio
   Poas Volcano
   Proyecto Asis
   Sky Trek Zip Lining
   Venado Caves


   Amazon Rainforest
   Chaquiñan Bicycle Trail
   La Mitad del Mundo
   Napo Wildlife Center
   Papallacta Hot Springs
   Proyecto DCR
   Yasuní National Park


   Baja California
   Frida Kahlo Museum
   Hierve el Agua
   Marietas Islands
   Mexico City
   Monte Alban
   Oaxaca City
   Puerto Angel
   Puerto Escondido
   Puerto Vallarta
   San Agustin
   San Martin Tilcajete
   Santa Fe de la Laguna
   Santa María el Tule
   Studio of Jacobo Angeles
   Teotitlán del Valle

   Dead Vlei
   Elondo Village
   Etosha Nat'l Park
   Hippo Pools Camp
   Hoba Meteorite
   Khowarib Camp
   Moose McGregor's Bakery
   Mowani Camp
   Ngepi Camp
   Nkasa Lupala
   n'Kwzi Camp
   River Dance Lodge
   Seisriem Camp
   Treesleeper Camp

   Cañón del Pato
   Cerro de Pasco
   La Oroya
   Machu Picchu
   Nuevo Jaén
   Tingo Maria
   Yungay Memorial


South Africa

   Rock of Gibraltar
   Santillana del Mar

United States National Parks
   Arches National Park, UT
   Badlands National Park, SD
   Bandelier National Monument, NM
   Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
   Cahokia Mounds (UNESCO site), IL
   Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM
   Canyon de Chelly Nat'l Monument, AZ
   Cape Hatteras National Shoreline, NC
   Capitol Reef National Park, UT
   Civil Rights Memorial, AL
   Death Valley National Park, CA
   Denali National Park, AK
   Devil’s Tower National Monument, WY
   El Morro National Monument, NM
   Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C.
   Glacier National Park, MT
   Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
   Grand Tetons National Park, WY
   Great Basin National Park, NV
   Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, HI
   Joshua Tree National Park, CA
   Kaloko-Honokohau Nat'l Hist. Park, HI
   Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks, NM
   King's Canyon National Park, CA
   Martin Luther King Jr. Nat'l Hist. Site, GA
   Mesa Verde National Park, CO
   Montezuma's Castle Nat'l Monument, AZ
   Monticello, VA
   Mount Rushmore National Memorial, SD
   Mt. Rainier National Park, WA
   Olympic National Park, WA
   Petrified Wood National Park, AZ
   Pinnacles National Monument, CA
   Pu'uhonua o Honaunau Nat'l Hist Pk, HI
   Pu'ukohola Heiau Nat'l Historic Site, HI
   San Antonio Missions Nat'l Hist. Park, TX
   Tuzigoot National Monument, AZ
   Walnut Canyon National Monument, AZ
   Washington Monument
   White Sands National Monument, NM
   Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, AK
   Wright Brothers National Memorial in NC
   Yellowstone National Park, WY
   Yosemite National Park, CA

United States, Cities and Places
   The Alamo, TX
   Alaska Wildlife Conservation Cntr.
   Alpine Loop in CO
   Anchorage, AK
   Antares Junction, AZ
   Arctic Circle, AK
   Barrel Oak Winery in VA
   Biloxi, MS
   Bottle Tree Farm in CA
   Calico Ghost Town, CA
   Canfield Mountain Trail System, ID
   Cape St. Vincent, NY
   Carson City, NV
   Carter Caves State Park in KY
   Chappie-Shasta OHV Area, CA
   Child's Glacier, AK
   Circle B Chuckwagon Show in SD
   City Museum in MO
   Cody, WY
   Corn Palace in SD
   Crazy Horse Memorial in SD
   Custer State Park, SD
   Dalton Highway, AK
   Dinosaur Tracks in AZ
   Discovery Place in Charlotte, NC
   Dry Falls (Sun Lakes-Dry Falls), WA
   Fairbanks, AK
   Front Royal, VA
   Gallup, NM
   Goffs, CA
   Grand Canyon Caves, AZ
   Grand Canyon Skywalk, AZ
   Grave Digger Monster Truck in NC
   Great Salt Lake, UT
   Hackberry General Store in AZ
   Hannibal, MO
   Hatteras Island, NC
   Hawaii (Big Island)
   Hickison Petroglyphs, NV
   Holbrook, AZ
   Hole in the Rock, UT
   Homer, AK
   Honey Island Swamp Tour in LA
   Hoover Dam, NV
   Hyder, AK
   Jim Gray’s Petrified Wood Co. in AZ
   John’s Peak OHV Area, OR
   Kailua-Kona, HI
   Keepers of the Wild Nature Park in AZ
   Kennecott, AK
   Kennecott Copper Mine in UT
   Kingman, AZ
   Lake Havasu, AZ
   Lake Tahoe, NV
   Las Vegas, NV (winter 2010)
   Little Brown Church in IA
   London Bridge in AZ
   Loneliest Road in America, Hwy. 50, NV
   Los Angeles, CA
   Lost Colony Show on Roanoke Isl., NC
   Lowe’s Speedway in NC
   Mardi Gras World in LA
   Mark Twain Museum in MO
   Meteor Crater, AZ
   Million Dollar Highway, CO
   Minnesota Zoo
   Mitchell, SD
   Moab, UT
   Moab, UT (dirt biking)
   Montgomery, AL
   Montpelier, ID
   Navajo Nation, AZ
   Needles, CA
   Nevada Beach, NV
   Newberry Springs, CA
   New River Gorge, WV
   New Orleans, LA
   Niagara Falls 
   North Pole, AK
   Oatman, AZ
   Old Faithful Geyser in WY
   Omak Stampede, WA
   Painted Desert, AZ
   Park City, UT (summer)
   Plymouth, NC
   Portage Valley, AK
   Portland, OR
   Prospect OHV Trail System, OR
   Resaca, GA
   Riverside State Park, WA
   Rock City in TN
   Rosa Parks Library and Museum in AL
   Roswell, NM
   Russian River, AK
   Salt Lake City, UT
   San Antonio, TX
   San Diego, CA
   San Juan Islands, WA
   San Francisco, CA
   Santa Catalina Island, CA
   Seattle, WA
   Sedona, AZ
   Shoe Tree in CA
   Shoe Tree in NV
   Silverton, CO
   Sonora, TX
   St. Louis, MO
   St. Paul, MN
   Talkeetna, AK
   Telluride, CO
   Route 66
   Twin Knobs Recreation Area in KY
   Virginia Beach, VA
   Washington D.C.
   Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park in IL
   Williamsburg, VA
   Winom Frazier OHV Area, OR
   Winslow, AZ
   Zion National Park, UT

Planning Our Adventures

For us, each journey begins with the initial heart pangs to venture to a certain part of the world. Then the ideas start coming together . . . ahh, the possibilities . . . and the dream evolves gradually into an actual plan. But, oh, the joy of the dream!  Click here to learn more about how we plan and prepare for our journeys.

Where Are We Now?

Click here to discover where we are now, as well as our uncoming travel plans.

Words for the Heart

“. . . and then the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

Anais Nin