After a few relaxing and comfortable - in the sense of no tents and consistent showers - days in Anchorage, we left for Prince William Sound (PWS) early in the morning on Thursday the 2nd. PWS is not a place I've been to or even heard of until this trip was planned, so I was excited to see what it was all about. I'd heard, and a done a little Google Earth-ing of my own, that there was a glacier near our campsite in Shoup Bay, a small bay on the north end of the Sound. Glaciers are far and away my favorite natural geologic formation, and I've yet to see one up close in Alaska. After hearing that our cabin was in view of one, you can imagine my excitement leading up to the water taxi ride we took out to the bay.
The night before we left Meghan and I picked up our kayaks for the weekend, borrowing Meghan's friend's boats and their truck to carry them in as it has a rack on the roof specifically for the kayaks. Unfortunately, the truck was a manual, a vehicle which Meghan can't drive and I'm mediocre at best. Nonetheless, we got the truck and somehow made it the five hours to Valdez from Anchorage through several mountain passes. Thankfully it's summer, so I didn't have to worry about the ice slides down some of the roads. I have only mildly experimented with stick shifts in the past, namely in the Netherlands last year why my friend and i drove a Fiat stick across the country. I had quite a bit of practice there attempting to avoid the elusive stall, and practice makes perfect, I suppose, as I didn't stall out once the entire trip to Valdez.
Valdez, the port from which we left, is famous internationally (in the oil and gas and environmental communities, at least) for the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the largest petroleum disaster aside from the BP oil spill of 2010. Still a big oil community, Valdez is also known for its proximity to access to PWS and the fishing and hiking that go with it.
From Valdez we boarded a water taxi to take us out to our campsite for the long weekend. There were nine of us in total, allowing us to use two of the public use cabins in the mouth of the Shoup Bay. Almost immediately after boarding the taxi, the views began to take off, displaying mountains along the coast for as far as the eye can see.
We reached the cabin after an hour or so boat ride and were surprised to see exactly how close our home for the next few days was to the Shoup Glacier, an impressive but realistically tiny glacier extending out of the mountain's valley down to the water below. Our cabin was only a mile-long kayak paddle away from the mouth of the glacier which I almost immediately left for on my boat.
Glaciers are an interesting formation for a number of reasons, namely because they are the sole reason for the state of Michigan, my home state and the state preferred by 4/5 Great Lakes (I may be biased, though, because the glacier's creation, the Great Lakes. are the motivation behind one of my tattoos). It wasn't until now that I'd ever actually seen a glacier up close. I'm thrilled to say that they are equally as impressive and amazing as you could possibly imagine, all 75,000 plus years of frozen water and all. Now that I've seen one I've realized my new biggest fear in life: the melting of all glaciers. Should global warming continue as it has been (for foolish disbelievers, see here, here, here, and here for evidence of the following statement), these monstrous and impressively beautiful walls of ice will not only disappear from the surface of the Earth, but their destruction will bury more than half of the world's largest cities under several feet of water likely by the end of the century. Take one look at one of these frozen walls and a disbeliever's thoughts on climate change are sure to be sway after seeing the trillions of gallons of melted ice flowing into the ocean from beneath it.
Despite my love of glaciers, we still took in all of the other activities there are to do within Shoup Bay, including watching the hundreds of waterfalls on the face of the mountains and hiking along the river valleys below them. Throughout the weekend we spent countless hours kayaking to and from multiple waterfalls and hikes. The hiking here is not quite as developed as we'd hoped, but that didn't stop us from trying to climb the unstable rock slides we continually came across.
On Friday Meghan and I decided to try a hike along the ride next to the glacier, and we quickly found that our eyes deceived us yet again. The ridge looked fairly hikeable from afar, but it turned out to be a very steep and bouldery free-climbing adventure neither of us were expecting. We survived and got plenty of pictures, but it was definitely more excitement and adrenaline than either of us were looking for.
In addition to the location, our company for the weekend was great as well. This trip was planed by an old family friend's friend who coincidentally also knows Meghan (random) and her roommates in Anchorage. Not only that, but she also has a random connection to other other, completely unrelated, friends of mine that live in Alaska as well. Only in this state is the population small enough that you have not one, but three completely random connections to one another. Though Alaska is huge, it really is a small, small state.
We spent Saturday, America's 139th birthday, doing much of the same; kayaking, hiking, eating, and enjoying everyone's company around a campfire. Unfortunately there were no fireworks this year to celebrate the 4th of July, but the scenery and weather in PWS were enough for me to still celebrate and appreciate our fine country.
As this is my last stop on my North American road trip, it also marks my last entry from on location. I've seen a lot of remarkable places across this continent, and though I missed a lot in North America, I can say with the utmost certainty that Canada and the U.S. are two of the most beautiful places there are. Coast to coast, there are very few places I saw I can say are "blah". Of course it has its ups and downs, but all-in-all North America is a thing of beauty. Alaska was a real cherry on top of an amazing nine weeks on the road. My beard is long, my clothes and dirty, and my wanderlust is deeper than its ever been. Iceland, here I come!