August 12, 2010

Sailing Atlin Lake - Day Three (Llewellyn Glacier)

It wasn't long before we were at the glacier lookout and began posing for the obligatory family photos.

Somewhere, waaaaaaay behind us, was a stunning view of a mighty glacier.

But first we had to walk there. Not wanting to carry a soon-to-be-needing-a-nap Halia down the trail, Fawn and Halia returned to the boat for some rest. The remainder of our party pressed forward.

It was, for the most part, easy walking through cottongrass-covered meadows and level stretches of glacial till.

We came across a meadow filled with juvenile "chickens". They weren't able to fly and seemed mostly undisturbed by our presence. (I included these for you, Clare.)

Aside from a few minor creek crossings, the trail was dry. Very dry. The air, especially, felt dry. We heard one of the local outfitters on the beach saying that three to four litres of water was needed for the trip into the glacier. I thought that sounded excessive, but in the dryness of the air blowing off the glacier, I could see that he was probably right. Imagine, all that water frozen into a giant mass of ice, and it felt like I was walking through a desert.

As we approached the lake at the foot of the glacier, I could feel the air becoming cooler. It was a refreshing change from the mid-afternoon heat.

Rock art, made by some earlier hiker.

The terrain became uneven as we approached the lake at the base of the glacier. Increasingly, thick patches of moose willow grew in over the trail, obscuring the path to the glacier.

Reaching the limit of our hiking time and stymied by the overgrown willow patches, we hiked up a bluff overlooking the lake and part of the glacier and devoured a snack.

Looking across the valley, I marveled at the mountain on the opposite side, seeing where the glacier scoured away its flanks. It triggered memories of a hike I once took up the Caribou Glacier in Auyuittuq National Park on Baffin Island, Nunavut. As we walked up the glacier through a bank of morning fog, we could hear rocks crashing off the flanking mountains. Was that what it was like here, when the glacier filled the valley?

We never did make it all the way to the glacier. That's OK, though. I'm not done with Atlin Lake and I'm not done with the Llewellyn Glacier. My goal, the next time I return, is to make it to the face.

As if to punish us for turning back, the wind picked up and carried with it clouds of cottongrass seeds. While the tufts seem harmless, driven by strong winds, the seeds sting as they strike exposed flesh. Isn't it bad enough that we've had a summer of insane wasps?

Back at the boat, we let our sails fly, hoping to run out of the Inlet. Unfortunately, the winds grew so strong (and unpredictable because of the mountains flanking the sides of the inlet), we stowed our sails and motored back out. As a consolation, we were able to take in the views as the mountains were bathed in the light of the late afternoon sun.

Out of the Inlet and into the main part of the lake, the waves grew and the wind struck us broadside to the beam. Under power, we motored quickly home, but the waves splashing up the side of the boat left me soaked to the bone. I knew it was coming and would have donned rain gear, but it was such a short ride across to Sloko Island that I welcomed the chance to cool off. Other than my dad (who stayed in the cockpit with me) the rest of the crew was warm and dry in the cabin.

Back in the harbour, we cooked our evening meal over some hot coals and I soon excused myself to lie down. I had been carrying Jade on my shoulders for most of the afternoon and my back needed a rest. Fawn and my parents chatted around the fire while I read a Ray Bradbury book in my berth. I didn't make it three pages before I was fast asleep.


Clare said...

I thought you included all the photos for me.

Meandering Michael said...

Well, uh, yeah! But those ones were especially for you.