June 26th is Canoe Day, a time when many of us head to a lake or a beach and soak up the sun during the afterglow of the Summer solstice.
Recently, I paid a visit to one of my favorite places in Juneau, the iconic Mendenhall Glacier. This time, I kayaked across Lake Mendenhall to get to the Glacier. Docking from Skater’s Cabin, the ride across the lake over was still and peaceful- until I rowed closer to the glacier. The winds kicked up speed and I found myself rowing in circles.
It’s hard to believe there was a time when the Mendenhall Glacier covered what is now Mendenhall Lake. The glacier itself has receded sharply over the decades, hastened by climate change. Early photographs of the glacier render it nearly unrecognizable today.
Visible evidence of shrinking glaciers as a result of climate change forces us to reflect on ways in which we can be more mindful of the resources we use every day and small changes we can all make.
However much the glacier has receded, it is a reminder of the vast ice field that still remains above Juneau. Historical Alaska newspapers have substantial coverage of tourism to the Mendenhall Glacier, billed as the only glacier navigable by automobile. Below are a collection of news items related to the Mendenhall Glacier:
The opportunity to kayak on Mendenhall Lake, with its breathtaking natural beauty, is one that I will always treasure, although it is hard to be confronted with the realities of our warming planet. I am often reminded of these dire environmental times while living in Alaska, and I can’t shake my guilt when I think about the fossil fuels burnt to drive to and from the glacier.
One can only hope that the Juneau Icefield will still replenish the glacier for generations to come.