Airplane floats on Turnagain Arm as glacier retreats

You know summer is winding down when your children (and their children) are on summer vacation, attending camp or getting ready for the start of school or pre-school. All of that is happening


Nazy and I are currently ineligible for pre-school and are winding down our school…

“… loans?” Nazy asked.

“We must owe somebody something,”I explained, ‘because I’m getting daily telephone calls offering to help me restructure my student loans.”

“I told you that you should have paid that last $13,” Nazy retorted.

It was, of course, a spam scam. They also told me to extend the warranty on the car that we sold 18 months ago. And, we’re not in school, we’re on vacation.

We flew directly to Anchorage from Los Angeles — the shuttle to the LAX, the flight and the taxi to the hotel were all smooth and pleasant. The hotel was rather nonchalant about COVID — except when it came to using the pandemic as an excuse for not servicing the room, a situation that …

nazy flowers Alaska Aug 23 2021

“… makes the ‘do not disturb sign’ somewhat pointless.” I complained.

We strolled through downtown Anchorage, surprised by the number and vibrancy of the annual flowers that filled the city.
The day after our arrival, we embarked on a Flight-seeing excursion, courtesy of Melika. Nazy was somewhat queasy about this particular adventure.

Nazy thinks that if you can see the pilot from your seat, then it’s not a safe airplane,” I thought as we boarded the shuttle to..

“ … the Lake Hood
Floatplane Base?” Nazy, aghast, asked. “I thought we were going on an airplane.”

“This one takes off and lands on water.” I replied.

“How big is this ‘airplane’?”
Glacier into Lake George from rust air

“Floatplane, my dear.”

“How big is it?” Nazy, who thinks that the bigger an airplane is, the safer the airplane is.

“They’ll be room for us. And the pilot.” I concluded. “I
think that’s true,

Although somewhat apprehensive, Nazy was a good sport as she climbed into the b
obbing seaplane and squeezed herself into a ‘seat’.

We were on a glacier viewing excursion with Rust’s Flying Service. Our pilot was Todd Rust, the owner of the company. The flight skirted the mountains before landing on Lake George, an ice-berg filled body of water that is fed by the Knik glacier. We flew over silty rivers fed by glaciers and clear springs. We spotted Dall sheep and moose.
Nazy and Rust airplane at Lake George

“Spotted is a very accurate word choice, Dan.” Nazy interrupts. “The sheep that we say were the size of the bottom dot on a semi-colon.”

“The moose was as big as the whole semi-colon,” I replied.

But… while walking beside Lake George Nazy spotted a pile of Dall sheep poop considerably bigger than a beach ball.

Everyone we met in Alaska agreed that global warming was real. ALL of the glaciers were in retreat, in the interior (around Fairbanks) the permafrost was melting — and they were actually installing heat exchangers on the roads in an attempt to stop it. In Denali Park, spruce beetles, no longer kept in check by harsh winters were wiping out black spruce trees. Even the taxi driver in Fairbanks who thought that “hidden reports from Israel showed that vaccinated people have developed spiky red blood cells and are all sterile” agreed that it was getting much warmer. (This same taxi driver said that his wife got vaccinated.)

Dan and Nazy at Lake George

dan and nazy selfie lake george

I booked a glacier and animal viewing trip for the next day. Our guide was (more than) laid back about COVID and masks. [This ‘What me worry?” approach was also prevalent at the Marriott, but not at the Captain Cook (Anchorage), the Denali Chalets (Denali) or especially Aurora Villa (Fairbanks).]

dan on turnagain river

This expedition featured stops along the Turnagain Arm highway. The Turnagain Arm is a narrow branch of the Cook Inlet. In addition to spectacular views and fierce winds, the geographical layout means that the arm is subject to huge tides (from +39 feet to -3 feet). We saw the standing wave generated by the incoming tide on our way back.

Note: The Turnagain Arm was surveyed by a sailor named ‘Bligh’ who was traveling with Captain Gook. (Yes, ‘that’ Bligh.) He kept having to turn around when the tide changed, hence the name.

Our first stop featured strong winds — we couldn’t leave the van until Tim had chocked the wheels…

and chained us to a nearby mountain,” I thought as I disembarked.

We were told to look for Beluga whales, but those animals were smart enough to stay below water. The stop also had a large, now retired, snowblower that the railroad had used to clear the tracks in the early 1900s.
Moose closeup

We were (more than) a little chilled when we got back onboard the van… off to see more receding glaciers.
The trip, touted as a ‘glacier and animal viewing’ session, featured several stops to view glaciers and a visit with the AACC (Alaska Animal Conservation Center) where we got close-up (i.e. more than pixel-sized) views of

“Wild animals?” Nazy asked. “They’re behind a fence.”

“These are rescue animals that are protected,” I replied, confidently — sort of. “It makes me realize the uniqueness of our trip to South Africa where the wild animals were both wild and nearby.”

On the other hand, we did get some cool photos.

The weather at the beginning of our trip was, well, less than perfect. It was rainy, cloudy, chilly and windy. It was, nevertheless picturesque. The state is vast and the mountains are everywhere. We were looking forward to improving weather and excursions toward Denali and Fairbanks. More on that in the next issue of The Weekly Letter.

For last week's letter, please click here

The Turnagain Arm of the Cook Inlet

Turnagain river pano

Glacier through the trees

glacier through the trees

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