Paddling Grewingk Glacier Lake


A couple of Sundays ago, the stars aligned for some good friends and I to jet over to Halibut Cove and hike into Grewingk Glacier Lake with our paddlebaords. This had been on my bucketlist all summer, but on all previous trips to the glacier, my back had been occupied with one baby and several hundreds of pounds of Goldfish and cheese sticks, so packing my board hadn't been a possibility... until this footloose and kid-free day.

We pulled up to the Saddle Trail Head mid-morning on a low tide, anchored the boat, and then hiked the short couple miles to the lake with our inflatable boards and pumps on our backs. The trail was dry, the air was crisp, and the fall colors were breathtaking.

After a quick lunch of smoked salmon, cheeses, and garden veggies, we pumped up our boards, zipped up our wetsuits, and pushed off. Although the glacier's daybreeze had not kicked up yet, we needed hats and water socks to keep us warm.

As we paddled, the shore got further and further away, but the glacier didn't seem to get much closer. I was later surprised to learn that it is nearly two miles from the beach!

We reached the halfway point to the glacier after paddling about a mile, and beached our boards to enjoy the view and take a quick drink of water.

Minutes later, though, we were back aboard and paddling right up to the massive iceberg in the middle of the lake. The straight walls of ice towered above us, and we were mesmerized by the intricate patterns that were so many hundreds of years old.

From here, we paddled across the lake and along the shore in pursuit of the glacier. A few small waves lapped at our boards, and at one point my feet shot out from under me when I lost my balance. Very thankfully, though, I landed on my knees (where I stayed for a few more minutes - I was not excited about taking a swim in glacial water, wetsuit or no wetsuit!!).

Being up close with Grewingk Glacier was breathtaking. The deep blues of the crevasses, the crisp smell of the wind off the ice, the straight cuts where bergs had calved...

When we set back off across the lake, the wind was behind us and we almost flew the two miles back to shore! As we docked our boards on the beach, we ran into a group of geology students led by Prof. Ed Berg, and he shared with us some interesting information about the island we had been exploring near the middle of Grewingk Glacier Lake.

While deflating and rolling up our boards to stuff them into our packs, we learned that the island was created by an enormous collapse of the mountainside in 1967. The humungous rockslide caused a tidal wave that towered over 200 feet and de-rooted many of the trees in its wake, washing some of them as far as Kachemak Bay. Fascinating! Our hearts were full as we said our goodbyes and set off on the Saddle Trail, back to the boat.

If paddling the glacier is still on your bucketlist, it's not too late for 2016! Plan 4-6 hours for a relaxing trip. Head out in the morning, before the glacial daybreeze picks up, wear boots that can get muddy, and pack layers of clothes (hats, gloves, water socks), snacks, water, and a waterproof case for your camera. XOXO

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