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9 August, 2000

August 9 , 2000

Matanuska Glacier, Alaska

It has been yet another wonderful day here at the Matanuska Glacier. The sun has kept things very warm all day long. Much of the day was spent preparing for tomorrowís departure. Some equipment had to be packed and prepared for shipping. I also started packing some of my personal belongings. It will be a battle to try to fit everything into the duffles that I came with. I worry about how heavy everything will be once I toss in all the ďglacier souvenirsĒ such as rocks and loess.

Later in the afternoon a group of us hiked up Lionís Head which provides beautiful views of the glacier and the surrounding mountains. Lionís Head is a small isolated peak that rises maybe 2000 feet above the terminus of the glacier. It is a very challenging hike and in some locations you need to use your hands to climb up. The entire way up and down I occasionally stooped to grab a few blueberries which happened to be perfectly ripe and very tasty. On one side of Lionís Head there is a sheer vertical drop to a river below. It was quite a feeling to go to that edge, lie down on my stomach and look down to the bottom. Ben Cashman used a simple idea to determine what point up the glacier valley would be at the same elevation we were. He borrowed my water bottle and sighted along the water line to locate a landmark that was in that line of sight. Several of us tried it too and we were all surprised at the result. Most of us had guessed some point far off in the distance up on a mountain side. It turned out to be a point on the glacier itself about midway up from all that could be seen. It was quite an illusion to say the least.

You get a really good feel for the immense size of this glacier from a high vantage point. From this peak we could look way off in the distance to the terminus where we have been hiking and working. That area sure seems big while walking around on it and it is quite impressive to hike the ridges or stand at the bottom of huge crevasses. But from Lionís Head I truly came to realize that I was experiencing an extremely small part of this glacier. I think to myself about all the interesting things that I was able to see and do in that small edge of the glacier terminus. And then to see how small that area is makes me wonder about all the other possibilities for hiking and exploration. If I could have spent the past five or six weeks just hiking around the glacier I would still have scarcely covered much of it at all. It is a truly incredible place.

There is speculation that at one time the Matanuska Glacier was higher than Lionís Head as there are some rocks with striations that suggest glacial movement up there. You can see other indications in the valley that at one time the glacier was much higher than it is now. It must have really been a sight to see back then.

Itís hard to believe that today is my last full day here at the glacier. It seems so long ago that I arrived in camp but yet the time has gone by so quickly. I have been able to experience so many fantastic things here. Part of me wants to stay really bad and at the same time there are lots of reasons Iím anxious to get back to at home. Our research was just starting to yield some interesting results and thereís more that I would have liked to have done had there been more time. Perhaps our work provides a good foundation for future dye research here at the Matanuska Glacier. It will be fun to talk about this experience for years to come and incorporate it into the classroom but for now itís tough to see the end.This day has come way too soon.

Marvin Giesting


From Lion's Head you get a great view of the glacier valley and the medial moraines.


The east face of Lion's head is a sheer drop to the river below.


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