I stood at the observation point on the balcony at the Visitor Center overlooking the great Mendenhall Glacier at Juneau, Alaska. Before me was a beautiful scene. The glacier reflected in the large lake. Ooh, ahh. Both to the left and right were mountains. It was a beautiful clear day. I watched the people too, walking around taking photos, and looking at the scenery before us and at the displays in the center, just a few feet away.
A constant roar came from a tall and full waterfall to the right of the glacier. Once, the glacier covered the waterfall. No one was aware of its presence before the glacier receded. I looked closer at the base of the waterfall. There seemed to be a sandbar and people walking on it. With my binoculars I traced the path they must have taken below me. It crossed large sandbars separated by streams and covered with bushes. I found the general location of the beginning of the path. A ranger told me that there was a way to get out there, but it wasn't official, and that it was a little steep at one point. I decided that the best way to see such a beautiful place was up close, so I decided to try it. My mom and my husband were along with me. I told them I wanted to try the path, and asked if they wouldn't mind just hanging around waiting for me since they didn't want to join me.
Into the bushes I went. Immediately, I had to scramble along steep wet slate under the cover of brush. After following some wrong trails and trying again, I found myself in the large bush-covered sandy area heading towards the waterfall. I jumped little streams and plotted my course across to my goal. My last obstacles were climbing a large rock, and then traversing a 20 ft. wide stream dotted with well-placed stepping stones.
I walked right up to the roaring waterfall, and even climbed up along side it a ways on large rocks. Walking away from the waterfall I encountered a large cloud of mist that emanated from its base. I walked out along the sandbar towards the center of the lake and found a large rock to sit on. I had a snack, enjoying being present in this amazing location -- surrounded by the lake and flanked by a glacier, a grand waterfall and mountains. I met people too. Some kids were climbing up much higher than I had on the rocks. A gentleman from Germany took my photo, and I took a photo of two girls out on their own adventure.
After an hour of 'hanging around,' I turned back. I crossed the creek, climbed the rock, and then looked for hikers emerging from the bushes to find the best path back. A couple times I had to stop and wait for new hikers so I could find the path again. The sun was setting, the floating icebergs were glimmering on the lake, and I enjoyed every moment of delay.
My entire trek took about two hours -- worth every moment. My husband and my mom were very understanding and said they enjoyed the visitor center and the scenery (which included me through the telescope!) I'm glad I had the courage to ask for that time. It would have been easy just to do the scheduled tour, and to take no risks. William Shedd once said, 'A ship in the harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.' I find that when I go further, it makes all the difference. It creates treasured memories.
Paths began to beckon Theresa when she was 12, visiting the Bridger Wilderness in Wyoming. Walking, dancing, and movement are a part of her, nourished by John Denver*s musical challenge for her to *fly.* Join her *walking with women* Life Discovery Tours.
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