On Sunday September 8th, dozens of teens woke up early to board a south-bound train headed for the Spencer Glacier Whistle Stop. Thanks to a donation of over fifty tickets from the Alaska Railroad, the kids were able to visit hidden parts of Alaska not accessible from the road system.
The trip to the glacier was nearly 3 hours; on the train, kids met up with friends they’d made on past Children’s Forest trips such as kayaking expeditions in the Prince William Sound, horsepacking trips to remote archaeological sites on the Chugach National Forest, single-day ice climbing adventures, or trips aboard a marine research vessel off the Alaskan coast. Kids on the train also chatted with representatives from public lands agencies like the US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, played cards, did homework, and talked about the kinds of outdoor adventures they’d like the Chugach Children’s Forest to coordinate in this coming year. Ice fishing was a popular suggestion.
After a mile-long hike to the glacier, kids stood by the edge of the meltwater lake, fishing for small chunks of the glacier that floated like ice cubes. Alaska Geographic youth leaders explained how glaciers form: layers of snow that never melt are packed together, pressed over time into mile-thick ice that becomes heavy enough to slowly flow, like toothpaste, down mountain valleys to the oceans. The kids also learned how increased atmospheric carbon is affecting the rate of flow, and how Spencer Glacier itself has receded over the past few decades.
On the way to the glacier, the kids met members of an SCA (Student Conservation Association) trail crew stationed at the Whistle Stop who are constructing a hiking trail that will eventually span from Spencer Glacier to the Grandview Whistle Stop and beyond. Many of the youth expressed interest in joining a trail crew in the future!