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Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Friends of the Pleistocene: Alaska's Copper River Basin - Page 5

Written by Toby Bielawski
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Out of Anchorage and through the Matanuska Valley, we’d been rolling along the Glenn Highway past mountains and glaciers, but in a steady rain that had us worried. The junction town of Glennallen was drizzly and dismal, nothing more than a gas station and restaurant. For the fifth time, I turned to check the back seat, making sure I had packed my L.L. Bean seam-sealed Gore-Tex parka, and was comforted by seeing its bright orange sleeve sticking out from under the tent and tarps.

“Well, it’s a lot more mysterious up here, because it has only been uncovered so recently. With the desert, you’ve got the whole record, all of the history, exposed. Here, the ice is still just retreating. You’ve always got to dig some to get the story.”

Dirt detectives, I thought to myself, while I stepped over dark roots and squishy moss. It’s the mysteries that make these people tick. friends

That night we were camped on a wide moraine at the foot of the Matanuska Glacier. Emily and Yi-Ming came tromping towards us with their stove; we’d been cooking together every night. Soon one of the Patties came over to alert us that there was a keg of Moose’s Tooth beer available to celebrate the trip’s final evening, and there would be closing ceremonies around the campfire.

When we’d cleaned up dishes and joined the group, a lecture was underway about the Matanuska Valley. I stood at the edge of the firelight, looking up at the ridgeline of mountains. Words of the weekend floated in my head, and Alaska’s Pleistocene period felt more powerful than ever – permafrost, glacier, esker, tundra. “All these little ice-age features we’ve been exploring,” Patty remarked, “leave a lot of questions that still need to be uncovered.”

Then it was time for the presentation of the “ceremonial trowel,” signed by the Patties and bestowed upon Dick, who would be the leader of next year’s trip to the Kenai Peninsula. “FOP is a non-organization,” Patty stated with a note of pride. “There are no rules or membership fees; you’re in if you’re here!” With the cool closeness of the glacier in the breeze, we were all fully “here” in a visceral way. While Dick made a brief speech encouraging everyone, friends old and new, to come to his home on the Kenai next year, we were not quite geologists, but now we were FOP’s for sure.

©Toby Bielawski

(Page 5 of 5)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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