(Click any photo to go to my Flickr)
Sunday I visited a place I've been meaning to visit since Decemberish - Castner Glacier Cave, about 40 miles south of Delta Junction on the Richardson Highway. Join me!
The parking spot is just a wide dirt shoulder on the side of the highway. I left the car there, strapped on the snowshoes, and headed up what was ostensibly a creek bed, though all I could see was deep snow.
After a while I saw, via some cracks in the snow, that the creek was about 3 feet below me, and still flowing. I was walking on it! The trail ahead got steep, signaling the face of the glacier (hidden under the snow), and this thing was at the bottom of the hill:
Castner Glacier Cave! Let's take a peek inside:
Shall we continue? Let's:
One last look at the outside, before we go deeper:
As I was looking for a good way to frame the entrance, I noticed that when the sun was blocked but the adjacent clouds were visible, you could see some luminescence in the clouds. Neat!
A little deeper into the cave:
The left hand side of the cave (looking outward) has lots of dirt and rock under a few inches of clear, glassy ice:
While the right hand side is black ice with milky streaks in it:
And looking back, the icy ceiling dips lower until you have to stoop, then crouch, then I-don't-know-what because I didn't go that far.
But that ice on the ceiling rewards closer inspection, as it's composed of these fantastically fragile little geometric shapes. These photos were taken at about 0.5x magnification - for a sense of scale, the 'cup' at the tip in this first picture is about half an inch across:
The cave was basically a photographers candyland. Between the panoramas of the entrance and the macros of the ice crystals, I shot an entire 4Gb memory card - more than 300 photos - without leaving a 30 foot radius.
But it was time to leave, so I walked back to the car and headed towards home. On the flats just south of Delta Junction there were small herds of caribou standing in the road, so I slipped the Prius into silent-but-deadly mode and crept up. I think they were licking the road. If I had to guess, they were treating the road as a mineral lick. I don't think they salt the roads in the winter anywhere around here, but I guess there's enough residual minerals to be worth licking. Besides, what else are you gonna lick? Everything else is under snow.
The light was good, so I got a few pictures:
Then, another great Alaskan sunset:
And that's the day. The end.