Day 25: I have to get up early since there is an exciting adventure waiting for me today. I am going on a sea kayaking tour out to the Columbia Glacier.I do the trip with two guides from Anadyr Adventures and a group of about 20 persons. At 8AM we start with a little get together, get equipped with waterproof gear and about an hour later we are on hour 2 hour boat ride out to the glacier

It's nice to see Valdez and the surrounding coastline from the water. I always liked boat rides and so I spend the whole two hours outside on deck. Once we enter the glacier bay this becomes actually quite a freezing expirience even though the sun is up.

Weston, one of the guides, tells me that basically the whole bay was covered under a thick layer of glacier ice just a few decades ago. I can't beleave that until he shows me pictures from the 1960s and 70s. This is almost out of my ability of imagination..

[Apart from the occasional mind boggle and random knowledge I pick up along the way, this blog is not supposed to be a repetition of history or facts that I learn on my trip. Sorry to everybody hoping for that, I think Wikipedia does a much better job doing this].

Mind boggle of the day: According to the guides the retreat of the Columbia Glacier contributes about 1% to the global sea level rise.

Climate change is deemed to gave the initial push. However, the drastic retreat over the last decades [some years more than 1km] is more the cause of glacier mechanics. I am reminded a lot of what Bastian, the climate expert on my previous job, used to preach about the dangers of tipping points. Just like this glacier, we might come to the point of no return/acceleration regardless of our climate protection efforts. Valdez, home to the shipping terminal of North America's largest oilfield and also close to the place where the [I think largest ever] oil spill caused by the vessel Exxon Valdez happened in the Prince William Sound, is a fantastic [in the bad sense] place to be a witness of cause and effect. I am well aware that I am a part of the problem, but still: "Pump tyres not gas!"

Finally we are close to the glacier face and after a short paddle talk get out on the water in our kayaks. Unfortunately we cannot go to the main face since too much calving happend in the last days but we set out towards the west face. I share a kayak with Joy, who I met the day that I booked the tour. So I have nice company to talk to and share the unreal experience to paddle through the ice filled waters in front of the west face. Again something that I feel quite incapable of expressing in words. The silence that is occasionally interrupted by very loud bangs of cracking ice, the dramatic [and actually sad] calving and the waves of it reaching you minutes later, the feeling of nature's power, the beauty of slightly blue shivering glacier... Breathtaking! I'll try to upload a few pictures soon.

We spot some seals and sea otters, but apart from that we would stay a bit unlucky today in terms of wildlife spotting. The waters around the glaciers are filled with sediments so there is not much room for life here.

After 4 hours of paddeling [there is a lunch break in the middle] we are back on the boat ride to Valdez. It was an amazing expirience and I am actually more tired tonight than after a long riding day.

Day 26: Since Amanda and Tom plan to come to Valdez Tuesday or Wednesday evening my initial plan was to stay and meet up with them. I would have loved to thank them again in person for the great generosity and comfort they provided me with. But Tom recommended me a lot to do the ride out to McCarthy before heading towards Canada. He got me hooked and since this will mean 300 extra kilometers I spontaneously hatch the idea to be back on the bike tomorrow [plus I feel like I am getting a bit too used to the comfort]. With rain coming back to Valdez on Wednesday this early start also provides me with a quite stable weather window for the next week until I reach Canada. I basically pedal away from the rain.

In the afternoon I go on another hike with Joy and share some interesting talks. She is about halfway in becoming a nurse [same high demand as in Germany] and the amount of debt she will have accumulated towards the end of her education is outrageous. I almost can't believe it. She in turn can't believe that in Germany you would even get paid a [small] salary while you pursue this education. [Don't get my wrong here, we have a lot of issues in the nursing/care sector and Covid seems to not have changed a whole lot about it, for those interested I recommend a video of "mailab" on YouTube I recently saw about this].

It's also interesting how other things work here in Valdez. Even though Valdez is rather large for Alaskan standards the supermarket seems not super well equipped and there are almost no other shops. Even Amazon diliveries would take 2-4 weeks to arrive. They would drive occasionally drive to Anchorage which is basically a daytrip. However, Joy doesn't seem to be bothered to be away of the temptations of consumption.

I do very much enjoy the road talks along the way. But these are certainly the kind of interactions you only get when you stay longer at one place. I learned a lot!

With my departure tomorrow I end the day with the treats of a house, so with a nice shower and washing my clothes to be ready to get back to the woods tomorrow.