Trek to Matanuska


The 2015 Iditarod Summer Camp teachers trek the Matanuska Glacier

According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, a glacier is, “a large body of ice moving slowly down a slope or valley or spreading outward on a land surface.”  This definition hardly does justice to the splendor of these stunning frozen formations, as some of the teachers from the Iditarod Summer Camp found out firsthand on their trek over the Matanuska Glacier in June.

I fully expected to be one of the lucky people in the world to strap on my crampons and make the journey across Matanuska with them.  I had packed my new hiking boots, a waterproof jacket, taken a one-on-one camera class in Austin, and I was excited and prepared for bragging rights upon my return home from this once in a lifetime experience.  Sadly, it was not meant to be!  Breaking my wrist the third day of my Alaskan adventure as the 2016 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™ was never in my plans.  I knew that night that I would have to pack away my hiking boots for another day, another adventure.  I also realized very quickly after leaving the Mat-Su ER that night that, as the Beatles once sang, I needed “a little help from my friends.”  The teachers from the Iditarod Summer Camp became my “eyes” on their glacier trek.  Lorraine Crane, an inspiring PE teacher from California, shared her adventure to the Matanuska Glacier with me.

When I asked Lorraine about her journey she wrote, “the mysterious beauty and grandeur of the Matanuska Glacier is enthralling!  With each step comes the realization that this glacier is very much alive, cracking and moaning as we progressed over crevasses and past moulins, hiking ever higher. A chance to taste glacial melt from a waterfall, the purest water! The gorgeous Matanuska has at once saturated my being completely!”  I could not have put that any better!  Her photographs from the trip reveal the beauty of the glacier and the special opportunity it was for the teachers that day to spend time there.

The study of landforms is an essential state skill for science and social studies classes everywhere.  I love comparing and contrasting the Alaskan landscape to Texas.  For my students, the differences are obvious and always spark an interesting conversation!

A great resource for these observations is the National Park Service.  It is celebrating its centennial birthday this year, protecting our special places and unique wildlife across our country each and every day.  I also find great information about the Alaskan parks on Twitter or Facebook.  The photos and daily feeds make the study of our national parks timely and relevant in the classroom.  Park rangers across our country love to share their passion for these wild places with us.  Their dedication is inspiring.  The NPS site for Glacier Bay has wonderful multimedia resources for teachers including web cams and video presentations for the classroom.  Glacier Bay: Forever Wild is a video created by NPS that showcases the “beauty, majesty and wild nature” of the park.

Another great resource for researching information about the park system is USA Today magazine.  Each year they highlight our national parks in an extra news insert.  Teachers can download it for free, share it digitally with students, and use it to research and compare and contrast different landforms across our country.  Teachers can also buy paper copies for $4.95 and have them delivered to their classrooms.  In this issue, titled “National Treasures”, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in Alaska is highlighted with great information and facts, a wonderful resource for any social studies or science class.

Click below to download the free digital “National Treasures” PDF


I love teaching my students all about glaciers.  They are a fascinating piece of Alaska to me, just like wild moose and the elusive northern lights.  For now, I can only read about glaciers until the Iditarod Summer Camp next June.  I really appreciated the opportunity to experience the Matanuska trek through the eyes of the teachers at camp.  They inspired me with their beautiful photography and excitement and joy from that day.  Hopefully, next summer, I will be joined by another group of adventurous teachers, and I will make the hike myself across Matanuska, another goal on my bucket list checked off!


A final view before the journey back to camp!