Aki is leading some out-of-town guests and me across Mendenhall Lake to the glacial ice cave. Mount McGinnis and the Mendenhall Towers form a jagged skyline against the indigo sky. It’s easy walking. Previous ice cave pilgrims have pounded our path smooth.
We got a late start. It’s still only 23 degrees F but the temperature is rising. Even now snow melt is seeping onto the moraine trail, making it too slipper to use without poodle paws or ice cleats. We have both. I ask hikers returning from the glacier if they made it to the cave. None managed it. Undeterred, Aki presses on, leading us across the mile-wide lake and onto the moraine.
To avoid sliding into a crevasse or rocks, we climb up hillsides rather than risk ice-covered sections of the trail. Translucent slabs of ancient ice line the trail, encouraging us to press on to the cave.
A jumble of clear, blue-tinted ice forms the only access to the cave. Aki refuses to enter. But her humans pretzel their way into the aquamarine-colored chamber. It has the same scalloped roof of the other ice caves we have visited. The roof and walls of those caves imprisoned round, foot-sized rocks. None decorate this cave.
Drawn by a patch of bright, white light striking the floor on the opposite side of the cave, I cross a still-frozen stream and enter a vertical tube of scalloped ice. Above a series of ice lens offer circular views of blue sky and clouds. I can’t think of another view like it.