West Coast Cont'd (Glaciers)
November 3, 2016
After an hour drive or so, we started to see signs for Franz Josef. Eventually those signs led us to a car park that served as a trailhead for a few different trails that led to views of the glacier, some short and some long. We opted to take one of the shorter hikes from the car park, which led to an elevated platform where we could get a decent view of the glacier from a distance. There's not much to say here that pictures can't say better.
Not far from Franz Josef is Fox Glacier. As we neared Fox Glacier we came upon a small town where we were able to grab a quick lunch and some beer. Game 7 of the Cubs/Indians World Series was actually on in the bar here, so we watched a couple innings of that while we ate. Then we headed off again towards Fox Glacier. We made a short stop on our way at Lake Matheson, which is a small lake that is known for being the site of an iconic New Zealand photo. From one end of the lake, if conditions are right, you can snag a picture of Mount Cook and Mount Tasman reflected perfectly in the still water of Lake Matheson. The water was a little choppy due to the time of day, but Katie got some good pictures anyway. Check them out!
We then hiked back to our car from Lake Matheson and continue towards Fox Glacier. At Fox Glacier, we parked our rental and went on about an hour long hike through a huge ravine (reminder: not a geologist) filled with rocks. The tops of the cliffs on either side of us were covered in dark green foliage. The further up you looked, the denser the plantlife. One of the informational plaques we read said that you could tell how recently (hundreds of years) the glacier had receded from an area based on how much/little plant life there was. That gradation was definitely apparent when you looked around the gorge.
Crystal clear water from melting snow cut through the valley here and there, and we made our way across several streams as we approached a steep climb. The climb brought us to a lookout where we could see the glacier slicing its way through a couple mountains towards us. Interestingly the glacier wasn't very "clean" looking (presumably from rocks and dirt rolling down onto it from the surrounding mountains). You might have pictured an immaculate white chunk of ice, totally free of blemish. That's not what this was, which was admittedly a little disappointing. Still, it was an impressive sight just for the scale of the thing.
On our way back down the mountain, we ran into another couple wearing Cubs gear. Knowing that any self-respecting Cubs fan would be keeping track of the game at this point in time (Reminder: Game 7 of World Series), I jokingly yelled "Go Cubs!" to him as he approached. Looking up, he happily informed me that the game was in the 9th inning and in a rain delay. Gotta respect that level of dedication, staying informed halfway around the world.