Nature photography, political rants, and Martyman laughs from the ten-time award-winning author of "Cool Creatures, Hot Planet," "Endangered Edens," and the "Time Is Irreverent" series.

A ball-sucking glacier!

Marty’s photo of the day #3127: In this photo, Deb is at the top (elevation 4,300 feet) of the Salmon Glacier in Alaska. It’s the fifth largest glacier in North America. The following excerpt from my first book, Cool Creatures, Hot Planet: Exploring the Seven Continents, describes our adventure:

Unlike other mountain roads I’ve driven, this one made my balls suck up into my lungs. As for Deb, despite compliments people have given her for having balls, she doesn’t actually have any—I’ve checked. So, rather than sucking body parts into her lungs, she pushed one hand against the dashboard while clutching an armrest with the other.

Between the road and the glacier was a sheer drop of several hundred feet—I think. I couldn’t actually see the drop because fog obscured everything from the edge of the road out. From my window, it looked as if we were driving alongside a smoky abyss.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. We’ve all driven fogged-in, narrow, steep gravel roads that drop directly into hell. But there’s more. The road not only angled up, it also tilted down, so its outside edge was lower than its mountainside edge. The first time we hit washboards I thought the truck would vibrate off the road. Oh, one last detail—no guardrails.

During the final few miles, I found myself gripping the steering wheel so tight I worried I might rip it from its column. Once we reached the summit, the fog hovered below us, and the drizzle became mixed with snow. Suddenly I had a new worry: what if the water on the road froze?

Deb, I, and the dogs piled out of the truck for a better view of the glacier. After everything we had gone through to reach the summit, the scene was anticlimactic. We could see the upper third of the Salmon Glacier, and though it was bigger than the Bear Glacier, it wasn’t as colorful or dramatic. Instead, it was mostly white with a hint of blue.

Because of the weather, we didn’t linger at the top for long. Heading down was even more nerve-racking than going up. The truck felt as if it wanted to race to the toe. I rode the brakes, ready to react if we started to slide. By the time we reached bottom, my lungs ached from holding my breath too much, and my muscles burned from being held taut too long. In all, the drive had been both tense and fun—like a scary amusement park ride with real danger.

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