Exit Glacier and the Harding Ice Field in Kenai Fjords National Park (Michael Jones/Media Bakery)

The Mirror in the Ice: At Kenai Fjords National Park, a Family Reunites and Reflects

To honor the upcoming 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, NRDC staffers share their fondest national park memories. From a Grand Canyon proposal to a raging forest fire, see them all here.

Extended family vacations are a relatively new concept for the members of my family. When I was growing up, “family trips” mostly meant visiting my grandparents in Taiwan and Hong Kong. This past June, however, my mom, my dad, my younger brother (age 21), and I met up and journeyed together to Kenai Fjords National Park, in Alaska.

Tim Lau and his family surveying Exit Glacier at Kenai Fjords National Park (Photo courtesy Matt Lau)

On our second afternoon there, we decided to hike out to one of the park’s major highlights, Exit Glacier. We followed the “moderately strenuous trail” (per the trail map’s description) at a leisurely pace, heading uphill from the ranger station and making our way through a mile or so of cottonwood forest. Wooden signposts lined the trail, each of them marked with white numbers indicating where the glacier’s edge used to be in a given year. The signs were sobering: Exit Glacier has receded more than 1.25 miles over the last 200 years, and shrank by 187 feet in 2014 alone.

After an hour or two, we finally reached the foot of the glacier: a soaring tower of blue and white ice extending downward from Alaska’s Harding Icefield. For one long moment, my family and I all seemed to be completely synchronized: watching the glacier in collective wonder, listening to the ice whisper.

I recalled a time when I was seven years old. We had stopped in the middle of a winter’s night for a layover in Anchorage, roughly the halfway point of a flight from New York to Taipei. Now, 20 years later, here we were together in Alaska once again, reflecting on everything that had changed.