On visiting Anchorage, Alaska for the first time, I consulted a map to select a direction to explore. A tiny town called Hope caught my eye, partly because Hope is my maiden name, but also because the map showed it surrounded by Resurrection Trail, Resurrection Creek and Resurrection Road. It was sounding like a good place to visit!
The small town of Hope was still quietly awaiting the influx of summer visitors, mostly shut down for the off-season. After collecting some memories, we continued south to Seward, stopping to take pictures along the way. We had a wonderful day exploring, but of all the majestic sights, the highlight of this trip that I won’t likely forget are the mud flats back in Anchorage.
Twice a day when the tide recedes, it exposes thick brown muck engraved with deep crevices. The mire is intriguing – the child in me would love to take off my shoes and let it squish between my toes, and walking out onto it would have offered more creative photo angles of the surrounding Alaskan mountains. But I had been warned.
The mud flats are made up “glacial flour” – silt particles ground up by glaciers and carried by streams into the mud and water of the inlet to create a muddy quicksand. They can be firm and stable with the water sucked out of them at low tide, but as the water returns, bubbling up from below, it has been known to liquefy and clutch victims with a relentless suction grip, trapping them as the tide rushes in.
A local article warned readers not to venture out onto the mud flats for any reason. In trying to satisfy my curiosity with the phenomenon, I came across some very disturbing accounts of those who have lost their lives after becoming wedged in the muck. The glacial flour and mud formed an impregnable suction that rescuers were unable to break before the tide or hypothermia claimed them. One reader questioned why they didn’t cut off a leg to free a young bride who succumbed to hypothermia, drowning as the water rose above her head after hours of attempted rescue, first by her new husband, then by the fire department.
Some areas are drier and more stable than others, but once you’ve ventured out you may find it necessary to cross wet areas which are more dangerous.
I can’t help but consider the symbolism of the mud flats in relation to sin. Many test the waters, despite the warnings. There were no fences or guards posted to prevent me from ignoring the experts, the choice was mine. I read of a group of “adventurous souls” who planned a trek across the mud flats to Fire Island, three miles off the shore in Anchorage, during an upcoming minus tide. Within the story the writer pointed out that rescuing anglers from the mud is an almost regular summer activity for the Anchorage Fire Department, and noted that two teens had recently been plucked from the channel when they were unable to complete the trek ahead of the incoming tide.
The dangers of the flats are enhanced by the daily bore tide, a rush of seawater that pours into the shallow and narrowing inlet from the deeper bay. The differential between Anchorage’s high and low tides is about 27 feet, and the bore tide can create a breaking wave 6 inches to 10 feet tall that fills the inlet at speeds of 6 to 24 miles per hour.
Isn’t that how it is with sin? Every little decision points us in a direction, good or bad. We’ll compromise a little here, but only this once. We’re just going to stick a toe in, not go too far. We’ve heard the consequences others have paid for dabbling, venturing in anyway, but we’re sure we’ll be able to control the outcome better than they did. We wade in with a self-indulgent disregard for the warnings, eventually realizing where we’ve wandered once we’re deeply engaged.