18 June 2012

The Glacier State

This state has a LOT of glaciers! So many, it is truly amazing. Most of them are much smaller than they were even a hundred years ago, but they are impressive nevertheless. Once we left Talkeetna, we spent the next four nights camping at the base of glaciers.

The first day we drove through Anchorage and turned off onto the Portage Glacier Highway. The entire drive south of Anchorage was amazingly beautiful! Turnagain Arm, mountain range after mountain range, and bald eagles made the drive seem almost unreal. There is an area called the Ghost Forest where there are stands of long dead spruce trees standing in marsh land. In 1964, the Good Friday Earthquake made the ground sink 6-10 feet, flooding it with salt water from the inlet and killing off the vegetation. New vegetation has come back which tolerates the salt water, but the old spruce trees remain, tall and bleached white--ghosts of what used to be.

We turned off the main highway and headed toward Portage glacier, deciding to camp at one of two campgrounds. The choices were a campground in the middle of black bear territory, or a campground named for the 110 mph winds that are often encountered there.

Okay, here's a quiz. Who knows Louise? Which one did she choose? Possible death or dismemberment by a bear, or really strong winds?

That's right, folks! She chose the bears!

I really hate wind, and true to our campground's name, that was the night we discovered fresh bear scat near our campsite. I slept like a baby though--there was no wind! We hiked out a little that night and found ourselves at the base of a little glacier we didn't even know was there. Our campsite was settled nicely right between two of them. It was chilly.

The next day we continued south to Seward, along with a large number of RVs. We rode a number of mountain passes heading directly into some of the strongest winds we had yet encountered. We got into Seward and asked at the visitors center if the super strong winds were normal. No. Of course not. It is usually breezy, as are most coastal towns, but what we rode in against was highly unusual. On the plus side, it did not rain that day!

We camped at the base of Exit Glacier and spent the next couple of days hiking to the glacier, hiking out to Tonsina Point, exploring the town and the Sealife Center (disappointing if you grew up with the Monterrey Bay Aquarium as that which you judge all others by) and taking a 7 1/2 hour ship tour of the Kenai Fjords National Park. Now that was amazing! We saw huge numbers of humpback whales, orcas, porpoises, seals, sea lions, and every kind of sea bird Alaska has to offer, including two kinds of Puffins! We also saw a number of glaciers and got up close to a tidewater glacier that very kindly calved for us. The ship's crew pulled in some glacier ice and made Glacieritas for those who were interested! Yum!

Our last night in Seward saw the bear attack on the bikes. We weren't too bothered by it, and quite honestly, one can't purchase souvenirs like that! A large adventure tour group of about a dozen or so people, out of Anchorage, had camped at the campground that night. Judging by the amount of food left all over the communal eating area the next morning by this group, I am pretty sure I know why the bear came around. I am also guessing he showed up the next night too. That's okay though, we were off on our next segment of Alaska and what would be the last couple of days in Interior Alaska.


No comments:

Post a Comment