Alaska's Winter Horizon

Alaska's Winter Horizon

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Sunday, Birthday Trip, Part 1

Remember to click on the pictures to make them larger.

We visited the Kenai Fjords Visitors Center this morning. Then we left Seward and drove the 3 or so miles back to the Exit Glacier Road. Left the car in the trail head parking lot and began the 2 mile walk to the Exit Glacier Visitor Center. Greg just had to snap this photo of me leaving the outhouse. Yep, that's right- not a restroom- an outhouse! It did at least have a plastic toilet seat!

We walked around the center and decided which trail to take up to the glacier. We opted for the 2 mile round trip hike. There was a trail that went even higher up another mountain, but it was 8 miles round trip. That trail provided an overlook and access to Harding Icefield. This icefield is 700 square miles! It is one of only 4 ice caps in the world. Since we had other things to do today and we weren't prepared for such a long hike, we took off on the 2 mile round trip hike up the side of the mountain to the side of the glacier.

The trail begins fairly level but was still covered with about 3 feet of snow. About 1/2 mile on the trail, it begins to ascend the mountain. As the snow had started to soften, you had to follow in the packed down tracks of other hikers or risk a deep plunge into the snow. It was a little tricky and I fell down several times. Thank goodness the snow was soft! As we carried on, the trail became steeper and the snow even softer. The only way to possibly know which way you were to go was to follow the footprints in the snow.

The woods gradually became more dense and we tried to become very bear aware. We were on high alert after seeing all the bear warning signs and especially the sign that said to play dead unless the bear began to eat you. Yikes! As we came to the many switchbacks, we tried to talk very loud because surprising a grizzly bear can be a dangerous if not fatal mistake.

We finally made it to the top of the trail and were rewarded with a great view of Exit Glacier. The scenery was breathtaking so we spent quite a while soaking it in and snapping photos. None of the pictures really do justice to what we saw. As the day was starting to get away from us we began to make our way back down the mountain. This was possibly even trickier on the steep parts, at least, than it was coming up due to the slick snowy conditions.

As we watched each step carefully and moved along, we heard a large rumbling noise and looked towards our left at a neighboring mountain. We saw boulders, dirt, and snow crashing down the side of the mountain. We tried to capture the avalanche on film but you really just had to be there to take it all in. We kept going and wound our way back down the mountain and finished the 3 mile walk back to the car. That gave us a grand total of 6 miles hiking today. Bet my legs will be sore tomorrow. We then headed back onto the Seward Highway to finish our trip's itinerary.

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