I Slept till 9 because I popped some sleeping pills knowing it would be hard to adjust to time difference and first night in a tent. I hiked a short 2 mile trail to Byron Glacier next to the campsite
It is amazing to see how far back the glacier has receded based on where they originally put the viewing platform. It feels like it will just be a bench and some gravel in 20 more years.
Drove back to the Seward Highway and on to Whittier.
Whittier is the cruise ship port for the mainland. You have to drive through a tunnel to get there. $18 for access! Like everything else in Alaska it is expensive. I think they lean on this “Hard to get supplies and food here” a bit more than needed.
The tunnel is only one lane, so traffic shifts direction on the half hour and then they also make time in between for a train to share the road.
Right after exiting the tunnel. I took a sharp right and parked for a hike up to view of Portage Glacier. It was 2 miles with a steep incline the whole way.
In the last picture above you can see a cruise ship near the face of the glacier. They run excursions from the Whittier port for the Princess Cruises people to take a smaller boat up and close to this one. I got a nice view with no rain so far.
Above you can see the regular big cruise ship in Whittier harbor from my hike back to road. Whittier is pretty much just a marina for fishing and cruises with a hotel and some souvenir shops.
I followed the train back through the tunnel on to Seward.
My next stop was Exit Glacier in the Kenai Peninsula. It is a National Park. It had been a while since I crossed off a NP on my list. I think I am a little over halfway on the 50+ we have in the US. I don’t travel specifically to knock them all off, but if they have particular interest for me or close on my travels I try to hit ‘em.
The hike itself is an 8 mile jaunt up the side of Exit Glacier to the Harding Icefield. Named after President Harding, the icefield is basically the source for 20-30 Glaciers in the area. It is one of the largest contiguous sheets of ice in North America.
From the yellow trail above you can get the idea that it is pretty much a vertical grind. I was pumped that I had a nice day and wanted to make the most of it. It started flat enough for the first mile. Like many Glacier parks they put signs with years on them to show where the glacier came out to at different points in the past
Some views as I made my way up
I saw a few more people on this trail, but not too many in bad shape. You had to be relatively young and fit if you were gunna make it to the top. A nice view about halfway up.
It got rough from here on up. Not only were you getting tired but there were not many flat sections. Just switchbacks and long rocky trail. I had to convince myself to press on a few times, but the hardest things are the most appreciated.
Came up an outhouse just before the end of the trail. I assume it was an outhouse based on smell. Something rarely seen near the top of such a trail. Could also have been an emergency shelter with a dead body in it.
I could see the finish line from here. There are 2 people on the far right of the below picture
And what a view it was. It felt other-worldly. Hard to appreciate the expanse of ice. I was glad there were very few people around. I had to put some layers on as it gets cold once you stop moving.
Now, as the astronauts say, “To get back to Earth.” The downhill was almost as bad as the uphill. My knees were killing me. I realized that 4 miles up and 4 miles down was now my limit at this age. I think 2 miles up and down from now on is a good goal. I often do too much and get blisters and that ruins the rest of the trip. I would have a few blisters from this one, but with proper care they did not get out of hand.
I was just a mile North of Seward. I drove into town to grab a campsite and dinner. Small down with some eclectic bars. So many RV sites along the coast. I would hate to see this place in summer. I don’t know if they are all Alaskans, people that drive up from Canada/US or fly in and rent an RV to tour Alaska, but there were hundreds of hook up sites with only a smattering of tent-only sites.
I grabbed dinner and a beer and was in my tent pretty early. The tent site next to me was a mess. It looked like someone had partied hard the night before, but it being 7pm the next day I was confused/concerned for my well-being that it was still trashed. Was someone living at that site? I kept my tent a safe distance and was sensitive to any noises, but all worked out fine.
The next morning I had planned on doing a boat tour out into some of the fjords to hear glaciers calving and maybe spot some whales. It was pouring but I really didn’t have any other plans and just hoped it cleared up. I went to a laundromat in town until the boat left. I then had a great breakfast inside this old train car
Walked the docks a bit
Time to head out
Well, most of the wildlife had headed south for the year, but I did get a nice view of a pod of Orcas, Killer Whales to the layperson.
And a nice shot of a guy taking pictures of the Orcas. It felt similar to safari in Africa. One pilot spots an animal and radios to the other and in 5 minutes you have a group of boats jockeying for best viewing position, all hoping to get good tips from customers. I can't imagine the orcas enjoy these diesel engines booming all day.
Well the main attraction was this glacier, but the fog and rain kinda killed it and they did not fall on queue either
I was supposed to kayak around this glacier if it was nice. I am glad I was not stuck out in a kayak in this weather
The ride home I found a spot alone at the back of the boat where the wind was whipping and the rain was coming down and tried to enjoy the moment
I got back to port and did not feel like setting up tent in rain, so I high-tailed it back to anchorage and found a cheap hotel in order to get a proper shower. Hit a local watering hole, Humpys, for a Halibut sandwich.