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"If I didn't do what I enjoy for fear I would die sooner,  
that would be the same as being dead already." 
~ our philosophical ultra running friend Gary Cantrell AKA "Lazarus Lake" ("Laz")

That quote has relevance to the last section of this entry regarding Denali National Park's first death by grizzly bear. But I'm getting ahead of myself . . .

Right now we're still in the Anchorage area. We had a beautiful day today -- perfect for a road trip down to the Portage Valley to see Byron Glacier again and for Jim to ride the Trail of Blue Ice bike path again. 

It was mostly sunny when we got up, although the Chugach Range was mostly under low, billowing, white clouds all day. We drove near the lower part of the mountain slopes to Portage Valley and back, as you can see from this map of Turnagain Arm with our route highlighted in yellow:

We highly recommend this beautiful drive when the weather is as nice as it was today.

My photos turned out better today than on previous trips along Turnagain Arm. It's a wonder! I took the next six pictures as we went eastbound (into the sun) this morning from inside the truck (window smears and glare) while Jim was driving (motion):

Low tide, looking across Turnagain Arm at its juncture with Cook Inlet;
the mountains on the other side are on the NW corner of the Kenai Peninsula.

View east to the Kenai Mountains; Chugach Range is on left and Kenai Mtns. are ahead and right.

Low clouds blanket this part of Chugach State Park on the left.

Above and below:  interesting cloud patterns over the Kenai Range to the south


Approaching Portage near the eastern end of Turnagain Arm we
could see Spencer and other nearby glaciers below the clouds.

Temps ranged from the mid-50s to mid-60s F. at the campground and a few degrees cooler along Turnagain Arm, very comfortable for hiking and cycling. The chilliest spot was in the canyon going back to Byron Glacier in the morning.


Soon after we curved around the far end of Turnagain Arm at the former townsite of Portage we turned left (east) on the road through Portage Valley. It ends at Whitter but we didn't go that far.

I'm including an aerial USDA photo of the valley here that I used in one of my entries from July 15 when we were in the area. It shows the eastern portion of Portage Valley better than any map or written description I can provide:

The road we took back to the lake is to the right in that photo. We haven't been on the road to the left. The arrow points to the Williwaw National Forest Service Campground where we stayed a few days in July. The fish viewing platform is near there. Portage Lake is in the distance. Note all the streams, mountains, and glaciers in this lush valley.

The Begich Boggs Visitor Center is about five miles back this road from the Seward Hwy. It sits at the north end of  Portage Lake.

This morning we turned toward the visitor center, then continued about 3/4 mile farther south on a more narrow road to the parking area for the trail to Byron Glacier. We got there about 10 AM and had the place to ourselves most of the time.

Just us at the trailhead; Jim gets ready to ride his bike.

I enjoyed the beauty and solitude Ė and being able to take photos without strangers in them. 

Jim rode his bike one mile back to the glacier on the wide, mostly flat gravel path. There are no signs indicating bikes are prohibited on the trail, although we havenít seen any either time we've been here. Jim didn't see anyone at all on the trail while he rode out and back and I didn't see anyone until I was coming back from my hike with Cody.


When Jim and I hiked the path on June 27 there was still a lot of snow the second half mile. Jim had trouble negotiating the snow with his bum knee and he didnít go as far back to the glacier as I did. We didn't have time to hike back to the glacier on July 15-16 when we camped at Williwaw Campground. Although this was our third time in the area, it was just our second time to go back to Byron Glacier.

I'm happy to report that today we could both get much closer to the base of the glacier.

If you have a few minutes, click on the link above and compare the photos from late June with the ones in this entry. Here are two from that date:

Above:  snow at Byron Glacier on June 27.   Below:  That's as far as I felt safe to walk that day.

I'm glad we were both able to get closer to the base of the glacier this time. It was very easy to walk and cycle with no snow on the ground:


Several feet of snow covered the trail beyond this point in late June; it's melted now:


There are still blocks of compacted snow breaking off from this slope but these aren't the same ones I photographed last time:


Two months ago this bench and low stone wall were buried under snow:

Today it would have been possible to get much closer to the base of the glacier if I had wanted to walk through several hundred feet of unstable rocks.

Since I also have rather unstable knees and ankles . . . Cody and I walked over some of the rocks at the end of the trail but didnít go more than about 200 feet past the bench. I was able to zoom in with the camera well enough there, although I couldn't see all the way to the top of the glacier from that vantage point:




Nor did Cody or I go out on any of the snow or ice Ė too high a risk of falling through snow bridges that have been melting for several months. 

Cody waded into the creek farther from the glacier to get a drink two or three times. He wasnít interested in full-body submersion in the freezing water, however. Smart dog.

Continued on the next page . . . more photos of Byron and other glaciers and the Trail of Blue Ice

Happy trails,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, and Cody the ultra Lab

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© 2012 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil