INTO THE ICEBOX
The canyon was noticeably cooler as we went farther back, especially near the glacier where the
mountains on either side are closer together. Most of the
canyon was still in shade that early in the morning and the remaining
snow and ice had an additional “chilling” effect.
As the canyon
narrowed I could not only feel the temperature going down, I also felt
like I was going back in time season-wise from summer to spring.
The trees, shrubs, ferns, flowers, and other
vegetation were all very green, lush, and rain-foresty, especially in
the first part of the trail where it's more open and there is more
sunshine. Farther back, the cow
parsnips, geraniums, fireweed, and other wildflowers haven't even peaked
Some of these cow parsnip flower heads haven't opened yet -- by late
It's fascinating to
me how much difference there is in the vegetation and wildflower bloom here and
in Anchorage. Both places are at sea level. This area is a little farther south,
yet because of the difference in micro-climates it still looks more like late spring
in this area of the Portage Valley than late summer.
The differences are
even greater between here and Denali National Park, which is about 200
miles north in latitude. We could already see signs of autumn's approach
up there two weeks ago. Snowflakes are gonna be flying soon at all of
Alaska's higher elevations, including Byron Glacier.
Here are some photos
I took going back to the trailhead:
On the way back to the truck Cody and I saw four groups of hikers coming
in. One couple gave Cody lots of loving, saying they were on vacation
and had to leave their Lab at home.
He kind of pranced on air for a few minutes after that!
THE VALLEY OF BLUE ICE: MORE GLACIER
The Portage Valley is full of glaciers, hence the "blue ice" moniker
used for the multi-use trail that stretches the length of the road from
Portage to the Begich Boggs visitor center.
Spencer is the largest of several glaciers near the
Portage (west) end of the valley
and is also visible driving east on the Seward Hwy.
along Turnagain Arm.
You can see a variety of glaciers from the road that runs through the valley, the
bike path, the visitor center, Portage Lake, the trail to Byron Glacier,
and the road that goes back to that trailhead and a boat dock for short
cruises on the lake.
In this section I'll show photos of glaciers that both Jim and I took
today from these vantage points.
The first half of this entry
focused on the trail to Byron Glacier. We could also see these other glaciers from
that trail and the road between the trailhead and visitor center:
When Jim got back to the Byron Glacier trailhead he continued cycling down the road
toward the visitor center and turned west on the Trail of Blue Ice.
GLACIERS ALONG THE TRAIL OF BLUE ICE
This scenic bike path
with (mostly) smooth crushed gravel surfaces and lots of handsome wooden bridging
roughly parallels the road and several streams through Portage Valley
for about five miles toward the Stewart Hwy.
Here's a map of the
trail that I showed in a previous entry. Jim rode the whole highlighted
trail again today, including additional miles at Moose Flats and the
Williwaw Nature Trail:
The Trail of Blue Ice is
not only scenic, it's also peaceful. You usually can't see the road or
hear traffic from the bike path.
You can read more details about
the trail and see photos we took previously on three pages in the
July 15 and
July 16 entries.
Here are two of my favorites bridge pictures from those entries:
One of the bridges over the South Fork of Williwaw
One of two handsome tied-arch bridges on the trail
Jim took updated photos of Middle Glacier and Explorer Glacier and Lake while riding
the trail today.
There is a noticeable increase in green leaves and a less noticeable
decrease in snow from six weeks ago:
Above and below: Middle Glacier
Explorer Glacier and Lake
Artistic framed shot of Explorer Glacier from
beneath a picnic canopy
For comparison there are about a dozen other pictures of Middle Glacier from the Trail
of Blue Ice, Williwaw Campground, and Williwaw Nature Trail in the five pages of the
July 15-16 series of entries and four photos of Explorer
Glacier and Lake in the
July 16 entry.
Today Jim rode around the Moose Flats trails and Williwaw Nature Trail (see map above)
before coming back to the visitor center. Neither of us saw any moose or bears today.
However, Jim saw plenty of spawning salmon in the streams along
the Trail of Blue Ice:
That was fun for him.
We didn't see any salmon when we rode and hiked on the trail in
mid-July. I'll show some more salmon pictures on the next page.
Continued on the
next page . . . Portage Lake,
Begich Boggs Visitor Center, salmon viewing area, and a grizzly death at Denali NP
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the ultra Lab
© 2012 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil