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Continued from the previous page.


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 yet:

Some of these cow parsnip flower heads haven't opened yet -- by late August!

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 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.


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 Creek  (7-15-12)

One of two handsome tied-arch bridges on the trail  (7-15-12)

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

Explorer Lake

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

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