This is a continuation of the last entry, which
describes our overnight stay at the Williwaw USFS Campground in Portage
Valley and our visit to the impressive visitor center at Portage Lake.
After supper I took Cody for a 4-mile walk on the Trail of Blue Ice, the
Williwaw Nature Trail, and the salmon viewing area between Black Bear and Williwaw
This is a good
map of the trails from another Forest
Service webpage. I marked my route in yellow:
Click on the link above if you want to see this pdf. map larger.
THE TRAIL OF BLUE ICE
The five-mile-long (one way)
Trail of Blue Ice is simply awesome!
The photos on this page are all ones I took this evening.
This trail is designed to showcase several glaciers --
hence the name "blue ice." The only glacier I saw from this section of
trail tonight was Middle Glacier:
Farther along in this entry I'll show you some better views I got from across the road on the Williwaw Nature
Trail. I had a more "global" view from that perspective and the clouds
had lifted a little bit by the time I got reached that area so I could
see lots of blue glacial ice.
I hope to see the
other two glaciers that are visible from the Trail of Blue Ice tomorrow.
Explorer Glacier is farther west than I went tonight, and Byron
Glacier farther east than I went. I've
already seen Byron Glacier in the distance from Portage Lake and up close
from the trail that goes right to its base.
A small trail leads south from the Trail of Blue
Ice; I think it goes toward Middle Glacier.
In addition to the unique features of the Trail of Blue Ice that I've already
mentioned, it also has beautiful trees, shrubs, and wildflowers, lots of ponds
and streams, the chance to see bears, moose, spawning salmon, and
many other species of wildlife,
and scenic views of mountains, forests, and meadows -- even when it's
raining or overcast!
This hiking/cycling path is wide and has a mostly-level paved and
crushed rock surface that is smooth enough to be accessible to
people using wheelchairs and strollers:
The Trail of Blue Ice also has numerous attractive Alaskan yellow cedar walkways, some
curved and serpentine, over wet areas.
There are sturdy wooden bridges over several streams and two
very handsome wooden tied-arch bridges:
Serpentine boardwalk (above) leading to a tied-arch
over the North Fork of Williwaw Creek (below)
I am just in awe of the beauty of this bike path -- both the
design/construction of it and the scenery through which it passes. It's
a must-see if you're in Alaska.
The trail was completed only last year at a cost of about $5 million
-- that's about a million per mile but I think it's an excellent way
to spend money for public enjoyment. Funding was through Alaska's
transportation enhancements program. Most or all of the work was done by
an experienced trail-building company, Oregon Woods, Inc.
OTHER SCENES ALONG THE TRAIL
OF BLUE ICE
I started my hike at the trailhead close to
I tried to get Jim to ride his bike on the trail tonight but itís a lot less pleasant riding
a bike in wet, chilly weather (mid-50s F.) than it is to walk in it. I just
bundled up in rain pants/jacket and walked. I didn't even take an
umbrella. Cody and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
Raindrops on fireweeds
First I hiked about
half a mile west to the Black Bear Campground, turned around, and
returned to my starting point. The trail winds through mostly spruce
trees and willow/alder brush for about two miles between Black Bear CG and Portage Lake.
Soon after getting on
the trail I crossed the South Fork of Williwaw Creek on my first bridge
and curved section of boardwalk:
streams in the valley are a gorgeous turquoise blue color from glacial silt.
After hiking through the forest for a short distance on a sandy path I
soon crossed the South Fork again on this bridge:
That's one of my favorite pictures from this hike. I love the color of
There is a lot of boardwalk in the half mile between Williwaw and Black
Bear campgrounds. I am totally impressed with these beautiful curved,
I was even more impressed when I came to the first tied-arch bridge over
the North Fork of Williwaw Creek:
I showed a close-up view of that bridge near the beginning of
I took this picture on the way back to my starting point:
Next I headed
east toward Portage Lake.
The trail goes through a wooded area, follows
the South Fork of Williwaw Creek for a while, and then winds through
more open terrain:
It's about 1Ĺ
miles from Williwaw CG to Portage Lake and Begich, Boggs Visitor Center but I went
less than a mile
in that direction before turning around and getting on the Williwaw
Nature Trail, which I'll describe next.
The Blue Ice
trail is paved from that intersection to the visitor center:
WILLIWAW NATURE TRAIL
Here's a closer view of the map of this trail (brown dots), which connects to the
Trail of Blue Ice (gray dots) in two places:
Most of the
Williwaw Nature Trail
is across the Portage Valley Highway from our campground and the
Trail of Blue Ice.
I got on it at the SE end of the loop and walked CCW on the loop that
starts at this end between the two ponds
you can see on the map above. It's about 1/2 mile to the road, then
another mile along the creeks and ponds on the other side and over to
the fish viewing platform between Williwaw and Black Bear campgrounds.
Trail between the first two ponds on the SE end of
the Williwaw Nature Trail
The trail is smooth crushed rock the entire way, except for bridges
across streams. It is lined with lots of pretty blue lupines and other
flowers this time of year:
The first two ponds were very scenic. This is the SW side of the larger
lake to the right:
Well, I was a bit surprised when I saw this backhoe and piles of gravel
a little further on:
I was puzzled. Were they enlarging or making the lake deeper for some reason? Repairing
damage from the record levels of snow -- and snowmelt -- much of Alaska received this past
I didn't know the answer until I saw a sign explaining it about
a mile farther up the trail.
Continued on the next page . . .
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the ultra Lab
© 2012 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil