Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Alaska Trip Day 9A: Kenai Fjords National Park

(This is the first of two posts about Alaska Trip Day 9; go here for the second.)

Alrighty! No more 10-hour driving days for a while. How about we go to Kenai Fjords National Park?'s the deal with Kenai Fjords. Like most Alaskan national parks, you can't drive to most of the park. The only part of the park that you can drive to is the Exit Glacier area, which coincidentally doesn't contain any fjords. So, yes, we went to Kenai Fjords National Park and saw no actual fjords. But we knew what the deal was going in. There are boat tours, but we were going sea kayaking the next morning anyway, so instead we went to the Exit Glacier area (which has no fee, by the way) to do some hiking.

There are two hiking trails here: a wussy one that provides ground-level views of Exit Glacier, and one that climbs over 2,000 feet to a view of Harding Icefield. Wanna guess which one we did?

Going up!

But before we begin...a public service announcement about bears.

My favorite part of this is the part that says "Play dead unless it starts to eat you, then fight back." While we didn't have any bear encounters of our own (the only bears we saw during the trip were from a car or bus), other people did report bear sightings along the trail that day.

Overall, I'd say that Alaska's legendary mosquitoes didn't really live up to the most places. The wooded lower part of this trail was one of the exceptions. Fortunately, it was cold enough (low 50s) where we could wear long sleeves and pants and still be comfortable.

I'll just say this now...this was my favorite hike of the trip. And we didn't even do the whole thing! But I'll get to that.

This is Exit Glacier from above. We didn't do the "wussy" trail down below, but the view from above is just fine if you ask me.

And, here's an even better view.

I discovered something along this hike: I think wide open, treeless spaces are way prettier than forests. That's just personal preference, though. After all, there are trees in my backyard.

As we made our way up the mountain, the scenery would become much more...white.

Uh oh. That's a lot of snow to walk through. Given that our footwear wasn't exactly made to handle snow, should we really be attempting this?

Yeah...we actually kept going even at this point, but didn't last much longer. I think we made it to about a half mile or mile from the end. The combination of the snow and the steep incline was a little too much to handle. The snow was deep, too...I estimate two feet plus at our "give up" point. The moral of the story is this: either bring really good shoes, or wait until August. That's if you want to finish the entire trail, which you don't really need to in order to see some neat stuff.

For those of you who - like us - can't get enough mountains, snow, and clouds, Amber photo set #3 (not posted yet, but it's coming soon, we promise!) will have more pictures from the Harding Icefield hike.

This was the best view we got of Harding Icefield. Not bad, eh?

Why is the snow red? Algae or something.

You knew we had to work Mo the cow puppet in here somewhere.

We were one of the first people to get to the park that day. I didn't think that 8:45 AM was that early, but I guess when the sun doesn't go down until 11:30 PM the night before, everyone stays up late and parties? Either way, being among the first of the day to start the Icefield trail meant we were among the first to come back down, which in turn meant we were the first people that everyone who started the trail at midday (of which there were quite a few) encountered on their way up. So, we basically had to answer the same questions over and over again. "Did you make it the whole way?" "How is the view?" "How much farther is it?" Our answers to those questions? "Almost", "Awesome", and "You don't want to know".

Even though the snow was tricky at times, I'm glad we did the Icefield trail. It was very much worth the effort.

1 comment:

James Allen said...

That bear sign is hilarious. Alaska is weird.