Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Exit Glacier & Harding Icefield

Ten miles outside Seward lies the trailhead to the Harding Ice Field and Exit Glacier. We did the 9-mile roundtrip hike up to the Harding Ice Field, which was steep and strenuous, but definitely worth it! The blurb from the website gives the best description of the hike:

"Starting on the valley floor, the trail winds through cottonwood and alder forests, passes though heather-filled meadows and ultimately climbs well above tree line to a breath-taking view of the Icefield. The top of the trail is a window to past ice ages – a horizon of ice and snow that stretches as far as the eye can see, broken only by an occasional nunatak, or lonely peak."

Harding Icefield is the largest icefield to be contained entirely within the United States. It was really incredible to be up there, and it was a treat to see an ermine and some marmots on the way!

Back at the bottom, another shorter trail leads right up to Exit Glacier and it's possible to hear the ice crackling and see waterfalls streaming off the surface. The sun was shining through the ice, making it glow that beautiful glacial blue. Truly magnificent!

Denali II

Although Fall is approaching, the weather-gods have seen fit to apologize for all the rain, and have given us an Indian Summer. We took advantage of the sunshine and warmth and went back up to Denali with my parents. This time we took the train, and we had a spectacular trip passing through the Fall landscapes.

Denali was possibly better this time round as Mount McKinley was visible for most of our trip and we captured "The Great One" on film from just about every angle.

The animals were still out and about, and we managed to see four out of the Big Five. We saw the same wolf pack with their seven pups nearly grown up, and lots of bears, including a sow suckling her two cubs. 

The best sighting was two little cubs losing their footing in the river bed and being washed a little way downstream. We managed to get before and after shots of one of them.

On our first day we went for a walk on Horseshoe Lake Trail in search of some beavers. On the way down, a beaver looking like he'd come straight out of Narnia came up onto our path and we had a Mexican stand-off. While we were trying hard not to startle the beaver, he was getting impatient with us for not moving out of his way and he eventually detoured around us. He was on his way to chop down some more wood for his dam and bachelor pad beaver lodge. What a treat!

The Pebble Partnership

We took a trip out to Iliamna to the proposed site of the Pebble mine. The presentations were first class and it was great to get a behind-the-scenes look at what is really going on. We flew in a helicopter out to the drill rigs, and it was cool to see how everything works.

Pebble has a Zero Harm, Zero Repeats policy so we were clad in our bright orange safety vests, hard hats, and safety glasses. So far, so good!

The core tent boasted a great team of geologists who were only too happy to show us core samples. We even got a couple of pieces as souvenirs!

On the way home, I sat up front and "co-piloted" us back to Anchorage. The captain was kind enough to deviate from the flight path and do a flyby of Mount Redoubt and the ice fields. Simply spectacular!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Alaska State Fair

Breaking News! This year the State record for the heaviest pumpkin was broken: 1,101 pounds! In the foreground of the all-important pig auction was an incredible display of giant fruits and vegetables, proudly displaying their winning rosettes.

We didn't make it to the Beard and Moustache Championships, but after the Moose Calling and Tall Tales Contest, we watched the Lumberjack Show. A couple of very handsome, bearded, plaid shirt-clad lumberjacks treated us to a manly display of chopping, sawing, carving, axe-throwing and more!

Another highlight was the guest appearances by father and son master dog mushers, Dick and Lance Mackey. Lance won this year's Iditarod and is quite the local hero!