Land of ice and rock – Portage Valley
We back-tracked on the Seward Highway heading north. The drive on Seward Highway, which is designated as National Scenic Byway, would have been spectacular for the scenery it offers along the way. The highway winds along the coast and through two separate mountain passes, Chugach and Kenai Mountains. But we could not enjoy it as much for on both ways in and out of Kenai Peninsula it was pouring rain. Oh well, the beautiful and colorful flowers adorning the highway were still visible and we enjoyed it.
Our destination was Portage Valley, a 14-mile isthmus that connects the Kenai Peninsula to mainland Alaska. It was carved by numerous glaciers that still straddle mountain peaks visible from the valley floor. Portage Glacier once extended the entire length of the valley and has receded to the point where it is no longer visible from the valley, but there are cool icebergs floating in the lake which is visible from the visitor center.
And for the first time we checked in into a US Forest Service managed campground, Williwaw. Upon entrance to the campground, Middle Glacier greets you, Wow! This campground though primitive has breathtaking views of mountains and glaciers and for the first time our site was asphalt, not gravel. It is primitive for it has no dump station, no hook ups, no shower facilities and just a hand pump for water. But this place rocks!
It is just beautiful and a quiet respite from our water views. We recommend this campground if you like dry camping, which we did for 3 whole days – a record for us. Our neighbors were trees, mountains, glaciers, and birds, and maybe wild animals that we did not see or meet!
The campground is named Williwaw from the 130 mph winds that gust through the valley and we noticed trees and shrubs that are bare of branches on the side facing the wind.
The glacial remnants that can be seen today are Explorer, Middle, Byron, Burns, and Shakespeare glaciers. In short we are surrounded by glaciers!
Our short stay here was enjoyed by viewing the glaciers, mountains and rivers. We walked on the Trail of Blue Ice trail, a 4.7 mile route which we learned is the most expensive trail in Alaska, costing $4.4M to complete. We felt privileged to walk on this trail for it is really a gem. We would have loved to bike it but the weather was once again conspiring against us. Just our luck to pick a record-setting cold and wet summer to go to Alaska!