Continuing east we headed out to the town of Glenn Allen, 187 miles from Anchorage. The drive along the Glenn Highway designated as a National Scenic Byway is one of Alaska’s most beautiful, traversing a broad tundra and because of that we are reminded once again of frost heaves, damaged roads, dips… The road winds through gorgeous mountain ranges with spectacular scary drop offs. One of the most breathtaking sight is another glacier, the Matanuska Glacier. We even had a glimpse of the Wrangell Mountains as we arrived in Glenallen.
We spent our days at Tolsona wilderness catching our breath and taking a break from all the fun activities that we had. This is our 47th day since we arrived in Alaska and time is moving so fast. We played scrabble and had a camp fire for the first time in a long while. We were able to finally enjoy the sun, which made its rare appearance once again.
Enjoying the fire and the sun
Black Spruce Taiga, stunted growth due to perma frost
We completed our “bear footing” (having a good time), in Alaska’s playground – the Kenai Peninsula. It left us full of wonderful experiences and spectacular scenery. The bountiful wildlife in the peninsula borough allowed us to meet the real locals (critters) in Cooper Landing. We got hooked, we clammed and then traded clams for Halibut in Ninilchik. We gazed at volcanoes and walked and biked the well-maintained pathways in Soldotna. We went all the way to the end of the road in Homer and to the most westerly point in North America at Anchor Point. The Harding Icefields and Kenai Fjords National Park formed the backdrop of stunning scenery on the horizon at Seward. We witnessed frenzy Salmon fishing (or combat fishing as they refer to it) and dip netting for subsistence at the Kenai River in Kenai. ML even met in person, for the first time, Gemma, whom she has been communicating with through FB for eight years. We spent an afternoon with her, her husband also named Steve and sisters at their home in Nikiski. The sea life, the Alaskan life, the glaciers and everything else in between were just astonishing to watch and to experience.
The two weeks we spent traveling through the area were not enough. The pictures below are some of the many we took, attempting to capture the essence of what its like to be in the Kenai Peninsula. We had a great time and we urge you to come and play in Alaska’s playground!
Many moose crossed our path during this part of our trip
Another eagle near our RV site in Ninilchik
Bald Eagle and Seagulls at Anchor Point
Sandhill Cranes walking in someone’s front yard. Anyone can have a dog, this is different!
Trumpeter Swans along Seward Highway
A Black-billed Magpie. Steve calls them the checkerboard bird because they are black and white.
From Portage we drove to the east on the scenic Glenn Highway and spent a few days in Palmer located 42 miles northeast of Anchorage. This town is considered as the garden hub of Alaska due to its microclimate which produces amazing giant vegetables but we missed seeing most of them since it is too late in the season.
During our stay at the Mountain View RV Park we found out about the Knik Glacier tour via a brochure, which advised that we would be whisked away via 4-wheel-drive van, airboat and jetboat to the glacier. Airboat was the magic word for Steve, who wants to experience every form of transportation known to man before he dies. It was a fairly short trip (3 hours) and very affordable, so off we went. On our way there a mama Moose and calf crossed the highway. We didn’t have to pay extra for that!
We met our guides Tom and Tom, who split up the group and took us in 2 vans over some very rough roads and across streams that were at least a couple of feet deep and quite wide. That part of the trip was exciting, but it was only to get us to the boats. Then half of the tourists got in the airboat (us included) and the other half in the jetboat. Off we went for a 20-minute ride to the Knik Glacier where Tom skirted several large chucks of ice as we got to the edge of the glacier and then we turned to dock at the camp. The drive was beautiful as the riverbed was adorned with pink and white wildflowers, and the sight of ice in front of us from the boats was amazing.
Once on shore, we were served hot drinks and snacks while relaxing across from the glacier. The icebergs were too numerous to allow us to get right up to the glacier, but since the boats were so small we were able to navigate closely around them to check them out on our. Pretty cool to be able to actually reach out and touch an iceberg! Knik is stunning, so vast and quite different from the other glaciers that we have seen on previous tours or hikes.
After kicking back and exploring around the area for wildlife (we saw only one black bear from a distance), we switched places in the boats so we could ride the jetboat and headed back to “headquarters.”
It was a fun trip and the weather was decent. A nice way to spend an afternoon on a bit of an adventure in yet another beautiful part of Alaska. If you are in the area, check them out at: www.knikglacier.com
The RV park we stayed at has mountain views and the sites were grass. While there, we had company one day, 20 motorhomes and fifth wheelers on an Alaskan Tour caravan.
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!