Lazy Days at Tolsona Wilderness – Glennallen, Alaska

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.

Glenn Highway
Wildflowers along the Glenn Highway
Chugach mountain ranges
Snack break facing the Chugach mountain ranges
Sheep Mountain,AK
Sheep Mountain
Matanuska Glacier
Glimpse of Matanuska Glacier
Matanuska Glacier
Matanuska Glacier
Matanuska Rive
Matanuska River flows through the valleys

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.

Wrangell Mountains
Plaque about Wrangell Mountains
Mt Sanford on the left and Mt Drum on the right
Mt Sanford on the left and Mt Drum on the right
Mt Drum
Mt Drum as seen from the highway

 



 

Bearfooting in the Kenai Peninsula

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.

Kenai Peninsula
Kenai Peninsula

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!

Anchor Point, AK
ML modestly posing at another sign
Homer Spit
Viewing snowcapped mountains from Homer Spit
Homer Spit
Beautiful Sunset at Homer
Anchor Point
North Fork Loop road in Anchor Point
Floatplane
Steve’s first floatplane trip, out of Homer.
Harding IceField
The Harding IceField covers over 700 square miles at the top of the mountain ranges, and spills over the peaks as hundreds of glaciers.
Grewingk Glacier
Grewingk Glacier
Glacier view
Yet another glacier, as seen from the plane from Homer during Steve’s flight.
Mt Redoubt
Mt Redoubt
Mt Iliamna
Mt Iliamna
Gemma, ML, Joy and Wennah
Ninilchik, AK
Steve attempts to fly with the seagulls. They were very graceful, he crash-landed
Bald Eagle
Bald eagle hanging out near our RV site

 



 

Rivers of Ice, Knik Glacier – Palmer, Alaska

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.

Palmer Alaska
Record of giant veggies in Palmer through the years
Palmer Alaska
A sampling of these giant veggies at the Visitor Center

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!

Knik Glacier
Mama moose showing baby moose the right way to get hit by a car.

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.

Knik Glacier, Palmer, AK
The airboat
River Bed at Knik Glacier, Palmer
Drive onto a river bed
Knick Glacier, Palmer
Driving around the icebergs
Knik Glacier, Palmer
Flowers looking like ice or snow
Knik Glacier
Icebergs are actually clear, not blue.  But in large chunks you will see blue in the parts of ice that have been compressed to the point that hardly any oxygen remains.  This allows only the color blue from the light spectrum to reflect into our eyes.

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.

Knik Glacier
Amazing iceberg formation
Knik Glacier
Venturing out into the bank of glaciers

Knik Glacier

Rivers of Ice, Knik Glacier
Rivers of Ice, Knik Glacier

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.”

Looking for wild animals, Knik Glacier
Looking for wild animals

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.

Mountain View RV Park, Palmer Alaska
Mountain View RV Park

 



 

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.

Portage Valley
Portage Valley

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.

Voices of Ice
When the curtains opened….what a fantastic view!

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!

Middle Glacier
Middle Glacier greets you at the entrance to Williwaw Campground

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!

Williwaw Campground
Site #3
Birds mating next to our site
Birds mating next to our site

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.

Flag Tree, Williwaw
Flag Trees- branches only grow on the side out of 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!

Byron Glacier
Byron Glacier

Byron Glacier

Burns Glacier
Burns Glacier
Explorer Glacier
Explorer Glacier
Shakespeare Glacier
Shakespeare Glacier

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!

Trail of Blue Ice, Portage AK
Trail of Blue Ice
Views on the Trail of Blue Ice
Views on the Trail of Blue Ice
Portage Valley
Rain Clouds are gathering
Striking a pose at the trail