Land of ice and rock – Portage Valley

Comments 2 Standard

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

Strike a pose at the trail

Bear encounters at Cooper Landing!

Comments 4 Standard
Bear in Alaska

We arrived at Cooper Landing on our way down to the Kenai Peninsula.  Although the weather was really bad with high winds and lots of rain during the drive, it is true that the Seward highway south of Anchorage is truly beautiful. As we followed the very high traffic highway, it offered breathtaking views of mountains, mud flats and the ocean.  After arriving at our site, we were pretty much housebound until later in the afternoon, when the rain finally stopped and we ventured outside to look around.

Seward Highway

Snow capped mountains and a train cruising along the Seward Highway.

Mud Flats

Keep off the mud flats or you get trapped in sinking mud. Bad way to die.

Seward Highway.

High traffic on the Seward Highway.

Kenai Peninsula

Welcome sign to Kenai Peninsula.

This area is really all about the fishing.  The next morning people left the campground very early to get out on the river, and we also took off early for a nice hike to the Russian River Falls.  We met another couple, Kurt and Debbie on the way and talked with them until time for pictures at the falls.  Unbelievably, just as Kurt was preparing to take our picture a grizzly bear walked out of the woods only about 40 ft. from us!  You can see our reaction in the photo he snapped just as we were pointing to the bear.  Fortunately,Kurt spun around quickly to get a picture of the bear, but it had already begun fleeing through the woods so he only got the “bear butt” shot.  We could hardly  believe what had just happened and how close the encounter was!  The bear apparently had not heard us because of the loud water, and he likely got a lot closer than he had wanted to.  He looked as surprised as we did!

Just after that hike, ML asked to stop near a bridge so she could get a picture of the beautiful green-blue Kenai river.

Kenai river

Paddlers and Rafters along Kenai River

Imagine my surprise when I looked across the river and there was a big black bear mama with two little cubs!  These bears were a lot further away, but we enjoyed watching them walk along the far bank of the river for a couple of minutes as they searched for a salmon breakfast.  A great bear-sighting day!

Bear in Alaska

Black bear fishing for salmon, her cubs are in the weeds behind her.

Mama bear and cubs

Bear Clawing marks

Signs of Bear clawing on tree,note the claw marks

Russian River

At the Russian River.

Kenai River

Playing along Kenai River.


Next up: Salmon Frenzy in Soldotna