A Ferry and a Glacier

This morning we packed up quickly from our mosquito haven taking just enough time to enjoy a breakfast of homegrown eggs. What a difference in flavor and color. I wonder if I can raise my own chickens?

I am feeling more than a bit sad that the past few days of our trip went so quickly. Today it seems like this month long trip is really just a Three Hour Cruise…without enough time to stop and visit everyone as much as we’d like.

We headed over to Portage Glacier but weren’t expecting much. The Milepost magazine indicated that the glacier has retreated significantly in the past twenty years so that it was impossible to reach in person and the icebergs that Portage Lake was known for were also reduced. And we found this to be so. There were a couple of small icebergs along the shoreline, but nothing all that exciting. Still, an iceberg is an iceberg and we hear it’s 120 in Phoenix so it was still worthwhile to visit.

A receding Portage Glacier

A retreating Portage Glacier

Next on our agenda was a drive through the mountain tunnel to Whittier.  The railroad tunnel was widened just enough to fit vehicles through one direction at a time, giving the town sudden access to the outside world. We were there to take the ferry from Whittier across the sound to Valdez.

Rebecca had a friend who recommended a Kenai fjord cruise which, while fun, just couldn’t fit into our agenda.When we read about the ferry opportunity we realized this could be a great option. The ferry doesn’t run to each port every day so we did have to readjust our schedule by a day. We also made reservations once we decided to do this. A good thing too, because the car hold in the ferry was completely filled on our trip.

I had expected we might get on the ferry, finding seats inside the enclosed viewing area but the weather was so beautiful we were able to sit outside the whole time. Rebecca was very concerned that she would get seasick but the water was flat as glass. By sitting out on the deck we were able to see much more wildlife, including a humpback whale that decided to breach the water just as we were watching! Of course, we still got to see the fjords and great waterfalls, and with every snow covered mountain that showed up around the next bend, Bob would tell me to take a picture because ‘this’ mountain would look really good above the fireplace. (If I had 20 fireplaces we’d still be in good shape.)

It just keeps getting more beautiful!

It just keeps getting more beautiful!

There was a little girl who had been watching as intently as I for porpoises and more whales so I was very excited to share with her when I spotted the unexpected iceberg. After snapping a gazillion pictures of the lone iceberg I looked ahead only to discover a whole giant field of icebergs! They were every shape and size. Big ones, small ones, blue ice, snow covered, some you could look under the water and see the heavy bottom and some still covered with gravel, just as they broke off from the glacier.

Hundred of icebergs in front of the giant Columbia Glacier.

Hundred of icebergs in front of the giant Columbia Glacier.

Oh, and the glacier? We hadn’t looked closely enough at the route or probably would have noticed that the ferry passed right by the Columbia Glacier: a HUGE glacier that feeds into the ocean. Oh my goodness! It was truly amazing! I ran back and forth across the deck like a crazy person trying to take pictures of the best icebergs. As we neared the glacier there was a definite change in the temperature as the wind swept down off the mountain picking up that cold air and cooling us immediately. But what fun!

After we crossed the glacier bay we saw no more icebergs but we did see more porpoises playing in the water and lots of fish jumping before we entered the town of Valdez.

Sunburned and tired from all that fresh air we decided not to drive any further but to spend the night in this town at the end of the Alaska pipeline. Our budget hotel was reflective of the town. It was completely modular. The woman at the desk called it a ‘man camp’ filled with summer workers for the pipeline. However, we did notice they took more than the occasional tourist as a busload of Mennonites gathered for breakfast before boarding their tour bus heading north.

Next: The Return Trip Begins.

valdez

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2 thoughts on “A Ferry and a Glacier

  1. One of the more trivial reasons to lament the retreat of glaciers, but so many places are will be sapped of such beauty as a result! We really need to visit them and be inspired while we can.

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