Aquariums to Glaciers

Seward, AK

August 9th, 2002

As the population on the Kenai Peninsula increased, interest in big game hunting and fishing grew. Faster transportation routes were demanded. Road construction within Chugach National Forest was the responsibility of the Bureau of Public Roads. One of their first road projects was a rough route linking Kenai Lake and the Russian River in August 1922. The roads to Seward are now all blacktop and relatively smooth. All along the way are pull-offs at an assortment of beautiful small ponds and lakes. With all the wonderful things to see in the state, each competing for our time, it was nice to just stop and sit by a quiet pond for a while. Seward presented two interesting outings. The first was to Exit Glacier just outside the city. This is located in the Kenai Fjords National Park. This is part of the Harding Ice field, named after the President. The ice field is a relic from the last ice age and produces dozens of glaciers. Exit Glacier is the only one, which can be reached by vehicle, and a short walk. As the ice recedes, it uncovers glacially carved valleys that fill with seawater to form the stunning fjords. Over the winter, storms drop hundreds of inches of snow on higher elevations. Snowflakes compact into dense glacial ice and feed 32 glaciers that flow from the ice field. Rivers of ice creep downhill like giant bulldozers carving out bowl-shaped cirques. The walk from the parking lot started out on a blacktop surface but went to gravel as we reached river's edge. Melting flows from the glacier, which carried large blocks of ice, called calves floated by. There was no way to get across the river, which would have taken us to the edge of the glacier. Approaching the Glacier is not permitted as huge sections of ice often break off and come crashing down. There is a path, which climbs up the side of the mountain that borders the Glacier. Back and forth I turned as I climbed for over half a mile. I thought my legs would break but finally I reached the point of closest proximity to the ice. The scene was well worth the effort. Huge crevices in the ice reflected the famous blue light. The key location on the trail had several rangers in attendance, as there had been several tourists who left the trail and cut across the rocks to the base of the Glacier. This is a "no-no" in Ranger terms. I walked back down the mountain with a family, including a mother and her two boys. It was kind of fun just gabbing as we tramped along the rocky path leading back to the river. It definitely was worth the time and energy.


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