Seward Leads to a BIG DetourShare
For the last hour I’d been hiking in Kenai Fjords National Park. Now and then a glimpse of the Exit Glacier would appear only for the trail to turn back north. The next valley over was green and lush. I kept contrasting the two sites so close together and so different. How was one full of years of snow and ice and the other thriving with flora?
That’s when I crested a rise and saw the Harding Icefield and “WOW” was all that I could say for the next minute. It was the closest I’d been to a glacier, the furthest towards it’s beginning, and I was eye level with ice. I was caught off guard at what exactly would be forming the glacier I’d been watching.
There were miles of ice extending up the mountain with crevices shooting downwards marking the glacier with tiger stripes. A couple at the same lookout asking me to take their picture as did I. They were as spellbound as me. It took a few minutes of staring before I could even begin to try taking a real photo and I don’t think there is a wide enough lens made to show it all.
Continuing uphill to get even closer I came across my first bear while hiking. A black bear with one cub who took a look and made her way along the hill away from me just like it’s supposed to happen. At the top of the mountain the size of the icefield continued to improve, but detail was still hard to discern. The ice blended right into the clouds making it impossible to tell where one ended and the other began. Look closely at the picture below and you can see a person silhouetted against the icefield giving you a sense of scale.
As I was taking a lunch break and staring at the glacier a girl walked up looking around like she owned the mountain. Unusual enough until her eyes settled on me and stayed there. That part was really strange. Did you see my beard in the first picture???
Eventually, our paths crossed closer to the glacier and we started questioning each other. I was even intrigued enough from the beginning to remember her name after the second time she told me. She’d just finished an 8 day backpacking trip, driven overnight here, and then was turning around for Lake Louise the next day. The claim to be from Los Angeles kept up until I said I was going to be in Prague in December. “Oh that’s my country.”
The hike back was more like a sprint with Jana (pronounced Yana) leading. I wasn’t sure if she was trying to leave me behind or not, but she never told me to get lost and I managed to keep up. In the parking lot my complete inability to have a clue what women are thinking reared it’s head as I gave her my email for a copy of a picture we took together and expected that to be the end of it. Luckily she didn’t give up quite so easily and we eventually moved along to having dinner.
Spending the evening together got me to wondering about where to go next. Jana had a suggestion for a 3 day trip in the Wrangle mountains she’d just left. I wondered if her three day would be a 5 day trip at normal speed. Aside from floating around a couple more seaside cities, what I really wanted to do was see the sun. I’d been in clouds and rain since Wyoming. The next morning I didn’t want to split up yet and decided to start caravaning with her as she had to be in Lake Louise Aug 2nd or 3rd. By midday I’d decided I’d go as far the Canadian border.
In the afternoon I was going at least to Watson Lake where Highway 37 splits to the south in BC and by the evening – why not go all the way (driving guys come on)? If you think we can share a permit then let’s go climb mountains in Banff. Sounds more interesting that what I had planned (nothing of course) and she certainly was more interesting than talking to myself.
That decision was made Friday after a 12 hour day, with plenty of stops, where we went about 550 miles. Once it was made, and she figured out her permit started on the 2nd then our goal was to be in Lake Louise by noon Monday. Which was only 1,650 miles away and two time zones away. D’oh!
Backtracking over my previous path on the Alaska Highway we met our goal of going at least 700 miles Saturday and Sunday allowing us to pull into Lake Louise at 11:30 Monday morning. I found it so weird going over familiar ground again and recognizing places after seeing nothing, but new sites for 3 months. Also strange was that it got dark while we were driving Sunday night. Hadn’t seen that in weeks.