Jun 29, 2013

Another Trip to the Matanuska Glacier

When we stayed at the State Park cabin up at the Matanuska Glacier back in April, it was still more winter than spring or summer. So we decided to give it another shot. This time around we enjoyed some of the best June weather that Alaska has ever seen.
 I don't know of any other location in Alaska that has the view that you get off the front deck of the cabin. This time around it was warm enough for us to eat our dinner out on the deck and take in the magnificent view.
And this time we remembered to grab the camera and were able to get some much better photos of the glacier. All of Alaska is beautiful, but for some reason I find glaciers to be particularly fascinating.

It's not just their immense size and composition of densely packed snowfall... But their ability to grind and carve the land scape they cover. Eons after they are gone, the evidence of their passing still lingers.
As the glaciers grind over the land, they pulverize the rocks into a fine powder, which is carried away in the rivers which flow from the glaciers. This silty water is a luminous gray and cold.
But not all rivers come from glaciers. Mountains with a southern exposure do not build glaciers and their snow packs melt off during the spring and summer, producing pristine, clear water. Granite Creek just north of Sutton is an beautiful example of this, flowing down from the Talkeetna Mountains.
We weren't the only ones out enjoying the almost twenty hours of sunlight on the Summer Solstice weekend. I just barely managed to snap a photo of this classic car as it zoomed down the highway past us.
We couldn't let the opportunity to do some geocaching pass us by. Our favorite one of the day involved the most work. We had to scramble a hundred feet up a very steep embankment. The GPS led us to ground zero, but all we could see was more rocks... But all was not as it seemed. We flipped a few over and came up with what we were seeking.
In our search for another cache we came upon this old bridge. It once spanned the Chickaloon River and allowed coal trains to haul their cargo to market. The Sutton & Chickaloon area was originally sourced by the U.S. Navy as a strategic supply of coal before they converted the fleet to diesel.
The metal roof was not an original part of the structure. It was added at some time to slow the decay of the old bridge.... But I think it was added too late. The massive wood beams were showing their age.
And while the old bridge slowly rots away, Castle Mountain stands as it has for untold generations.
We turned back south and headed for home just before entering the pass at Eureka Summit. I love the high alpine areas in Alaska. Broad Pass south of Cantwell is my favorite, but this area is a close second.
The weather was perfect, the views were perfect and we got to do some geocaching. It doesn't get much better than that...

Jun 2, 2013

A Beautiful Trip to Denali National Park

Last weekend we made a family trip to the Denali National Park area. We were schedule to do a trip on Argo ATV's along the Stampede Trail with Denali Tundra Tours. Unfortunately Mother Nature did not cooperate with out plans. We went from a late winter snow fall to 70 degrees in about 8 days. The massive melt off had the trail flooded, so we opted for a rain check.
The drive up on Saturday was perfect. We made a stop at the South Denali Viewpoint at Mile 135 of the Parks Highway. The view of the mountain from here is stunning. The downside is that 80% percent of the time the mountain is obscured by clouds. McKinley is large enough that it creates it's own weather pattern. Early morning is typically the best time for seeing it.
The Veteran's Memorial at Mile 147 is another great stop.
Just south of Cantwell while traveling through Broad Pass we came across 3 caribou. It's only the second time I've seen caribou in the wild and this was the closest I've ever been. Later in the evening we drove into Savage River at mile 15 of the Denali Park Road. We saw 4 caribou there too.
The Denali Park Road goes about 90 miles into the park but private vehicles are not allowed past mile 15 most of the time. Past that you access the park on the shuttle buses. One exception is in the fall road lottery, where a limited number of vehicles are allowed travel the full length of the road at the end of the season. We were lucky enough to do that last year and I did a post about it here, here and here.
For lodging we stayed at the White Moose Lodge. It's an older place with very basic accommodations, but it was only $85 for a room and it was clean. For dinner we all at Rose's Cafe. I had never eaten there, and it was great. I'm looking forward to eating there again sometime.
The next day before driving home we did a picnic lunch at Otto Lake Park, just down Otto Lake Road. There was still ice on the lake, but it was melting fast.
We then made a quick stop at the Nenana River just north of the Park entrance. They normally do river rafting here, but there was still too much ice at that time. But in just the few moments we were there, a big ice jam let go. Where the highway crosses over Kingfisher Creek, the snow and ice was completely packed in under the bridge, but the melting water had cut a channel through the it.
We made another stop at the South Denali Viewpoint but today the top part of the mountain was hidden in the clouds, with just the tip peaking out.

Normally with my blog post I include pictures of the views. For this one I put all the pictures into a very basic video and set it to music from the Piano Guys. I'm not exactly thrilled with the results... YouTube dumbed down the quality of the photos by quite a bit... But at this point I'm too lazy to do something different.