Jul 7, 2013

Portage Glacier Cruise

I love glaciers. I'm not too proud to admit that... And I'll jump at any chance to get close to one. So this last weekend we headed to down to Portage Lake to cruise aboard the MV Ptarmigan to the face of Portage Glacier.
The cruise is just an hour long. You can do much longer glacier cruises out of nearby Whittier, but this one much less expensive and fits better into a full day of other activities.
The boat is set up nice with an indoor seating or an outdoor viewing area, bathrooms, and an on-board naturalist from the USFS.

The 15 minute cruise out to the glacier takes you past multiple water falls. Portage Lake is very deep and has steep sides so the boat can maneuver quite close to the edge.
The size and strength of the waterfalls vary based on snow pack and weather. Today they were all flowing pretty strong.

But, we weren't here to see waterfalls... We were here to see a glacier. The Portage Glacier. The big, blue river of ice. The ice crystals in a glacier are composed of super compressed snow. They are so densely packed that they actually filter the other colors in the light spectrum, so they appear to be blue.
We spent a little over 30 minutes at the face of the glacier, just 300 yards away.

Portage Glacier is not the only glacier in Portage Valley. You can hike up to Byron Glacier. Burns Glacier also overlooks Portage Lake, but does not reach it. But the water that melts off the glacier cascades down in a glorious waterfall.

I'm told that the width of the creek at that waterfall is over 40 feet. Which means the height of the fall must be around 100 feet.

Since the cruise was only an hour long we decided to do some Geocaching. The Portage Valley has several well developed trails that take you to some really nice spots.
We found a cache up under a small bridge over a clear, beautiful stream. The next cache was just 500 feet down a side trail that ran between two ponds. We started down that way and got may 100 feet when a gull flew right over our heads, shrieking loudly. It startled us both, but we kept going. And then it buzzed us again, even closer. And then again... And then again. Suddenly we realized it's chicks were in the road just ahead of us and it was trying to run us off. We back pedaled quickly as the bird did one final run over our heads. Once we backed off enough for it to be happy, we stood and watched it for a while. At one point an eagle was flying overhead and the gull went up and was harassing the eagle to run it off.
I managed to get a few seconds of video from one of it's attacks:

1 comment:

tbbotts said...

Beautiful pictures Todd. Its so nice to be somewhere where there is so much natural beauty. Sounds like you had a good time.