Jul 3, 2019

Grandview on the Alaska Railroad

 In 2017 the wife & I did the Spencer Glacier trip on the Alaska Railroad (you can read about there here...) and loved it. But I wonder what it would be like to stay on for the train for the trip up to Grandview.
 I think the Alaska Railroad has some of best looking rolling stock.
The blue & gold is representative of Alaska's color as seen on our flag & the Alaska Marine Highway ferries.
And the Chugach Explorer is the perfect name for a train that explores the Chugach National Forest, America's 2nd largest National Forest.
The train was a collection of various makes of rail cars. You are assigned a seat, but there was plenty of seating available if you wanted to move around some.
And for the portion of our trip past Spencer Glacier Whistle Stop, we went to the 2nd level of the dining car for even better views. I'm not sure if this seating is normally assigned, but there was plenty of open spots with a table in between.
Actually, let me divert you for a bit... On our way to the Portage Rail Depot, we took a detour into Girdwood to the Virgin Creek Falls. It's a short walk through a temperate rain forest of Sitka Spruce trees and the falls are like a spot of paradise. If you are making the trip, I highly recommend making the detour.

So as I've said, we've done the Spencer Glacier stop before. And that was our intent this time. But as we approached the Spencer Glacier stop, we decided we to stay on and go to Grandview.
As you pull away from the Spence Glacier stop you can see the lake and icebergs floating on it.

And in the distance, beyond the footbridge on the Spencer Glacier trails you can see the Spencer Glacier itself.
If you get off at Spencer Glacier, you can hike or take a kayak or raft trip or even camp overnight in the area.

The train follows a river that runs below the tracks for a while.
There's also some waterfalls along the way. And then you enter the Loop area. When the tracks where first laid through there in the early 1900's, there's was a large loop that allowed the train to gain elevation gently. Now the track does a series of switchbacks to make the trip.

In the distance we could spot different glaciers and waterfalls. There was so much to see you almost feel like you wear yourself out whipping your head back and forth to take it all in.
At the Grandview Whistle Stop, the train stops for about 30 minutes. This gives you time to walk up a 1/4 mile trail to a viewing platform where you can see back to the train.

After we loaded back up, we continued south to another set of waterfalls before heading north back towards the Spencer Glacier to pick up those who had gotten off to explore there.
It was a great way to enjoy the day in the beauty of Alaska, accessing an area that can not be accessed via the road.

Mar 30, 2018

Bryce Canyon National Park

We've made two visits to Bryce Canyon National Park... The first time was on a trip in 2015 when we went there on a whim while visiting Zion. We didn't have much time so we just hit the view points on the rim of the canyon.
 And just from that few hours we knew that we'd have to come back when we had more time. The views were amazing. Bryce Canyon is famous for it's hoodoos, the tall spires of rock.
 Our visit in 2015 was in March and the winter's snow was still lingering in the canyon. Many of the hiking trails were still closed, but we didn't have time for hiking on that trip anyway.
Even if someone is unable to hike much, just viewing the canyon from the viewpoints on the rim is well worth the effort.

In 2017 we made another swing through southern Utah, this time coming from the east. Based on the research I had done on TripAdvisor I knew that we wanted to check out the Mossy Cave Trail just off of Highway 12. (And just a tip... If you are coming to Bryce from the east, say from Moab, you want to take Highway 12 from Torrey. Talk about scenic!)

From the small parking area a trail heads off following a small stream, crossing it twice on bridges. Since the trail is so easily accessed and is not a long hike, I planned on there being crowds of people enjoying the sights. But it was almost like we had the place to ourselves.
 We passed one couple when we were going up and had another couple wandering around at the falls. On the way out we passed a small family headed up.
The goal was the waterfall. I can not image a more perfect location. I could've spent hours just sitting here; but we had a lot more we wanted to see and do.
As we came into the Park on Highway 63 we made a stop at the Bryce Canyon Visitor Center. I have found the Visitor Centers at our National Parks are all well put together and well worth a stop. But again, we had a purpose & a plan and had to get to it.

 Our goal was to get below the Canyon rim. The Canyon is laced with trails for hiking. There's also some horseback options. We decide to put our limited physical abilities to the test and do the Queens Garden Trail and connect to the Navajo Trail.
 This route would be about 3.2 miles. Basically it worked out to 1.3 miles of going down into the canyon and 1.8 miles coming back out. The elevation change was about 550 down and 550 back up.
And as impressive as the view from the Canyon rim was, being down among hoodoos was awesome. The rock formations towering over you made you realize how small you really are...
We started the Queen's Garden trail at Sunrise Point, leaving our car in the parking lot near the general store.

 Coming down at the beginning of the trail the way we did we saw minimal traffic until we were coming back up out on the Navajo Trail.  I'm amazed at how few people want to wander more than a few hundred yards away from their cars. Look people, we are fat and we do it... Get out there and enjoy God's creation!
 The trail was well established and easy to follow. And of course the views continued to amaze.
Obviously you'll want to bring plenty of water. Also, there were no restrooms along the way, so plan accordingly.
Have good walking shoes. And if it's hot, don't be afraid to stop and rest.
 We didn't plan it, but we had some great sunlight for coming back up. And this was the busiest part of the trail. Many people start from this end at Sunset Point and just go down and back up. The trail here is a series of switch backs where you painfully pay for each foot of elevation.

 Slowly you wind back and forth. Since this was the end of our hike we were pretty much at the end of our strength. Plus we had walked a couple of miles earlier that day at the Mossy Cave Trail. Plus the walking we had done in the previous days at Capital Reef National Park, Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park & Goblin Valley State Park.
So we were moving pretty slow. There was a couple of bus loads of teens coming back zooming past us. But you just keep putting one foot in front of the other....
And of course pausing often to admire the views...

After reaching the top at Sunrise Point, we made our way back only the Canyon Rim trail to Sunset Point and our car.