Alaska 2009-04







April 2009

Anchorage, Eureka

& Spencer Glacier








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It is good to have good friends.  It does not hurt that those good friends live in good places like Anchorage, AK.  It is additionally very good that such friends allow other friends (in this case, me) to couch surf and partake in many outdoor activities.  And to round out the goodness factor, it does not hurt that those friends have other friends that lend out their snow machines (thanks Shannon).


The terminus of the Spencer Glacier, pictured above, lies about 11 miles south of the Seward Highway.  While the Alaska railroad runs to it in the summer, in winter this area is only accessible by snow machine, airplane or those with lungs and legs of steel.  I do not have lungs of steel and did not fly.  To give a sense of scale, those (unnamed) peaks in the top of the picture are 11 more miles up the glacier.










The Chugach (pronounced chew-gatch) Mountains cover an impressively large area in southern Alaska... something like 300 miles long and over 60 miles wide.  Parts of the range are still unexplored due to difficulty of access.  Much of it is glaciated and receives an average of 600 inches (50 feet) of snow - perfect for skiing and snow machining.  Here, the moon provides additional light at just before 11pm at mile 128 of the Glenn Highway.










Speaking of snow machining, which is huge in AK, we spent two days doing just that in the northern Chugach Mountains and southern Talkeetna Mountains along the Glenn Highway near the "blink and you'll miss it" Eureka Summit.  The riding was great and the views followed suit. 


Here, about 10 miles south of the highway in the East Fork of the Matanuska River, we were marveling at the immensity of the mountains, when Erik and I decided to head back to his house and watch TV all day.  Ummm, that was a lie.










After a while, after you have seen so many glaciers, they all seem to just look alike and frankly, get boring to look at (no they don't).  Here, Erik was not so much bored (he wasn't) but somewhat concerned (sort of) the Spencer Glacier would break off onto his head (it did not).  Hence, the helmet.










The 24+ mile long Matanuska Glacier, which drains into the aptly named and strikingly beautiful Matanuska River Valley, is missing just one thing - a shopping mall, complete with miles and miles of pavement.  And fast food restaurants and tanning salons.










Alaska is known for many things but sunny weather is not one of them.  Every day except the last day I was there was sunny though.  Even on the plane home there were breaks in the clouds over what I believe to be the Saint Elias Mountains and Kluane National Park and Reserve (can you say Canada, eh?).  This is the largest and most heavily glaciated area on earth which means that much of what you see here has probably never been climbed.









Along with Fire Island in the middle of the picture, the Tordrillo Mountains can be seen in the background close to 80 miles away across the Cook Inlet west of Anchorage.  The Chugach Powder Guides, a helicopter skiing outfit based in Girdwood, just opened a fly-in-only lodge in the Tordrillos.  For only $9,100 they'll take you skiing for a week on 5,000 foot descents.  Don't tell Kim but I have begun saving up for it.








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