I woke up before anyone else and waited for a while before taking a shower and getting ready for the day. As soon as I was done, I made sure my bags and everything were in order before I headed out the door as my sister and Rusty headed off to work. I was lucky to avoid paying for a rental car by borrowing one from Rusty’s parents. They loaned us a Dodge Durango that they had available, so I hopped into that and headed down Seward Highway for Portage, AK. The drive down was peaceful enough considering there had been a fatal accident on it the day before. Clouds still loomed over the mountains and at one point a light mist covered the windshield. The clouds made for some pretty dramatic shots. I went past most of the turnoffs along the Turnagain Arm because I wanted to get to Portage, do my stuff and then be back in Anchorage to take my sister to lunch. Soon I was turning down the road that leads to Portage and as I did, the clouds parted slightly and let the sun shine through.
Once in Portage, I visited the Begich, Boggs Visitor Center to get a map of the area and the see the available trails. While I was there, one ranger was telling a family about an interesting trail while the other ranger told me about a fish watching platform where you could see salmon coming upstream. After leaving the visitor center, I walked to Lake Portage and took some shots of the surroundings. For some reason I love this valley – it has a little bit of everything. After viewing the lake, I decided to hike the Byron Glacial trail.
I drove the short way to the trail head and parked. While there I noticed two things – I was the only one there and would probably be the only person on the trail and there was a sign on a board by the start of the trail warning hikers that there were bears active in the area. Now, I know that the chances of me running across a bear were minimal, it was still a risk. But the weight of wanting to hike the trail and set foot on the icepack tilted the scales toward me going. So, remembering what I had learned earlier in the trip – that the human voice was the best deterrent against a bear attack – I started singing out loud. It’s safe to say that my singing probably chased pretty much anything away with its paws to its ears, but it worked for the hike out to the end of the trail. I took some time to admire the view, explore around and take some pictures. Once I was satisfied, I started to head back, using the same strategy I used coming out. This worked well until I met a group of seven people on the trail. They probably heard my bad singing but only said a polite hello as they passed by. Once out of range, I continued to sing. Toward the end of the trail I met a family of four who again said nothing about my singing but asked how much further until the end of the trail. Once past, I continued until I come to the trailhead, signed out on the sheet that rangers could use to try and locate my body and went to the car.
After looking at my cell phone I determined that I had enough time so I headed to the Williwaw Campground area to go to the fish viewing platform. At the fish viewing station, I was able to see a couple of salmon trying to make their way upstream. They were under the platform and were trying to swim against the current. They made a slow go of it but they progressed. Other salmon were visible farther down the stream working their way up. A couple who was watching the salmon spotted me taking pictures and offered that there were more upstream along the path. I thanked them and then headed down the Williwaw nature trail for a bit, peeking at the stream and taking pictures as I went. I had the polarizing filter on my camera so I was able to peer through the water to get some good pictures. Since I didn’t have time to go salmon fishing on this trip, I “caught” some salmon with my camera. Once I satisfied my craving for photographing salmon, I headed to one of my favorite areas – Moose Flats. Moose Flats contains a small lake that is bordered by trees both living and dead and has a spectacular view of the mountains behind. This area is usually so peaceful, and it was again for me today. The contrast of the living trees with the dead, preserved trees that were killed in the 1964 earthquake are reminders of the cycle of life. The water is so still that it acts as an almost perfect mirror of the surrounding mountains. This area just strikes me.
Once I decided to leave, I realized that this was the last of wild Alaska that I would experience during this trip. I was now heading back to the big city of Anchorage to have lunch with my sister. Once back in town, I had lunch with my sister, got the tour of where she works and met her boss. I was also able to spring her for the rest of the day to help me grab some last minute items. During my trip to her work, I realized that she has made a life for herself up in Alaska and has worked hard in her job. She has gained not only the respect of the people that she works with but also the love of Rusty’s folks. We headed to some shops and then headed downtown. After accomplishing my purchasing objectives, we headed to Glacier BrewHouse to have a drink. She had a coke and I had their Imperial Blonde (aka Ice Axe Ale) – it had a little bit if a kick to it (9% alcohol), but it was smooth. After that, we headed back to her place to grab my bags, head over to her in-laws house for a halibut dinner and conversation and then I was off to the airport.