Alaska is a dish best served cold.
That is my conclusion after my Autumn/Winter foray into this amazing land.
I have always dreamed of going to Alaska and it exceeded my lofty expectations and hunger for wilderness: Alaska serves up pure Nature in generous portions.
A shock to the system!
Coming from the Australian outback where I did my last hike, to sub-zero early Winter Alaska was quite the contrast!
Alaska in early Winter is:
On the half dozen trails I crossed in ten days I didn’t see a soul.
And it is cheap going in early Winter: The tourists are gone; the BnB’s are shuttered up and the roads are snowed in. I was able to hire a new Subaru 4wd for $15 a day – so I didn’t feel too bad when it sat idle at trail-heads waiting for me to return.
Day 1. Portage glacier. Getting to the trail-head is an interesting experience. You drive through a 4 kilometer long tunnel that only opens to each way traffic every thirty minutes or so. Check here for times!
You pop out at the TINY town of Whittier (86 households!) on the north east shore of the kenai peninsula. Lots of snow capped mountains to gawk at here.
The town was once an old super secret army base hidden deep in the mountains accessible only by the loooong scary tunnel so it gives a bit of an old spooky feel to the place.
Just as you pop out of the tunnel turn right over the railway tracks and you’ll find parking and a trailhead for the glacier.
The first part of the hike takes you straight up and it gets the heart rate going. Dress light for this first part otherwise you will sweat too much and then you will start to freeze as you descend down towards the lake and the glacier itself!
I didnt see anyone the whole time so I hung out at the shore of the lake and took in the the natural ice sculptures floating close to the shore and of course the magnificent glacier itself. As it was quite late I got to see big flocks of snow geese in formation over the glacier making a terrific sound and quite the spectacle.
All in all a perfect late afternoon hike which you can roundtrip in 3-4 hours!