The Trail of Blue Ice
~Tuesday, August 2, 2022~
Day 43 of Alaska Trip
Southern Alaska is certainly exceeding our expectations. We knew it was going to be something special, but it is beyond anything we could have imagined. Portage Valley near Prince William Sound, surrounded by the Kenai and Chugach Mountains is likely to be some of the best, most majestic scenery of the trip and my favorite so far. Having good weather certainly helps with a more favorable opinion, but even on overcast days, the rainforest-like setting is still breathtaking. Being here the majority of the summer, we knew the weather would have swings and that it wasn’t all going to go our way. But there’s majestic beauty in all of it.
Today included another scenic bike route called the Trail of Blue Ice in the Chugach National Forest. The Chugach National Forest was named after Alaska’s Chugach Eskimo people. The Chugach, which manages an astounding 5.5 million acres,
is the second largest national Forest in the nation and the northernmost temperate rainforest in North America in addition to ⅓ of this national wonder is covered year-round by glaciers.😳 It was nice we could pick up this trail right inside our campground which would connect us to the world class facility of Begich Boggs Visitor Center just 1-½ miles away. But when we arrived, we found out that a $5 entry fee or National Park Pass was required. Neither of us had brought a wallet since we weren’t planning on stopping anywhere that required it. This would be the first visitor center we’ve encountered that required an entry fee. Anyway, we had heard amazing things about the place with the film alone worth the price of admission. Without hesitation, we rode back to the campsite to get our park pass which, upon our return, gave Sadie the hope that we were “back so soon”. Sorry buddy.
When we arrived back at the visitor center, we also found out that masks were required (luckily they provided those or else we would have had to go back to the campsite, AGAIN!!). Just in time, the award winning film, “Retreat and Renewal: Stories from Alaska’s Chugach National Forest” was about to begin. Wow, what a beautiful 200-seat theater and what a beautiful film it was highlighting the people, the glaciers, the wildlife, the climate and the geography of the Chugach National Forest and Prince William Sound. And what a dramatic way to end the film. As the screen pulled up, the drapes that were behind it, opened up to a massive window revealing stunning views of Portage Glacier, Portage Lake and the surrounding mountains that make this
such an incredibly beautiful place. In the lake, at the foot of the glacier, we could also see one of the glacier tour boats similar to the one we had the good fortune of taking on our fjord tour in Seward.
The visitor center, built upon the terminal moraine left behind by Portage Glacier in 1914, was completed in 1985 and named in memory of Congressman Nick Begich of Alaska and Congressman Hale Boggs of Louisiana. Both were killed in a 1972 plane crash en route from Anchorage to Juneau. Because of its location and the award winning exhibits and film, we’d rate this particular facility in our top five of all the visitor centers we’ve visited in our 2 years of steady travel. But our appreciation didn’t stop there.
Getting back on the Trail of Blue Ice, we made our winding way through woods filled with fragrant wildflowers and over bubbling streams via boardwalks and bridges (where we hoped to see spawning salmon since it's that time of year). Occasionally there would be a gap between trees to spot glaciers and waterfalls, until we ended up at Moose Flats Day Use Area. This is where the trail ended and where I tasted my first low-bush salmonberry. This is berry picking season in Alaska after all.
And boy are they delicious. No wonder the bears can’t get enough. The lone picnic table at the trail’s end would have made the perfect place for an early evening snack while taking in the views. We were pretty surprised not to have seen one moose or bear on the trail, as is commonly seen.
Then, it was time to ride back to the campground to retrieve Sadie before heading to Girdwood Brewery once again, not just for beer, but for internet services. Hey, you gotta do what you gotta do when you don’t have good WiFi, especially when I have a reading audience to keep informed. Thank you guys for staying so interested in what we’re doing.
While sipping on some suds, we met a few interesting people, all of whom loved our Sadie girl. Of course she relishes in the attention. One guy (a local from Girdwood), said he had just lost his chocolate lab named Clinton, about a month ago, so took a particular liking to ours. Evidently he and his wife have named all their dogs after American presidents where they’ve already decided the next one will be named Barack!
When we got back, Sadie and I took a lap around the campground while Jeff began prepping all the fixings for a homemade pizza with a pesto sauce base. It’s so sweet that he is willing to accommodate my meatless request on half of it with peppers, onion and mushrooms as opposed to his pancetta, mushroom and garlic side. Believe me, I don’t take my husband’s talented culinary skills for granted one bit!