Traveling from Anchorage to Valdez; Matanuska Glacier

Latitude 61.2°N Longitude 149.88333°W

Monday, August 26, 2002

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We went back to Kaladi Brothers Internet cafe again in the morning for breakfast, then we left Anchorage around 11am and travelled to Vadez via the incredibly scenic Glenn Highway.

The weather started off overcast and raning, but cleared as we drove along.

At mile 71 we encountered the Matanuska Glacier. Words can hardly convey the sight of this immense towering frozen river of ice that terminates just a few miles away from the road. We drove as close as we could get, then got out of the car and started hiking into the glacier!

After an initial mishap, in which Nick discovered the hard way that the glacial rock silt (or "flour") near the glacier's mouth is so fine that, together with the icemelt water, it forms vast beds of quicksand mud that one can sink up to one's knees in a single step and cannot easily escape from, we decided to "stick" to the marked path and made better progress.

We scrambled up and into the glacier and were soon surrounded by walls of bright blue ice. Walking with our boots on the ultra smooth icy surfaces without crampons was quite, um, "exciting", especially when the gradients got steep. But we weren't going to let not having the proper gear stop us from exploring, and our perseverence (or was it stupidity?) paid off when we finally reached a small semi-frozen lake deep into the glacier, surrounded on all sides by sheer sculpted walls of ice. We paused for a while by the shore of the lake, listening to the glacier creak and groan all around us and the sound of the streams of running water melting off the ice. The water was deep and clear and unbelievably cold. Nick tried washing off the silt and mud he had fallen into and his hands were numb within a few seconds!

In the distance we could see a frightening thunderstorm approaching the glacier quite rapidly, so we reluctantly turned back and headed for the car.

We continued driving along the Glenn Highway towards Valdez and as sunset approached were rewarded by scenery that seemed to get more spectacular with each passing mile. We scaled huge snow capped mountains, descended into deep valleys, and saw countless glaciers and waterfalls. This highway is not to be missed.

It was dark at Valdez when we arrived, just past 9 o'clock. We ate a quick dinner at the Totem Inn, which was mediocre and overpriced, then found our way over to the Bear Paw Camper Park and got a tent site for two nights. After we set up our tent we came across Lynsey & Arnoud's tent; our friends from Denali had also decided to come to Valdez! However, having arrived at Valdez one day earlier, they had seen the "sights" and were leaving early the next morning to travel to Whittier via car ferry across Prince William Sound. We were also going to head in the same direction in a few day's time so we agreed to look for each other once again when we both reached Seward.

Photos: (click on images to see full size)

The imposing face of the Matanuska GlacierIt's big!The glacier grinds away rocks into a super fine powder or "flour",
which when mixed with water, creates lakes of deep treacherous mud
A frozen lake deep into the glacierThe hot sun sculpted these ice towers into
curious shapes and patterns
Brilliant blue ancient glacial ice finally exposed to melt awayScene along the Glenn Highway to Valdez

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