Our excursion to Kenai Fjords National Park began by driving to Valdez on highway 4. It is one of the most scenic roads in all of America. It was early Sunday morning, August 3rd when stopped at several awe-inspiring glaciers including the Worthington Glacier. We ate a brief lunch as the clouds thickened when we traveled to Thompson pass. The mood for us was energetic when we arrived at Valdez. It was only 22 miles to the end of the road, but before the road trip journey was over we saw Keystone Canyon and Bridal Veil Falls.
It was late afternoon when we confirmed our reservation at the ferry terminal for our voyage the next morning. Our plans were to take a ferry across Prince William Sound in order to get to our destination of Whittier. It was a foggy and cold morning; however, we had our own personal heaters on the ferry. We saw glacier carved valleys and breathtaking waterfalls as we moved through the sound. The weather changed to wind and rain and soon some ice and show.
Once at Whittier we went through the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel which is the longest tunnel North America. At the end of the tunnel we had a short drive to our 57th National Park. When we made it to Kenai Fjords we were eager to explore. It was raining and we decided to be patient. So we checked into our hotel at Seward, went to the grocery store, and had dinner. We ate in the lobby of the hotel looking out at Resurrection Bay. It was interesting witnessing some of the fisherman line up their catch of the day which consisted of large grouper and salmon.
The next morning we entered the park ready to discover more amazing natural wonders. It very early in the morning when we began to hike the Harding Icefield Trail. We were the first and only people on the trail. This is how we prefer our adventures to begin.
Hiking a constant uphill created an intense sweat. Our calves were burning and our heart was beating hard when we reached Marmot Meadows. We stopped only for a brief moment to appreciate the many distant waterfalls that surrounded us. After we hiked about another half mile Luke looked back down at Marmot Meadows and saw a black bear. We must have just missed him/her on our path.
Exit Glacier was on our left about a mile away. As we continued hiking higher the temperatures dropped and the wind picked up. The next vista was Top of the Cliffs and it looked spectacular. Even though this hike was very strenuous and tough for all of us, the reward was breathtaking. We kept hiking along the trail when the trail turned into compacted snow over a stream. We took a chance and nervously walked on it to the other side. From one obstacle to another we overcame it.
We could now see Harding Icefield as we reflected on our journey to this moment. We only had only two more national parks to explore and today was our last arduous hike on our quest of 59 before 18. It took a lot of energy to make it to the top. The view was remarkable. Harding Icefield stretched farther than our eyes could see. It was miles and miles of sheer ice and pristine snow.
After taking some time to appreciate the achievement Luke and Bill hiked downward on loose rocks to touch the ice. These special memories between father and his first born son are always special. When Luke and Bill touched Harding Icefield it was a mystical moment. They celebrated with joy and continued to explore.
They could not walk on the ice because the ice is obviously exceedingly slippery. However, they walked on the rocks adjacent to the ice and discovered a few ice caves and crevasses. Over time, the glacier water that is dripping down created these holes. The unique shapes and the colors of white and blue were interesting to investigate.
Amazingly, to their surprise, Winston was running down the jagged rocks and joined them. He was dirty and weary from sliding down some of the steep places. Winston was so happy and proud of himself. Taking chances and reaching victories can create pure happiness. The struggle to achieve these ambitious moments make the memories that last a lifetime.
After us three men explored along the edge of the Harding Icefield, Bill began to worry about Alisa. She was alone on the top of the mountain. The guys promptly hiked up the mountain. It quickly became draining. When they reached the top they celebrated their triumph.
All back together, we hiked to a small wooded emergency shelter to eat lunch. We ate canned sardines, oysters and corn. We ate the protein packed fish between two high fiber crackers. We also ate a few bananas and oranges that we got from the hotel.
Taking this break from the wind and the cold was essential. The picnics in awe-inspiring wilderness spots not only allow us to relax, replenish, and reflect, but provide Alisa some crucial time to take off her DonJoy knee brace. Hiking downhill hurts more than going up for Alisa.
After our break, we took our time hiking the trail back to our car. Along the way Alisa tried a few wild raspberries. She took a risk to taste and see if they were edible. The result was a bland berry with no medical attention needed. We finished the hike, went back to our hotel, and had a restful night.
The next morning Alisa was prepared to become Junior Ranger. Before the visitor center was open, we hiked to the Edge of Exit Glacier. The end of Exit Glacier is called the toe.
Glaciers begin to form when snow remains in the same area year-round, where enough snow accumulates to transform into ice. Each year, new layers of snow bury and compress the previous layers. This compression forces the snow to re-crystallize, forming grains similar in size and shape to grains of sugar. Now the glacier is formed from the accumulation of snow on top followed by the compressed snow which becomes firn. Finally, the compressed firn becomes dense glacier ice.
A glacier is blue because densely compacted firn and glacier ice absorb the lights spectrum’s long wavelengths. Only shorter bluish wavelengths are reflected back to us to see. Firnification is the process of compacting snow and ice into glaciers. It depends upon the balance between accumulation of snow and ablation which is glacial melting.
We hung out for awhile at the toe of Exit Glacier. It was cold and loud. The sound of ablation and the powerful winds helped produce a unique experience for us. It was an easy and short hike to the toe.
One reason why this national park is special is because of the term called a Fjord. A Fjord is a valley, carved by a glacier, and filled with sea water. It obviously takes a long time for this process to happen. McCarty Fjord and Northwestern Fjord are two places within the park that we will not be able to explore.
This was our end of our adventure at Kenai Fjords National Park. However, there was still some unfinished business. We went into the visitor center and Alisa said her Junior Ranger oath. She was so happy and proud of herself as she got another badge. Luke and Winston stamped their National Park Passports as they canceled their 57th. With only two parks left our anticipation was high. Our quest of 59 before 18 was eminent to be realized.