Exit Glacier Hike

Involuntary glacier butt sledding

The van flew up that hill and out of Valdez like a rocket! All the way from 0 to 800m elevation in 4th gear without dropping the speed below a still very respectable 70km/h. No reason to be worried at all. The weather was shitty once again so no stops at the beautiful canyon and waterfalls.  After driving the same way back as I came until Glenallen I took a turn left to head towards Anchorage on the scenic Glenn Highway. I’m sure the passes, curvy roads and huge glaciers would be very scenic if it wasn’t for the rain and the heaps of construction sites.At least the rain saved me from the extremely dusty conditions. It turned into another day of driving that got me out of the mountains and into the fields at Palmer. Sunny weather meant that it was time to stop at a nice, small, cheap campsite in the forest.

View over the Exit Glacier

I had to get my city driving skills from deep storage. The next stretch of road would drive straight through Anchorage on my way south. With 400.000 inhabitants Anchorage  was more than 10 times bigger than any other town I had seen the the last tree weeks. Actually this city has a population 10 times larger than all of Yukon, the province I spend the last week and a half in. Driving up to town I saw things I hadn’t seen in a while: traffic lights… roads with separated lanes… roads with more than one lane per direction… Crazy! The buildings got taller… traffic denser…. And then… I was already past the city again on non-separated two lane road. Turns out Anchorage isn’t that big after all. I was on my way to Seward, the roads leads along the water of the Turnagain Arm. The weather was sunny and the views from Beluga Point (no belugas) and Bird Point (no birds) were great with the fjord of the Turnagain Arm and the snowy mountains. The road headed up some more mountains in the Kenai peninsula. Nothing my van couldn’t handle. Last stop before Seward was the Exit glacier. My plan was to go for a full day hike at the glacier the next day, so I wanted to check with the park rangers what the options were. The ranger told me there was too much snow for the full hike and you could only go up to the viewpoint (2h return). Sounds like a doable plan for the afternoon. I went back to the van to get my shoes and some food when the Canadian guy in the Japanese van who I met a week ago in Yukon pulled up in the spot next to mine. We went for the viewpoint hike together. We talked to some people that were on their way down who said you could actually slip and slide your way up at the side of the glacier to the top for some great views. It was already a bit late in the day but since it doesn’t get dark until very late anyway and the weather was perfect we went for it. Rocks changed into mud, mud into snow patches, snow patches into knee deep snow. After loads of sliding and zigzagging we made it to the top of the mountain. We walked across a large snowfield. It felt like we were in the cover of Tintin in Tibet (except for the Yeti/Sasquatch/Bigfoot prints). At the end of the snowfield we had an awesome view over the Exit Glacier and the Harding Icefield. With a view like this you just need to sit down and enjoy. The way down was slippery with the steep snow. The Canadian guy had waterproof pants so he went for some butt sledding. I did not have waterproof pants so I went for involuntary butt sledding when I slipped. Loads of fun on the way down. The Canadian guy had a great campsite but it was tents only so I had to go find an other spot. Luckily, Seward has great waterfront camping. It’s basically a parking lot with no services but the views of the ocean and mountains from the van were very good. Bonus: I spotted a whole bunch of otters in the sea right behind my van.

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The view from my van at the Seward campsite

New plan for a full day hike: Lost lake. I was a bit tired from the hike the day before and when I got to the entrance of the hike it started to rain a bit. I decided to skip on the hike and that was a great decision. It started pouring like mad. On the way back to Anchorage I stopped at the nice “old” village of Hope, but it was too rainy to really have a look. New plan: find a campsite with power, WiFi and laundry for a rest day. I found one at a 10 min walk from downtown Anchorage. Perfect. Funny bonus: somewhere on the way my navigation showed that the next action (in some 10km) would be a roundabout where I should take the 10th exit. I was wondering what kind of monster roundabout that would be. Turns out it was a normal four exit roundabout, my nav just wanted me to go round twice before getting out. (Which I might or might not have listened to)

Beautiful weather the next day. Anchorage doesn’t have (m)any must see sites so I walked to the ocean and then to a sunny grassy park. Time to sit in the sun and read a book. Later that afternoon I met with Glen at a nice outdoor bar for pizza (need to eat oven food whenever I can) and some local beers. When I got back to the campsite the Swiss guy who was in the spot next to mine yesterday came back. We had planned to meet up in town today but that hadn’t worked out. He had brought some beers and it was still sunny out (jeej for the long days!) so we enjoyed the beer and the sun.

My last full day in Alaska before flying back to Europe for my cousin’s wedding  I packed my stuff and went back to the sunny park. I could steal the museum WiFi there so I could join the Skype call with my parents, cousins, uncles and aunts to prepare our wedding gift and speech. Glen and Amanda had offered me a parking spot at their place to leave my van while I’ll be in Europe for two weeks. Plus they would throw me a goodbye dinner/campfire before would leave. The neighbors, the kids and the dog joined too for a good fun night.

Glen dropped me off at the airport the next day. It’s weird to leave my trip for two weeks. It’ll be dark at night and I’ll be sleeping in buildings. But don’t want to miss my cousin’s wedding and I do have to organize some paperwork (plus maybe I can fix this slightly broken website).

I want to add a never big enough thanks to Glen and the rest of the family for inviting me and my van to your place and letting me leave it there for two weeks. This saves me enough money to add another week to my trip! I’ll be back soon to move my van out of your view again.

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