Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Moving On :: Anchorage to Glennallen

Friday morning (August 20th) arrived with mostly blue skies. And sunshine for the third day in a row! There was very little wind as I drove along Turnagain Arm, on my way once again to Anchorage and points beyond.

The lack of wind made for extremely calm waters, perfectly reflecting the blue sky. This is where Turnagain Arm joins the Cook Inlet, south of Anchorage. What may look like clouds where the water meets the sky are actually the snow-capped mountains on the far western shore of Cook Inlet!

It was after noon by the time I left Anchorage (after stopping at McDonalds for two hours to use their wifi, and eat lunch, of course). By then clouds had begun to move in over the mountains.

After weighing my options, I decided to head for Haines on the north end of the Inside Passage. From Anchorage, I took Highway 1 (also known as the Glenn Highway) east towards Glennallen, a distance of about 190 miles. This is the same route that Sue and Fred took on Tuesday (the 17th).

A portion of the Glenn Highway is designated a National Scenic Byway. It was a nice drive. The road was in fairly decent condition but it did have several rough sections. I hate to say it, and I certainly don't want to alienate any Alaskans, but at times it was also rather boring. I'm sure that when the road was first constructed the views were magnificent. But the trees have grown taller and sometimes it is like driving through a channel of green. All you can see are the trees on either side and the sky overhead. It is the same way on many highways, not just those is Alaska.

I've gotten “frustrated” more than once upon seeing a sign that says “View Point” or “Overlook” or one that has a nice graphic of a camera indicating a photo-op ahead and then, when you get there, what do you see? Nothing but trees. Now, I have nothing against trees. I love them. We need them. And I don't expect highway departments to cut them down just so I can get a nice photo, but, well... Anyway, every once in a while you do get see a wonderful view and then you appreciate it even more.

For much of the way, mountains rise on either side of the Glenn Highway. This is the Matanuska River Valley, formed many, many years ago by a glacier of the same name, which, at one time, extended all the way to Palmer (about 100 miles west).

Merely a “shadow of its former self” the Matanuska Glacier still exists and is still changing the landscape. The glacier is 27 miles long and it averages 2 miles in width. The “face” of the glacier, what I'd call its “front” and is technically called its terminus, is 4 miles wide! It's one huge chunk of ice!

Matanuska Glacier is accessible from the privately owned Glacier Park. I drove down the steep, winding, narrow one-mile long dirt road and crossed over the river on a rickety wooden bridge to the park office. There I found out they charge an admission fee of $20, which allows you to hike a trail to the ice that takes about 15 minutes... but in listening to her describe the trail to someone else (very, very muddy due to all the rain they've had) , I decided not to go on that hike. Hopefully, sometime during my stay here in Alaska I'll get “up close” to a glacier.

I drove on to Glennallen, at the junction of Highways 1 and 4, and stopped at the Northern Lights RV Park and Campground. It was one of the nicer RV Parks I've stayed at since leaving Montana. Unlike most, it wasn't just a parking lot with hookup stations. There was some degree of privacy, which was nice. Also flush toilets, showers and wifi. And although the wifi wasn't the fastest, it was okay and I was able to get a couple more blog posts scheduled.

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