our time leaving Wasilla on Tuesday morning, but we eventually made our way
through Anchorage and on towards the Kenai Peninsula. The Seward Highway, which connects Anchorage
and Seward, runs along the Turnagain Arm on one side and the Chugach Mountains
on the other. This highway has been
designated as both a National Scenic Byway and an All-American Road, and many
people consider it to be the most scenic drive in the entire United
States. They might be right.
Arm is a fjord that extends to the Gulf of Alaska and is characterized by the
second highest tides in North America. Although
the tide was out during our drive, it was still interesting to see the vast mud
flats. Dramatic clouds and clear blue
skies provided a spectacular backdrop to the mountain peaks. The scenery was sublime, but the heavy traffic
did keep Tim’s eyes on the road, not on the magnificent views. It was tempting to stop at every turnout, but
we restricted ourselves to just a few.
Maybe on the way back, we’ll take more time.
|Gorgeous Scenery Along Turnagain Arm|
|The High Tide Will Cover these Mud Flats|
|Driving Along the Shores of Turnagain Arm |
|It's Tempting to Stop at Every Turnout|
thought we would make it to Seward, but our slow start and multiple stops had
us rethinking this plan by mid-afternoon.
I had heard great reports about a U.S. Forest Service campground near
Portage Glacier, so we decided to see if a site might be available for the
evening. As we turned onto Portage Glacier
Road that leads towards Whittier, we also kept our eyes open for possible boondock
locations in case there was no availability at the campground.
into Williwaw Campground and were surprised to see quite a few open sites. It is a beautiful campground, and it would be
a great place to spend a day or two or more.
However, I kept thinking about a spot that we had passed that was
directly on Portage Creek. So, Tim and I
looked at each other and decided to turn around and see if that boondock site
would work for us.
good deal of anticipation, we pulled into the turnout, which was virtually
hidden from the road by vegetation, and found a wide open space along the
creek. One RV was set up at the east
end, but there was lots of room, so we claimed the other end. We found a place where we could level the RV and
settled in for the evening. We had a
beautiful view of the creek and surrounding mountains. It was a peaceful and lovely place to spend
the afternoon and evening.
|A Perfect Stop Along Portage Creek|
were on the road, I had received a telephone call from one of my best friends
who told me that she had just been diagnosed with acute leukemia. The news left me dumbfounded. These things are not supposed to happen to the
people we love. It doesn’t make matters
any easier to know that I am so far away.
I don’t ever remember feeling so helpless. Spending the afternoon and evening at a
peaceful and lovely boondock site was just what I needed to try and process
this awful news.
I think I
have fallen in love with this whole boondocking thing, at least the Alaska
version. When I first started reading
about traveling to Alaska by RV, boondocking was a favorite topic among RVers. The idea of camping in a beautiful setting,
not in the midst of dozens of other RVs, appealed to me.
boondocking in Alaska is not just about camping for free. That’s certainly nice, but not the major
draw. It’s finding scenic spots and
enjoying the natural beauty of the state.
There’s also a bit of adventure involved, and that also can be
exciting. It’s also fun to try and find those
special sites. I know we won’t boondock
every night. Many public campgrounds
offer similar experiences, and we will look for those as well. We will also stay in commercial campgrounds from
time to time to take advantage of the amenities that they offer. I think it’s fun to mix things up a bit.
quiet night and leisurely morning, we decided to explore a little bit of the
Portage Valley before heading to Seward.
Our first stop was the Begich, Boggs Visitor Center, which sits on Portage
Lake in front of the rapidly-receding Portage Glacier. The exhibits and award-winning film offers a
glimpse into the natural history of Chugach National Forest and make the center
a worthwhile stop.
|Portage Glacier Spills into Portage Lake|
picnic lunch it was time to rejoin the Seward Highway, where we began our
ascent toward Turnagain Pass. From here
to Seward the highway passes through dense spruce and hemlock forests, peaceful
mountain meadows and soggy muskegs. The
views of the mountains, canyons, lakes and rivers kept getting better and
better, and all I can say to describe the drive is “Wow!” We didn’t even mind the construction delays
as the slower speeds enabled us to spend more time gazing at the splendid
|Climbing into the Mountains on the Seward Highway|
|Clouds Add to the Drama|
mid-afternoon when we finally reached Seward.
I’m still not sure why it takes us so long to drive just over 100
miles. Every drive in Alaska seems to
take twice as long as we’re used to. We
put off driving into town and detoured towards Exit Glacier in Kenai Fjords
National Park since that afternoon was forecast to be the last rain-free day
for a while.
Kenai Fjords National Park is primarily comprised of ice and water, and Exit Glacier
is the only section of the park accessible by road. This seemed to be a good place to hike very
close to a glacier. After checking out
the exhibits at the ranger station, we were dismayed to see that rain was
imminent. We don’t like to hike in the
rain, so we decided to go only as far as the glacier view.
reached the viewpoint, the rain stopped, so we decided to continue and walked
out across the rocky, outwash plain in an attempt to get to the toe of the
glacier. The water stopped us before we
could see the toe, but we still had a great view. Since we had gone that far, it seemed the
thing to do to climb to the edge of the glacier. The rocks were a bit slippery on the trail,
but getting so close to the glacier was definitely worth it. We were able to spend quite a bit of time
just admiring the view before others joined us.
We may not have planned to hike as far as we did, but I’m so glad we did. Next time, however, when Tim says we’re only hiking
a nature trail, I’m going to put on my hiking boots and carry water. We never know where we might end up!
|Exit Creek Spills from Exit Glacier|
|That's As Close As We Could Get to Exit Glacier|
|Now, Tim's Turn|
|Looking Across the Outwash Plain from Exit Glacier|
way to Exit Glacier, we had passed several huge turnouts along the river and
decided to boondock there for the night.
We knew it was going to rain, so an asphalt surface seemed to be a much
better option than dirt (think mud). The
view out the windows was beautiful, and we enjoyed a pleasant evening. The rain even lulled us to sleep.
|The View from Our Boondock Spot|
I don't think we've ever done a scenic drive in the "suggested" time. Even in 2001, when we were driving down Turnagain Am to catch a sightseeing cruise out of Whittier, we took longer than we were told it would take. No worries, made the train tunnel opening for our time slot because we got off to a really early start knowing we'd probably dally along the way. We thought Turnagain Arm was especially beautiful in June when there was more snow on the mountains than in August when we returned to AK for the second time. Tim's right ... footwear and water regardless of where you think you're going and how long you think you'll be gone ... you just never know ;-))) It sure is nice to be seeing some of our favorite places through your eyes.ReplyDelete
You are so right. I think scenic drives are meant to be taken slowly. I'm glad you made it through the tunnel on time! It would be great to see the mountains along Turnagain Arm covered with snow, although I doubt that there was too much this year. This must mean that I need to come back!Delete
Boondocking is addictive, isn't it? It definitely isn't the cost - Walmart is free, too, and I hate overnighting there. Both spots you chose are great places. I loved Portage Valley's beauty and space.ReplyDelete
You are so right! I love it! Alaska is the perfect place to give boondocking a try. We've been very lucky to find such scenic spots.Delete