Three Days in Alaska
I haven't seen my friend for more than a year, so it was decided – I should go and visit her in Alaska. When I came back a lot of people made a joke that it felt that I came to Hawaii instead. I am definetely keeping my memories and my tan.
Masha asked beforehand about what kind of activities I wanted to do. After spending eight hundred bucks for the ticket, the answer was reassuring – the cheap ones. Alaska is breathtaking and the state reconfirms that all the great things are free.
We had a very active plan for the day – we wanted to see an ice cave, then go to Seward to kayak in Resurrection Bay. The moment you live the city and go South, it mesmerizes you with the beauty of Turnagain Arm. It reminded me of Norway and almost made me cry - that beautiful it is.
The crisp peaks remind you of what kind of place you ended up in – regardless of 80 degree heat, you are still in Alaska, one the toughest places on Earth. On our way to Byron Glacier Masha and Ben told me many fun facts. Some of them were pretty cruel. They also told me about bore tide, which we didn't see, unfortunately. It basically means that you can surf in Turnagain arm in high tide. However, it is advised for experienced surfers only - you can get into the area with quicksands, which brings enormouse risk to the life.
Byron Glacier lies around one hour drive from Anchorage. With very few steps your breath is taken away by the beauty of mountains, glacier, and mountain rivers, rushing down the hill. The glacier is surrounded by waterfalls - I counted at least 13 before becoming lazy. By the way, I couldn't resist and took a sip from the river. It tastes really good. Make sure to use life straw to prevent unwanted consequences.
The hike itself took us around 3.5 hours both ways. I wouldn't say it is complicated, however you should always be careful in the glacier – it is easy to fall in a crack and say farewell to the world. Also, the cave itself is hard to spot.
Right after Byron Glacier, we headed towards Steward. Steward is a beautiful small town on the South of Alaska with breathtaking views over Kenai Fjords National Park. We had a camp booked there to spend a night and not to drive for about 2 hours back to Anchorage after strenuous activities. However, the real destination point for the day was Millers Landing, where we booked a kayaking tour around Resurrection Bay. 7 PM sharp out guide approached us and invited to embark on the journey to the rainforest and a hidden waterfall.
While Ben is a seasoned kayaker, Masha and I had some negative experience before. My first and last time was in summer 2012 in Northern Norway on some huge lake in Nordland county. However, out of blue, the storm cam (Storm on a lake, Karl!!!), so everyone ended up capsized, wet, and scared.
Nevertheless, in this case out guide Den did a great job and I actually enjoyed the breathtaking views of nature and fjords rising from the bay as sharp as killer whale’s teeth. We were greeted by sea otters chilling around us on their backs and curious seals popping their heads here and then.
When the tour was over we headed to grab some food and treat ourselves to duck farts before returning to the camp, when we set up a fire and enjoyed beers, marshmallows, and chocolate.
After an amazing night sleeping very close to my friends - I felt like we got closer as never before. We grabbed a quick breakfast and headed towards Whittier to enjoy the hike for the day. Make sure you check the tunnel schedule. The tunnel was built many years ago and it is a one-way tunnel, so if you miss the line you might end up waiting for good 30-45 minutes until you are able to make your way through. It also shares its way with the Alaskan train, so schedule might be interrupted.
On passing the tunnel, we turned back towards the Portage Trail. It was supposed to be rather an easy 4-mile hike but in reality, nobody expected summer heat (I am not joking, the temperature was in low 80s) and very steep incline first half of the trail.
When you make it to the lake, I have good news for you-you just covered 2/3 of the way until the glacier. You immediately become rewarded with views of waterfalls and the glacier itself motivating you to rush the remains of the trail.
We saw kayakers and a ship approaching the glacier, so keep it in mind if you are lazy to hike and want to be in danger approximation to it. Also, make sure you listen and you will hear how alive Portage glacier is - it’s cracking and actually makes a lot of sounds releasing its masses to drift through the bay.
Right after the hike, we headed to the Girdwood Brewing Company to treat ourselves to beers and grab some crepes from the food truck. Beers were okay but crepes were actually gorgeous (or we were just hungry and were craving real food).
To end the day, we made our last stop right to the brewery to enjoy the Victoria Creek Falls before heading back to Anchorage.
The last day was expected to be amazing but I never thought it would be that amazing. On our way to Matanuska glacier, I couldn’t but admire how amazing nature is. It almost made me cry when I observed the mountains and galloping mountain rivers.
The entrance fee to Matanuska glacier is rather expensive. It costs $30 for non-residents and $25 for residents. If you don’t have an experience glacier hiking with you, I strongly advise hiring a guide - glaciers are calm, cold, and friendly only from the outside. When you wander into it, it becomes alienating and deadly.
It was my first time on a glacier and I was scared af! It really took some time for me to overcome my trust issues. Regardless of crampons put on my hiking boots and two poles in my hands, there were moments where I said goodbye to my life and started to reconcile the best moments that have ever happened to me. I am really grateful for my friends who didn’t leave me alone and belayed me when I couldn’t go on.
After the glacier, we stopped by Long Rifle Lodge to say the last goodbye to the glacier and enjoy the blueberry tacos. I fell asleep on my way back to Anchorage and I dreamt of bears. They were ripping my body apart. Such a great dream. Haha.
After a quick shower, it was time to say goodbye. My friends dropped me by the airport and I knew immediately - I am the happiest little boy on the planet. Because I have people who love me and people whom I love, and because of this opportunity to explore the world. That was the moment when I knew that my dreams are coming true.