posted by dave on Monday, August 3, 2009 at 3:33 AM in category travel

This is probably a bad idea. I shouldn't be writing now, because I'm pissed. We'll see if I can hold myself in check and stick to the subject at-hand.

That first weekend, I was really itching to do some sightseeing. I hadn't gotten bored with the snow-covered Chugach mountains ringing the edge of Anchorage, but I definitely wanted to see something more. Something else. Something new.

Well, I'd seen mountains, and I'd seen snow, and I'd seen frozen smog, and I'd even seen frozen seawater by that point, but one thing I hadn't seen was a glacier. Kind of hard to believe that, given all of the natural wintry beauty around me. When I'd first arrived, I'd thought that I wouldn't be able to take a piss without hitting glacial ice, but I was wrong.

Alaska's number one visitor attraction is the Portage Glacier, about an hour South of Anchorage. Given the fact that I only had about five hours of daylight within which to play, I left the apartment early on a Saturday morning, just before the Sun came up.

You know how people, usually when they're stoned, are always saying stuff like, "It's not the destination, it's the journey that's important?"

Well, maybe those stoners have made the same trip I made that day. Every 10 feet, I wanted to stop my car, get out, and try to take it all in. Mountains, frozen beaches. Icebergs the size of houses, eagles and seagulls. Everything was new to me, and everything was just amazing to me.

Like, there was one stretch of road. I came over a small hill, and saw an icy beach to my right, and mountains to my left. At the side of the road was a yellow sign:

Avalanche Area!

No Stopping!

Or something along those lines.

And, sure enough, there seemed to have been a recent avalanche. On both the left and right sides of the road, there was a wall of snow and ice about 20 feet high. It had been neatly cut to allow for the road. Very damn cool.

And every mile or so there'd be a damn moose standing at the side of the road. Surreal. The whole trip was surreal. The whole place was surreal. Me being in fucking Alaska was surreal.

Instead of taking an hour to get to the glacier, it took almost three hours. I kept stopping and getting out of my car, feeling that if I was outside then the experience would be that much more real to me. And cold. Mustn't forget about the cold.

There was an actual visitor's center there. For some reason I hadn't been expecting that. That stupid building contrasted starkly with the natural beauty all around it. So I only spend about a minute inside. Just long enough to pee. Then I went back out into the cold and along this trail next what I suppose was the Portage River.

That was kinda funny - you couldn't even see the glacier from the visitor's center. All that was in there was maps and dioramas and shit like that. To get to the actual glacier you were supposed to get back in your car and drive for a while longer.

Fuck that. I walked it. I walked along the shore of the lake for what seemed like forever, but there were gobs of icebergs keeping me company. I also met a few people coming the other way, and they all assured me that (a) the actual glacier was up ahead of me, and (b) they hadn't seen any bears.

So I walked and I walked and I walked. The trail switched from a sidewalk to a dirt path to a dirty swath of packed snow. It was a long and cold walk.

But it was worth it.

Now, there have been several times in my life when I really wished that I had a camera with me. When I finally came around that last bend in the trail, and found myself staring at the glacier, that was definitely one of those times. But alas, I didn't have a camera. Oh well. I figured I could just buy a postcard at the visitor's center. Plus, if you've seen one glacier you've probably seen them all.

And I'd finally managed to see one.


I might have been able to climb up on the thing. There were chunks of ice ranging from the size of toasters to condominiums, but by then it was getting close to dark, so I walked back a short distance to this boat ramp place and talked one of the tourists there into giving me a ride back to my car.

It was a fun day.

I forgot to buy a postcard.

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