Continuing Day 6... After our "Salmon Bake" lunch at the Alyeska, those of us who wanted to re-boarded our motorcoach and headed out with Rae for an optional hike up to Byron Glacier. It was a relatively short ride out towards the Portage Lake area, and to the trailhead to the Byron Glacier trail. I have to admit I forget exactly how many of us went. I know there was Karen, Krista, Sherry, Annie, Tony, Nancy and I, and I know there were a couple or 3 others, but boy, I'm getting old, I can't remember which ones they were. I'm thinking at least Tom... (I didn't get a picture of the whole group. That usually helps me remember!) But anyways, we started up the trail to the Glacier (very, very green!) and as we got closer, it started drizzling. Nothing that would stop us from the hike or enjoying it, but the first rain we'd seen the whole trip! We had either a drizzle or a mist going for the rest of our time there. Byron Glacier is cool, and right there, you can hike up to the base of the ice. As you can see, at this point, the ice has become separated from the majority of the glacier, which is now a "hanging glacier" (does not come down to the water). The ice area is surrounded by rocks & gravel, and, as you can see, the ice has melted where the runoff from the glacier poured under it. I saw some video on the Internet from someone who had gone into the ice cave, but as cool as it looked, you'd never get me inside there! We did hike up onto the ice, which was fascinating, if a bit slick! I kind of wished I'd had my hiking boots with me. I was able to get around with my tennies, but I would have felt much more secure & at ease with a bit more traction... (That crevice to the left of Krista & Karen is *DEEP*!) Rae had found a plastic disc-type sled that someone had left up there, and had some fun sliding around on the ice. Click on the pic for a video of Rae, squealing like a little girl! Several of the group had headed back to the motorcoach while we hiked up on the ice. The rest of us had a photo taken to commemorate the intrepid hikers. (Note new fleece vest!) As we headed back, still through the drizzling rain, we encountered the best part about drizzling rain: The rainbow! It's faint, but definitely there! We then re-boarded the motorcoach and headed back towards Girdwood. But there was another stop, at the Begich, Boggs Visitor's Center in the Portage Valley. I have no idea why it's called Begich, Boggs, but there you go! They had some movies, and neat exhibits, and a nice little gift shop. We spent less than an hour there, but it was a nice little place, and a fun, unexpected added stop. Ice floating around in Portage Lake from the Visitor's Center. The rest of the day was "on our own". By this time, after cleaning up, I was ready to head down into Girdwood and see about getting some dinner. I met up with Patty, Tom, Mary & Matt again, and we decided that, rather than take the shuttle bus into town (think really, really small town) we'd check out one of the restaurants recommended by the guides. It was within walking distance to the Alyeska, and the weather was gorgeous back at the hotel. So we walked along the wonderful walking path they have between the hotel and the town, and headed up to a very cute, very popular little restaurant called Jack Sprat's. We met Krista & her group there, as well as David & Mim. Apparently it had been VERY busy before we got there. As it was, we still had a bit of a wait before we got seated. The food was really good, and the atmosphere very nice. I had a hummus plate & soup. Yumm! Afterwards, we were going to walk back to the hotel, but just as we exited the restaurant, the shuttle bus showed up, so we decided we were meant to take it. What an odd experience that was! Mim had mentioned the bus driver was a little strange, and she wasn't joking. Not the world's best driver, and he kept up a running dialog of stuff from his life, I don't even remember what all. Matt kept up a running conversation with him; I think it was to keep the bus driver calm... And he took us ALL OVER TOWN, including BACK TO JACK SPRAT'S before eventually getting us back to the Alyeska. We could probably have walked back faster! But it *was* an experience! Day 7 - Glacier Express The next morning, Rae offered to take whoever was interested on a hike to an area up behind the Alyeska called the Winner Creek Trail. It sounded really cool (there's an area over a deep gorge where there's a hand trolley you use to pull yourself over to the other side. I wasn't sure I was gonna be able to make myself do it, but I thought I'd try...) But they were MEETING at like 7am for the hike, then doing breakfast AFTER the hike, then meeting for our rafting trip. Let's see... get up REALLY early, go for a long hike without breakfast, rush around, OR sleep in, have a leisurely breakfast, then meet up for the rafting...? Well, it should be no surprise that I slept in! I am on vacation, after all, and there's a point at which you just gotta sleep in! Krista & Karen were the only ones who actually showed up for the hike, so I didn't feel too guilty! They said it was a great hike. Some day! It turned out to be a good thing that I didn't go, anyways, as I realized that I hadn't brought enough of one of my prescriptions with me 0_o !! and spent part of the morning calling around to my doctor and the Fred Meyers in Anchorage arranging to pick up some extra pills for the last few days of the trip (since we were *sob* heading back to Anchorage the next day). So we met up at the motorcoach at like 10am, and headed out to the lovely, spacious, Girdwood train station. The train we were going to take (part of the Alaska Railroad) was a one-car train, whose sole purpose this time of year is ferrying people from the Anchorage/Girdwood area to the Chugash National Forest to either do the River float, or go to an area a bit further on for hiking. In fact, since that's all the train does, we were told we could pretty much leave anything we wanted on the train, as it would be picking us up on the way back after dropping off & then picking up the folks going to the hiking area. While it was not the world's most scenic train trip, it was a lot of fun, and a great way to get to the drop-off point for the rafting trip. (And, in fact, the ONLY way to get to the drop-off point for the rafting trip!) The view out the back of the train In March of 1964 (on Good Friday), there was a 9.2 magnitude earthquake in the Anchorage area. In several areas, the ground actually liquified and sank up to 6 feet. This house is one of the few remaining homes that were in the town of Portage that were destroyed (and left for historical purposes). When the ground dropped, sea water flooded the area (there was a tsunami) and the trees died and were petrified by the salt. There are "forests" of these petrified trees all over the area. From the train: Bald eagle on a petrified tree! Moose! I like how this picture almost looks like an impressionistic painting... We picked up the folks running the float trip (and their rafts) on the way to the starting point for the float trip. They issued us *lovely* rubber boots for use in the rafts. We were warned (thank you fellow DISers!) to wear REALLY warm socks, because even though the boots were water-proof, they weren't insulated, and the water was COLD! Yay! for polar-fleece socks! Me, in my stylin' boots, at the lake at the foot of the Spencer Glacier. They fed us lunch before we boarded our rafts. It was sandwich fixings, hot soup and muffins. Plus the sugar-free cookies Rae & Jesse had gotten for me & Tony. Tasty, simple foods, and plenty of it. Fortunately they had a tent put up, as it started drizzling while we ate. We were issued ponchos to keep us dry. Rafting goes, rain or shine! We were given the option to spend more time getting closer to the glacier (it's farther away than it looks) or doing the float down the Placer River). We decided to do the float. We spent a short while looking at the Glacier, and the icebergs that had broken off of it. Our river guide Up close with an iceberg The weird thing about this chunk of glacier ice was that it was *not* melting in my hand, and did *not* make my gloves wet! It was *SO* solidly frozen... We then headed off down the Placer River, past tons of lovely green mountains, Fall foliage and distant glaciers. This was really just a river *float*. There was one area with a bit of churning water, but really nothing I'd call rapids. But the scenery was beautiful, and the water was SO cold, so this worked just fine! The "new" bridge. The remains of the old bridge, which fell during the 1964 earthquake, and were left as a monument to the earthquake. We eventually made it back to the load-in point just as the train pulled in, and caught the train back to the Girdwood station, and our motorcoach back to the Alyeska. We were then given time to clean up, start packing or whatever, before meeting back in one of the conference areas at the Alyeska for our Farewell Dinner. Amazing that we were almost done with this trip! Waaah! Continued in Part 7 (Last part!): Continuation of Day 7.