This weekend was awesome! I’ve been making my weekends super lazy lately, so I felt like I was due for some adventures. It was absolutely freezing this weekend – temps were in the low single digits with serious wind – but I didn’t let that stop me!
Saturday was the ceremonial start of the Iditarod! Last year was my first Iditarod experience (read about it here) and I was really excited to cross that off my bucket list, but this year I took it a step further and decided to cheer on the racers along the trail instead of at the start line downtown. We walked about an mile on the trail by my house until it intersected with a dogsled trail that was being used for the Iditarod. There were other people there, but it was nothing like the crazy crowds downtown. You know those random spectators that you see along a race course cheering you on when you really need it? That’s what I got to do during the Iditarod!
The official race started on Sunday in Fairbanks and I’m hoping all the teams make it safely to Nome!
Sunday was just as cold as Saturday, but we wanted to get outside. After much deliberation and research, we finally decided to hike to Portage Glacier by walking across frozen Portage Lake! This is one hike that I’ve been dying to do for years, and it can only be done under certain conditions: the lake needs to be frozen, there needs to be enough snow to cover the ice but not too much snow that it makes the trail difficult, and bonus points for a clear day where you can see the mountains. It’s so cold right now that we knew the ice would be safe to walk on, and it was a gorgeous and clear day. We knew it was going to be windy but we packed up lots of warm gear and drove an hour down the Seward Highway after lunch.
I’ve never seen Portage Lake frozen over (it’s been too warm to completely freeze over in the past few years) and it was gorgeous! We were all really happy to see that there was a small amount of crunchy snow on top of the ice. It definitely made for an easy walk to the glacier, even though we did have to dodge a few icy patches. There were also tons of people hiking, biking, and skiing out there so we were able to follow their tracks across the lake.
There was really no good information about this hike online because there’s not exactly a “trail” you have to follow, so we were surprised to discover that we had to walk about 2.5 miles to get up to the glacier. It’s one of those hikes where it’s hard to judge how far you have to go to reach something because everything is so huge and far away, but we didn’t mind walking along in the sunshine. What worried us, however, was the intense wind that was pushing at our backs the entire way out to the glacier. We knew it was going to be tough going back to the car, but as soon as we started to really worry about the hike back we walked around a corner and saw the glacier!
Portage Glacier, like all glaciers, are active even in the winter. This means that you can’t get too close to the glacier without putting yourself in danger of being crushed by a calving piece of ice. We were lucky to not see any calving while we were there, but there were some people standing super close to the glacier who were making me nervous the whole time. We only walked until we were in the shadow of the mountains and could see the glacier better.
It was so blue! It was also a lot bigger than I thought it would be. I could have stayed there forever, but we eventually had to head home before it got too cold. Plus, even though Ridley clearly has some kind of sled dog genes in him, we didn’t want him to get too cold or wet. He got to try out dog booties for the first time ever and did such a good job!
The walk back to the car was brutal. We were walking directly into the wind, and I was doing everything I could to make sure that my entire face was covered up. Nothing seemed to help keep the wind from hurting my face, but the rest of me felt pretty warm. Next time I will definitely wear a balaclava out there to keep my face warm.
Overall, the hike took us about 3 hours with time to stop at the glacier. As soon as we got back to the car, we decided to head over to Girdwood and get some hot chocolate and snacks for the ride home. We decided that the Portage Glacier hike was probably the most intense hike we’ve ever done. Sure, it’s completely flat and gorgeous, but the exposure to the wind made us feel like we were walking through Siberia! I’d definitely go back and ride my fat tire bike out to the glacier as long as the wind isn’t that bad again. I’m just so happy we finally got to cross it off our bucket list!
What’s the most extreme thing you’ve ever done in the winter? What do you hope to cross off your bucket list this year?