Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Memorial Day Eve on the Harding Icefield Trail

The original plan was to make this a family hike, bringing along the backpack, if worse came to worst with our five year old hiker.  Only eight miles?  No problem!


But when Sunday morning came, the potential hikers began dropping like flies.  So, Clare, age 11, drove down to Seward as a duo.  As it turned out, this was for the best.


We parked at the Exit Glacier visitor’s center and began the initial approach to the trailhead, along a paved trail.  This bit of the hike offers plenty of company; lots of people heading out on the short jaunt to the glacier’s face…



Guess it doesn’t look so crowded here though!  It wasn’t ideal weather that day.  Temps in the 40’s, some intermittent rain.




I was quite insistent on numerous layers for Clare, which she wasn’t entirely pleased about.  Here she’s removing a few…oh, she will be glad later that she has them…



Off the paved trail and onto a foresty bit; some gravel, lots of mud, and occasionally running water.  Snowmelt running down the mountain all around…




Some serious climbing; if I recall correctly, it was about 3000 feet over four miles…


The views began almost immediately…


This was the widest stream crossing; there was a nice waterfall above and below (and as it turned out, a black bear hanging out just above, out of sight.  We would discover that later.)


We were charmed initially by the patches of snow…”Hey, look, there’s still snow here!” 


But, as the snow deepened and the postholing began, we were less impressed.  And by “we,” I mean “I.”  Clare was quite content in her adventure, and down to the bare minimum layers.


The glacier views were nice, but not as awe-inspiring as they will be later in the season.  Mostly snow-covered at this point.


But, like, I said, still nice…


Entering the aptly named “Marmot Meadow” here…

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The snow continues.  Not in my boots yet, but that’s coming…


Ice climbers down below on the glacier…



The views help us gauge our progress…


layers on…off…on…off…the climbing keeps us warm…


But there’s a definite chill during the break…


Going up…



Another temperature adjustment…



As the snow thickened and the trail disappeared, there were ornage flags to mark our way.  Still, sometimes it was a little tricky to spot the next flag.


“This way!”


Clare was leading most of the way…picking a trail across an avalanche area…




This bit was tough; slippery, and the postholing…oh, the postholing…


Getting close…the shelter is in view…


And this is it…the final viewpoint.  It was okay.  Better in the summer, I’m sure.  I mean, really, it was spectacular, but more snow than glacier.   Regardless, good to be here!



And it’s time to go down!  Which, truly, was tougher than going up, due to the slippery snow and steep slopes.


But, the views continue to motivate…

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A Top of the World feeling…












And steep!


Another look back up…


Crossing the avalanche pile again…glad we weren’t there for the Big Event.


The day was mostly cloudy…but the sun would peek out from time to time for photo ops…


The snow had an odd blue glow underneath…glacier-like…


Speaking of glaciers…



Love the texture…


After some seemingly endless slip-sliding down the mountain, we found ourselves back at Marmot Meadow and less snow…


But no shortage of glacier…


Eek bear!  Luckily, not too close.  This is the guy chillin’ above the waterfall…


Are we there yet?


Paved trail again, and the car is in sight!  Along with a few snowshoe hares, bidding us farewell!


All told, the hike took us six and a half hours to go about eight miles.  The snow definitely slowed us down, both ways.

We enjoyed a waterfront dinner at Ray’s before heading back to the big city.

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