Portage Cruising

I work by a lake. A very young lake – a hundred years ago it didn’t exist. Instead, there was a glacier. The glacier is still there, but, as it’s melted and retreated over the past century, it left behind a deep valley that filled in with its liquid remains. Such is the nature of time and the effects of climate change.

Because of the extent to which the glacier has retreated, it can no longer be seen from the shore. The hike up to Portage Pass that gets you a view requires a jaunt through a timed-entry toll tunnel (which makes me disinclined for those two obvious reasons). The other option is to purchase a ticket and go out on the cruise boat that runs hour-long tours to the face of the glacier.

It’s taken me four months of living and working on the edge of this lake to get out on the boat (factor in that I get to go for free and I really have no good excuses). It was well worth it and a fun way to spend a sunny afternoon in Portage Valley.

That was a big item on my Alaska summer checklist. With only one more weekend left before I migrate south, good thing I got it in when I did!


Portage Cruising

Glaciolacustrine Life

Glaciers are my favorite thing about living in Alaska.

portage glacier

Which makes today one of my most favorite days of living here so far.

a gathering of icebergs

Huge chunks of ice have been calving off of Portage Glacier in recent days. A few of these icebergs have made their way across the lake to just outside the Visitor Center (thanks to the williwaw winds that also bring us that cold, sideways rain).

Portage Glacier is a lacustrine glacier, meaning that it acts like a tidewater glacier but instead of dropping into the ocean it’s dropping into a lake (the USFS¬†might explain it better). This type of glacier is a bit rare from what I understand. It’s pretty cool that I get to live next door to one…

largest lacustrine icebergs I’ve ever seen

There’s no better way to start your day than happening upon an unexpected iceberg. If you don’t know this from personal experience, just trust me that it’s true.


Glaciolacustrine Life

alaska introductions

Alaska feels like it’s on a different planet. But really, it’s attached to worlds I’m more familiar with. #AlmostAdjacent

portage lake

There are so many new faces here. My first moose sighting stopped me in my tracks. My first red-necked grebe and my first harlequin duck both took my breath away. And I still haven’t gotten used to the opaque blue of glacial water. Yet familiar friends can be found as well. Cottontail rabbits make fast work of the blooming dandelions. Lupines are making an appearance (fat, squat nootka lupine). Robins, golden-crowned sparrows, and bald eagles ensure that I’ll always having some measure of success on my birding forays. And the so-green aspen-like birches transport me to the Eastern Sierra.

Regardless of if a moment finds me entranced by a new sight (like lungwort lichen) or wondering just how an orange-crowned warbler migrates so very many miles, there’s no question that Alaska is a beautiful place. My explorations thus far have been mostly limited to my immediate summer home base. Long rambling strolls, either alone or with some housemates, always on trail (no bushwhacking through prickly devil’s club and brown bear-concealing willows for me), have yet to fail at yielding a learning opportunity or an arm-pinching reality check. A slow crawl with tree and wildflower field guides, a stop-and-go walk with binoculars, a blood-warming hike to a glacier viewpoint, a dash back to the indoors while flailing ineffectively at hordes of Alaska-sized mosquitos.

It’s a pleasant mix of comforting knowns and stunning unknowns. Wonder is a great salve (though certainly no cure) for homesickness.

alaska introductions