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Glacier Sightseeing - Springtime Adventures in Alaska

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There are several easily accessible glaciers near Anchorage, AK - each with its own preferred method of approach depending on the time of year. For fatbiking, Spencer glacier offers an ideal window of conditions where the snow is packed to the perfect consistency by snowmachiners also wanting a glimpse of the glacier.  Word in Anchorage was that Spencer had great conditions for the ride in, with equally impressive views at the finish. On a chilly Sunday morning, we loaded our bikes into the van and were on our way!

Driving on the Seward Highway.  Photo by Brian Senez.  

   After fifty-odd minutes on the Seward Highway, we passed the exit to Portage and came to our destination: a small parking lot near the Placer river. We'd follow the frozen river about 11 miles southeast, using the Spencer railroad as a guide until we finally came to our ultimate goal of the Spencer glacier itself.

   As we unloaded our bikes and prepared to disembark, we noticed it was a bit... Cold! -9F according to someone's Garmin. Springtime in Alaska can be a bit chilly sometimes. Luckily, MOST of us had pogies (and I was fortunate enough to be using my Dogwood Plus Pogies. So warm that my hands invariably feel like they are in an oven... Which is a good thing at -9F!)

In various stages of preparation.  Photo by John Lynn.

   The first couple miles were tranquil, if a bit shocking to any exposed skin. More than a few of us started building up a frosty armour on our cheeks and eyebrows, and those of us with facial hair began looking a bit Old Man Winter-ish. There were a few other fatbikers on the trail, and we greeted them with our frost etched smiles. It appeared that Alaskans were a motivated bunch! If there's a glacier to see, there will be people to see it!

  Above us, the mountains were in a state of shocking beauty: the sun had just crested over the tallest spires to our left, casting powerful rays on the adjacent peaks to our right. We rode serpentine through this frozen landscape, sometimes in mountain shadows, sometimes in the welcome warmth of the returning power of March sun.

Photo by James Stull.

   8 miles in. We stopped in a patch of sunlight right next to the Spencer railroad. Poptarts were quickly unwrapped and eaten, along with more standard biking foods, as well as a lone sandwich. Our toes were on the chilly side, but we were all elated and quite excited to see the glacier that was to come.

   We made a hard left turn, pedaled around a corner, and there it was.

   Across from us, at the opposite end of a large flat expanse of snow and ice littered with glacial chunks, sat Spencer glacier.

   Lightheartedly racing toward it, we could see a few dark caves and crevasses in its hulking blue mass. Some people had arrived earlier than us, and they were busy posing in these crystalline awnings. I remembered a particular anecdote I had read in Between a Rock and a Hard Place, and was glad it was so cold.

   Geologic time includes now.

   As we approached, it was amazing just how uniquely blue the ice was. It's striking in photos, but experiencing it first hand was something totally different. Surreal and serene, beautiful and mysterious - it's hard to find the right words. Seeing something so ancient, created by eons of natural processes, sitting right before you and still changing as it sits, was an incredible feeling. It's moments like that I know I belong in Alaska.       

Looking into a world of blue.  Photo by James Stull.

Pieces of glacier separated from the main mass.  Crazy photo ops inside!  Photo by James Stull.

Posing the 9:ZERO:7.  Photo by James Stull

Investigating.  Photo by James Stull.

Group photo.  From left to right: Robin, Will, Jamie, Me, Brian, John.  Photo by Will via his self-timer :D

Icicle fencing is a common glacial pastime!  Photo by James Stull.

Me with a crazy blue backdrop!  Photo by Brian Senez.  

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