Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Byron Glacier

Byron Glacier has the look of a retreating glacier.

Last year some friends hiked up to Byron Glacier. I was supposed to go with them but wasn't able to get there in time and missed it, so I've been meaning to go. In April I tried taking our exchange student, but the road was blocked off for the winter and I didn't know how long of a hike it was back to the trailhead so we skipped it. I was on my way to Anchorage for a retreat last week and had a couple hours to spare so decided it was the perfect day for a side excursion.

Byron Glacier is about 45 minutes south of Anchorage at the Whitter-Portage Glacier turnoff. You drive right by the Portage Glacier visitor center and then take the road around the glacial lake as if you were going to go on the Portage Glacier Lake boat tour, but before you get there a parking area announces the Byron Glacier trailhead.

The bear alert posted prominently at the trailhead didn't seem to be discouraging anyone, as there were many people on the trail. This must be billed as a 'family' hike because most of the people out there were families with young children. It is a .8 mile hike on a wide, gravel nearly flat trail, so it provides an accessibility that many hikes in Alaska don't provide. There was a person being pushed up the trail in a wheelchair and strollers were a common sight.

The .8 miles may have at one time gotten one to the base of the glacier, but now it just takes you to a viewpoint. I decided to scramble over the boulders and glacial scree a bit further, and discovered after 20 minutes of scrambling that it would probably take me another 45 minutes or more to get to the glacier itself. I didn't have enough time for that so I took my pictures and headed back.

Turning around, I was treated to an awesome sight. There was a ring of mountains, with at least 4 glaciers on the one section of mountain range. I get used to seeing glaciers in Alaska--they're everywhere it seems--but I'd never seen 4 of them in a row like that. If I were doing a quick visit of Alaska, I would want to put this hike on the list just because it was easily accessible and yet had some beautiful views of glaciers.

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