Sep 24, 2014

Alaska: Days 7-8


It's almost 9pm and my suitcase is completely empty. We leave for Telluride, Colorado at 8am tomorrow and I still have laundry to do, hair to blow dry, and all that jazz. But, I promised myself I'd get my last Alaska post up before we ventured on our next trip. You cannot keep us away from the mountains, apparently.

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Alaska Day 7: Harding Ice Field Hike and Exit Glacier


Harding Ice Field Hike

I'm not going to lie, I was scared to death of doing this hike. I spent hours researching if anyone had died doing it (nope), killed by a bear (nope), or broken a limb (jury is out). All of the reviewers said this was the best hike of their lives as well as one of the hardest. I'd say it's safe to call us avid hikers. If you look back at my old blog posts on here, I've recapped quite a few hikes over the years, but even still, I get nervous on a new hike, especially in a new state.


Harding Ice Field Hike

I did not realize how giant my backpack was until I saw this! I'm fun-sized. 

But, I sucked it up, laced up my trail runners and packed my bag full of reindeer jerky. We started early and Brandon said we'd just take our time. We spoke with the park rangers beforehand and they told us it would take about 6-8 hours 4 miles up, 4 miles back.


Harding Ice Field Hike


You know what? It wasn't really that hard at all. Or scary. We kept a steady pace for the four miles up, but took lots of breaks for photos and eating. It's not walk in the park obviously, but definitely manageable if you are in decent hiking shape.


The trail starts off in a rainforest and slowly morphs into a meadow and then a rocky area. The meadow is where we saw our first close up bear sighting. We met a friendly group of tourists from Australia, Germany, and Israel (they met that week in their hostel). They spotted the bear, motioned us over, and we all spent a good 30 minutes watching him and praying for our lives (at least I was).


Harding Ice Field Hike - Black Bear Sighting!


We pulled out the macro zoom and got this shot, but definitely kept our distance. Black bears are the most aggressive type and I wasn't about to let him steal my reindeer jerky...or my husband.


Harding Ice Field Hike - Marmont


In other wildlife news, we ran into this fat squirrel...err, marmot. He was a bit friendlier than the bear.


We pressed onward. The best part about the hike was the every single turn had a better view than the last. The hike follows alongside Exit Glacier and once at the top, you get 360 views of Harding Ice Field.


Harding Ice Field Hike


Harding Ice Field Hike


You know you are almost to the top when you see the emergency shelter. If hikers or backpackers suddenly get caught in a bad storm, they have this place to take cover. I wonder if that has happened to anyone...


Harding Ice Field Hike


It's also a great place to take a breather.


Harding Ice Field Hike


After little more rock scrambling and creek jumping,  we made it! We had our lunch with above view in front of us. No big deal.


Harding Ice Field Hike


One tip for this hike: layers. I swear the climate was changing every 30 minutes. It was pretty cold at the top, but in some places were were sweating. Prepare for weather from 30-50 degrees (in September).


Harding Ice Field Hike


We took our time going back down as well. My knees were about shot at this point, so I relied on my hiking poles a lot. Luckily, we were in no hurry.


Harding Ice Field Hike


And the fog that had surrounded us the entire hike finally started to lift and we got awesome views on the way back as well.


So final verdict and tips:


- This hike is not that hard if you are already in hiking shape. Just take your time and prepare to spend 4 miles hiking straight up a mountain. It's not nearly as bad as some make it out to be.

- Layers! See above.
- Bear bells or bear spray wouldn't be a bad idea.
- Lots of water. Especially if its warmer.
- Food. We had jerky, Cliff Bars, and Shot Blocks for some energy.
- The descent is pretty tough and hiking poles are awesome if your knees are weak.

Best hike of our lives? As Sarah Palin would say, "You betcha!"


Day 8: Sea Kayaking on Resurrection Bay


Resurrection Bay


Since we had already explored Alaska by land, naturally, the sea was next. We booked an all day sea kayaking trip with Kayak Adventures Worldwide in Seward. We booked this our last day because it was something we were both so excited about. We were ready to go out with a bang and we certainly did.

To get to the kayaking spot, we were taken on a really nice boat for about a two hour ride. And this was just no ordinary boat ride, we got to see Seward from sea and WILDLIFE!


Ya'll, I saw ocra whales! In real life. In their natural habitat. With their families. Life made.


Resurrection Bay - Orca Whales


Aren't they gorgeous? The staff from the kayaking place was even gawking, as most whales have already headed south for the winter. We also saw some humpbacks on the return trip. This adventure was worth the money just for the boat ride.


Resurrection Bay


We also saw some seals and later, while kayaking, sea otters.


Resurrection Bay


Sea otters are my new favorite animal. Not only do they hold hands (Google photos! I'll wait) when they are sleeping, but I also learned that they each have a little skin pouch on their bellies. Inside their pouch they keep a special rock that they pick out during childhood and use for hunting. They keep their rock with them their entire lives and use it to kill their prey. Just how cool is that? Also, the mamas are super attached to their babies. They will wrap them in seaweed so they won't float away during hunting and if their baby dies, they will still cuddle with it for days afterwards.


Absolutely precious, those animals.


We kayaked to this glacier and really it's just so big that I cannot even describe.


Glacier!


The kayaking was tough! We were on a two person kayak and Brandon did the steering from the back and I worked the front. My shoulders were dying by the time we got to the glacier, but the adventure was just so surreal that the pain was nothing to complain about.


So this is where the pretty photos end. We opted not to take our DSLRs on the kayaks with us, but I did bring my cell phone and got some halfway decent photos of kayaking. You can check them out here as well as other random phone photos from the trip.


Along Seward Highway


So this ends our Alaska trip recap/saga. Our photos did not do it justice and certainly my words didn't either, but it truly is a magical place. We are so fortunate that we were able to go here, as I feel like it's a place that most people really should see once in a lifetime. If only for the sea otters!



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The Alaskan Post Lineup


A B&B Tour

Days 1 - 3
Days 4 - 6

Flickr Album

Google+ Phone Photos

8 comments:

  1. #1, you should make a gallery wall of all your adventures! The pictures are spectacular. Those views must have been so incredible in real life. #2, glad I get to benefit from your joy of hiking with your pictures bc man, I do not like hiking, haha. #3, so you're telling me otters carry pebbles in their pockets? The cuteness never ends!! The babies in seaweed? It's like a natural baby sling! I simply cannot!

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    1. We JUST started printing some of our photos and cannot wait to see some of these in print. To be honest, I probably wouldn't do half of our hikes if it wasn't for Brandon, but I never regret a single one. Glad you can live vicariously through ours, it's easier and safer, huh?

      Sea otters just win at life.

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  2. Wow that hike looks so, so cool. I love hiking... But even the gorgeous hikes on skyline drive don't get anywhere near these amazing views! I can imagine you were a little freaked out about this hike though and I'd be kind of scared about all that wildlife too.

    Oh my gosh sea otters are so adorable! Now orca's on the other hand... ;) I've always wanted to see one in real life (ever since Free Willy, haha) but ever since the truth about Sea World came out I don't think that's really an option anymore. Unless Jayme and I go to Alaska sometime I guess! Which these posts definitely make us want to do! :D

    I'm glad you guys had such an amazing trip!! I can't wait to hear all about Colorado next!

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    1. The orcas were awesome, but you only see just a tiny bit of them! They were stubborn and wouldn't jump for us! Are you talking about Blackfish? That was a horrifying documentary. I was so happy that these guys were with their families and enjoying their freedom in one of the most beautiful places in the world :)

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  4. I am in awe just reading this and looking at the pictures! I can't even imagine being there in real life! Very happy you didn't get eaten by a bear. And that your jerky stayed safe. ;)

    Thanks for sharing this, friend! :)

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    1. I was most concerned with my pricey local reindeer jerky :) Happy to share and hope someone else can use our experience to plan their own in Alaska!

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  5. Wow! Truly amazing views. It almost doesn't even seem real. That's so cool.

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