Do You See What Icy?
This Alaskan tale begins with a classic squat in the woods.
It was Krull family day, which is the one day a week the entire family has time off to spend together. Temperatures had begun their rise back up into the seventies and hiking was, without question, the activity we all agreed upon.
Taking my dad’s suggestion, we headed out to Whittier to explore a trail we hadn’t yet walked our hiking shoes upon: Portage Pass Trail.
Whittier is an especially spectacular town only accessible by sea through Prince William Sound, by plane, or through the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel, a 13,300 ft tunnel that straight shoots its way through Maynard Mountain and provides the only land access to town (and also happens to be the second-longest highway tunnel in North America- snaps for Alaska!).
After passing through the tunnel, we took the first right and found ourselves in a crowded lot. Seems we weren’t the only ones anxious for a hike on this super sunny day.
If there’s one thing I really don’t care for when it comes to hiking, it’s people. And there were LOTS of them.
It’s actually quite uncommon to run into other hikers in Alaska, for the trail system is quite expansive. But Whittier is a tourist town, a port of call for cruise ships and I don’t know if this particular hike is plastered across “things to do in Alaska”, but there were LOTS of people, most of which were out of towners.
Which brings me to my squat in the woods. I was in dire need of a restroom, and what most Alaskans appreciate is the expanse of outdoors to do your business in. Well, it would’ve been easy to just pop a squat, but there were people, LOTS of them, remember?
I managed to find a gap in the line of hikers, did my business, then resumed hiking up up up.
Portage Pass Trail has got to be one of the most breathtakingly beautiful trails I’ve experienced in Alaska. And that says a lot. Aside from the people (ugh, the people), you walk up a mountain with the deep blue of Passage Canal behind you, and Portage Glacier ahead of you.
It was difficult to stay sour at the abundance of people clogging the trail when the vision of one of the most iconic Alaskan glaciers stood proudly in the midst of the mountains.
A glacier which, like many glaciers, is retreating at a rapid pace.
I’ve visited Portage before, years ago, and can vividly remember what it looked like, which was a much different sight then the ice structure I saw on this hike. The change was visible.
Having been there for tens and thousands of years, it’s natural for glaciers to melt, but not at the increasing rate in which they are now. This year alone, Alaska has shattered previous heat records, and we’re all watching as our state slowly burns and our glaciers melt.
After walking the two miles to arrive at the lake’s edge, ice chunks floating just below me, I could not get over this profound beauty and the sadness I felt at how different it looked from when I saw it from boat view, about ten years ago. Having lunch in a spot that not fifty years back was caked with ice put into perspective the urgency and realness of climate change and its effect on our land and its natural structures.
I later found out that Portage Pass Trail, dubbed “A Passage Through Time”, is the only established trail with a view of Portage Glacier, which is a huge draw for not only tourists, but locals like myself too.
Walking back, I came to appreciate the many hikers, silently thanking them for wanting to visit such a rare beauty, feeling appreciation for Alaska and her magnetic pull on visitors and residents.
It’s important that people see with their own eyes that our being here on earth, and how we are treating it, has an effect. And it won’t be long before stunning structures like glaciers will be a thing of the past.
Icy warmer weather up ahead, so hikers, please, PLEASE enjoy the outdoors as I do, for the times they are a changing and there might not be glaciers in the future.
I just ask that I still have privacy when I need to pop the occasional squat…