Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Spending the day on Turnagain Arm

I have a friend from Pittsburgh spending the week with me. This is her first time in Alaska and I spent the day with her on the Arm. Our plan was to wander the Seward Hwy, stopping and starting as we came across photographic possibilities. We didn't get very far.

Our first stop was Potter Marsh just outside of the city. The Tundra swans are migrating to warmer climates (sounds familiar!) They stop at the marsh and stock up for a few days of grub. There were about a dozen swans.

We came across a family closer to the road; a mated pair and 2 signets. Shelagh got a quick lesson on 'doing a Panama" and using the car as a buffer from highway traffic while we shot a few frames.

We stopped at Beluga Point and ignored the "No Trespassing, R/R property" signs and climbed out on the point, crossing the r/r tracks and climbing over the big rocks.

Beluga Point has some great little places that capture lots of driftwood. Some of the logs would be great to have in a fireplace for the entire night.

At the same time, some of the vistas don't seem quite Earth like.

There are lots of places along Turnagain Arm that have pullouts to tell you about the history of the area. There are also great trails to walk and bike. It's easy to spend the day and not go anywhere.

The highway was relocated several years ago so the old pavement gives you a great place to hike away from traffic. One of the things you'll find as you hike the old roadbed is the 105 howitzer gun used to shoot down avalanches. Still in use today these date from WW2 and can hurl a shell 5 miles into the mountain to knock down the snow before it buries the road. That's Shelagh enjoying the afternoon sun.

There are lots of waterfalls bordering the old roadbed. Tucked into the hills they ice up in the winter and create dramatic ice cliffs and dangerous conditions to walk and hike.

Across from the Portage Glacier turnout is the Alaska Conservation Center. It is a 'rescue and education' center for lots of the larger mammals in the state. You drive thru it or hike the road. The wildlife are in large fenced enclosures roaming the area. Most of these animals were injured at one time or are being used to help breed an endangered species.

A family of caribou.

Musk ox. The original herds north of Fairbanks were just about hunted to extinction in the 1800s. The breed was re-introduced to Alaska with stock from Russia years ago. Turns out the DNA was identical so the stock from Russia was from the same original herds. That was a good thing. There is now a large herd roaming the tundra. Just like bison. We have a large bison herd in the interior.

Grizzly bear.

The road to Portage has some great lakes and streams. There are a lot of beaver dams and the salmon runs are really thick in the area. Portage Glacier no longer calves into Portage Lake; it left the lake a couple summers ago and the only way to see the glacier now is to take a boat.

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