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Alaska: "Spring" at Portage Lake


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Today in Anchorage we broke our previous high temperature record by 7 degrees, topping out at 68F. We don't normally have much of a Spring up here, just a dirty gray/brown mud time before things are green again. Just a few days ago the highs were in the 30s and it's been cloudy for weeks. Summer starts with a bang and today just had to be it.


One of the meteorological laws of nature we are all familiar with states that the best weather always comes in the middle of the work week, and rainy days are reserved for weekends and holidays. Most of the riders here compensate for this fact by using the "midnight sun" to go on nice after work rides (sunset tonight 1015 pm). Today was as fine a weather day as we'll see all summer, so I got on the bike as soon as I could after getting home from work.


One of the best after work rides from Anchorage is along Turnagain Arm on the Seward Highway, one of the few National Scenic Byways in the country. Turnagain Arm is really a glacier carved fjord cutting deeply into the Kenai mountains behind the city. About 40 miles from Anchorage, at the head of the arm are the remnants of these glaciers, including Portage Glacier and its lake.


On the Anchorage end of Turnagain Arm, the width is several miles across and the snow level is about 500 feet. Trees are beginning to bud out and a few shoots of grass can be found on the south facing slopes. The road is fairly free of gravel and in good shape




A scenic rail line runs along the fjord too and is a beautiful train trip all the way to Seward, about 125 miles




Turnagain Arm is known for very high winds all year around, but today is almost flat calm. On windy days, windsurfers like to work the arm from this point. Can you tell which way the winds usually blow?




A little later in the season Beluga whales can also be seen right along the shore here.


I follow the road along the fjord another 30-40 miles, coming to the head deep in the mountains. This view in toward the lake and the glacier, which is out of sight but still calving ice into the lake.




There is a commercial tour boat which plies the lake in the summer from near here and takes people up to the glacier face on the lake.


From the bridge over Portage Creek at the lake outlet, you can see some of the small ice pieces from the glacier




The road curves around the end of the lake to Bear Valley where a look across reveals a nice view of the active Byron Glacier mostly covered with snow. Normally one associates this type of scenery with high mountain terrain--but this is essentially sea level.




I've only seen Portage lake this calm a few times in clear weather.

I got home about 10 pm, still daylight. Not bad for an after work sortie.

By the way, no apologies for the Harley--I love it on a day like this.

Kia Ora,


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Marty Hill

WOW! Seems early for such a great day. Glad you could enjoy it after work. Pics are wonderful as always. Thanks for posting...the harley looks great.

At sea they would be called bergy bits. grin.gif

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I'm impressed Dave. Beautiful & dramatic scenery. And so different from where I live. After work you say ? That's turning the knife in the wound ! wink.gif

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Dave, thanks for the great pics! Brings back the memories, lemme tell ya - I lived in Anch from 73 to 87, and my kids still live there! I get back pretty frequently as we still have business there (matter of fact, I'll be in town this next Monday and Tuesday) so I don't miss it as much as I used to in the 90's when I didn't get to go for about 10 years. Anyhow, glad to know breakup is brining you some great temps - you have absolutely the best scenery for riding!

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Jim VonBaden

Those are some fantastic pictures! I envy you the scenery, but not the short riding season.


Jim cool.gif

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Thanks for all the nice comments about the photos. David has a thread "All the missing pictures" which has elicited interesting comments about how photography can help or hinder (?) self expression, why people choose or not to stop and take photos, what good are they in general and specifically for this DB etc etc.

For me, as a casual amateur, taking photos is part of the ride if the mood strikes. I don't set out to take photos for anyone other than myself--then the question is whether or not to post them for others. I've had some fun doing it, and I've come to realize that the "fun" is when there is some reaction from those viewing them. In my case, I'm gratified that you folks giving feedback seem to have picked up some of the feeling of excitement or pleasure I had when being there. This element of feedback is very important if any of us want to see photos posted--I think most of us would interpret a "viewed but not commented on" as a ho-hum response, not likely to sustain continued effort.

Thanks again for your comments; be warned that it's only encouraging me. smile.gif



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I must ride Alaska, I must ride Alaska, I must ride Alaska, I must ride Alaska, I must ride Alaska, I must ride Alaska, I must ride Alaska, I must ride Alaska, I must ride Alaska, I must ride Alaska.......

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Turnagain Arm is one of the most beautiful roads in the world. I've driven it dozens of times in Winter, Spring & Summer when visiting my daughter who was at UA Anchorage. Every time it was different.


Thank you very much for the pictures. Gotta get up there again. thumbsup.gif

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Dave, thank you very much for the post and the wonderful photos. When I was a 4th grader I experienced one of the most memorable chapters in my life in Soldotna which has to be near the area you photographed. The first snow of the year fell the day we arrived and we moved away from there just after break up. I have a million memories and your photos make me sure I'm going to ride my RT on those roads. Maybe my wife and I should ride those roads this summer.


Thanks man.

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I can't wait to come to Alaska again...


Hmmm this could make for a good In Search Of.... Glacier. IN whenever you are. grin.gif

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"WONDERFULL" pics. Was almost that clear when we drove that area... Did that old military tunnel that is near there, that was an experience. Pulling a little trailer behind my wing, driving, driving... Between the train tracks - towards that little, teeny weeny light "straight" ahead!!!! If you've done it you know what I mean!!!!


What a great trip we had. Again, your pictures are sure BEAUTIFUL and a great reminder!!!! Thanks for sharing...


ljv & Mrs ljv

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Right beyond the scenic view from Bear Valley, the 2 miles rail/road tunnel to Whittier begins. I have ridden this a few times, but it is a challenge. As you know, the surface is always wet, and the best route through is between the rails which puts the wheels on the grease strip from the auto traffic. To make matters worse there are huge air fans to ventilate the thing which slam into you from the side--watch out for that rail as you struggle to keep upright. Whittier looks all the better when you finally get there. Quite a memory, not to be missed!


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Wheels Rollin'
By the way, no apologies for the Harley -- I love it on a day like this.


I wouldn't need one anyway, Dave... You've done such a masterful job of seizing the moment/seizing the day -- and what a glorious payoff... The pictures are breathtaking... I can imagine the riding was as well... Cool... Thanks so much for sharing these...


-- Bill

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