We arrived in Alaska after 10+ hours of flying and layover ready to crash in our beds as it was 1 am NC time. It took a few minutes to get everyone settled in since the sun was still high in the sky. (It looked like about 3 pm or so even though it was 9 pm Alaska time.) Of course, with the change in time zones, the kids were bouncing out of bed at 5 am. Lucky us! We took advantage of the day's early start and headed out bright and early to explore beginning with Chugach National Forest and a cruise out to Portage Glacier.
The trip out of town was amazingly gorgeous with mountains, water, and wildflowers everywhere you looked. The Subalpine Buttercups with their yellow faces lifted toward the sun were some of my favorites.
The Fairy Slippers were amazing too. I've never seen anything that looked quite like them. It's so thrilling to be in a state with such different landscape and to figure out all the native plants and trees. I couldn't resist buying an Alaska Trees and Wildflowers guide right away so we could figure out what some of these beautiful flowers are.
The crew that we headed out with this morning was the 6 members of our immediate family and Paul's aunt and uncle (from NYC). We also have family from the midwest that we met up with in Alaska, but they went on a different excursion this morning.
We decided that the drive down the Seward Highway through the Chugach National Forest was worth it for the scenery on that road alone, even if we never saw the glacier!
But, about an hour outside of Anchorage, we arrived at the boat which would take us around Portage Lake and by the glacier.
The kids, appropriately, brought every sweatshirt and jacket that we packed and then complained that it wasn't so cold out here! I told them that I'd heard it was colder near the glacier and they might be glad they had their extra clothes.
Seeing the mountains around the National Forest by boat was just breathtaking.
Natural waterfalls sprang out of many cliffs.
And gushed right down into the lake.
Only 10-15 minutes into the boatride, we began to get glimpses of the Portage Glacier.
The glacier was so blue and rugged and the tour guides did an excellent job of explaining how the glaciers are formed, how much of them resides below the surface, how deep the lake actually goes, why the color is so blue, and the types of things you would find in a glacier like silt and iceworms, both of which the kids were able to examine.
The kids really were interested in what they were seeing and the information that the guides shared, but when the Ptarmigan donut appeared for picture-taking, well, that was the most thrilling!
The guides caught a few chunks and hauled them aboard.
They let the kids feel them and even take chunks to melt and examine.
When we arrived back at the dock, I asked the guide about these beautiful purple wildflowers I saw so frequently near the lake's edge. She said they were a Dwarf Fireweed and they grow well in gravelly areas like near the lake.
They were really so vibrant against the greenery and white snow of the mountains.
After hitting the tourist center gift shop, (the kids have to spend their hard-earned cash somewhere!) we headed out toward the hotel for afternoon naps.
Another interesting plant we discovered on our expedition was the seed of the Cottonwood tree. As we were driving into the Chugach National Forest, the kids saw these puffy seeds raining down from the mountains and were convinced it was snowing. We finally found a few on the ground to photograph. They are so wispy and fluffy they definitely look like cotton on the ground, but in the air (in Alaska, no less!) they just look like fat snowflakes.
Back up the picturesque Seward Highway, we go.