The dream team (Bert, Alexander, Andrea and myself) had one more afternoon to explore Alaska before going back to Anchorage to drop Andrea off for her flight back home. The rest of us were going to travel north and explore Denali Highway for the next few days.
But first, Byron Glacier.
Byron Peak is a 4,590 feet (1,399 m) mountain located in Chugach National Forest. At the base of Byron Peak there is a short trail (Byron Glacier Trail) that leads to the glacier. After taking some pictures of the lake at the base of the mountain in the ice cold wind, we stopped for a warm cup of coffee by the gift shop. We picked a seat next to the windows. I noticed a bird feeder outside and then zoom! a tiny bird hovered past! Did you know there were hummingbirds in Alaska? So small… And so fast!
Half an hour later we were putting on our waterproof jackets, 2 more top layers, gloves and gaiters at the foot of the trail. The American tourists were looking at us like we were idiots.. And we returned the look – who goes to a glacier in flip-flops and shorts? Some guys apparently!
We soon reached the end of the short trail, which was about 1km away from the glacier. Not close enough for us, but close enough for the flip-flop tourists to give up and take some selfies. It\’s a selfie anyway – no one will be able to see how close you got to something when 95% of it is covered with your face.
We continued to the foot of the glacier, balancing on sharp rocks. No stable ground, no smooth surfaces and very very cold wind. I was soon thankful for the wise moment when I chose to ignore the tourists\’s looks and don my full-face balaclava just in case..
Byron Glacier was worth the sharp stones and frozen noses. We sat there, between the glacial streams running down into the valley, while Bert and Alexander took pictures. I tried to do something useful too, so I took some pictures of them taking pictures.
About half an hour later we started walking back. Sharp rocks, no smooth surfaces, sharp rocks, sharp rocks, sharp rocks, sharp rocks sh…
\”Hey! Do mountain sheep come in darker colours too??\”
As a biologist that has just graduated, that was the silliest way to phrase my question, but there was no time to think in english – there were two black blobs moving about on the top of the mountain on our left! If I am good at one thing then it\’s spotting stuff, even tiny tiny things, moving around, very far away. It took about 5 minutes for everyone else to find the moving dots too, a process that included me taking pictures with our largest zoom lens and zooming in to explain where I was looking. But we found them! And what my eyes hadn\’t distinguished was that we were looking at a family of three black bears..!! The largest one moved faster and went out of our vision before we got a picture of the trio, but the other two smaller ones fooled around for a while, allowing us to take good enough shots to positively identify them as bears. YAYYYYYY!!!
We were all so happy, we stayed there looking at the black dots going higher and higher up the mountain ridge. We wished them a good life and walked back to the car. Suddenly the sharp rocks weren\’t a problem anymore..