Thursday, September 9, 2010

Trip to Kenai Peninsula

Alpine Meadow on Harding Ice Field trail

This past Labor Day weekend I was lucky to be asked by my friend Lisa, a graduate student at UAF, to help her on a collecting trip to Seward, Alaska on the Kenai Peninsula (about 500 miles south of Fairbanks). Lisa's destination was Kenai Fjords National Park where she's studying plant populations. To get to these populations we had to hike up the Harding Ice Field Trail, about 3.7 miles of mostly steep upward climbing, through rainforest (yes it's a rainforest!), lush alpine meadows still abloom with lupine and other lovely wildflowers, up further still over scree fields covered with patches of snow threaded with a few small fast flowing creeks, 1/4 mile before the trail's end, overlooking a spectacular view of Exit Glacier.

Lisa, brilliant future scientist that she is, received a research scholarship that covered the cost of our trip--meals, lodging, and gas for Kaneesha--so it was an all expenses paid holiday for me! I basically drove, kept her company, and took a few soil temperature measurements. Most research trips should be this easy!

On our way down she spotted the white round heads of belugas passing through Turnagain Arm, and we stopped to admire them in the wind and rain.

After collecting work was done Sunday afternoon we saw the Sea Life Center and had a nice early dinner at one of several nice restaurants. I highly recommend a trip to Seward--it's a small town with great seafood in a beautiful part of Alaska!

Me on the trail overlooking Exit Glacier

Exit Glacier

Ranger Brooke guided us to the plants and made sure we complied with NPS rules

Black bear mom and cub grazing peacefully at a distance--bears here are accustomed to seeing humans but NOT habituated to humans as bringers of food, an important distinction and an ongoing challenge for the rangers to educate the public

this marmot was really close to the trail

Portage Lake has a visitor center and they give boat tours of the calving glaciers

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