On the Road Adventures

Friday, July 31, 2009

July 31 - Glenallen

As promised, we rolled out of Anchorage today, but not before we got to see a few F-22s flying around over Elmendorf AFB. They make a completely different sound than an F-15, and when one decides he needs to make a turn, it’s no swooping, gradual pull around, it’s a 90 degree whip to the right that looks totally effortless. It looks more like it’s swimming through the air than flying like a traditional plane. I was pleased to get the chance to see them.

Then Glenn highway goes through suburbs of Anchorage, Eagle River and Palmer, and then it enters the Matanuska valley, dominated by the Matanuska glacier. The mountains look rawer and newer than other peaks we’ve been seeing. Their sharp edges snag the clouds that come overhead, and the winds shred them into rags, just clinging to the tops of the mountains. The river than runs out of the glacier is fierce and turbulent, and looks like liquid concrete from the combination of glacial silt and the fine, gray sand that fills the valley floor that it’s eroding away. The Matanuska is a stable glacier that has stayed at the same point for about 400 years. Part of the reason is that it has acquired an insulating layer of fine, wind-blown silt on top of the glacier, so the ice extends far on either side of the white area. It’s just under a load of dirt so thick that there is a small forest growing on top of the ice.

About 50 miles out of Glenallen we crested the high point of the road and began to see the Wrangle Mountains. They are among the highest in the state, and include Mt Wrangle, which is the only active volcano in the mainland part of Alaska. Tomorrow we’ll visit the Wrangle-St Elias National Park Visitor Center and get the whole rundown on this impressive range of mountains.

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