Last weekend the hubs and I joined a group of off-roaders for a ride out to the Knik Glacier. Although we’ve gone out on this trail many times – including once for a senior photo shoot I did! – we’d never gone all the way out to the glacier itself so we were pretty excited to see it and spend some time outside now that spring has arrived.
We loaded up the dogs in the back of our side-by-side and hit the trail with a group of guys the hubs knew from work who were also part of the ride. We followed a friend’s jeep most of the way since he could test the depth of any water on the trail more safely than we could thanks to the height of his rig. Because the trail is along the river, the scenery and conditions are always changing. Most of the trail was pretty dusty due to the recent lack of rain, but other areas had large mud puddles from melted snow that hasn’t leeched back into the ground.
And there were several spots that had become giant mud pits, which always enticed someone to try their luck. Sometimes they were able to make it through but other times someone would have to winch them out and back onto the dry trail.
There were several scenic spots along the trail where we stopped and enjoyed the view while grabbing snacks from the coolers.
I’d taken my ‘backup’ DSLR camera since I had customer sessions scheduled the next day and didn’t want to chance anything happening to the money maker. Unfortunately, once out on the trail I realized I hadn’t put the extra memory cards back in it after our trip to Hawaii! So all I have are cell phone pictures, which are ok except for when we spotted mountain goats on the hillside above the trail. If you look closely you’ll see white dots on the right side of the photo.
The dogs enjoyed the ride and all the attention they got from others on the trail. We still swear the side-by-side was the best (and most expensive!) dog toy we ever bought!
All the dust on the trail had our rig looking pretty dirty. There was even a layer of dust on the inside of the windshield and across our faces! Below is a selfie of my Alaskan off-road spa treatment half way to the glacier!
We crossed a large gravel plain and realized we were almost there. After we rounded the bend and climbed a small ridge we were treated to a large lake of ice chunks just below the glacier.
Although there was beauty all around, my facial was looking pretty gritty at this point! We cleaned up with some wet wipes and joined our group to eat lunch. Some grilled hot dogs while others pulled sandwiches from their coolers. And there was plenty of sharing, including caribou jerky, which was mighty tasty!
After we ate I did a little exploring along the edge of the glacial lake. It was absolutely stunning and when you listen closely you can hear the pieces of ice shifting against each other and rocks. I was able to get the dogs to stand on one of the big chunks next to the bank for a few seconds and get a shot of them too!
When we left the glacier we stopped on another portion of the ridge to get this cool pano shot showing the whole valley of the gravel plain and the glacier.
Just a short distance down the trail we came across a large group of rigs stopped. Normally we wouldn’t be too concerned as folks often stop to grab snacks or shift loads that have moved, but having just left the lunch stop and seeing a large crowd gathered around one of the rigs we knew something was up. It was a broken axle – 15 miles from the road system. That’s kind of a big deal, especially when the owners of said rig were out with small kiddos that day. But in true Alaskan fashion everyone worked together to figure out a solution. Someone grabbed tools, several of the men acted as human jacks lifting one side of the rig so work could be done and others loaned straps so the broken rig could be hitched to our friend’s jeep and towed back to the trail head.
During all this I hung back and kept the dogs out of the fray. They apparently thought that meant it was their turn to drive and quickly moved up front. I think they were actually trying to stay out of the wind which was very chilly coming off the glacier and blowing right across the open plain we were on. Eventually Stoli made himself right at home in my seat. It’s a rough life being our fur baby! 😉
Once the broken rig was strapped up we started the long, slow journey back to the trail head. It didn’t look too bad from one side, but from the other you could see the damage and the tilt that eventually required someone ride on the front corner as a counter-balance. But the entire group who had stopped to help, stayed together to make sure this family made it back safely even though many of us didn’t know each other. We followed behind the jeep keeping an eye on things in case anything shifted, which it did several times. Each time the whole group would stop, assess and come up with a new plan to get the job done.
There were several tricky spots that had to be navigated on the way back, including all those large mud puddles we’d enjoyed on the way out. Luckily having such a large group we were able to send the smaller rigs out scouting to find the path of least resistance for the towing jeep.
It took several additional hours to complete the trip back and by the time we got to the trailhead it was after 8:30 pm and many stuck around to help get the damaged rig loaded on a trailer which included a group of those same burly, but now tired men who acted as jacks on the trail keeping it from rolling off when it went askew! Although you never want to see someone’s rig broken it really made the trip perfect because it created a sense of community as we all worked together to accomplish a task and help a stranger. We called in an order for pizza, loaded up our own rig and headed home where we ate, showered and literally fell into bed.
You can’t beat a day spent in the beautiful outdoors where you share laughs, enjoy lunch next to a glacier, get dirty and help tackle a very big obstacle. I look forward to doing it again many times this summer!