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Looking back at my notes from a day trip to Alaska’s Matanuska Glacier with Salmon Berry Travel & Tours, you’d be forgiven for thinking I was on a history tour.
“1741: Russians came to Alaska and made landfall south of Anchorage. Discovered sea otters and brought them back.”
“1867: Sea otters began to decline, so Russia transferred Alaska to us for about 2 cents per acre.”
“1890s: In Nome, gold washed up on beaches. There hadn’t been any real infrastructure; dog sleds were used for travel.”
These facts came from our guide John, a longtime Alaskan transplant, who shared his passion for the state throughout our scenic two-hour drive. He also shared information about the places we passed, from Anchorage — home to 300,000 of the 700,000 people living in Alaska — northeast to the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, one of the fastest-growing parts of Alaska.
John also dropped tidbits about the modern-day treasure we were in search of: a glacier, but not just any glacier. Alaska is rich in ice masses, but Matanuska gets more attention than most as it’s the largest glacier accessible by vehicle in North America.
The entry point is a stunning sight to behold, no matter the season. In summer, a field of purple fireweed contrasts an otherwise black-and-white scene made up of an icy terminus, mounds of glacial silt and ponds reflecting towering mountains.
Watching our steps, our group — ranging from energetic kids to a fit elderly gentleman — began our exploration of Matanuska. Unified by helmets and the spikes attached to our shoes, we proceeded slowly over rocks and ice until we reached a wonderland of white and blue.
The youngest participant in my group took off his sunglasses and stared, mouth agape, at an ice cave a few feet taller than him. His eyes were cast below, likely calculating just how deep the tunnel extended under his feet.
Meanwhile, John fed us more facts while he kept an eye on all our moves — warning us if we got too close to a potential threat and offering to take photos when we happened to be in the midst of a grand vista.
Sensing we were up for it, John led us on a gentle climb up a sloping ridge of the glacier. I dug in my spikes and watched my group ascend, single file, as the sun beamed over us. It was hard not think of those who came before, exploring in snow and ice like this, in search of their own idea of treasure.
The DetailsSalmon Berry Travel & Tourswww.salmonberrytours.com