Friday, September 3, 2010

Knik Glacier Tour

On Thursday we toured Alaska's second largest glacier, the Knik, just outside of Palmer. Spanning six miles across its face and with thousands of icebergs in the foreground, the glacier was quite impressive.

We arrived at the meeting point to learn that we were the only ones going out with owner/guide Tom, another transplant from the lower 48. He had moved from Michigan some 25 years ago and is now proud to consider himself an Alaskan. His story is not unlike so many others you hear about people who have visited and after so many trips (seven for Tom), he knew Alaska was where he belonged.

He bought 25 acres of land for his home and access to the land that goes back to the glacier. He also rents two one-acre parcels of state land for his boat landing area and his remote Glacial Camp that sits overlooking the icebergs below.

We traveled from his meeting point on the front of his home lot by a 4x4 van that had been designed for "safari riding" back to where he had his two airboats tied on shore. The van ride lasted about 30 minutes and was an adventure on its own through creeks and streams including Hunter Creek. We also stopped along the way at one small creek where the last of the red salmon were spawning.

I really expected to see bear in the area where the salmon were, but Tom explained that the bears (both blacks and grizzlies) were fearful of hunters in the area so they stayed higher up in the hillside. An avid outdoorsman and bear naturalist, you could tell he didn't like how the tourism business and in particular the trophy hunting excursions were affecting the natural balance of life in his little corner of the world.

Once on the enclosed airboat, we were zipping off to the Knik Glacier. Amazing and spectacular are over used words, but when speaking about experiences here, I'm at a loss (especially at 7:00am) for more choices. The Ice Planet in Star Trek VI was filmed in this area. He also mentioned that other films and documentaries had featured the Knik.

He did dock the boat as his camp, where we hiked about a quarter mile up from the bank to the tented camp. Sitting at the picnic table we enjoyed learning more about Tom, the Knik Glacier . . . and world travels he had done. Besides the bears and the glacier, his other passion is the aurora borealis. A man after my own heart! He hopes to build an aurora viewing lodge in the area and offering small group opportunities to photograph the northern lights in the valley. He already has several world renowned photographers who use his guide services in the winter to take advantage of his pristine location.

With a small snack and hot chocolate consumed, it was time to use the outhouse before heading back. While he reports that often bear and moose are seen on the tour, our only wildlife experience were two not so wild squirrels who came to check us out . . . smelling the peanuts in our trail mix no doubt.

The four hour tour was yet another highlight of our Alaskan Adventure, one we were very happy with. More than just seeing a wonderful natural geological formation here in Alaska, I felt like we made a new friend . . . another great Alaskan who was enjoying life sharing with others interested in what it is like to call Alaska home.


  1. That certainly must have been something to see! To bad there wasn't much wildlife though.

  2. Glad to read you had a good trip ... and a private one as it turns out. I love glaciers and icebergs and had hoped to do this trip, but we ran out of time ... next time!