A wide range of trips throughout Southcentral Alaska.
Anchorage: 41°/53°/Intermittent clouds
Fairbanks: 31°/63°/Mostly clear
Juneau: 39°/62°/Partly cloudy
Three different ways to see the glaciers.
Anyone can harvest ice from Alaska's 28,800 square miles of glaciers.
ON THE LEARNARD GLACIER -- Dusk was falling in a bowl above the entrance to the car-and-train tunnel at Whittier, and the ice worms were rising.
Glaciers are created when decades upon decades of snow compact themselves into ice. As the ice crystals grow, they push out the air.
Worthington Glacier is an easy-off, easy-on stop at Mile 28 of the Richardson Highway northeast of Valdez.
Piedmont landmark is easy to reach and slick to climb on
Adventure is available at Matanuska Glacier, which is most easily accessible through Glacier Park Resort, Mile 102 of the Glenn Highway east of Palmer.
The lower end of the glacier, about three miles wide, is relatively flat and easily clambered upon. It's a good place to examine glacier-borne rocks and to peer down into crevices and imagine the decades and physical forces that went into the glacier's creation.
Perhaps part of the attraction of Matanuska Glacier is being present as this cold creature, born in the Chugach Mountains, visibly dissolves into a new form: the Matanuska River, running full-bore to the sea.
The glacier is about 27 miles long, descending from the distant Mount Marcus Baker, 13,176 feet high.
Climbing on the ice is slippery fun.
A quick walk from the riverbank parking lot and a hop across the meltwater streamlets puts a visitor at the face of the glacier. Look for "steps" and climb up. You're walking on water-covered ice, so it'll be slick. The breeze will be chilly.
Stick to the flat parts of the glacier unless you're equipped and trained for glacier exploration. There are crevasses and cliffs that plunge into almost-freezing pools. For your safety, venture onto the glacier with a buddy.
Watch out also for the muck both between the parking lot and the glacier and on the silt-covered northern part of the glacier. For surer footing, go in the earlier, cooler part of the day before the meltwater streams grow too large to step over.
And don't be surprised that your feet get filthy with glacial flour, which is finely ground rock. It might be a good idea to bring a second pair of shoes and socks for the ride home.
The all-season park and campground has a small entrance fee. Although the river and glacier are on public property, the only reasonable access to them is from the riverbank owned by the park. Gas, restaurants and other lodging are nearby.