[Alaska] Day 2: Exit Glacier & Mount Marathon Hike
We got up early on our second day (Friday 7/8/2016) to pack up the car, pick up rental equipment, and drive from Anchorage to Kenai Fjord National Park, where we were camping for the next 3 nights. The drive along the Seward (pronounced like Sue-Ward) Highway was absolutely BREATHTAKING!! Every inche of the highway looks like a backdrop or your computer wallpaper. I wish I could have stopped everywhere to take pictures but I was driving and the other two were knocked out, fast asleep during the entire ~2-2.5 hour drive.
We arrived at the Exit Glacier Campground around 8:30/9am. It's a free campsite but first come, first serve. We lucked out and got a site right next to the river. Then we set up our tent, which took a lot longer than it should have and true campers would have laughed at us. But it's okay because we go it up! Then we hung out hammock overlooking the water. It was a pretty sweet set-up, I have to say! You will get a glimpse of it in our video!
Afterwards, we headed to the Exit Glacier park and did a few short hikes around the bottom of the glacier to check it out. We were saving the big one for tomorrow!
We didn't know what to do for the rest of the day since the main activities we booked were during our last three days. So we drove out to downtown Seward to find the visitor center to ask the rangers what we should do. I guess we should have done more research but there are a TON of hikes in the area. I'm extremely jealous of all the outdoorsy stuff this State has to offer! The top three recommendations were: Mount Marathon, Lost Lake, and Harding Ice Trail. We did two out of the three. I wish we had time to do Lost Lake because I heard it's beautiful and people have been very close to bears and suck on the trail. That will be on the list for next time! Afterward, we decided to have lunch in the area but holy moly, everything in this city is SO EXPENSIVE!! I guess it was high tourist season or everything is just always this expensive but expect to be paying at least $20-25 for each dish, something you'll normally pay max $12 at home. We each got ourselves a small bowl of clam chowder because we just couldn't allow ourselves to pay anymore for the other dishes. I was craving ice cream and we each got gelato (Pistachio & Mango flavor).
The ranger told us that Mount Marathon hike was a pretty easy 2 mile hike up. Boy were we fooled! I guess he hasn't been up in awhile... but it was not easy by any means. It was do-able but some part of the trail was so steep, we had to get on all fours to climb it. Going up, we came across someone who had twisted his ankled coming down. We ended up seeing him finally put on a stretcher on our way down! Poor guy... his ankle was so swelled up and he had to wait over an hour for EMT to get a stretcher up to him. Like any good friends, his were behind him taking pictures and laughing. Haha something I would have definitely be doing as well...
We were hiking right next to a waterfall so there were a ton of bugs everywhere. Even with bug spray on, we were all attacked! I got a huge bug bite on my forehead even with a hat on! How crazy is that?? Toward the end of the trip up, we had a long stretch of sliding rocks that felt impossible to get up. Even with my hiking boots, I didn't have enough grip to get up. I had to hold on the branches on each side and bring myself slowly up. Rocks were just sliding everywhere underneath us. There were some points where the other two really wanted to quit but getting to the top, or the bowl where were ended was definitely worth it.
We finally made it to the bowl, which is like a valley right between the mountains. I wish we had going to the very top though because it was only about another 30 minutes and since we already got that far, we should have kept on going. Regardless, the bowl itself was extremely beautiful! We played in the snow for awhile, throwing snowballs at each other, making snow angels, taking pictures, and of course... shotgunned a well deserved beer.
Fun Fact: There is a Mount Marathon race every year during July 4th weekend where runners would sprint up and down the mountain. The fast records for Men is 41:26 and Women is 47:48. Which is insane because I think it took us a total of 3 hours and we didn't even get to the very top. It's also a big party that weekend and Seward gets CRAAZYY! For more information, check out the official website: Mount Marathon Race.
We got back to our car around 8pm and we knew it was time for dinner. Don't worry, it was still completely bright outside! We had dinner in downtown Seward again and took advantage of their outlets to charge all of our phones. We then took a walk along the harbor because the water was blue beyond blue. No words, pictures, videos can perfectly describe how beautiful it was with the mountain in the background. It was so surreal!
We were in our tents around midnight but we couldn't sleep right away since it was still so bright outside. The sun sets around 11:45pm but I never saw the place completely pitch black.