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The Roeder-Hensleys, a family of four, are currently driving North to Alaska from central California. Their two-month trip will include such adventures as glacier hiking, touring Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, kayaking near Valdez, seeing Child’s Glacier near Cordova, a guided natural history tour with the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies in Homer, biking along the river in Anchorage, wildlife viewing in Denali National Park, hiking and exploring many museums and historical centers throughout both Canada and Alaska.

Click on the points on the map to see what we did at each location.

Girdwood—Winner Creek Trail:

The town of Girdwood has a wonderful hiking path called the Winner Creek Trail, which twists and turns about 2.5 miles to reach a hand-operated tram over a wide gorge. Our guidebook had indicated that the trail was also good for bicycles, so we set off on our bikes from the Alyeska Resort parking lot. The trail entrance was about a mile down the road, behind the Hotel Alyeska.

The signs at the trailhead were confusing. One had a picture of a bicycle circled in red with a diagonal red line through it—“no bikes.” Another sign, however, was entitled “Share the Trail” and said that bicyclists must walk their bikes the first .7 miles. Okay—we could do that!

The first portion of the trail was mostly uphill, with a few boardwalk areas that had single steps up and down. No problem. We pushed our bikes, waiting for a posted sign to indicate when we could begin to pedal. We never saw one. So after about 25 minutes of walking, we finally hopped on and rode. There were some tricky turns, raised tree roots, and more single steps.

The hand tram was more amazing than we had anticipated! It consisted of a dangling cage that was about twice as big as an old-fashioned phone booth, with a thick rope that you pull to self-propel the cage over the high gorge. The 400 pound weight limit meant that all four of us couldn’t squeeze in together (we were about 40 pounds over). Kathy went first with Genevieve, followed by Ben and Sebastian. The lock was broken on the cage gate, which kept opening a few inches while we were dangling high in the air! (Kathy could have done without that extra bit of excitement.) Once at the other side, we took a return trip.

We then pedaled and pushed our bikes back along the same trail. The return direction had a lot of intermittent downhill sections, which added to the thrill.

By Kathy, Ben, Genevieve and Sebastian
The One Journey At A Time Family

Portage Valley:

Even with the heavy clouds and rain, Portage Valley was spectacular. With snowy mountain peaks all around (in July), and multiple glaciers showing off their blue-tinted ice, the “wow” factor was off the charts.

We arrived in Portage Valley via a ferry from Cordova to Whittier. A single-lane tunnel that is over 2 miles long connects Whittier to Portage Valley. Trains share that tunnel with cars and trucks. We were traveling east, and our side of traffic was allowed through once an hour. We waited patiently for a long line of vehicles to emerge from the tunnel from the other direction, and then a passenger train popped out of the entrance. Finally, it was our turn to driving the RV through the narrow, rock-chiseled walls--it was quite an experience.

Portage Lake was beautiful, with a few floating icebergs. Even though Portage Glacier has receded so much that is no longer visible from the viewing area, we could still see another stunning glacier (named Burns Glacier) directly across the lake.

In front of the lake was the Begich Boggs Visitor Center, a modern building with wonderful exhibits covering the wildlife, inhabitants, glaciers, and history of Alaska. It was obvious that much care and thought had been given to the design and content of each room in the center. We also watched the “Voices of Ice” movie, which was very well done.

We stayed nearby at Williwaw Campground, which sits at the base of yet another eye-popping glacier (called Middle Glacier). The campground is run by the USFS and has large sites surrounded by lush trees. Running by the campground was the Trail of Blue Ice, a paved/boardwalk trail that leads to the visitor’s center, about 1 ½ miles away. We chose to walk to and from the center. On our way back, we stopped by the salmon viewing platform, but the salmon had not yet arrived. (Signs indicated that the salmon usually start arriving around August 1st.)

By Kathy, Ben, Genevieve and Sebastian
The One Journey At A Time Family

The Changing Face of Child’s Glacier:

Leading away from Cordova is a road that stretches for almost 50 miles and then fizzles out after crossing the Million Dollar Bridge. Although some may think so, this is not a “road to nowhere,” as it ends near the massive face of Child’s Glacier—surely one of the most beautiful glaciers in all of Alaska.

The glacier face is taller than a 20-story building. We have already seen quite a few glaciers on this trip--even hiking on one and kayaking into ice caves of another. But Child’s Glacier was the first one that allowed us to witness “calving”—a term that refers to the glacier’s release of large slabs of ice, often with an accompanying crack and thundering roar as the ice plummets into the water below. The resulting waves would glide across the Copper River to our viewing area on the opposite river bank. None that we saw exceeded 2 or 3 feet. However, in 1993, a 30-foot wave rose up and supposedly swept a woman from her perch.

Much of our time at Child’s Glacier was spent just sitting and watching the ice--in sun and rain and bone-chilling wind—listening to the loud pops and rumbling. And waiting. Every once in a while, we were rewarded with a tremendous ice fall, which would end with whoops of delight from us and everyone around us.

We took a break from glacier watching and hiked about a mile along the river to reach the Million Dollar Bridge—a former railway bridge that had cost over a million dollars to build in 1910. We walked across the entire bridge, and I have to admit that it stretched my comfort zone. The lack of a tall railing, combined with the narrow width and the age of the bridge, kicked my mother instincts into high gear; thankfully, both Genevieve and Sebastian listened fairly well to my mantra of “Stay away from the edges!”

The bridge was once part of the railway line that extended a couple of hundred miles over the mountains from the Kennecott copper mines to Cordova. After the mines closed in 1938, the tracks were no longer used. Since Cordova had no roads to connect it with the rest of Alaska, some people in the 1950’s envisioned building a road (the Copper River Highway) over the old railway line. The plan was abandoned in 1964, however, after a 9.2 earthquake dropped one of the bridge spans into the river.

A woman we met at the Cordova museum told us that the Million Dollar Bridge should really be called the “$17 Million Dollar Bridge,” as the U.S. government had recently spent over $17 million to repair the dropped span.

Back at Child’s Glacier, we spent many more hours in front of the face, becoming intimately familiar with the temporary ice formations, giving many of them nicknames and predicting which parts might slide off next. Right before we left the glacier area, we finally witnessed the fall of a colossal spire, about 15 stories high, that we called “the finger”. It was definitely the grand finale to our time here.

By Kathy, Ben, Genevieve and Sebastian
The One Journey At A Time Family

Kennecott Mill Town, and Root Glacier

The old copper mill town of Kennecott is reachable by McCarthy Road--60 miles of gravel and dirt washboard that shook our RV so severely at times that we felt like we were on some kind of malfunctioning amusement park ride. The road ends at a river crossing, about 5 miles before Kennecott. Along the river, there were some camping spots that had incredible views. On the other side of a pedestrian bridge, shuttle buses came every hour during the day ($5 per person), but we opted to ride our bicycles into town.

During the early 1900’s, Kennecott was the site of a booming copper mill. It processed the ore from five nearby mines, and finally ended production in 1938. For years, the town was virtually abandoned, with only a handful of residents in its barn-red buildings. The National Park Service purchased many of the structures in the late 1990’s and is in the process of restoring some to their original state.

The afternoon of our arrival, we took the Historic Old Mill Tour through a local guiding company called St. Alias Alpine Guides. The tour gave us an overview of the mine’s history, with many entertaining stories, and also allowed us to see the interior of the mill, starting from the top of the 14th floor.

For our second day, we used the same guiding company to lead us on a hike over the nearby Root Glacier. After learning how to use crampons for the first time, we tromped up and down the glacial slopes, seeing beautiful turquoise pools and other ice formations.

By Kathy, Ben, Genevieve and Sebastian
The One Journey At A Time Family


The “big city” life of Anchorage provided a nice balance to all of the campsites and small towns that we had stayed in over the past few weeks. We took advantage of some sunshine and pedaled along the coast on the Tony Knowles bicycle trail. One part of the trail passed by the end of the international airport runway--we planted ourselves directly underneath the flight path and hooted and hollered like wild creatures as the 747’s roared about our heads! We also enjoyed discovered parts of the Planet Walk along the trail, and we ended up retracing our route so that we could locate the other planets and the giant sun on 5th Avenue.

We lost track of time in the Anchorage Museum, which not only had spectacular exhibits covering Native Alaskan communities, including video stories and interactive computers, but there was a large “imaginarium” area designed for both children and adults. There, we hoisted ourselves in the air with pulleys, tested our skills at balance, enclosed ourselves in a tall soap bubble rings, watched ourselves “fly” in slow motion after jumping in front of a camera, created stop-motion animation scenes with small figures, reached high in the air to make light-generated mountains that exploded on screen, and much more!

Another fascinating place was the Native Alaska Heritage Center, which had so many wonderful displays, discussions, demonstrations and dance performances that we could easily have stayed an entire day. Two of our favorite presentations were the Native Games demonstration and the discussion on how communication styles differ between cultures. Outside, we walked around a small lake and visited dwelling reproductions from six Native groups. Each of the homes had a cultural representative inside who explained about the various features and answered any questions that we had.

Although we don’t eat out too much on our RV journeys, we discovered a café that had such delicious homemade soup that we came back a second time. We highly recommend the Muffin Man (aka Café 817), located at 817 W. 6th Avenue, which also has exceptional muffins, sandwiches, and giant cookies. And everything was always served with a smile (from Mary).

Finally, our time in Anchorage was topped off by a superb theater performance at Cyrano’s Off-Center Playhouse downtown. We saw a comedy/musical called “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” Genevieve was even selected as one of five audience members who got to play a small part as a bee participant.

By Kathy, Ben, Genevieve and Sebastian
The One Journey At A Time Family

This past weekend (June 9-12) marked the 7th annual Chainsaw Carving Contest in the town of Chetwynd, British Columbia. Twelve master carvers were invited to participate, with the town providing the materials, tools, accommodations, food, and even a travel allowance. The carvers were given 35 hours, over a 3 ½ day period, to create whatever they could envision from an 8-foot log of western red cedar. After the contest, the twelve sculptures remain with the town and are displayed for a year next to the visitor’s center.

We arrived on June 16 and received a free guided tour of the twelve new carvings from Erin, a woman who worked in the visitor’s center. We started with the First Prize winner, a gigantic praying mantis with meticulous detail. Other carvings depicted human figures, dinosaurs, sting rays, dragons, a cougar and deer, a monkey, and other animals. Each piece had unique and wonderful features.

In the photo, Sebastian is standing next to one of our favorites—a piece called “Journey to the West” by Japanese artist Kazuo Kondo.

The artists in this year’s contest had certainly worked some magic with their chainsaws! When next year’s contest arrives, the twelve sculptures will be moved to different parts of town, where they will be displayed indefinitely.

The many large wooden sculptures throughout the town of Chetwynd give it a unique, artsy vibe. We can only imagine how this place will be transformed over the years. Perhaps we will come back to see for ourselves—and next time we will arrive in time for the contest, to witness those magician artists in action.

By the One Journey At A Time Family

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