Thursday, July 4, 2013

Portage Valley Camping Trip

There's nothing like setting up camp with an astounding view of a hanging glacier in the mountains in front of you.  We were particularly excited about this camping trip, and the view just made it even more special. No joke, while hubby and I were sliding the tent poles into their sleeves, we couldn't help but stop every few seconds, look up at Middle Glacier and smile before turning back to the task at hand.

If you are on the lookout for a prime camping spot, Williwaw and Black Bear Campgrounds (right next to each other) should be on your list. The campground host could be friendlier, I suppose, but the grounds were spotless, vault toilets were clean.  

Directly across from the campground, on the other side of the Portage Highway, is the Williwaw Nature Trail.

We were excited to explore this trail. It is well-known for scenic spots and several geocaches (the Fam just recently took up this hobby).

That is Middle Glacier behind us.

As we were admiring the pretty lupine and the amazing weather, the girls stumbled across a very obvious sign of bear activity...SCAT.  The girls have a little book that teaches them to differentiate between the scat of different animals in the region.  They were excited to say that the pile was indeed from a bear.  We strolled further down the trail and found ANOTHER one.  This one (pictured above) was much in if it were a bit cooler outside, it would probably steaming.  And as we eyed the trail ahead as it narrowed between dense alder shrubs, we decided to not have to test our bear spray that afternoon, and turned around back to camp.

The next day was another glorious deep blue sky, warm, sunshiny day.  We loaded up on our bikes (Liv in the bike trailer) onto the Trail of Blue Ice, a world-class four-mile trail of boardwalks, arched bridges, and fantastic scenery that parallels the mountains and the glaciers on them.

The entrance to the trail from the campground.  You know the view is really gorgeous when a 15-year-old teenage boy stops his bike, lets his jaw drop, and exclaim, "My GOD, it's beautiful."
Yep, I agree.

One of the arched bridges that crosses over Placer Creek. There is a nifty spot along one of the bridges that overlooks the confluence of Placer Creek and the glacier runoff from one of the hanging glaciers above in which you can see the striking difference of colors of the merging blue-green flows into a clear stream. Liv pointed it out and called it "soapy water."

At a resting bench overlooking Explorer Glacier.

There were times the highway would be visible from the trail.

At Explorer Pond underneath the glacier.  The water was this crazy turquoise blue.

Sophie eyeing the path of an avalanche from last winter.

We reached the end of the trail at the Moose Flats Day Use area.  The girls, of course, dipped their hands in the water, only to exclaim how much warmer it was than the pond by the glacier.

As if the six mile bike ride wasn't enough, we parked the car at the Byron Glacier trailhead parking lot (near Portage Lake) and went off to tackle a short hike (and burn off calories from the ice cream break we had at the cafe).

Byron Glacier in the background

At the toe of the glacier is a large snowfield the kids enjoyed cooling off in.

This was one of my personal favorite camping trips. I absolutely fell in love with the biking trail, the weather was perfect, the nights weren't too cold, and I didn't gag in the bathroom (yep, that's a criteria).

I don't like to return to many campgrounds we've stayed in previously since I like to explore new places as much as I can, but this is one I'll make an exception for.  In fact, we may make it a mission to stay here every year.  You should, too.

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