Special Correspondent Caleigh Jensen took the Alaska Railroad to Spencer Glacier and filed this report…Scott
Even when you’ve lived in Alaska for your whole life, there are unlimited opportunities for firsts. The other day I had the opportunity to ride on the Alaska Railroad and kayak up to Spencer Glacier for the first time and let me tell you, Alaska never ceases to amaze me, even in the pouring rain.
I woke up bright and early to arrive at the Anchorage depot an hour before my train departed. With a coffee in hand and a mask on my face, I boarded the train at 6:45 a.m. as the clouds set in and the rain began to drizzle (the Alaska Railroad has policies in place to help protect passengers against COVID-19, including requiring face coverings while in the depot and on the train and limiting capacity to 50%. For more information, check out their resource page here).
I enjoyed a breakfast of biscuits and gravy and the gorgeous views of the Turnagain Arm during my two-hour train ride to Girdwood. It felt good to slow down and take in the landscape, if only for a few minutes. Once we arrived at the Spencer Whistle Stop, Chugach Adventures took me and the six other passengers in my group on a short but bumpy off-roading adventure via bus down to Spencer Lake.
The rain really began to pick up as we stood under a tarp and took in the safety instructions from our lovely tour guides, Brooke and Sadie. They outfitted us in all things kayaking — rain ponchos, hats, splash skirts, another poncho to wrap around our legs and gloves attached to our paddles. After a quick lesson on how to paddle, we waddled down to the lakeshore. into our two-person kayaks and off we went.
Sadie and I brought up the rear as we paddled our way toward Spencer Glacier, dodging icebergs and stopping only to wait for the rest of our group or snap a couple of photos. As the drizzle turned into a full-on downpour, Brooke and Sadie reminded us that the best time to view the glacier and icebergs was when the skies are clouded over — and they were right. Each iceberg glowed a bright turquoise that pictures just don’t do justice.
After the two-mile journey to as close to the glacier as we could get while still staying safe from calving, we paddled onto the shore. We stretched our legs a bit and laid out some of our rain-soaked gear to dry as we took a short hike along the shore to get a closer view and pose for some photo-ops.
The trek back to the camp really worked my arm muscles and navigation skills as we weaved in and out of the maze of icebergs, or “bergie bits” as Brooke liked to call them. Once we were back onshore, stripped off our many layers and huddled around the fire, I realized just how soaked I was from the rain. It’s hard to be cold when you’re having so much fun, though!
We enjoyed handmade, individual lunches of sandwiches, hot drinks and chocolate chip cookies before hopping back on the bus to head to the train stop. A paper bag lunch has never tasted so good. Once back on the train, I gazed out the window as the conductor pointed out all the waterfalls, glaciers and wildlife the Glacier Discovery route had to offer. Even as a lifelong Alaskan, I raced to the windows with my camera along with the other tourists to try and catch a glimpse before we chugged by.
By the time we made it back to the Anchorage train depot, I knew I was more than ready for a good night’s sleep. You don’t quite know what muscles you’ll work as you paddle your kayak in the rain for four miles until you actually do it. I drove home feeling damp, sore and tired, but thankful for the railroad staff, tour guides and the great outdoors that I get to call home.
To book your next Alaska kayak adventure with the Alaska Railroad and Chugach Adventures, click HERE.
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