Exit Glacier

Winner Creek Trail

Monday, June 15th: I got up later today, almost 7. I soon headed out on the Winner Creek Trail. The trailhead is right by the hotel, but the trail is mostly in Chugach National Forest. This is a well-maintained trail through the woods, with some sections on boardwalk. The main trail goes to the Winner Creek Gorge. Although I gained (and lost) about 625 feet, the slope was gentle except near the gorge. Most of the slope was spread out over the 5.25 miles I covered.

The trail gave a nice view of the forest, included a section that had been knocked down by an avalanche some years ago. It was nice to see the bunchberry blooming. Early on, I heard the buzzy songs of several Townsend's Warblers. My first look was fairly poor, but I eventually caught up with a male on an open branch in good lighting.

As I continued along the trail, I heard Pacific Wren and Swainson's Thrush, but never saw them. A flock of Redpolls appeared down low. But what where the slightly bigger birds with them? Eventually I got a good look, and found they were female or immature White-winged Crossbills. I even got a good look at the crossed bill on one of them. I continued on to the gorge. The trail continues further, and so did I. After a bit of uphill and downhill, it came to Glacier Creek, which Winner Creek empties into slightly downstream.

There is a hand-powered tram (you pull the rope) over Glacier Creek. A couple was approaching as I arrived (there was a fair amount of foot traffic on the Winner Creek Trail, and even a couple of bicyclists). The trail continues on the other side. One can return to the hotel that way, via Crow Creek Road and Girdwood, but it is a lot longer. I opted to head back the way I came.

When I got back to the hotel, I notcied some birds in the grass near the pond. They were mostly redpolls and siskins, but something red flew up off the ground into a tree. I would normally think cardinal, but there no cardinals here, so I thought crossbill instead. I carefully approached the bird and found it was a male White-winged Crossbill. There was a fair amount of activity, so I stayed for a bit before returning to the hotel. I managed to see a Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Just as I was turning toward the door, a bird flew on the path showing white outer tail feathers. Of course it was a Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored form). After that, I headed inside and got something to eat (lunch rather than breakfast).

Seward and Exit Glacier

In the afternoon I drove to Seward. It was slow getting there due to ongoing road repair. I visited the Exit Glacier area of Kenai Fjords National Park. I walked the Glacier View Trail, walked out on the riverbed (Resurrection River), and then on to the Edge of the Glacier viewpoint. Somewhere along these trails I heard Yellow Warbler (several) and Downy Woodpecker (one).

In previous years, the glacier was located in a place where you safely reach out and touch it. Since then it has retreated, and you can't get all the way up to it. The landscape here is brand-new. Only a few years ago it was covered by ice. This reminded me of Pielou's book, “After the Ice Age: The Return of Life to Glaciated North America”.

As you walk the trails or drive the roads, you'll see signs with 4 digit numbers. These mark where the glacier was in various years. The oldest I saw was 1815, I think.

On my way back to the visitor's center, I noticed the cutoff for the Harding Icefield Trail. I decided to hike a bit of that. It's quite different from the very easy Glacie View trail, or even the more rugged trail to the Edge of hte Glacier viewpoint. The trail goes upward pretty relentlessly, about 1000 feet per mile accordinig to the sign at the trailhead. I ended up taking the trail about 0.8 miles to a bridge over a roaring stream. There were a number of other hikers on this trail, but it was not nearly as crowded as the lower trails. My walk totaled about 3.5 miles and a gain of about 775 feet.

I stopped at Safeway in Seward for some supplies (I was out of water, for one), then headed back. I noticed two Common Loons in a roadside lake. The fact that they're so big made them easy to spot and ID, even at highway speed. Althouth it was well after 6 when I left Seward, and almost 8 when I got back to the hotel, I was again delayed by road work. I had dinner at the Aurora to end the day.

According to the health app I took nearly 30,000 steps today, and climbed the equivalent of 72 floors. Oddly enough, the elevation gain was the same as yesterday. I ended the day with 19 bird species, of which 7 were new for the trip, bringing my total to 29 species. The mammal trip total remained at 6.

Alyeska Resort, Girdwood