The Matanuska Glacier is one of the oldest accessible glacial formations accessible in the United States. Located just 2 hours by car, northeast of Anchorage, it is one of Alaska’s most visited natural treasures.
The magnificent river of ice is not only filled with some of the most beautiful views and scenery, it is also full of surprises. Surprises that Channel 2 Photojournalist Sean Wilson and I discovered during our recent “up-close and personal” Matanuska glacier adventure.
We began our exploration by taking a three-hour trek with our guide, Alyssa Hartson. Hartson was very informative, describing the glacier and its ever-changing features. Our first surprise came when we learned that Matanuska Glacier has it’s own boardwalk. It’s actually a man-made path put into place to allow tourists to walk over the glacial mud, without getting stuck.
The thixotropic mud, which is similar to quick sand, definitely got our adventure off on a shaky foot. Who knew dirt could be so much fun!
We were constantly reminded that while glaciers can be beautiful, they can also be dangerous. We were advised repeatedly while walking in crampons down ice hills, “Bend your knees and lean back,” yelled Hartson.
This awkward stance is actually known by glacier trekkers as the “Cowboy Walk.” “Like you just got off of a horse after riding for three hours,” Hartson explains. The “Cowboy Walk” might look funny, but it sure beats falling on the ice.
And our final surprise of the day? Who would have guessed glaciers had mice? Glacial mice, Hartson called them. These aren’t the type of pesky “critters” you might find lurking between your walls, they’re more akin to a plant or moss. As the wind blows, this plant-like structure “scurries” across the glacier, resembling a family of mice on the move. Hartson’s word of advise to anyone on a glacier trek at Matanuska is, “Watch your step!”
Glacier trekking is a common Alaskan experience that can be found from the Juneau Icefield to the Matanuska Glacier, and tours are readily available.
At Matanuska Glacier, tourists have the option of trekking, ice climbing or simply taking in the view from Mile 101 off the Glenn highway. It’s one of the world’s most unique and constantly-changing landscapes and you might be surprised what you will discover.