Friday, September 12, 2008

We Make the Turn: AK2008 Day 2

So, where were we, anyway? Oh yeah, there we were on the Seward Highway, crossing Twentymile River, looking across the arm to Ingram Creek (above).

We made the turn of Turnagain Arm - that is, we drove by the turnoff to Portage Glacier without stopping because we were so intent on getting to our next destination, turning from going southeasterly to going northwesterly - we didn't have to go back like Captain Cook, who had to turn back once again while looking for the northwest passage in 1778 (a bit of history here and here).

While driving northwest on the southern side of Turnagain Arm, we passed by more trees dead from subsidence during the 1964 earthquake. The marshes these trees are now standing in, especially the ones on the south side of the highway, are good places to look for moose and swans. Alas! We didn't see any this time! Trees on the north side of the highway are pictured above, looking back towards the glacial valley of the Twentymile River; trees and marshes on the south side of the highway are pictured in the photo below.

After passing the marshes, the road makes a sharp southward turn and starts climbing the the hill toward Turnagain Pass, which can be seen on this MSRMaps image. As you drive up the hill, a good exposure of sub-vertically-foliated slaty meta-graywacke shortly comes into view. To examine this rock, which is cut by narrow quartz veins, pull over on the right side of the road, into a nice, wide pullout.

Make sure to gather enough slaty graywacke to fill the back of whatever vehicle you are driving, enough for your garden, or even some nice pieces to ship Outside, in case you happen to be a real rockhound, like me, and want to take some with you when (or if) you leave. Btw, the term "Outside" is properly capitalized, as in, "I'm going Outside next week." [Translation: I'm going somewhere outside Alaska, not always refering to the lower 48 states, next week.]

Then proceed to Turnagain Pass, which is at Milepost 68, where you can pullover on the northwest side of the highway for a pitstop and to enjoy the view.

Turnagain Pass is in a U-shaped glacial valley at the head of Ingram Creek, which flows northward into Turnagain Arm, and the head of Granite Creek, which flows southward and then eventually back northward into Turnagain Arm via Sixmile Creek. Glacial ice in the area once filled the valley at Turnagain Pass to a depth of about 2000 feet, leaving behind spectacular striations and grooves in the bedrock, along with peculiar lumpy terrain (irregular morraines?) and ridges. Grooves and striations can be seen by walking west to the base of the small hill seen in the photo above, and also along various trails through the funny, lumpy ground. You can find some good exposures within a couple hundred feet of the parking lot, although locals tell me that the deciduous bushes and small trees have been growing a lot recently because of increased carbon dioxide, so you might have to scour the ground to find the best glacial grooves (ha!).

Above, a view of the pass area looking west, toward the high mountains (about 3300 feet above sea level, which was right back behind us to the north in Turnagain Arm). This is an area where avalanches are common in winter, and where hikers, snowmobilers, and skiers should be extra careful. Fireweed, one of my favorite flowers - with all but the topmost blooms gone - can be seen in the foreground. (So, is it summer, or fall?)

After stopping at Turnagain Pass, we hightail it for our next stop, Summit Lake Lodge.


Fault Rocks said...

Your post makes me "homer-sick". The fireweed is still blooming at the end of the road!

Silver Fox said...

Sadly, we didn't make it down to Homer this trip, or Seward.

So many bloggish people from Alaska!

Any more of you out there?