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Thread: Spencer Glacier

  1. #1
    Member JOAT's Avatar
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    Default Spencer Glacier

    We've been talking about doing the AK RR Glacier Discovery trip for the last 2 years. I've been back there on snowmachine, but never in the summer. We just booked our tickets and reserved the small campsite for the end of the month. There are 4 of us in the group, my buddy and I are the wilderness folks, but we are bringing our wives. They have always shied away from tent camping, so this is going to be a first. Hopefully the initial hike from the depot to the campsite won't kill 'em. Anyone been on this trip and have any insight or experiences to share?
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    Member ksaye's Avatar
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    Went out there last year for a day hike. I remember the drop-off to the campground not being very far, flat and easy. Should be no problem. May want to look into the local outfitter that provides a canoe or raft ride up to the glacier for something to do. Otherwise, a easy hike to the glacier and some harder hikes on the surrounding mountain-sides.

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    Member JOAT's Avatar
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    It's usually hard to tell when you're riding on 10' of snow what the summer terrain will look like. It's only about a mile from the depot to the campsite according to the AK-RR website. Shouldn't be too hard on the ladies who prefer all the amenities of an RV or hotel room. ;-)

    They have a rafting service that is a separate "package" where the train drops you off and you end up rafting all the way back to the highway. We didn't pick that option, just the overnight camping. We're going to hike the couple miles up to the glacier and hunt down the several geocaches that have been placed back in the area, so there will be stuff to do. Mostly, this is just a get away from civilization and chill-out trip. But we'll see how the ladies do with being "stranded" for a full day in the woods when the train leaves. You can't just pack your stuff back in the truck and leave this campground.

    What I find kind of unusual about this trip is the RR link with the train being operated as if it were an airplane or something. You can't take anything with fuel in it. You only get 2 checked bags plus a "carry on". Firearms have to be disassembled, locked up and checked. Sounds like you're getting on a commercial plane. After reading all the rules, I'd be surprised if there wasn't a metal detector at the Portage depot. ;-)
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    Member JOAT's Avatar
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    Talking Follow up...

    We went up as a group of 4 and spent the night at the group campsite. There were a couple dozen folks who went in for the 3-hour whistle stop tour, but we were the only ones to stay the night. Though there is a work camp setup with at least 2 Forest Service guys who are working on building the new trail up to Squirrel Flats. They were fairly busy with a helicopter sling loading of an excavator on the first day and a good sized blasting operation the second day.

    Hike is nearly flat terrain on a 6-foot wide wheel chair accessible gravel path. It's 1.3 miles from the train to the campsite, which is adjacent to the lakeside viewing platform. There are nice outhouse facilities at both the whistle stop and in between the viewing platform and the campsite (about 100 yards from the campsite). The trail continues another 2 miles up the left side of the lake to the glacier. It is the same 6-foot wide gravel path as the first section. There are a couple developed tent camping sites along that trail that are free of charge. No facilities.

    The group campsite has a common area with 2 giant picnic tables, 2 bear-proof storage boxes (about 3' wide, 2' tall, 2' deep), and a huge rock fire ring that is about 4' across on the inside. A small 1' by 1.5' fire box has been built on one side. That's what we used as you can't possibly get the size and quantity of firewood to put one in the center of the huge ring. There was no significant firewood available. The valley is nothing but cottonwood. At the lake, it is very young cottonwood. We ended up hiking most of the way back to the whistle stop to find any decent, dead & down firewood to haul back for an evening warming fire.

    There is a hand-crank pump on a well at the common area of the campsite. The water is orange with iron and has a bit of an odor to it. So we ran everything we used for consumption through the water filter first.

    As for cooking, you'll have to gather a lot of wood to cook over the fire. It turns out that the Spencer route has an exemption to the camping fuel ban as long as you are riding on the DMU (diesel motor unit). So we had the Jet-Boil along to take care of the cooking needs. Nobody checked or even cared about camping fuel, guns (locked in a hardcase inside the backpack), or pepper spray. The "checked baggage" simply means that when you board the train, you drop all your stuff off in a small compartment prior to going up to the passenger deck. You have to handle all your own gear.

    As for camping, it is a great site and I know we'll return. We didn't get in all the activities that we had hoped to during our ~26 hour stay. I'm sure that it would be easy to fill 2 or 3 days at Spencer.

    I think a fold-up game cart would be a wise addition so you can bring along more traditional camping gear without worry about the hike in and out.
    Winter is Coming...

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    Moderator hunt_ak's Avatar
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    What, no pics?! Glad to hear that this is a relatively easy venture. Might do an easy camping trip with the kiddos there....

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    Member JOAT's Avatar
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    Attachment 37191

    I didn't take very many pictures, perhaps a dozen or two. Our friends took well over a hundred, but I've only seen a few of them posted on FB so far. They were going to jump drive them for us so we had a copy.

    Another thing I was going to mention about the campsite... The "A" site that is supposed to hold 15 people has 3 well-established tent nooks, but you can probably fit 5 or 6 tents in there. It has a giant picnic table in the middle. The "B" site that is good for 10 people is separated from "A" by a mere dozen feet of brush. There are 2 established tent spots, but again you could fit at least 3 tents in the space. It looks like there used to be a picnic table here, but it is gone. We assume it is the second table back at the common area. Musta taken 8 men and a boy to move it over there!
    Winter is Coming...

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  7. #7
    Moderator hunt_ak's Avatar
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    Wow, JOAT, that is incredibly gorgeous!!

  8. #8
    Moderator hunt_ak's Avatar
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    BTW, parked next to this goofy pickup last week...

    %%%



    photo-1.jpg

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    Member TR's Avatar
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    JOAT,

    Great report. How much did the trip cost?


    Quote Originally Posted by hunt_ak View Post
    BTW, parked next to this goofy pickup last week...

    %%%



    photo-1.jpg
    both look goofy to me. I'm a Ford guy.

  10. #10
    Member JOAT's Avatar
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    4 people: tickets plus group campsite was just pennies under $60 each.

    Haven't seen the discovery log on that there TB tag, Hunt. ;-)
    Winter is Coming...

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  11. #11
    Moderator hunt_ak's Avatar
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    What?!! I figured that wasn't real!

  12. #12
    Member JOAT's Avatar
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    Winter is Coming...

    Go GeocacheAlaska!

  13. #13
    Moderator hunt_ak's Avatar
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    Well Nicole was very much right on this one...

    Blew the pic up on my comp and couldn't make out the number..

  14. #14
    Member JOAT's Avatar
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    I'll PM it to you. Clearly you discovered it ;-)
    Winter is Coming...

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