So here it is. I've spent the last 3-4 months obsessing over a trail in Seward Alaska called the Harding Ice Trail and whether I'd be able to do it. It's 8.2 miles (actually longer because you have to walk .3 miles to the trailhead), rated as "Hard" and reviewed by hikers as "one of the hardest but most rewarding trails of their lives". 8.2 miles is long and it's more than twice the distance we've been doing for the other hikes. But I was DETERMINED to get this one done. So here are the pictures!
We began at 8am, knowing that it would take approximately 7-8 hours and I'd probably need more. You begin in a green forrest on pretty nicely marked foot paths, going over bridges, brooks and a waterfall. It's definitely an incline but wasn't as steep as some of our previous hikes. The views begin to open up fairly quickly and you get amazing sights of the Exit glacier, which you are moving towards.
Eventually you get to the first major waypoint called Marmot Meadows 2.5 miles in. Here is Exit glacier from Marmot:
Most people stop at Marmot and call it a day. Not us. We were doing this thing. You keep going and eventually hit more desolate mountain area way above tree line. There's still plenty of snow up here in the middle of the summer which makes for a beautiful view. Sometimes the snow has red coloring. I wasn't sure what this was from. Nathan guessed pollen from the wildflowers that spread from the wind. See below.
Towards the end of this section you hit a little hut, which we took to be an emergency shelter in case anyone got stuck up here in a storm....or maybe saw a bear.
Here's what it looks like when you reach the FULL Harding Ice Field at the end. This is the convergence of 39 GLACIERS. Note that we had a CLOUDY day and this normally stretches far beyond what I'm showing here, but its still pretty spectacular. Some people go out onto the glacier but honestly we didn't have the energy to add time onto this hike.
We ate some PB and J and apples up here before turning around. These are some of the views on the way back!
When we finished and got back to the car, my legs nearly gave way and Nathan asked me earnestly if I was going to have a heart attack. I did not. But we passed out hard when we got home until dinner. Ultimately this trail was difficult, but actually not the hardest hike of my life. You just needed stamina and only a couple of the inclines were very challenging. However, it ranks as either the best or the 2nd best I've ever done...one I did in Norway while visiting relatives was unreal. This hike was SO rewarding the the topography changed dramatically as you went (the sign of a high quality hike!) 10/10 would recommend.
At night we hit up Yukon Bar (below) which was a great rustic looking dive bar before eating our #1 meal of the trip at a place called Cookery.