August 14, 2007 – The Tram and Ice Worms

Another beautiful morning!

Girdwood is a small town about 10 miles from Portage. The Alyeska Resort in the town is mainly a year round resort with skiing in the winter and hiking in the summer. We decided to visit the resort, take the tram to the top and have lunch.

Here is the tram (as a perspective, this tram holds 60 people):

Views from the top:


Turnagain Arm (the road on the right next to the water is the Seward Highway):

Another view:

There were lots of trails here but it started to rain when we were having lunch so we decided to head back. How about this:

Take a look at these flowers at the resort:

Ice Worms – did you ever hear of them?? - Neither did we until Yvonne told us about them when we were in Homer.

The National Forest Service was doing an Ice Worm Safari on Bryon Glacier this afternoon so we decided to join. We were told that there was a good chance of seeing them since it was cloudy and cool.

So off we went to Bryon Glacier and snow fields:

When we got to the snowfield, the rangers explained how to hunt for the worms (we even got a license from them so we would be legal).

Andy found 2 and I found 3 – we were so excited!!! We had to give them back because we only had a catch and release license. Here is a picture of the worms:

Here is some interesting information on the worms: They were first discovered in 1887 on Muir Glacier in Glacier Bay, Alaska. They are in the same class as the common earthworm and can reach lengths of 1 inch and 1/32 of an inch in diameter. They eat red algae (which grow on the glacial snow packs) and on pollen grains that blow onto the snow pack. If the temperature increases to 40 F or above, they become lethargic and begin to disintegrate. If a human finger touches an ice worm, they die immediately. They move by using bristles located on their bodies. The ranger explained that it is almost like natural antifreeze. The ice worms have been found on numerous coastal glaciers from Washington to Alaska but no where else on earth.

The neat part is that scientists are now studying them to see how they can mimic the ice worm survival in cold so they can apply it to organ transplants and human tissue transplants – Amazing, isn’t it!

The both rangers were great – we learned more information on the area plants, geology, and glaciers. This valley is actually considered a temperate rain forest (which explains why the plants are so huge!). They get rain and wind almost every day and LOTS of snow in the winter.

As the safari ended, the fog and rain started to move in.

We stopped for supper at the Portage DayLodge (great halibut and salmon). And it began to rain and rain – so no campfire tonight - :-(

We have been very blessed in this area because the weather has been great to see the glaciers, mountains, and incredible scenery!

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