I'd never been to Alaska before. It's gorgeous! Everyone told me it would be chilly and I needed to take warm clothes, but it's August. How cold can it be in August? I took a few light sweaters and thought I'd be good, and practically froze to death after the first day. I bought a heavy hoodie at one of our stops, which I wore on the hike. Fortunately I wore a tank under it, because of course once I was moving I got too hot and had to take it off.
Anyway, we started out in a gravelly parking lot a short distance from the trailhead. There were about a dozen people in our group, plus the leader, a botanist named Scott who was very well informed and enthusiastic. I really enjoyed listening to him, and he was really good about answering questions. We were given bottles of water and granola bars to take with us for snacks, but were forbidden to open the granola bars until we were at least half a mile from the parking lot. They don't want bears to start hanging around looking for food.
Just about everything about the forest was very different from what I'm used to. The trees were mostly firs of various kinds, and I hardly recognized any of the groundcover plants. Mostly there's moss--moss everywhere, as a spongy carpet and a furry covering over tree trunks, even draped from tree limbs. It's beautiful and strange. As Scott pointed out, there's very little real soil--it was all scraped off by glaciers in the past, so most trees are actually rooted in the moss.
I believe Scott said the trail we hiked climbed to about 700 feet. That's about twice what the highest point of the Norris watershed trails climb to, but it didn't feel all that much higher. There was only one stretch that was really strenuous, and that was because it was stairs...201 stairs. I took a picture once we reached the top. You can't see all the flights since they wrap around the hill, but you get the idea.
We got some glimpses of the glacier as we hiked, but there were lots of other things to see too. We stopped at a waterfall for a while, although I didn't get a picture of it (my camera batteries had died and I was resting them to try to get one or two more shots of the glacier later--it worked, too, but I missed a lot of good stuff in the meantime). After we'd been at the waterfall for a few minutes I started to get too chilly, so I put my hoodie back on. See, I'm glad I brought it anyway!
And here's the glacier, with my brother standing in front of it. (I told him to smile and he said, "I am smiling.")
It was a lovely hike and a lot of fun. And considering how much I ate on the cruise ship, I really needed some exercise. We didn't see any bears, but we saw lots of bear poop in the trail. Scott said that once he was leading a group up the stairs when they came upon a bear coming down the stairs. He had the group move over as far as possible and the bear just walked on by. I think bears are cool, but I am so so so so so very glad we didn't have to share a trail with one.