The ferry to Cordova was a modern fast one which reached speeds of up to 70km per hour. The capacity of the ferry was about 200 but only about 50 people were on board. The journey took just over 2 hours and the inside of the ferry was very comfortable with a choice of seating and even work cubicles.
We arrived in Cordova at around 7pm which gave us time for a wander around town. Town was pretty small so this took around 10 minutes but we did spend some time in the harbour where there was a really cute otter floating around on his back looking very chilled out.
We headed out of town to Mile 13 of the Copper River Highway and took an unmarked turnoff leading to the Sheridan Glacier Trailhead where we camped for the night. In the morning we woke up to a lovely sunny day (such a rarity in Alaska) and we walked around the moraine lake of the Glacier and were rewarded with some stunning views of ice in the lake and up the glacier.
As it was such a nice day we really wanted to drive the length of the Copper River Highway and see the Childs Glacier in the sun. So we got in the Beast and drove the road which was pretty stunning in places. The last 10 miles before reaching the Glacier there are a series of bridges all crossing the Copper River which is heavily braided but each braid is seriously pumping water.
As we were driving we turned a corner and there was a big lattice work bridge in front of us and we just carried on over it. About half way across we realised that this was the Million Dollar Bridge – built in 1910 and heavily damaged in the 1964 earthquake. It was repaired in 2005 but now has a weight limit of only 6600 pounds – which we significantly exceed (we’re around 18,000 pounds). We made it across without collapsing the bridge but then we had to go back. We seriously crossed our fingers and drove back across – again no collapse but we weren’t going to try that again!
We parked up in the Childs Glacier viewing area and sat down to watch the glacier for a bit. This glacier is 300 feet high and 3 miles wide. The face is across the Copper River from the viewing area and is 1200ft away but feels much closer. There are signs up in the viewing area to be aware that waves up to 60ft high can sweep across the river from large pieces of ice carving. The instructions in our guidebook are if this happens to run.
After this we walked down to the Million Dollar Bridge and walked across from where you can see the Miles glacier which is huge around 14 miles away.
The campground at the Childs Glacier is $25 for no facilities other than picnic tables and pit toilets so we parked just outside the entrance in a turnout for free.
The next day we started slowly driving back along the Copper River Highway and we stopped off at the Saddlebag Glacier Trail. This was a 6 mile hike through woods to an alpine lake at the head of a glacier. The hike was a bit disappointing though and the glacier has obviously been retreating so the final views weren’t really worth the effort of getting there.
We spent the night by a river on a beach which was a really nice campsite. Although around dinner time a couple of locals turned up, caught a salmon and departed.
On our last day in Cordova we went back to the Sheridan Glacier trailhead and walked the Sherdian Mountain Trail. This was a pretty taxing hike which was about 4 miles each way but with a climb of 700m along the way. What made it hard work was that the upper section of the trail before reaching the alpine zone was very rocky and covered in foliage. In the rain (it was raining all day) this was very slippery and consequently slow going.
Near the top we lost the trail and accidentally climbed a near vertical scree slope – Sarah was not impressed with my navigation. What we hadn’t realised was that the trail went through a gully filled with snow (around 50m wide). From our elevation we spotted the correct route though and climbed up to a knife-edge ridge with a great view of the glacier and the moraine lake where we had walked a couple of days before.
Soon after reaching the ridge the drizzle which we had had all day turned into rain (little did we know this would last over 36 hours without let up – the capacity for rain in Alaska is amazing). By the time we got back to the Beast we were soaked through.
That evening we drove back to Cordova itself and camped by the sea on the Orca Road ready for our early morning ferry.