Alaska’s now popular Knik Glacier has bagged its first misguided adventurer of the winter season.
Social media was this week lighting up with photos of a late-model Ford Ranger pickup truck that went through the ice of the Knik River when someone tried to drive to the massive ice field eight miles beyond the end of the Knik River Road.
For years now, the frozen river has been drawing snowmachine riders, fat-tired cyclists, off-roaders, skiers and others to the face of the five-mile wide, 28-mile long glacier about 20 miles east of Palmer.
Only about an hour’s drive north of Anchorage, the glacier is especially popular in the Alaska spring when the winter’s accumulation of ice has grown thick, the hours of daylight have increased from five hours to ten or more, and the sun is warming.
But the glacier’s popularity has led some to stretch the length of the ice season on either end of winter as if the standard risks of openings in the ice in winter aren’t enough.
In January of last year, the driver of a Jeep found a soft spot in Knik Lake near the face of the ever-moving glacier and almost lost his wheels.
He was lucky to escape the sinking vehicle alive and later recover the rig with minimum damage thanks to the help of our off-roaders.
This time the driver was not so lucky. The river ice did a number on the vehicle when a backhoe was used to try to extract it. The vehicle had by then frozen into the river in subzero temperatures.
The exact extent of the damage is unknown, but the truck looks to be close totaled.
To date, no one has died falling through the ice on the winter trail to the glacier or been crushed to death ice caving from the glacier or an unstable iceberg rolling over in thin ice in the lake.
But those most familiar with the glacier tend to think that between the growing number of visitors and the lack of Alsaka winter wilderness travel knowledge on the part of many, a fatality appears inevitable in the future.