Buck's Blog

The Stream-of-Consciousness Journal of a Wargamer

2014 Alaska Vacation: Days 10 and 11

A view of Seward harbor

A view of Seward harbor

We had a third beautiful weather day.  We drove to Seward and couldn’t believe our weather luck!  The sky was mostly clear, the weather was warm, and there was a nice breeze.  We began by walking around some of the souvenir shops in “downtown” Seward.

Looking up over some of the buildings on "main street" Seward

Looking up over some of the buildings on "main street" Seward

Seward is the southern terminus of the Alaska railroad and a port of debarkation for coal from the interior of Alaska heading to Asia.  It is also a port for cruise ships.  The winter population is about 5000 people.  There were a number nice little stores and cafes in town.

Another view of "main street" Seward

Another view of "main street" Seward

After walking around the town, we made sandwiches in the RV and drove to Exit Glacier.  The Harding Ice Field is a huge glacier (sort of a lake of ice in the middle of the Chugach mountains) that feeds several glaciers.  One of the first expeditions to try cross the ice field exited at this glacier, hence the name.

Our first glimpse Exit Glacier

Our first glimpse Exit Glacier

We had a chance to take a hike up alongside the glacier for a couple of miles.

A look at Exit Glacier from just a few yards away

A look at Exit Glacier from just a few yards away

As we got closer to the ice, we found that the glacier was creating its own cold breeze.  The lower area near the visitor’s center was actually hot, and we were attacked by flies.  Once we got up a few feet, it was quite pleasant, perhaps chilly.  There is a longer hike (approximately 8 hours) that takes you up to the edge of the ice field, but we didn’t have time for that.  We needed to get back for our second cruise.

A block of ice that has fallen off Exit Glacier

A block of ice that has fallen off Exit Glacier

Getting ready for our cruise

Getting ready for our cruise

Before heading out to Exit Glacier, we had signed up for a four-hour cruise out Resurrection Bay into the Gulf of Alaska to look at wildlife.  Our hope was to see porpoises, whales, and puffins.

Tommy looking "nautical" on our way out of the harbor

Tommy looking "nautical" on our way out of the harbor

The cruise included an all-you-can eat prime rib and salmon buffet.  The food was terrific.  On the way back to port, there was an all-you-can eat dessert buffet.  Based on prices for food in Alaska, one serving of each would have cost more in most restaurants than we paid for the buffet.

Sammy, Tommy, and Candy looking at jellyfish

Sammy, Tommy, and Candy looking at jellyfish

The boat holds up to 200 people, but for whatever reason only 19 were signed up for this cruise.  The limited number of passengers enabled the crew to provide more personalized attention and reduced the jockeying for position on the rail to see wildlife.

Again the cruise included a National Park Service Ranger who provided narration throughout the four-hour ride.  The ranger told us that these charter cruise companies pay the Park Service to provide these rangers, which in turn allows them to hire more part-time rangers to assist with managing the vast lands controlled by the Department of the Interior.

Several glacier-created islands on our way out of Resurrection Bay

Several glacier-created islands on our way out of Resurrection Bay

Porpoises following our boat

Porpoises following our boat

The porpoises were designated “awesome” by Sammy.

A distant view of a Humpback Whale

A distant view of a Humpback Whale

We never got too close to this whale, but he was clearly visible several times.  The ranger explained that when whales are sleeping they bob near the surface, coming up from time to time to breathe.

Candy enjoying her fourth Harvey Wallbanger

Candy enjoying her fourth Harvey Wallbanger

Just kidding… but we did enjoy soft drinks and later some hot chocolate.

We met our objectives of spotting porpoises, whales, and puffins!  Tommy was hoping to see a Beluga whale, but we didn’t.

The view above our campsite in Seward

The view above our campsite in Seward

We slept that night in a campground right along the water.  When we woke up we were greeted by yet another perfect weather day!

The Alaska Sealife Center

The Alaska Sealife Center

The agenda called for us to visit the Alaska Sealife Center in Seward.  Partially funded by Federal money and partially funded by an Exxon Valdez trust fund, this center is involved in aquatic research and the rehabilitation of wounded animals.  When the weather was so nice the previous day, we pushed this off a day, fully expecting that the weather would turn bad and it would be good to enjoy an indoor activity.

Commodore Sammy

Commodore Sammy

Some kind of crab

Some kind of crab

Sammy and Tommy touching stuff

Sammy and Tommy touching stuff

The Sealife Center was nicely laid out with some innovative exhibits.  I thought it was worth the time we spent there.  They also had once of the nicest gift shops we’d seen throughout our visit to Alaska.

They continue to touch stuff

They continue to touch stuff

A puffin

A puffin

A strange sort of star fish

A strange sort of starfish, called a Basket Starfish

Seals

Seals

A sea lion

A sea lion

Sadly our trip is beginning to come to an end.  After lunch in Seward, we headed back toward Anchorage for our last night in Alaska.  Along the way we pulled off at some scenic overlooks to see some of the sites that were difficult to see because of the rain on our way southward.

The view along the road back to Anchorage from Seward

The view along the road back to Anchorage from Seward

Somewhere during our drive, I got an Email from my buddy Sam Fuson who was once stationed at Ft. Richardson.  He recommended that we have halibut at the Sourdough Mining Company.  The food was terrific and so plentiful that even Tom had trouble finishing his dinner.  Most nights there is a singer and storyteller in the evenings, but we happened to get there the one night in 10 years that he was ill.

The view from Bird Point in the Turnagain Arm area

The view from Bird Point in the Turnagain Arm area

Well…  we get on the plane tomorrow for another 12 hours in the air back to Baltimore with stops in Seattle and Detroit.  Ca ca.  Another vacation has come to a close.

 


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