Home > Uncategorized > Day 74: Built fjord tough

Day 74: Built fjord tough

Location: Seward, AK

Miles Driven: ~128

Total Miles: 17,556

My final morning in Anchorage was a pretty successful one.  Booked my plane tickets for October (after about a half hour on the phone), got some of my mail taken care of, and grabbed one final free breakfast at the hotel (thank you, Rachel).  Around noon I got on the road towards Seward.  After the several hundred miles/day driving in Canada on the way to Alaska, it’s nice to keep my latest driving down to the low hundreds.

The view from a gas station in Anchorage

The route to Seward is along the world-famous Seward Highway, one of only a handful of routes designated as an “All-American Road.”  You don’t have to be on the Seward Highway long to know why it received such a designation.  The drive from Anchorage to Seward is actually only about two hours straight-shot, but I found myself pulling over frequently to check out the views, and the drive took well over three hours.

Mazda just chillin by the mountains

Turnagain Arm

funny, the truck matches the mountains

I am caught off-guard sometimes by how green Alaska can be

While driving through the Chugach National Forest, I pulled over to a scenic vista that had some displays about Native Alaskans.  Here’s some interesting info I only recently learned about:

Near this sign were some more displays, one which had a quote I found really memorable, and probably pretty accurate:

“There is one word of advice and caution to be given those intending to visit Alaska…If you are old, go by all means, but if you are young, wait.  The scenery of Alaska is much grander than anything else of its kind in the world, and it is not wise to dull one’s capacity for enjoyment by seeing the finest first.” -Henry Gannett, Harriman Alaska Expedition 1899

grand scenery, indeed

I arrived in Seward a little after 4PM, and then drove towards Kenai Fjords National Park – Exit Glacier area.  Kenai Fjords is the smallest national park in Alaska, but the term “small” is all relative here in Alaska.

I thought I knew what a fjord was, but I looked it up. I had something much more complicated in mind.

Fjord

[fyawrd, fyohrd; Norw. fyohr, fyoor]

–noun
1.
a long, narrow arm of the sea bordered by steep cliffs:usually formed by glacial erosion.

Kenai (pronounced Key-Nigh) Fjords is an incredibly beautiful place.  Here by the Exit Glacier, you get to check out a little of the interior of the park, then there are boat tours so you can view the park from the outside (got my ticket for Thursday).

The view near the park entrance

Exit Glacier

Many tall mountains in the area

I made my way towards the main parking lot which lead to walks by Exit Glacier and another hike to the Harding Ice Field.  The full hike (and return) from Harding Ice Field is 8.5 miles.  I didn’t have time to do that, but I decided I’d hike up it about 2.5 miles where I was promised some good views.

On the way to the trail there were some postings about wildlife in the area.  It was here that I received the best advice on this trip, yet:

Appreciate the insight

I soon got started on the trail towards the Harding Ice Field.  It was a cool day, but I had pants on and a long tshirt that was enough in the steep climb that got you pretty sweaty early on.  Packed a fleece and winter hat just in case.

the start of the hike. Compare this to later photos from the hike

Good views just a little bit into the climb

The climb took me out of the forest area and into some grassy mountain slopes.

close up of the glacier

This marmot also enjoyed the views. These guys can whistle really loud, and it sounds human.

View of the valley. Parking lot near the middle of the photo

Arrival at my destination

At first, I thought there were only two mountain peaks in the background.  But those clouds move fast, and I realized one mountain peak had been obscured.  Three mountain peaks in the back – beautiful!

nevermind the sweat, it was worth it

A last look at the cold mountain peaks

After hanging out at the top for a while, I made my way back down.  Had a bit of a rough time making my way – twisted my right ankle twice (I always manage to twist it going downhill), and I slipped in some mud, fell forward, and banged up my knee pretty good (and ripped my pants in the process).  Nothing disastrous, but I was happy to know the next day I’d be spending a lot of time on a boat, so my body would have some time to heal.

My brother Mike in Oregon knows two people up here in Alaska, sisters, back from his crew days in college.  They both kindly offered me a place to crash, and one sister, Megan, lives here in Seward.  I met up with her and she led me back to her place, where I had my own room to stay in and the chance to get cleaned up and do some laundry.  Megan knows a lot about Alaska so I got some great recommendations from her on things to do after I go on the boat tour, as well as later in my travels.

In a few hours I’ll make my way to the port to hop on the Kenai Fjords Wildlife Tour.  It’s a five hour ride, so I have a good chance to see some birds, whales, sea otters, and other animals.  Also, I’ll be able to see some glaciers from the water.  I’m pretty excited.

Alaska just continues to exceed expectations.  What a state.

joe

P.S.  Thanks to Melissa for reminding me.  Tonight (the 12th) going into early tomorrow morning, the annual Perseid meteor shower peaks.  Looks like it’ll be cloudy here, but if you’re in a clear area I highly recommend you go to a dark site to check them out.  I caught them last year in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, and must’ve seen around 30 or so meteors. Added bonus – the moon is just a couple days past new, so you won’t have interference from moonlight.

http://www.space.com/spacewatch/perseid-meteor-shower-2010-100806.html

  1. August 13, 2010 at 7:34 am

    great job hiking to the top. Do you know the elevation? so cool that the snow/glacier is blueish in color.

    • August 13, 2010 at 1:39 pm

      thanks, Melly. I think the elevation was in the neighborhood of 2,000 feet. And do you know why the glaciers are bluish in color? I could go on about some science here, if you would like…

      • August 15, 2010 at 10:57 pm

        i’ll venture a guess about how glaciers are colder than ice and the molecules are closer together? please explain.

        • August 18, 2010 at 11:21 am

          Ah did you steal that thought from ND? She had the same reasoning to why space is cold near the Sun.

          Anyhow, the ice is dense in a glacier, so dense that it captures the longer-wavelength colors (red, etc.). But the shorter wavelengths, like blue, don’t get absorbed…hence the blue color

  2. Jonathan
    August 13, 2010 at 8:01 am

    Have you gotten any foreign policy experience yet by seeing those Russians across the way?

    • August 13, 2010 at 1:39 pm

      hahahh none yet, though I did meet some Europeans at some of the parks I’ve been to. They care little for my policy statements, though.

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