Posts Tagged ‘Anchorage’

Day 74: Built fjord tough

August 12, 2010 6 comments

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.


[fyawrd, fyohrd; Norw. fyohr, fyoor]

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.


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.

Day 73: More connections in Anchorage

August 11, 2010 8 comments

Location: Anchorage, AK

I spent the better part of the morning being lazy, but by afternoon I was in total “get stuff done” mode.  I had made an appointment with a local Mazda dealership, and within an hour after dropping the car off I had the passenger side headlight replaced.  We are back in business now, two new working lights. 

No big deal getting those replaced.  Eventually, all lights will burn out, be they from a roadtrip or just the regular course of driving.  Have to say I’ve had great luck with the vehicle.  The only work I’ve paid for on the near 18,000 miles I’ve traveled is just regular maintenance.

I also spent some time tallying receipts since I left British Columbia.  More good news: I’m still on track, budget-wise.  Canada and Alaska have upset the balance a little bit by higher-than-anticipated gas prices.  Each place in Canada was at least $4/gal, and each place in AK has been at least $3.30/gal or so.  Regardless, I remain in good shape with my trip funds.

The rest of the afternoon was spent trying to manage my itinerary for my October trip: Binghamton -> Los Angeles -> Kathmandu, Nepal -> Osaka, Japan -> Los Angeles -> Binghamton.  I have never booked a multi-destination trip before, so it’s been a little tricky trying to get everything set.  Cathay Pacific Airline seemed to have the best deals, but their website was giving me issues, so I’ll give them a call.  Anyone out there ever fly Cathay before?

Rachel and Claire invited me to join them for dinner.  We hit up the Snow Goose restaurant here in Anchorage, and since I have had yet to try halibut in Alaska (everyone told me “try the halibut”), I ordered a halibut stuffed with crab.  Amazing.

We then spent some time wandering the various shops of the downtown area.  Funny thing, I stumbled across an art store.  For those who read the blog back while I was still on the East Coast, you might recognize the name.

You may recall my grandmother on my mother’s side was a Sevigny.  It was back in Rhode Island, early on in this roadtrip, where I learned a lot about that side of the family.  So given that Sevigny is a fairly unique name, I walked into the store and talked a bit with the owner, Katie.

Turns out Katie married a Sevigny, and his Sevigny relatives, like mine, hailed from Canada/Rhode Island/East Coast.  Wondering if this was just coincidence or perhaps an actual relation, I wracked my brain to remember the family tree, but my memory was limited.  Katie had called up her husband who advised his great-grandfather was Eugene.  I didn’t recall a Eugene in the tree, but I told Katie I would investigate and get back with her.

Fast forward to the next morning, and here I was just moments ago reviewing my post from my time in Rhode Island, especially Lynn’s family tree she drew for me.  And what do you see?  My great-grandfather, EJ, had siblings.  And one of those brothers….Eugene.  Unreal.

Now all I need to confirm is that Katie’s husband had a great-uncle EJ, and looks like I found a distant cousin here in Anchorage, Alaska.  Ha!  I sent an email to Katie so hopefully I can make the confirmation soon.

Now returning to last night, we finished visiting the gift shops and returned to the hotel.  Claire showed me a lot of her pictures from her stay in Alaska, which got me even more excited for my journey down the Kenai Peninsula (starting later today).  She and my buddy Matt both said the drives out here have been some of the most scenic roads they’ve ever seen.  I can’t wait.

I have a place to stay in Seward, my next destination, about a three hour drive from here.  On the way, I’ll check out some glaciers and do some hiking.  It’s a bit chilly here, but not too bad, and I have a winter hat if I need it (thank you, Kenneth).  I’ll also probably get a ticket for a boat tour of the Kenai Fjords area, and maybe do that on Friday.

Thanks so much to Rachel for letting me crash on her hotel couch.  The timing worked out very well, and I got to convince Rachel to visit Crater Lake when she is in Oregon next week.  I can’t wait to hear what she thinks of the place…I definitely hyped it up quite a bit.  Thank you, Rachel.

Hopefully I can take care of that plane ticket this morning, and then I’ll get the car set and be back on the road.  Great times in Anchorage!


Day 72: Ok, meet you in…Anchorage?

August 10, 2010 10 comments

Location: Anchorage, AK

Miles Driven: 160

Total Miles: 17,428

After a chilly night in the car (thankfully, I have two blankets), I was on the road around 6AM continuing the drive south towards Anchorage.  I had plans to meet up with a buddy from back East, Matt, who coincidentally was in Alaska the same time I was.  Last I saw Matt he told me about tentative trip plans, then sure enough he ended up flying here on the 5th.  If he was a weekend earlier, as originally planned, I would’ve been too far away yet, but the timing worked out well and I got to see a familiar face all the way in the capital of Alaska.

Matt and me hanging out in Kincaid Park

Pretty crazy how the timing works out, right?

But before I saw Matt, I had to make the drive down to Anchorage, and I had a little over two hours ahead of me from where I crashed the night before.  The drive wasn’t bad…saw a bit of rain along the way, but near Wasilla (home of Sarah Palin) the skies started to clear up a bit.

could you imagine living near this?

By 9AM I had arrived in Anchorage, and met Matt at his friend Rachel’s hotel.  Great to see a familiar face this far away from familiarity.  Not long after, Matt and I headed out towards the downtown Anchorage area to explore a bit.

the view from downtown

A friendly Anchorage bear

Matt and I had a good lunch with Rachel (mmm, peanut butter and jelly gourmet sandwiches on bagels), and then the two of us headed over to Kincaid Park, where recently he and Rachel had seen a moose.

While walking through the park, I had been asking Matt about the moose encounter and innocently asked him “Do you know if there are bears here, too?”  He thought there might be, but wasn’t positive.  We found out the answer to that question a few minutes later when we saw something coming around the corner.

My first instinct was “Oh, a little dog is coming this way.”  I was wrong.

Considering the bear was slowly making his way in our direction, I put the camera down and we slowly backed up a bit.  Or I did, as Matt had already got the hell out of dodge.  I looked to my right and he was gone.  I’ve never witnessed such speed in a human.

I managed to back up a ways and then the bear jumped off into the brush on the left.  The bear never charged, or even got with 20 feet or so, so I didn’t have to employ any of the bear avoidance tips I learned from the rangers at Denali.  But whew, that was a fairly close encounter.

Matt and I chose to take another path in the park.  And this time we got some nice views of the water and the mountains in the distance.

lots of soccer fields at this park

We were also near the airport, so we got to see a lot of jets taking off.

After an exciting afternoon full of bear encounters (1 real, 1 fake), we made our way back to the hotel and eventually joined Rachel, her friend Claire, and Claire’s sister Carolyn for some dinner.  We hit up a hole-in-the-wall called Tommy’s Burger Stop, billed as the “best burgers in Anchorage.”  It lived up to the billing.

Great burger. Jalapenos on a burger = brilliance

Matt had to go back to Georgia, so we took him to the airport and said our goodbyes.  What a great addition to the trip, getting to see a good friend this far away from both our homes.

Rachel kindly offered me her couch to crash on at the hotel, and I was spoiled for yet another night.  On Tuesday, I’ll try to fix that last elusive headlight, and then maybe get out and do some hiking.  Come Wednesday, I’ll head down the famous Seward Highway down the Kenai Peninsula.