Posts Tagged ‘Kenai Fjords National Park’

Day 75

August 13, 2010 3 comments

Location: Seward, AK

Got the site updated at Seward’s lovely Sea Bass cafe this morning, and then around 11AM I made my way to the harbor where my tour boat was docked.  I found that I had a table to myself on the inside of the boat, so it was nice to have that as a home base for my bag and I wouldn’t have to be outside the whole time, especially if it got cold.  The captain introduced himself, discussed the usual safety measures, and I took a look at the wildlife pamphlet on the table.  There were a lot of animals we could likely see out in Resurrection Bay and the Gulf of Alaska, such as orca and humpback whales, sea lions, puffins, and porpoises.  I was especially looking forward to seeing whales, as I had never see one before.

At noon we headed out of the harbor for the five hour wildlife tour of Kenai Fjords.  Great scenery from the get go.

Alaskan Flag

Wasn’t too long before we got our first glimpse of wildlife – an eagle:

white seal near the bottom of this picture

The boat took us around some coves and there were some more great views to witness.

As we continued on, we were seeing wildlife every way we turned, albeit mostly birds.

little puffins

a comorant

Hundreds (thousands?) of Kittiwakes

Soon we came upon some islands with sea lions. 

And then we spotted more puffins.  I learned from the pamphlet that puffins often gorge themselves so much that they have trouble flying. I found one trying to take off:

After this, I kept hearing reports about humpback whales.  There was a park ranger on the boat with a microphone, and she’d announce if there was a water spout spotted.  Whenever I looked out at the water, I saw nothing, and sure enough as soon as I got back inside the boat, she’d announce a water spout was seen once again.  And then I began to get some feelings of nausea, as the boat would be moving, then slow down, and the process would repeat.

In any case, during the five hours I caught a glimpse of one humpback’s tail (I think), way off in the distance.  Bummer.  Spotted a sea otter on the way back to shore, though (but only thanks to my zoom lens): 

And then it was time to get back to harbor.  The five hour tour went by fast.  Overall, it was a nice ride, with good scenery, but I was a bit disappointed with the lack of sea animals.  Oh well, can’t be lucky every day.

Heading back to Seward

I then met up with Megan and her friend James, and we had a great meal of halibut and salmon, plus corn on the cob.  So delicious.  Thanks to those two for preparing a great dinner.

James, Megan, and the dogs

James just drove up to Alaska from Dallas in June, and he came through Alberta, which will be my route back to the Lower 48.  I’m very anxious to drive through the Canadian Rockies, especially after seeing the pictures from his journey.

Went back and crashed at Megan’s for my final night in Seward.  On Friday morning I’ll climb one of the nearby mountains with James, and then I’ll head back north along the Seward Highway towards Palmer where Megan’s sister, Susan, lives.  That will be one of my last major stops before I work my way east, back towards Canada.

Thanks to my new friends in Seward for a great time.


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.