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Posts Tagged ‘Seward’

Day 76: Forecast calls for…mud (and some amazing views)

August 14, 2010 14 comments

Location: Palmer, AK

Miles Driven: 170

Total Miles: 17,726

James had the day off, and had agreed to go hike a nearby mountain, Mount Marathon.  I met him at his house in the morning, and a few hours later we were on our way.  Although it was another overcast day, the forecast did not call for rain (at least not in the late morning when we were going to hike).  We were looking forward to a strenuous hike which promised some good views both along the way and at the peak. Also, James had completed the hike once before, so it was good to go with someone familiar with the route to the top (there were no markers or clearly-defined trails, like other hikes I’ve been on).

Mount Marathon, 3000 feet in height

I did not take a lot of photos on the way up, as I needed both hands to help me along the way.  The muddy paths were slick, and made worse by rain that began to fall when we were about 1/4 of the way up.  A couple times I wouldgain 10 feet of ground or so, just to quickly lose that same ground by sliding back to where I started.  It was, indeed, a muddy (and slow) affair.  James had a much easier go at it – he credits that to a strong equipoise. 

But our spirits remained high and we wanted to see how far we could make it, hoping the slick paths wouldn’t deter our route to the top.  There were some great views of Seward and Resurrection Bay not far into the hike, also.

Eventually the slick, muddy, forested paths give way to gravel (note the gray section at the top of the mountain).  The gravel was a bit easier to move around on; however, the climb became significantly steeper in this section. 

The top looks deceptively close, but trust me, it was not

There was still about another hour to the top once we reached the gravel section.  It was tough, but worth it when we arrived at the peak of Mount Marathon.

A little muddy and soaked, but happy to be at the top

James at the peak. Noticeably less muddy and drier than me

Great to hang out at the top and take in the views.

Can you believe those mountains??

The weather at the top was getting a bit cold, compounded by my wet clothes.  It was time to head down.  The route down was a bit tricky, but fun.  It’s gravelly most of the way, and steep, so James likened it to slalom skiing skiing, but just in boots – run a bit, slide on your feet, run a bit, slide on your feet, etc.  Fairly challenging, but less so than going up.  And before you know it, you’re halfway down the mountain.

Later the path cut through a long stream, and we encountered more muddy paths.  It was a veritable “slip N slide”, and I had never gotten that muddy in my life.  But I was able to keep on the path for the most part, and it wasn’t long before we returned to James’ truck.  It was about two hours to the top of the mountain, and I think about 50 minutes down.

Every Fourth of July in Seward, a race is held here at the mountain.  I cannot even fathom how people run up and down (well, I kind of understand the down part, now) this mountain, with or without slick paths.  Congrats to Megan who has run it before.  I still think it is somewhat insane.

Arrived back at James’ place a soaking mess.  James kindly let me shower and use his washer and dryer, but first we needed to document the price I paid in this climb:

Look on the back left of the shorts. There is a dry patch! How that occurred is beyond me

Very much worth it.

I was able to get everything (including myself) cleaned up, and just before 5PM I was on the road, heading out of Seward.  My route was north to the city of Palmer where Megan’s sister, Susan, lives.  Susan wasn’t planning on being home, but kindly offered me the house for as long as I needed it.  Very generous.  While here, I will keep an eye on her dog, a friendly Springer Spaniel named Vegas.  Susan started to defrost some halibut for me, as well.  Once again in Alaska, I had a great dinner.

This trip to Palmer marks the near-end of my stay in Alaska.  After another night or two here, I head east, to eventually link up again with the Alaska Highway and work my way back into Canada.  I just realized that means I have shifted into phase four of this trip – the “indirect” journey home.  It will still be a long while before I am back in NY (especially after you understand the route I’ll take), but it’s another milestone, and the last major one on this trip.  Kind of sad, but still thrilling to know how far I’ve made it, the spectacular places I’ve been, and the wonderful people I’ve met up with along the way.

joe

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.

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

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!

joe