Currently: 59 degrees, cloudy dusk, Seward, AK. Packing bags for getting our car and hiking tomorrow. Catching the end of “Full House Unauthorized” on Lifetime…we’re tired, relax.
What’d We Do?
Day three of our northern exploration. The seas are rough. The days are long. The winds are unrelenting. The sleep…it just comes.
This morning we woke up early and traveled the mile across town for a cruise through Kenai Fjords National Park. The park is unique as all but a small section are inaccessible by land, and most is pristine yet rugged wilderness. We ventured out with Kenai Fjords tours on a six-hour tour that started by cutting across Resurrection Bay to Fox Island, and then rounding through rugged fjords in search of wildlife and glaciers.
All morning the wind whipped up the sea into a choppy mess and made the dramamine a worthwhile purchase, but as the day wore on the seas settled to make the cruise more pleasant.
After rounding through beautiful fjords that looked like a travel brochure for Norway, we started to catch glimpses of wildlife starting with 2 bald eagles that rested in trees along the coast.
Soon after, the captain pointed out the spout of a young humpback whale and we spent 30 minutes pursuing it in hopes that it would breach. The whale led us through several coves and eventually showed us it’s fluke.
We saw puffins everywhere. Yesterday we spent time learning all about their behavior and lack of flight skills, but today we saw them diving and flying circles around the boat. We also saw them roosting on rocky cliffs all along the coast.
The boat then picked up speed and steered into Aialik Bay to get to Holgate Glacier. Holgate is a gigantic wall of glacial ice that appears massive when it first comes into view 12 miles across the bay. Eventually we ended up about a quarter-mile from the glacier to get a closer look and witnessed the glacier calving as ice broke off and crashed into the sea. While the visual is stunning, the sound echoes like fireworks across the bay. To the left of Holgate is another beautiful glacier named Surprise Glacier surrounded by massive rock walls.
Having seen the glaciers, we started heading back towards town and stopped by a small land outcrop to view about a dozen sea lions sunning on the rocks. While we floated a few sea lions climbed up and down the rocks and dove into the sea as the waves crashed around them.
On our way back towards town we pursued a small group of dall porpoises who twisted and played around the bow of the boat. These porpoises have the black and white coloration of orcas and the playfulness of sugar-high children.
Of course the real highlight of the day cruise was the chocolate chip cookies that were served on the final stretch of the journey. We ate several.
When we arrived back in town we stopped in at the Kenai Fjords National Park visitor’s center to purchase what was long overdue: our national park passports. Kirsten and I have pondered getting passports for several years and looked curiously as everyone stamps theirs at each place we visit, but we always thought they were kind of kitschy. Well, today we joined the club…and we’re long overdue. Now our passports have a single park stamp, although I (Scott) have counted around 42 lifetime parks/monuments/historic sites visited, and Kir has around 30.
We walked back across town with a stop to watch the salmon attempt a trip upstream, and another to watch sea otters playing just offshore, then back to the hotel for a long overdue nap. Tonight we found our first real sit-down dinner of the trip and then hit up a few souvenir shops.
Who We Met
Reconnected with the couple we met on the train, discussed opportunities to see the northern lights.
What We Ate
Kirsten tried salmon fettuccine. Scott is still on a seafood strike.
What We Learned
Reinforced the knowledge we learned yesterday at the Sealife Center by seeing seabirds in their natural habitat. Humpback whales are singular animals and orcas travel in packs.
Many workers around Seward are just here for the season and return to the lower 48 in the off-season.
Wildlife We Saw
Juvenile humpback whale, 2 bald eagles, horned and tufted puffins, dall porpoises, sea lions, sea otters, gulls, alcids and a variety of seabirds.