We had a third beautiful weather day. We drove to Seward and couldn’t believe our weather luck! The sky was mostly clear, the weather was warm, and there was a nice breeze. We began by walking around some of the souvenir shops in “downtown” Seward.
Seward is the southern terminus of the Alaska railroad and a port of debarkation for coal from the interior of Alaska heading to Asia. It is also a port for cruise ships. The winter population is about 5000 people. There were a number nice little stores and cafes in town.
After walking around the town, we made sandwiches in the RV and drove to Exit Glacier. The Harding Ice Field is a huge glacier (sort of a lake of ice in the middle of the Chugach mountains) that feeds several glaciers. One of the first expeditions to try cross the ice field exited at this glacier, hence the name.
We had a chance to take a hike up alongside the glacier for a couple of miles.
As we got closer to the ice, we found that the glacier was creating its own cold breeze. The lower area near the visitor’s center was actually hot, and we were attacked by flies. Once we got up a few feet, it was quite pleasant, perhaps chilly. There is a longer hike (approximately 8 hours) that takes you up to the edge of the ice field, but we didn’t have time for that. We needed to get back for our second cruise.
Before heading out to Exit Glacier, we had signed up for a four-hour cruise out Resurrection Bay into the Gulf of Alaska to look at wildlife. Our hope was to see porpoises, whales, and puffins.
The cruise included an all-you-can eat prime rib and salmon buffet. The food was terrific. On the way back to port, there was an all-you-can eat dessert buffet. Based on prices for food in Alaska, one serving of each would have cost more in most restaurants than we paid for the buffet.
The boat holds up to 200 people, but for whatever reason only 19 were signed up for this cruise. The limited number of passengers enabled the crew to provide more personalized attention and reduced the jockeying for position on the rail to see wildlife.
Again the cruise included a National Park Service Ranger who provided narration throughout the four-hour ride. The ranger told us that these charter cruise companies pay the Park Service to provide these rangers, which in turn allows them to hire more part-time rangers to assist with managing the vast lands controlled by the Department of the Interior.
The porpoises were designated “awesome” by Sammy.
We never got too close to this whale, but he was clearly visible several times. The ranger explained that when whales are sleeping they bob near the surface, coming up from time to time to breathe.
Just kidding… but we did enjoy soft drinks and later some hot chocolate.
We met our objectives of spotting porpoises, whales, and puffins! Tommy was hoping to see a Beluga whale, but we didn’t.
We slept that night in a campground right along the water. When we woke up we were greeted by yet another perfect weather day!
The agenda called for us to visit the Alaska Sealife Center in Seward. Partially funded by Federal money and partially funded by an Exxon Valdez trust fund, this center is involved in aquatic research and the rehabilitation of wounded animals. When the weather was so nice the previous day, we pushed this off a day, fully expecting that the weather would turn bad and it would be good to enjoy an indoor activity.
The Sealife Center was nicely laid out with some innovative exhibits. I thought it was worth the time we spent there. They also had once of the nicest gift shops we’d seen throughout our visit to Alaska.
Sadly our trip is beginning to come to an end. After lunch in Seward, we headed back toward Anchorage for our last night in Alaska. Along the way we pulled off at some scenic overlooks to see some of the sites that were difficult to see because of the rain on our way southward.
Somewhere during our drive, I got an Email from my buddy Sam Fuson who was once stationed at Ft. Richardson. He recommended that we have halibut at the Sourdough Mining Company. The food was terrific and so plentiful that even Tom had trouble finishing his dinner. Most nights there is a singer and storyteller in the evenings, but we happened to get there the one night in 10 years that he was ill.
Well… we get on the plane tomorrow for another 12 hours in the air back to Baltimore with stops in Seattle and Detroit. Ca ca. Another vacation has come to a close.