|Our drive from Soldotna to Seward was around 100 miles, most of which was re-tracing the route we had taken when we came down the Kenai Peninsula from Anchorage (although it may look on the map like we could just go straight northeast, you can't get there that way -- you've got to go back up and around the top of the Kenai Peninsula). It’s still a beautiful drive, with high mountains, glaciers, lakes (the gorgeous turquoise of Kenai Lake still takes one’s breath away) and forests. Not to mention the quirky roadside businesses along the way. This time we saw a few people fishing the rivers, which we hadn’t before, as the second run of red salmon is in progress. Lots of fisherpeople have been frustrated this summer because the salmon runs have been late – even the fish have been confused by the colder-than-normal weather.
As soon as we got to Seward and checked into our campground (Stoney Creek RV Park – a few miles north of Seward but a very nice, fairly new campground with lots of room and large sites with plenty of space between them – something we’ve not seen much of in Alaska!), we decided that we should take advantage of the fact that it wasn’t actually precipitating and drive out to Exit Glacier. Exit Glacier (so named because an exploration party on the Harding Icefield found it to be a convenient route off the Icefield) is one of the glaciers to which it is possible to walk. They have a nicely maintained trail that has one branch going to the toe of the glacier (this one was flooded, however, when we were there, so we couldn’t go that way) and the other up to the edge of the glacier. Although you can get fairly close, you can’t actually get onto the glacier, as we had at Matanuska, because of the instability of the edges. As you can see from some of the pictures, there are large crevasses which could cause sections to break free at any time – it would not be fun to be on or around that section when it happened. But we did get a reasonably up-close-and-personal look – we didn’t linger, however, as the temperature at that point was much colder (and the wind coming off the icefield was biting).
After exiting Exit Glacier (sorry, couldn’t resist) we drove around Seward a bit to get our bearings, to find the location from which our boat tour would depart on Monday, and to explore some of the nearby coastline reachable by road. The town of Seward was pretty much destroyed by the earthquake and tsunami in 1964, but was re-built pretty much in the same place because it was essentially stable ground. It’s a nice little town, heavily dependent on all things sea-related (including the many tour boats that dock there during the tour season). There’s a big coal loading rig to transfer coal brought in by rail to ships to be sent all over the world, a number of fishing boats and related business, such as canneries and processing plants, and several tour boat and water taxi businesses. The downtown area itself is small but attractive, and there are some very nice residential areas. We noticed that, unlike some of the other areas we’ve seen, the homes show a real pride of ownership, with neatly kept yards, flowers and homes seemingly in good repair. At least in town, there was a minimum of abandoned cars, boats and appliances in the yards (although we did see a couple of old Quonset huts, one of which had been made into a house!).
We drove out along the coastal area, where there were lots of people fishing (it was Saturday, so lots of locals were out). Brian and Maryann had hoped we would see an old boat wreck that they had seen on a previous visit but, either because the wreck has been removed or because the tide was in, it wasn’t visible. Margaret, of course, with her attraction to dead things, was seriously disappointed.
We took Sunday morning off; Margaret had a couple of photography-related projects to work on and Ian had some chores to do around the trailer. As he was working outside, a woman came up and asked if he was “Ian”. He said he was and she introduced herself as Kathy Webb who, with her husband Grant (www.birdingrvers.com) have been traveling off and on with the Wishnies. We had heard Fred and Jo talk about them but had not met them, since they had taken differing routes by the time we met the Wishnies, so we were glad to meet them and visit with them a bit. They were staying at the same campground and, although we didn’t know they were there, they knew we were, so they were just going around looking for a New Horizons trailer! Fortunately, there aren’t that many of us!! Before long Grant joined us (we later found out that he had sent Ian an e-mail telling us they were there) and we visited a while before the misting weather and the need to finish our projects required that we end the visit. We had hoped to get together with them again before we left Seward, but that looked like it wasn’t going to be possible (until we ran into them again on the boat trip Monday – described below).
Sunday afternoon we went back into Seward to visit the Alaska SeaLife Center, a marine research, conservation and rescue facility, which was wonderful. They have a number of interactive exhibits, where you can, for example, actually touch a sea anemone or push a button and hear the sounds various animals make, and a small theater where they give presentations periodically (we saw one on global climate change, for example, which was very interesting). But the most fun parts are the big aquarium tanks where they have fish and sea mammals swimming around (not all together, for obvious reasons – the principle of a food chain may be a bit much for small children to see in action) and one that is part aviary and part aquarium. On the top level of that one – sea level, if you will -- are various birds (featuring the ever-popular and adorable puffins) who fly, swim or just rest on the rocks, and on the floor below you can see the fish swimming around under the water. Occasionally a puffin will dive under water and you can see them swimming (they look like they’re flying underwater) on the lower level. It’s a very well-done facility, about half of the original cost of which was funded from the Exxon Valdez oil spill settlement funds, and obviously very popular with young and old visitors. We highly recommend it to anyone who visits Seward. In fact, we highly recommend Seward in general and, as with so many other places here, wish we could have spent more time there.