Wednesday, July 8, 2015

July 7, 2015. In Alaska.

Dianne and I both woke up around 2:30 AM, when it felt a lot like 6:30... I told her we were NOT getting up, told her again at 3, and put my sleep mask back in place and rolled over in my own little twin bed. She was reading by the light from the window on her side of the room by then.  Not much darkness here (if any) at this time of year.

We both came out into the main area of the house around 6:30, and Joanna (the innkeeper) was already brewing coffee. That was a very good thing! I think the secret to adjusting to a 4-hour time change is drinking lots of coffee. She prepared eggs, toast, and reindeer sausage for our breakfast.

We left shortly after 7 AM to drive to Seward, which is touted as a 2-hour drive. As soon as we were out of town we saw the entrance Chugach State Park, and the famous mud flats were off on our right. At a half-million acres, Chugach is the third largest state park in the US, and is dominated by the Chugach Mountain range, the highest coastal range in the world.

It was overcast, drizzling on and off, but no real rain materialized. The Alaska Railroad tracks run alongside the Seward Highway, sometimes between the road and Turnigan Arm and sometimes between the road and the mountains. Not much room for either a road or a railroad here.

We passed seamlessly from Chugach State Park into Chugach National Forest, which is about the size of New Hampshire! We had already been on the road for 2 hours when we stopped at Summit Lake Lodge for a cup of coffee.  It's a lovely place.

We drove off the highway to Kenai Fjords National Park, just outside Seward. Kenai Fjords contains 700 square miles of inaccessible ice field, but Exit Glacier is within a 2-mile hike of the Visitors Center.  Exit Glacier is one of 35 glaciers that flow off the Harding Ice Field and is virtually the only accessible part of this huge park.

I noticed a few unusual placards along the road into the park, with numbers on them: 1815, 1885, 1917, etc. It was only when we were on the hiking path that I realized what they were--they denoted where Exit Glacier had been in that particular year. Below is where it was in 1961, at least a mile from where it is today.

The trail led up to the edge of the ice field where we stopped for photo opportunities before heading back down to the parking lot.

Above is the edge of Exit Glacier and the stream of melting ice leading away from it. Very sad.

We left Kenai Fjords park and went to Seward for lunch. We ate at a very nice restaurant at Seward Harbor. The view of the cruise ship and the harbor is what we saw from our window. The food was great, but it took forever to get it... if I hadn't been so awfully hungry (it was almost 2:00 by then) we would have walked out and gone somewhere else.

I went to the train station for a photo of the train we did not take from Anchorage--it's an excursion train that runs daily between Anchorage and Seward, and we decided late last week that for the cost of one day's train ride we could just about rent a car for 5 days. We saw the train several times on our ride here from Anchorage, on the tracks that run parallel to Seward Hwy. Across the street from the train station were several train cars that were repurposed as businesses: a bike shop, a water-sports center, and even a motel! Very cool.

On the way out of Seward we stopped at the Moose Nuts shop we had seen on the way in. The main store was not open, but there was a self serve "on your honor" booth set up. We found out that moose nuts are really just regular nuts in a fancy wrapper, and we did not have the right money denominations to buy them so we went on our way.

We did not stop quite as many times on the way back to Anchorage, so it took only 2 1/2 hours to get back, as opposed to the 3 hours it took to make the trip this morning.

It's a very short construction season here, and we expected a long delay when we saw that there was a 25-mile long construction zone. We waited only a few minutes this morning, but the line was longer this afternoon. The delay was only about 10 or 15 minutes. It must be hard to schedule work on a road when it is the only road there is!

Finally we were back in Anchorage and got caught in rush hour traffic. We had been on the road all day and decided to bring dinner back to the B&B. We found a grocery store, bought salads, fish, chicken, carrot cake--all the essentials, including a bottle of wine!

No comments: