Saturday, June 27, 2015

Seward, Alaska

Bob and I visited Seward in 2010. One of the things we missed on our previous visit was Thorn's Showcase Lounge and their 'bucket of but.' The whole time we were in Seward, Bob kept telling me about the bucket of halibut being a great buy and we would get it when we got to Homer! Well. the halibut was in Seward the whole time. Needless to say that the 'bucket of but' was on my list of things to do and see this trip.

Once we arrived in Seward, we parked along Glacier Exit Road next to Resurrection River. It was a great site with very little traffic noise at night.
One of the first things we did after set up was to drive to Exit Glacier and walk the Glacier overlook trail. From a distance we could tell that the glacier had shrunk quite a bit since our last visit. Bob estimated that it had receded about 100 yards from the bottom.
It had also receded from the sides. You used to be able to almost touch the ice from the overlook.
The glacier overlook trail became our 'go-to' for a daily hike when the weather wasn't cooperating (cold and cloudy) for us to take a long hike.

Another of our side trips was to the fish weir along Bear Lake Road. We could see the salmon waiting in the creek to make their last swim up creek to their home.
The salmon had to try many times to jump up the weir. We saw many try to make the jump, but they were all camera shy.
 Some who made the jump were lucky enough to make it past the weir and on to their spawning place. Unfortunately, some of the fish ended up on ice to be sent to a local fish processing plant.
 Another of the places to visit in Seward is Mt. Marathon. Every 4th of July there is a race to the top of the mountain. Let me tell you, it is one treacherous mountain! Connie and I walked up the base which is the start of the race.
 The young lady on the right continued on up the mountain. She paused where the trail made a sharp right turn to find her footing. Several others who were practicing for the race came down the mountain. The time for one of them was 1 hour 11 minutes up and 32 minutes down. I think the record for the race is 42 minutes, 55 seconds! It is a 3.1 or 3.5 mile race depending on the route you choose to the top of the mountain and down again. There is a 3022 foot elevation gain.  As I said before, not a race for the wimpy.
 On returning to the RVs one afternoon, we watched as some kittiwakes chased an eagle. Well, as it turned out, they were trying to get the eagle to release their friend or family member. The eagle didn't comply and proceeded to pluck the feathers off their friend before taking the plucked kittiwake to its nest to feed the family.
 Bob and I went geocaching and saw this man walking his pet. It was the first caribou we had seen this trip.

 Near one of the other geocaches, we spotted these ducks resting on a piece of wood.
 The weather always seemed to be cloudy and cold in the mornings, but there was a promise of good morning weather on our last day so Bob and I planned an all day hike. More on the hike of a lifetime in the next installment!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Williwaw Campground, Chugach National Forest near Portage, AK

When we drove to Portage for our train ride, we had some time before check-in to look around the area. We found Williwaw Campground and decided it would be a great spot to stop for a few days on our way to Seward.
 Bob, Connie and I geocached our way to Boggs Begich Visitor Center.
 As we neared the center would could see an iceberg from Portage Glacier floating in the lake.
 Once inside, we enjoyed the movie and the exhibits.
 Trail of Blue Ice goes from the Boggs Begich Visitor Center to Moose Flats near the Portage Road turnoff. It was a nice paved trail the entire distance.
 The next day Bob and I decided to try to find the trail to the waterfall we could hear from our campsite. We could see it from Trail of Blue Ice, but there was no marked trail leading to the waterfall.
 We finally found a small foot trail through the alders and willows. We made it to the foot of the falls.

The only critter we saw was hiding under a rock near the trail....a hoary marmot.
 We enjoyed our time at the waterfall, no one else seemed to be aware of the trail.
Later that afternoon, we drove to the parking area for Byron Glacier. It was a short hike to the glacier. We were able to go out on the ice field below the glacier.
 Of course, we were killing time, waiting for the glacier cruise that would take us to Portage Glacier. The glacier can't be seen from the visitor center as it is hidden behind a ridge.
 We all hiked to the glacier......

....and enjoyed the views.

 Then it was time to board Ptarmigan and go see Portage Glacier.
The cruise lasted an hour which was plenty of time to view the glacier. At one point it calved, but we couldn't see where the ice fell  until it floated from behind another section of the glacier.
 The next day we visited Whittier. To get to Whittier you have to drive through a 2 mile one-lane tunnel that is also used by Alaska Railroad. Whittier is a fishing village where cruise ships dock.
 Whittier began as an army post. The tunnel was built to get troops and supplies from the port to other areas of Alaska. The Buckner Building was one of the original buildings at Ft. Whittier. It is now in disrepair. The army abandoned Ft. Whittier in 1960. Much of the area was destroyed by the tsunamis caused by the 1964 earthquake. The Hodge Building which looks like Buckner except in better condition, houses most of Whittier's residents.
 Behind Buckner, at the top of the ridge is a trail to Horsetail Falls. Unfortunately, the trail head is not well marked. We found it anyway and started toward Horsetail Falls.
 The trail, surprisingly enough, was well maintained. Someone spent a lot of time making wooden walkways along the trail.
Unfortunately, we came to a wetland area with no boardwalk or sign to tell us which way to go. Oh, well, we enjoyed what little bit of a hike there was.
It was time to eat lunch at Whittier Inn before heading back to wait our turn to travel through the tunnel.

Later that evening, we went for a walk along a different section of Trail of Blue Ice. We spotted some kittiwakes chasing an eagle. The eagle landed in a tree not far from us and posed for pictures! He was not bothered by us at all.
The next day would be a moving day....Seward, Alaska, here we come!

Anchorage---Time to Restock and Sightsee

Once we arrived in Anchorage, we set up camp at JBER (Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson) at Black Spruce Travel Camp. As we drove through looking for a site we noticed a lot of sites were closed. Back at the office, we asked the host and she explained that someone backed over the electrical pedestal on one of the sites and it knocked the electric out on 12 sites. The sites still had water and sewer. She said we could camp in any of those sites for a reduced fee! We jumped at the chance since we don't need electric. Our solar panels work great in Alaska since there are long daylight hours.

Our first objective was to restock our pantry. So off we went to the commissary. We didn't really need much, but it was fun to look at American items for a change. Then we needed to do our laundry. Whew! That was a load....actually 4 loads!

We took Connie and Larry on a quick tour of Anchorage, but the weather wasn't cooperating, cloudy and cool We stopped at Earthquake Park, but we couldn't see much. Bob and I found a couple of geocaches and then we headed back to camp.

Bob and I wanted to get some walking in so we went back to Earthquake Park. Going off the path, I was able to get a good view of Anchorage across the bay. The weather was still cloudy and there was a misty rain.

 As we were walking the Coastal Trail, seaplanes were continuously taking off from Lake Hood.
 The next day we went with Connie and Larry to visit the Transportation Museum at the airport. We were able to watch the planes take off and land on Lake Hood.
Thursday, we wanted to check out Independence Mine. It is north of Wasilla. Larry drove his jeep. He would have liked to drive Hatcher Pass Road, but the road wouldn't open until July. As you can see, the weather once again was a factor in what we could see and do.
When we got to Independence Mine, it was closed. You could do a self-tour, but the weather said no. It was 41 degrees and raining! We could see the mine buildings in the distance. The only way to get to them was to walk as the gate was closed and locked. We ate our picnic lunches in the car before returning to camp.

Friday we decided to take a train ride on the Alaskan Railroad. We drove to Portage to catch the train and rode to Spencer Whistle Stop. This is the only way to tour Spencer Glacier.By that, I mean you can only get to the trail head by train!
 Our tour guide was a ranger from Chugach National Forest--Kathleen. One of our first stops was the new bridge which crossed the river and went to a glacier overlook--that trail was 6 miles!
 Once we reached the Spencer Glacier, we saw the rafting group that rode the train with us. They were maneuvering in and out of the icebergs.
  The glacier was a gorgeous blue! Pictures don't do it justice.
 Connie and I ventured down to the lake to catch a piece of glacial ice. It was very cold--the lake and the ice!
 On a ridge overlooking the glacier I spotted a newly built cabin. It is for use by hikers and reservations can be made through Chugach National Forest.
 Before we returned to Spencer Whistle Stop, Bob and I found a few geocaches.
Saturday we went to the market downtown. We enjoyed walking around people watching and sampling the local treats.
 Sunday was a day to go hiking, the weather was beautiful.We chose Thunder Bird Falls in Eagle River as our first hike. There were a lot of families hiking since it was Sunday. We got to the overlook and saw the falls from a distance.

 Connie, Bob and I decided to take Creek Trail to get to the bottom of the falls.
 It was worth the short downhill hike.
 We were able to walk around the rocks and get close the falls.
 Next we went to Eagle River Nature Center. It was a state park and because it was Sunday, parking was at a premium. We finally found spaces to park and went in to the visitor center.
 There was a short interpretive hike behind the center (as well as a really long hike to a mountain pass). We enjoyed the hike and seeing all the wildflowers in the area.
 Of course, when there are other Boomers in the area, it is time for a Boomerang! We met at Applebee's and enjoyed an evening of fun and exchanging travel stories.
 Since it was still light when we left, we drove to Ship Creek to check on the Slammin' Salmon Derby. We saw a lot of fishermen trying to snag salmon in the mouth.  Most of the fish we saw were snagged in the gills or back and had to be released.
 We finally saw this angler pull in a beauty! This salmon weighed in at just under 20 pounds.
We enjoyed our time in Anchorage, but it was time to move on--next stop Williwaw Campground in Chugach National Forest!