Day 21-22 Alaska Roadtrip…Seward and Kenai Fjord National Park

After our day trip to Barrow, Alaska we stayed in a hotel in Anchorage.  Our first “real” bed in 3 weeks.  We slept late and then used the hotel’s facilities to catch up on our laundry.  It would be our last laundry stop of the trip so we made sure that everything that needed to washed was washed.  The laundry was inexpensive as well, 1 dollar for washers and 25 cents for dryers.

There was no rain in Anchorage, but the forecast for the Kenai Peninsula was overcast with rain showers.  We headed south out of Anchorage and decided to stop at the tidal flats.  The tide was out, but a lady at the viewpoint said that if we waited about 20 minutes, we could watch the tide come in. We passed the time by reading about the 1964 earthquake and Portage Pass.

This part of Alaska has a very high tide change.  Today it would only be 3-4 feet, which was small.  We thought that sounded pretty big.  She said that there would be surfers riding the Bore Tide.

Depending on the conditions, they can ride the incoming tide for several miles.  It was very cool!!!  We had no set plans for the day, we just had to be in Seward by the next morning.  We stopped at the Kenai Peninsula Visitor’s Center to gather some ideas.  The gentleman suggested that we make a side trip to Whittier.

We stopped at the Begich, Boggs Visitor Center where we learned that the Chugach National Forest is the second largest in the United States, also the most northern and westerly forest.  Jerie also used the wall map to point out where she spent her summer, as well as a photo-op with Smokey the Bear.

We decided to take the boat tour to see Portage Glacier.  The lake was formed in 1914 by glacial retreat.  It is 600 feet deep.  There was a forest ranger on board, who gave us information about glaciers. She was from New Mexico.  The other worker only lives 30 miles from where we live and had been working for the summer on the Portage Glacier boats.

Portage Glacier is 600 feet wide and 4 1/2 miles long.  It moves 1 foot per day, creating small icebergs in the lake.  The general rule of glacial ice is it takes 10 feet of snow, 10 years to form 1 foot of ice. Even though the boat wasn’t going very fast, it got really cold!!

The only way to get to Whittier is through the Anton Anderson Tunnel.  It costs $13.00 to drive to Whittier, but there is no toll coming back.  It is the world’s longest highway tunnel at 2.5 miles in length.  It is one lane and you can only drive through the tunnel once every hour on the half hour going and on the hour coming back from Whittier.  This schedule can be disrupted as the tunnel is shared by trains. We paid our toll and were assigned a lane.

You drive on the railroad tracks, how cool is that.

The weather in Whittier was rainy with low clouds.  That had seemed to be our luck the last week.  If we couldn’t see the scenery then we could explore.  We found the old Buckner Building.  This was original constructed by the US military in 1953 and at the time was one of the largest buildings in Alaska.  It was shut down in 1966.

There was the monument to the railroad and the Whittier Cutoff.

And there were boats, lots and lots of boats…in the water and parked in a large overflow area.

Since the weather was getting worse we decided to head back to the tunnel.  As we drove by the harbor the ice cream shop was calling our name.  The clerk was kind enough to show us a picture of what Whittier looks like on a clear day, yes it is beautiful.  He said it is a rare event to have a perfectly clear day in Whittier.  It is used as a port for Anchorage as it is deep and ice free.

Back at the tunnel waiting area, we had the excitement of watching a train exit the tunnel

Our back trip through the tunnel was just as exciting.

We stopped at parking area to admire the nearby glacier but also watched the spawning salmon.

We entered the Kenai Peninsula

The scenery was beautiful all the way into Seward.

We found a community campground right on the water’s edge that was only $10 for the night.  It began to rain, so we fixed Macaroni and Cheese and headed to bed. The next morning, we went to the grocery store to restock our supplies.  We had a tour scheduled to see the glaciers in Kenai Fjord National Park.  Most can only be seen by water.

You park at an off-site lot, then take a shuttle bus to the boat office.  It wasn’t raining but the low clouds made for an interesting scene in the Port of Seward, as well as a majestic bald eagle at the end of the pier.

We were able to see the campground we stayed at the night before.  Being September it wasn’t full, but could see how you might not get a spot in the summer.  We sailed through Resurrection Bay, which is 16 miles long and up to 1000 feet deep.

Since our tour started at 11am, we were given lunch just as we left.  The captain pointed out Beard Glacier.  It is 1 mile wide and 22 miles long.

The boat drove close to interesting formations.

A place called the Spires.

The boat proceeded to Aialik Glacier, which comes off the Harding Icefield.

We had several small calvings and slides.  The popping, cracking, and crashing of the glacier was awesome to listen to.

There was lots of ice floating around the boat.  You could hear it hit the sides.  The crew netted several pieces so that you could look at it up close.

The tour stopped at Mystic Falls.  It had started to rain, but the falls was still impressive.

We enjoyed the scenery before the rain came.

The captain announced that another boat had seen whales…by the time we got there is was POURING rain.  We still got to see the whales breach.

We noticed the staff was starting to put everything away.  They told us that we would be in 10-12 foot swells on the way back. He slowed down so we could see the seals on the rocks and the puffins in the water.

The ride back was abit rough.  We did not get sick, but most everyone else did.  We felt sorry for the crew as they were running around handing out bags and then pickup the full ones.  They told us that in March and April the waves can get 25-30 feet high and they run out of bags.  Jerie was so relaxed that she fell asleep.

The tour took us back to Seward and we headed back towards Anchorage.  We stopped at Exit Glacier, which is in Kenai Fjords National Park.  It is one of the few glaciers that you can drive to.

Exit Glacier is unique as it’s glacial recession has been well documented.  There are signs as you drive and then walk, that indicate where the glacier was in a given year.

The walk to the glacier was very nice and peaceful, with water and interesting landscape

The glacier has receded past the walking path.  There are times that you can walk up the outlet to the glacier base, but there was too  much water flowing.

Even with a light drizzle, we had a great view…

Our time in the Kenai Peninsula had come to an end.  We would spend the evening driving back to Anchorage and stay the night in a Walmart parking lot near Wasilla.  It would have been nice if the weather had cooperated, but we were getting used to rain.

Categories: adventure, Alaska, fun

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