Friday, June 20, 2014

Seward and Kenai Fjords Whale Watching

    One of things I envy about Alaska is that all the suburbanites and rat race warriors in Anchorage are only a couple of hours away from some of the best activities and culture in their state.  Seward is one of those jewels located just 126 miles south of the BIG CITY.  It is a small community in the east central portion of the Kenai Peninsula located at the head of Resurrection Bay surrounded by towering peaks.  The drive over from Homer took much longer than anticipated as there were literally thousands of fisherman on the Kenai and Russian rivers as the King and Sockeye Salmon run was in full swing.  Needless to say the traffic was terrible and towing an RV down a highway littered with cars, trucks, and other RVs parked along (and sometimes not even much off) the side of the road was tiresome. 
     We were fortunate once again as we camped at the Seward Resort.  Only 2 miles north of town this is another of the DOD Recreation areas for active duty military as well as retired personnel and their families.  This is a relatively new facility with a main lodge area, some outlying cabins and yurts, and a very nice RV park.  We got a great RV site with electric, water, and free WiFi & cable TV, just a short walk from the showers and laundry for a very modest (under $26) price. 

      I should have titled this "Seward: The Most Beautiful Place in Alaska (Part 2).  This has been typical of the entire trip.  Once I think I have found the most beautiful place I have ever seen, WHOOPS.......I travel somewhere new.  We spent our first day just kicking around the village.  It is a unique Alaskan village; beautiful setting, lots of shops, fishing charters, tour boats, art galleries, the Alaskan Sealife Center, and places to grab a bite.  This is also a deep water port so the addition of a Royal Caribbean Cruise liner added to the crowds descending on the village in preparation for 'merchant madness'.  Additionally, we visited the Seavey Family Sled Dog HQ.  This is a very famous Iditarod racing family that offers dog training and sled 'Iditarides' off season.  Barb was impressed with the wood carving out front, but had no idea how she was going to get it home. 

      We stopped in at the Marina Restaurant for some lunch and I once again had to go with the Rockfish Platter, although the fish I had in Homer at the Double Dipper Chipper was better.   Barb attacked her usual Monster Killer Cheeseburger.  It is important to note that any lunch around $20 is a decent price in Alaska.  They are famous for their big $7 breakfast specials as well.  A nice stop in before a day cruise on the water. 
     Day #2 was a short drive out of town to check out the Exit Glacier.  It is only a couple miles back up the Seward Highway and then a 9 mile drive to the west along the glacial carved valley within the borders of Kenai Fjords National Park.  The glacier stems from the Harding Ice field within the park.  This ice field spawns nearly a dozen other glaciers radiating outward.

     There are several trails you can take to see the glacier.  We chose the closer one and it was mostly uphill, traveling through several rocky glacial carved edges with lots of loose shale and did it's best to do me in, nearly succeeding.  Barb, of course, stayed well ahead of me.  You arrive within 20 yards of the edge of the glacier, only then realizing just how staggeringly enormous this mass is.  This close you can hear the water running underneath it and the ice actually makes a crackling noise.  When the breeze is still it is eerily ominous. 
     On our return to camp I took advantage of a short Ibuprofen Nap and then topped it off with a cold Alaskan Amber before getting to the task of Prosciutto Penne for dinner. 
     Our last day in Seward we embarked on an adventure in search of wildlife, most notably whales.  We booked our tour through Major Marine Tours (  They provide a very good, reasonably priced tour with a Kenai Fjord National Park Guide on board that narrates the entire tour, as well as answering any and all questions.  It was a nearly balmy 68 degrees with little wind on our trip.  We toured the entire length of Resurrection Bay, seeing......well, here we go: 
Sea otters are everywhere in Alaska.  These followed us out of the harbor.
A lone Mountain Goat resting on a ledge near the bay. 
We saw several glaciers today, but Thumb Bay was the most beautiful.
A pod of local Orcas swimming in Resurrection Bay.
Although Sea Lions are thriving in SE Alaska, they are much more sparse here.  This group inhabits the rocky ledges near the mouth of Resurrection Bay.
And, of course the STAR of the show is the Humpback Whale.  Spending their winters in Hawaii mating and giving birth to calves, they journey back to Alaskan waters in the summer to leisurely feed. 
 We viewed two Humpback Whales today, both feeding with the 'Peck Slap' method of slamming their pectoral fins against the water in order to stun the krill for feeding. 
      Unfortunately, neither of our whales offered us a breach opportunity today, but after one surfacing and three blows we did get a tail lob.  Pictures DO NOT do this magnificent mammal justice.  I can't describe just how humble I felt watching these gentle beasts.  It was a perfect end to our stay in Seward.  A little fresh salt air, a little sun on our faces, and another opportunity to appreciate the beauty that can only be found in Alaska.  Next up for us is another port city of Whittier, Alaska.  We will trek the nautical miles in search of glacier calving.  This post made on our Verizon Hot Spot, even though the resort offered free WiFi. 

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