Friday, August 16, 2013

Day 5, Seward

Seward weather: 65 high, 51 low, partly cloudy in the morning and clear as a bell in the afternoon
Steps walked: Shaun - 14,018 steps, 34 floors climbed; Shannon - 13,552 steps, 38 floors climbed
Critter count: 2 ducks, 1 magpie.  We aren't counting the critters we saw at the SeaLife Center, so it was a pretty lean day for critters.  A moose did run through the yard at the B&B, but we missed it!

The morning started out much the way it did yesterday, with breakfast and chatting with Sharon and Blanche, Sharon's mother, at the Grouchy Old Woman B&B. When we left for the day, we continued further north of Kenai and walked along the beach at the Captain Cook State Park. The beach is known for having agates, though we didn't know what agates looked like to try to find some. We did find some rocks with gold in them (more likely pyrite, though a girl can dream!). We were just glad for the insect repellent we bought at the botanical garden because the mosquitos were out in force.

On the way to Seward, we did a couple of chores (including buying boxes for all the crap we have to ship home before we give up the rental car tomorrow). After that, it was a two-hour drive east and then south along the center of the Kenai Peninsula to the very bottom, where the road dead ended at Resurrection Bay. Of course, we stopped for photo ops along the way. It's amazing how different the scenery was compared to yesterday's drive along the coast. Today, there were mountain valleys, rivers, crystal-clear lakes, and a blue, blue sky over the top of it all. 

We got into town around 3:15 and were concerned that we wouldn't have time to visit the Alaska SeaLife Center, our top priority for the day. However, they stayed open until 9pm, so we were able to backtrack a bit and visit an excellent potter in her studio in the boonies outside of Seward, who we had read about in the Milepost (an excellent resource provided by Carl and Debbie). We did some serious damage there, then left and ate lunch at a restaurant near the marina. Shaun is being very adventurous with her food choices this trip. First it was salmon cakes, then reindeer sausage on pizza, and yesterday it was elk meatloaf, and today rockfish in her seafood fettuccini (of course, there was also scallops, shrimp, and crab in there too, so she couldn't tell the difference). We're so proud of her! 

We still had some time, so we walked around the town, stopping in a quilt shop, where Shaun bought enough fabric and patterns to keep herself busy for several years. One pattern features fabric with fireweed blossoms on it, which should be beautiful when finished and will always remind us of Alaska. After leaving the quilt place, we visited the waterfront and got some great shots of the bay and surrounding mountains. Seward is also known for its murals (12 in all), so we got some pictures of our favorites, including one that shows humpbacks bubble-netting (we're sending our request out to the cosmos right now: we want to see humpbacks bubble-netting on our cruise!).

(doesn't she look like the alien from Independence Day?)

We finally finished putzing around the town and ended our time in Seward by visiting the SeaLife Center. Built with funds from the Exxon-Valdez oil spill settlement, the center features exhibits about the marine wildlife in Alaska, as well as many live animals. Our favorites were the baby sea lion that was only 2 months old, the Giant Pacific octopus, who had laid her eggs in March of 2012 and they were just hatching this summer, and the estuary where there were several different kinds of puffin for Shaun's viewing/photographing pleasure. There was also a beautiful view of Resurrection Bay from the center with signage that showed what Seward and the bay looked like before the Good Friday Earthquake of 1964.  It was crazy!  We're getting mixed up on specifics of the devastation at the various locations, but it sent a lot of the area into the ocean.  It measured over 9 on the Richter scale and went on for 5 minutes!  Insane.

A word of may be picking up on the different voices coming to you from this blog.  Shaun started out being the primary writer, but we found that it was more efficient to have Shannon write the blog in the car when we were returning from whatever location we had visited that day (I am the super awesomest writer anyway! - Shannon). It is still a collaborative process, but we apologize for any confusion this might cause. You'll just have to get used to the hassling that comes from the different perspectives.

Our final destination was 8 miles outside of Seward at the amazing Exit Glacier.  This was our first up close encounter with a glacier, so it made quite an impact on us.  We were driving towards it, and I was listening to Shannon describe the facilities and all that, and all of a sudden I looked up and holy crap....there was a glacier!  Right there across the river coming down the side of the dang mountain!!!  Luckily there was no one on the road because I hauled ass to the other side and jumped out of the car, almost before it stopped moving.  From there it just got better because we were able to hike a mile up the mountain and get really close to it....even though we found out after we got down that we could have actually gotten to the terminus of it and touched it(!) but we didn't realize it.  We were bummed out about that, but still...we were within 10 feet of a big honkin' glacier, man!  It was SO COOL!

(notice the small people on the right-hand side? No? See below, then look back. That's how massive this thing is!)

Exit Glacier is 3 miles long but has been quickly receding (as have almost all glaciers in Alaska).  There was signage going up the road that showed where the glacier had been during different points in history.  It was crazy to actually see the effects of global warming at work.

One interesting fact to note about glaciers is that the water is really, really blue.  This is caused by the ice being compressed so tightly that it only reflects the blue part of the spectrum of light.  Now you can go and entertain your friends and family with that fun little fact.  Check it out in the pictures was fascinating.  We also saw this phenomenon when we were flying in Denali Park.

A couple of other things to mention since I've got you captive....we're finding a large preponderance of folks from Michigan here.  One of the things that happens more often than not is that people ask where you're from when you're chatting, and there have been a lot of people from Michigan.  Weird huh?  We were actually stopped in the middle of the road (have you noticed that I do that a lot?), and we were taking a picture of the fireweed on one side and a beautiful mountain on the other.  A woman came running by and asked what I'd found and I just said it was a mountain but it was really cool for a person from Michigan, and she said that she was from Port Huron!  Isn't that crazy?  I can understand it though.  I could live here in a heartbeat.

Another interesting thing here is that there are tiny little espresso stands at every street corner.  These folks like their espresso, I guess, because they're everywhere!

Ok, with that I'll wrap up this post because we're on our way back to Anchorage this morning.  We'll each be shipping a box home since we will be losing our car today, so we have to skinny down quite a bit.  We've done all the shopping we're going to allow ourselves....yeah right!

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