Organ Pipe National Park

Organ Pipe National Park

About Me

I purchased "Sadie''s House On Wheels "in late 2007 and loved traveling in a motor home so much that I went on the road full time in late 2008. I started writing this blog to help me remember all the wonder places I have been and it allows me to share those places with my family and friends. Summer of 2013 I decided to hang up the keys for a while and moved back into my stick house. After nearly two years, I am on the road again.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Seward, July 8-14

Thursday morning we left Portage Valley in the mists of clouds and rain for Seward which is about 60 miles south on the Seward Highway.  It rained the whole way so viability was really poor.  We will be traveling back up the Seward highway after exploring the Kenai Peninsula in a few weeks and hopefully will be able to see some of the sites that were clouded over.

Seward has a huge waterfront city campground which you can't miss.  We were able to get sites right on the water front with a beautiful view of the bay (when not fogged in) for $15.00 a day (dry camping).  There are hookups available but as one lady put it "someone has to die in order to get a water front site with hook ups".  Apparently she had been trying to get one of the premium sites for days without any luck.

Seward has a busy harbor with lots of restaurants and touristy places, but there is also an older section of town down a mile or so down the road with lots of small interesting shops and the Alaska Sea Life Center is close by.  Everything was within walking distance of our sites.

What a lot of people don't realize is that Seward was devastated by the 1964 Good Friday 9.1 earthquake which lasted over 4 minutes.  Anchorage was seriously effected but Seward not only had huge damages from the earth quake but a tsunami followed 30 foot waves.   Parts of the town dropped 7 feet and other parts of the beach front were washed away.  The railroad and docks were totally destroyed. The residents of Seward were tough. They rolled up their sleeves and town was well on its way to being rebuilt within the year. The first picture above shows some of the remnants of the old pier.

Friday  morning I woke up with something bright shinning in my eyes....the sun!  The views (now that I could see them were absolutely stunning.

Morning sunrise across the bay

This ended up being the perfect day to drive up to Exit Glacier,  part of the Kenai Fjords National Park.  Exit Glacier is the only part of the park that is accessible by car.  The rest of the park is accessible only by boat or plane.  The glacier is part of the huge Harding Ice field which encompasses a majority of the park that isn't water.

Exit glacier

The trail is very popular.  We just missed the tour bus.

The Resurrection River which flows out of the glacier

Since the sun was still shinning we back tracked a few miles up the Seward Highway taking pictures along the way of some of scenery we has missed due to the bad weather.

                                        Part of Kenai Lake

                                        Kenai Lake
After dinner, sitting on beach front property, I was treated to a great show by a bald eagle.  They are very plentiful around Seward.

Saturday morning was socked in. It was so socked in I couldn't see past the hood of the motor home.  This reminded me of summers in July in my home town of Pacific Grove. ... what we call pea soup, wet yucky fog.

   OK, maybe I exaggerated.  I could see the boats, but not the mountains.  

We walked down to the Alaska Sea Life Center, Alaska's only public aquarium.  The center was built in 1998 and partially funded by the Valdez Settlement.  The main emphasis of the center is Steller Sea Lion research. The Steller Sea Lion population has dwindled seriously, most likely due to the 3 degree increase of water temperature in the gulf of Alaska and predation of Orca on juvenile Sea Lions.

 The main attraction is Woody, a 1500 pound Steller Sea Lion.

 Researchers have also placed solar powered cameras on Channel Island to observe the Sea Lions.  Bulls can reach 2000 pounds.  Females breed within one week of giving birth but the egg doesn't start developing for three months and the gestation period is 9 months.  The female gives birth almost the same time every year.

The center also has a wonderful aviary with all different kinds of birds.
I'm not a "birder" but I think these are common murrs (sp?)

These are puffins.  They are so fat they can barely fly.  Its pretty comical to watch them take off.

                                        I don't know the name of this guy, but he loved to pose for me.

Sunday morning we headed over to the Bear Lake fish weir.  The Alaska Department of Agriculture is studying Silver Salmon.  Silver Salmon turn red and their fins green after about six weeks in fresh water. The salmon are trapped at the fish weir, tested, some eggs harvested, and then the healthy fish are released to go up stream to the lake to spawn.  Unhealthy ones are thrown back down stream for pray.  The biologist at the fish weir told us this has been the worst silver salmon run he has seen in his 12 years at the fish weir.

The salmon jump up through the falls and are trapped.
The Salmon are then transferred to a holding tank for testing.  That is one of the silvers in the net.

We took a short drive to the other side of the bay, and we finally found out what the white structure was that we could see. Hmm, has my name on it.

Seward from Nash Road

It was such a nice day we drove back over towards Lowell Point and the Cains Recreation Area and hiked to Tonsino Point.  The trail goes much farther but one of the bridges was out.  Also some of the trail is along the beach, and if timing isn't right the tide could come in and strand you on the other side.

Taken from Tonsino Point

You can see the bridge that washed out at the very far end
The sea gulls lined up on the mini spit/sand bar

Chocolate Lily

Iris were everywhere
The forest sustained damage due to the tidal wave from the 1964 earthquake.  The ground dropped and salt water intrusion caused damage to the root system so the trees are weak and dying.  Note the moss growing on the limbs.  Someone noted it looked like arm warmers or leggings.Its is really eerie walking through this forest.

Monday, Nancy and I headed out early to hike up to the Harding Ice Fields.  The trail head is near Exit Glacier.  We lucked out because the day was perfect.  This was an 8 mile hike with about 3200 foot elevation gain(felt more like 15 miles) with all kinds of scenery from rushing cascades to lush wild flowers to slushy ice.

Exit Glacier

Harding Ice Field at the top

Looking down at Exit Glacier.  It is an active glacier so there is no walking on it.  It could "calve" at anytime.

Trail up to the ice field

The ice field is at the very top and continues through the mountains.

Emergency shelter on the way to the ice field.

We were almost back to the trail head when we encountered a sleepy bear cub.  He decided it was nap time after munching on berries and plopped smack in the middle of the trail.

At one point he got up and moved a little farther down the trail to nap in the sun.

 After about 15 minutes of us yelling, clapping hands, whistling, he finally got up and sundered  down  off the trail.

 Where is the ranger when you need them? We also saw hoary marmot.  They look very different from the marmot I have seen in the Sierras and in Colorado.  At first I thought he was a rabbit, but he didn't have any ears.

There was an abundance of flowers in bloom.

Tuesday, we all were up and out of camp by 7:00 a.m. to catch a day cruise of the Kenai Fjords National Park.  The day was cloudy and drizzly (there is beginning to be a pattern here) and when we got to the check-in booth we were told there were some high seas and there was a chance the trip could be shortened in which case we would get a partial refund, or the route might be changed, or we could cancel and get our money back.  We all agreed to take our chances as this was going to be our last day in Seward.  We did have some high seas and fortunately none of us got sea sick although there were others on the boat not as fortunate, but for the most part it was a good day.  It rained a lot but we could still see the mountains, glaciers, and wild life.

Within the first few minutes we saw sea otters. We had previously been watching them from our water front campsite, but seeing them from the boat gave us a different perspective.

The black spot on the right side of the picture down towards the middle is the tail of a hump back whale that has just breached.

Steller Sea Lions. One of these locations has cameras that record the birthing of pups and other activities.  Its pretty amazing that these huge animals can get up on the rocks.

Pair of bald eagles

Pederson Glacier (it was really cloudy and misty so these are not under exposed pictures)

Aialik  Glacier.  It has just calved (broken off)

The ice makes a cackling sound in the water, much like an ice tray does when you take it out of the freezer.

Wow, was I envious.  I would have loved to have gone on a kayaking tour in the park

Looking back towards the Fjords of Kenai National Park

Water front campgrounds of Seward.  We are about 5th, 6th, 7th from the left.

There is a lot to see and do in Seward.  I've tried to summarize all of the things we did.  I'm sure there are things I have left the crazy 1 1/2 mile 4th of July run up Mt. Marathon (I walked part way up), or Ray's Restaurant which serves delicious cedar planked salmon.  Tomorrow we head back up the Seward Highway and catch the Sterling Highway towards Homer, which is about 180 miles.  I seriously doubt we will make it that far.

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