So, on to Seward! Pronounced 'Suword' and named, of course, for William H. Seward, who engineered the Alaska Purchase from the Russians against heavy opposition. Some called it 'Seward's Folly', 'Seward's Icebox' and 'Polar Bear Garden' but he did it
anyway. He was an early advocate of education for women, bilingual education for immigrants, abolishment of slavery ... he didn't wait around for people to agree with him. Oh, yes, he also bought us the Virgin Islands, but nobody disagreed with that! Note: the Alaska State Library has a wonderful collection of documents on the
Alaska Purchase Centennial, showing the signing of the Alaska Purchase Treaty, an early Russian map, an early American map and much more.
The town of Seward is strangely appropriate for a man who did so much good without taking a lot of credit. It quietly accomodates hundreds of motorhomes, anticipating the need for driving, parking, camping, showers, shopping, repairs, directions, restaurants, coffee, fishing and more. Combined this with the residents good humor and patience, and we vote Seward the most tourist-friendly town we visited.
We were a little nervous driving a 27-foot vehicle in city traffic, but we came upon a Safeway on the right-hand side and easily found a spot at the edge of the parking lot. After stocking up, we got back on the Seward Highway, which turns into 3rd Street, and carefully made our way down through town to the city's waterfront rv park. The host had one spot left and, after paying for 2 nights, we marked our spot with lawn chairs, and set out for the laundromat we were told about. Now we could see why people tow a car behind motorhomes. It's a pain finding a jumbo parking space in most towns. We found the laundromat in a rambling old building a couple blocks away and, again, found parking. Everything was working and we got all our laundry caught up in good time. They even had hot showers while we waited on the dryers.
We went back to our camping spot clean, laundered and stocked up. We could turn our attention to enjoying the sights from Waterfront Park in Seward right on Resurrection Bay.
The bay was named by Alexandr Baranov, who waited out a storm here one Easter in 1792. Baranov was the key Russian explorer, fur company manager, governor we remembered from James Michener's 'Alaska'.
The Seward Municipal Boat Harbor was easy to find (because we could see it from our campsite). We got there early and
had designer coffees (many tourist businesses have added espresso bars) and wandered Seward boat harbor and slips.
The harbor contained the most interesting mix of working, fishing and pleasure boats and we took a lot of pictures. We still haven't figured out what a couple of the boats do.
We boarded the Kenai Fjords Tour's 95-foot, 150-passenger motoryacht, 'Alaskan Explorer', and cruised down Resurrection Bay. We watched south Seward, Mount Marathon, Lowell Point go by as we headed for the Gulf of Alaska. We were on the Alaska Marine Highway and didn't know it and, after we left the bay, we turned off to the right and the wonders of the Kenai Fjords!
Thankfully, it was reasonably calm, but we were glad to duck into the fjords. The Gulf of Alaska is notorious for sudden weather changes and we felt much safer surrounded by land.
The sea birds were the first animals we met. Gabi loves puffins, which were sprinkled amoung the gulls, guillimots, murres,
auklets and other species were busily diving for food to take back to their nests, nearby. We ran from side to side trying to see some 'Parakeet Auklets' which we never saw and now assumed it was a form of Alaskan 'snipe hunt'.
Note: we found some great pictures of birds we didn't get to see close up on the
Cornell Lab of Ornithology site.
Next, we saw porpoises, seals and sea lions and marine mammal superstars, killer whales and humpback
whales. One humpback mother surfaced and just sat looking at us for 5 solid minutes.
The orcas were too busy feeding to pose for us. We ran from one side to the other to get a closeup, but no luck.
Soon we came in sight of our first glacier and the wildlife became scarcer. There's cold water and then there's glacier water and the animals thin out as you get closer.
Chunks of ice started appear in the water, more and bigger as we approached. What seemed to be a row boat next to the wall of ice turned out to be a boat the size of ours.
It was very quiet in the fjord, with muffled groans and cracks coming from the glacier now and then. Slabs of ice (calves) would fall away, sending waves rippling across the fjord.
It was time to leave the fjords and go back into the Gulf of Alaska to get back to Seward. On the way we would stop for dinner.
As we started back, we came upon this couple fishing and the 'captain' held up his prize. This is what a Coho salmon looks like before it enters fresh water.
The Kenai Fjords Tour company owns Fox Island, a forested paradise at the mouth of Resurrection Bay (where Seward is). They offer a salmon bake dinner with some of their tour packages, like ours. After dinner we go back to Seward... and bed!
Sightseeing in and around Seward
Seward is a charming little fishing town right on Resurrection Bay and we had a wonderful time there. Some of the things we did not have time for:
Alaska Sea Life Center is an aquarium and research center that allows you to see the birds and sea creatures (up close) that you saw from a distance on your fjord cruise. You can zero in on sleepy sea lions on Chriswell Island using remote control cameras at the center. Admission for adults is $15 and various prices for kids depending on age. Call for 800-224-2525 additional information.
Hiking Mount Marathon Trail - the trail made famous by the annual race to the top is right up a 3,000 foot mountain. It will take you an hour or quite possibly all day depending on you ability. Joe went to Safeway and bought a T shirt that claimed he participated in the race instead.
Sea kayaking out of Miller's Landing at Lowell Point. You can get lessons and rent gear for a once in a lifetime experience. They are also set up for the experienced kayaker who just needs to rent the equipment. I am sorry we did not have time to take a guided kayaking tour through Sunny Cove Sea Kayaking 800-770-9119. I understand some of them even go over to Fox Island for that delicious salmon bake.
Sled-dog mushing out near Exit Glacier at IdidaRide 800-478-3139. In the summer the sleds have wheels and utilize the full compliment of 12 sled dogs to take you for a ride. JJ really wanted to do this because the brochure promised you could cuddle husky puppies.
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