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Alaska, the final portion – August, 2012

Saturday, January 20th, 2018 by

Winter continues. Levi has been sick for the last several days, which, well, winter, I guess? Oh well. Anyway! Where were we? We’d gotten to Alaska, gone on a spectacular kayak camping trip for a few days, and have now found ourselves back in Seward…

We took a train with windows!

After a nice, non-tent based, night of sleep, we got up and slowly headed downstairs to avail ourselves of the crepes for which the inn was known. One at a time, along with stories of the prior SCUBA-diving career of the innkeeper, they were dished out. They may have been slow, but they were certainly filling and delicious. Random Belgian innkeeper in Alaska, thank you! From there, we got a taxi to pick us (Me, Jenny, Amittai and Nathan) to drive us up the road to Exit Glacier, which is, well, a glacier right up the road, in the valley above the inn. After a kind of hilarious ride, discussing fishing in which he started pulling out random booklets and pamphlets from the glove compartment discussing how many fish of each type had been caught the prior year, we were at the glacier visitor center. We arranged with the cab driver to pick us up at a certain time, an then headed off to see what we could see.

Mmmmm, crepes

The first thing we could see was a big rock in front that demanded we run up it. It took a few tries, but people made it. The trick was to just keep going. Because stopping, obviously was failure…but so was doubting yourself. No way. From there, we ducked into the visitor center and checked it out, then, well, headed up. It was an absolutely spectacular day out – warm, clear, few clouds, just amazing. We were informed that this was probably one of the few best weather days of the year – a good candidate to head all the way to the top of the valley, to check out the Harding Icefield. I also greatly enjoyed the warning signs they had on site to let us know about appropriate behaviors around moose and grizzly bears.

Demonstrating the proper technique

Nathan enjoying his success (…don’t mind the camera clip there…)

Proper way to enjoy moose

From there, we headed up the first piece of trail, to a vantage point that gets you a good view of the side of the glacier. That is…one big wall of ice. There is a lot of glacial polish you pass on the way there, an awesome view of the glacial delta, the sound of the rushing melting water, the cold air blowing off of the glacier, and some picking of trail across open rocks. Looking at people next to the big wall of ice, even if this glacier is melting, even if it is a “smaller” one, well, the people still just seem so remarkably small. It’s awesome, in at least two senses of the word.

People next to the glacier (I’m the orange dot)

Look! An alluvial fan at the base of the glacier!

From there, we backtracked a bit, then continued up the trail, heading up the valley. The plants were really spectacular and lush. It starts with a bit through the trees, then, well, not trees, and opens up into meadows, sometimes with some great views of the glacier , and many views down. The day remained, well, perfect – if anything, almost a hair too hot. The trail definitely had some real climbing, but hey, that’s how you get those views, right? Right? Yes, actually 🙂 We finally got to a point that was a great big rock overlook of the glacier. We really enjoyed sitting there for a while, just enjoying the sun, and not having to keep climbing for a while. We looked over at the glacier at one point, and suddenly realized that some little specks we were seeing on the surface were people going for a walk on the glacier. Whoa. The difference in scale was notable – it took us a serious moment to realize they were people!

annabarr: Alaska - Kenai Fjords NPS - July 2012 &emdash; exit-glacier-top
The top of Exit Glacier set against some truly lush greenery

Lazing in the sun

See the people on the glacier?

How about now?

Beth and Alex showed up around this point (entirely independently) and were also suitably impressed to see the crew of people out on the glacier – so psyched that they actually ended up making plans to do it themselves the next day. After talking with them for a bit, we realized we would have to hoof it back down the hill to meet up with our scheduled cab (which…in retrospect, sadness), and Beth and Alex continued on up. They *did* make it up to the top where you can see the whole icefield, and said it was pretty cool. Alas. But…that’s life.

Beth and Alex arrive

Absolutely wrong depth of field creating a terrible photo of amittai, but nice view nonetheless imho

But instead, we headed back down, and had the taxi take us back into Seward itself, where we spent some time walking along the shoreline, still quite simply appreciating the fabulously beautiful day, though it was certainly cooling off. We headed into the “downtown” (haha) and checked out the Sealife center for its hours (finding that it was going to close soon, possibly obviating the reason we had come down earlier, alas) and instead just headed for a quick beer and hanging out. From there, we got another cab back to the Barn Appetit, and just relaxed for the evening.

Welcome to Seward

The scenery just *never stops*. Walking along Resurrection Bay.

The next day, I headed over to the SeaLife Center with Jenny and Nathan, where we saw starfish, puffins, seals, children, and Jenny pretending to eat fake fish for us. Fish are friends *and* food. The puffins were awesome, and watching a kid play with the seal through the glass was actually pretty neat. He would toss a ball up in the air, and the seal would “follow” it up and down. Overall, they had some excellent exhibits, and I would highly recommend it as a place to visit for anyone.


Jenny communing with a fish fish

From there we walked around town a bit, sent off some postcards (or at least got some stamps), and then stopped in for a nice cup of coffee and some relaxed reading. Somehow, I don’t recall at all how we dealt with our luggage (held at train station? someone else picked it up? We went back to get it? Unsure!) but after the coffee shop, we got a ride over to the train station, and set off on the train back to Juneau. We bought the tickets for the car with the glass top, to better really appreciate all the views. It was kind of ridiculous, but also honestly really truly awesome. The train is clearly meant for tourists, as it went sooooo slloooooowwwwwly. Didn’t see that much wildlife, but the scenery in general was spectacular, as it had been all week. The ride took notably longer than a car ride would have been, but far less cramped. Glasser alerted me to the fact that one of the men on the train was wearing a MetaCarta (!!) jacket, and it turns out that he had been one of their Texas based salesmen, which was kind of a hilarious piece of serendipity.

Very civilized coffee and reading break

Jenny is basically as tall as Kazakhstan


Beth and Alex had made it back to the train with sheerly minutes to spare, as they had actually gone out on the glacier walk, which sounded really truly amazing, but also cut it –><-- close. Whew. But they made it in the end...yay.

annabarr: Alaska - Kenai Fjords NPS - July 2012 &emdash; open-ceiling
The viewing car was awesome

I mean, look! Awesome!

Hi Dave and Iris!

Hi Beth and Alex!

Once we got back to Juneau, we took a cab to the airport, and proceeded to simply wait for our flights to leave. It felt rather odd to be back in such a “modern” facility after being in such a place for a week. I realize and appreciate that my ability to go and enjoy this trip with basically no worries is dependent on all those amenities, but it was still just a bit jarring. Sitting there at the airport, notably, waiting for our late night flight was the first time we saw it get full dark all week…perhaps a fitting close to a most fabulous trip.

The train views were ridiculous

Looking back from the viewing area

and pulling into Anchorage

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