Next destination is Seward and we have one of the few advanced reservations due to the 4th of July holiday weekend. Seward has the biggest blowout celebration in the state and we wanted to be prepared. Fortunately we stayed a ways outside the city to avoid the crowds, and had the most beautiful commute into town.
We last left you in Talkeetna where we were dazzled by Denali. Well, driving to the Kenai Peninsula is equally stunning. At least on a clear day. We had rain and clouds, but the mountains in the mist were pretty nice, too. For our driving day, we did see one moose off the road, or perhaps moose backside is a better description.
Also had a chance to note the prospering businesses along the way. Drive-through coffee/espresso shops seem to be hugely popular, followed by gas/convenience stores and then hardware stores. Campground, B&Bs, lodges, and restaurants seem to make it with varying success. Lots of big closed signs and places that just never opened for the season. We’ve pulled into several places to find the place not only closed, but seemingly abandoned.
The drive took us through Anchorage and the most populated place we’ll see in Alaska. No one seems to like camping there, though, so we keep on going. Our overnight was at Williwaw National Forest Campground. It’s first come, first served, so we made an online reservation to be safe. No need, but we ended up with the prime view. Misty mountains with a glacier just out of sight.
This place was so pretty and is in the perfect spot for us to explore a few other places on our return. We’ll stay here again and enjoy the solitude. This is my Christmas tree spot. I see them everywhere!
Renfro’s Lakeside Retreat
Our Seward home base is at Renfro’s and about 19 miles outside of Seward. Gorgeous drive, so we don’t mind a bit. First order of business is to drive to town to pick up our month’s worth of mail. I joke that maybe there will be a check in it. Pat poo-poo’s that notion. And guess what? There’s a check in it! Usually is it totally junk, even after a month of accumulation. We don’t miss mail everyday at all and once a month seems to be just enough.
The lake is just a short walk from our campsite and we do it everyday. Jackson, the creature of habit, makes a routine wherever he can. We must go to the lake, take a drink, then wander back through the woods.
The surrounding state parks are great for more hiking with Jax and seeing the lovely woods. The surrounding glacier-fed rivers all have the emerald green water rushing by. Other pictures are of Kenai Lake, interesting growth on the tree and Alaska’s state flower – the Forget-Me-Not. These flowers are so delicate and about the size of your pinky fingernail. I was delighted to find them in a shady spot near Ptarmigan Creek.
Seward is surrounded by glaciers in the Kenai Fjords National Park, and the easy one to see up close and personal is Exit Glacier. After wearing Jackson out on the trails, we set off to get our National Park stamp and view the glacier.
The park entrance sign with a glimpse of the top of Exit Glacier. It only gets better from here.
The roadside distance shot from outside the park to give you some perspective.
Hiking the trail, a few blue ice shots and us posing.
And the turnaround shot to see how far we’ve come. The size of the ice is intimidating.
So we were bad tourists and walked right on by the “trail closed” sign promising fines and potential death from falls. But Mom, everyone was doing it! We got a tongue lashing from one of the rangers on our descent and we decided no response was the best one. At least we didn’t get under the tons of ice hanging there like the guy who took our picture. See him under there?
Daddy took me for horseback riding lessons as a kid and ever since, I’ve enjoyed a good horseback outing now and then. Pat and I even went on a trail ride on our honeymoon. Pat’s horse was most uncooperative and he’s sworn off horses ever since. That’s why I go solo. This jaunt was with Bardy’s Trail Rides in Seward and they were picked as one of the top 10 rides in the country. An aspen, birch and poplar forest, multiple stream crossings, and then the clearing at Resurrection Bay. I gasped when we came out into the clearing on the Bay. Mountains meet wildflower covered clearing. And every stump and piece of driftwood was occupied by an eagle, or so it seemed. Spectacular.
Me and my naughty horse Sequoia, who I think purposely tried to rub me off on all the bushes along the way. Wanted to be lead horse and didn’t like taking direction.
The mountains, the mist, the cruise ship, the bay, the driftwood. Just so picturesque.
Sequoia eating all he can of the blooming pea plants at the bay.
My trail guide and her spunky little dog who herded us the whole way….
And a few shots credited to Breanna, our guide, since I was hanging onto Sequoia for dear life….
Crossing one of the many streams, wild irises, and the majestic bald eagle.
And I’m looking fondly at Mr. Big, right up until he swooped down into the stream and snatched up a baby duck.
Kenai Fjords Cruise
We thought we’d go on a Friday, but when we arrived, were told that the seas were rough and the captain could opt to shorten the trip. I was bound and determined to see the Chiswell Islands out in open water, so we postponed until the next day. Sounds like a good thing, since all the kids camping next to us could talk about was how many times they threw up. That’s probably the thing they’ll be talking about for years to come.
Holgate glacier from a distance and up close. Notice the boat for scale.
Toothy chunks of ice at the top of the glacier. And that big crack in the ice? That whole piece calved off as we watched. Sounded like a crack of thunder. Impressive.
We saw quite a bit of wildlife – sea lions, sea otters, whales, porpoises and my favorite – puffins! Pat remarked that they seem to really work at that flying thing. The gulls are gliding around effortlessly and the poor puffins are flapping like mad.
I swear that fatty sea lion scaled a sheer wall right before our eyes. Look close at the sea lion pile and I think one is cheesing for me. And puffins! They look like penguins wearing fake beaks.
Some Chiswell Island views. Love the chunky rock islands in the water.
My sailboat montage.
A few more cruise favorites. Loved this ride. It was rough in the open ocean, but I stood outside holding on to a rail loving the waves. Misty, rainy, and beautiful.
So our campground owner comes around one afternoon to show us pictures of a grizzly turning over trash cans and walking right beside our motorhome. One of the hosts took the shots and apparently was yelling at the bear to scare him away. Turns out we’re inside the motorhome the whole time oblivious to the unfolding drama. We’re disappointed, because we would have loved to see a grizzly from the safety of Lucy.
The pic from the campground host’s cell phone. We’re right inside!
Time for Jackson’s evening walk and we go down to the lake as is his custom. He doesn’t want a drink and in fact, wants to go right back – no meandering. As we get about halfway back in the woods, Pat says “there he is”. He also puts a firm hand on my shoulder since he must have known my “oh my God, let’s run” instinct would kick in. The juvenile grizzly, about 300 pounds-ish, is watching us and likely has been well before we saw him. We try to act natural and keep strolling and he finally bounds away in the opposite direction. So NOW we’ve seen the bear and don’t care to see one that close again. Scary. Jackson never made a sound so either he didn’t see the bear or he knew the score.
I know this is getting long, but just one more thing. We have discovered that Pat looooooves fudge. A very close second to ice cream it seems. We made two different stops at the Moose Drop-In, located in Moose Pass, for fudge purchases. Also saw Morris the talking moose. They even have “bear scat” fudge here. Has a few chunks in it as you might imagine.
I’ll leave you with two more pics – favorites I couldn’t leave out.
The lupines are in full bloom and this patch was in front of the Bear Pass fire station.
Through the looking glass…..
Next stop – Soldotna. See you on the way!