This ‘n That…………….Alaska #2-Kenai Pen.
It took me longer than expected to choose which (among several hundred) photos to include… but, here we go.
Saturday, August 1, the Klippels gave me a ride down to Enterprise Car Rental to pick up my chariot . If anyone offers to rent you a Toyota Yaris, or even give you a ride in one, turn around, put your hands in your pockets and walk away. I’m sure it was the quality of the ride and especially the seats that aggravated my back problems. In any case, I had shooting pains down my left leg while driving that went away when I got out of the car and did any walking.
The road from Anchorage down onto the Kenai Peninsula is called the Seward Highway. It winds along the Turnagain Arm starting near the Cook Inlet. It is a pleasant enough drive even though treacherous. In one week, 5 or 6 people were killed in two separate accidents. One of which held me up for three hours on the way back.
Several glaciers can be seen from the highway. This one, according to a pleasant lady at a roadside rest, is called the Enterprise Glacier. I was hoping to get a glimpse of the Portage Glacier, but the lady said it could not be seen from the highway. Later on, I found out that the road leading to Portage was closed. Bummer. I have a picture of Grams standing in front of that glacier wearing a swim suit. It is also the one we visited with Jake back in ??1996 or 7.
Seward Highway has many senic view pullouts along the way. I stopped at a few. This one is a short walk from the highway into the trees to a cliff looking down at Sixmile Creek. A few miles back I had noticed a group of folks obviously suiting up for a raft trip down this very stretch of water. Too bad the timing wasn’t better — that would have enhanced this picture.
A couple hours and some more minutes out of Anchorage and I made it to the Kenai Princess Lodge. I was supposed to call Geoff and let him know when I was near, but this sort of snuck up on me.
The following pictures were all taken from the vicinity of the lodge…
Some flower pot!!!
Yep… nice place. Having said that I must reveal that I spent the first two nights at a Bed-and-Breakfast down the road a couple miles. The lodge was booked solid then. But the B&B was pretty darn nice. So new, it even had the new upholstery (say paint) smell to it.
Our first trip, the next day, was a drive down to Seward and a hike up to the side of Exit Glacier.
This picture was taken from a point near the beginning of the 2.2 mile, one-way, trail. I started off wrong and in less than 1/2 mile was blowing harder than a race horse after ten-furlongs. I did back way off on the energy rate and eventually got enough oxygen back in my system so that I could walk and talk at the same time.
It was a good lesson, however. One I was going to remember the next day.
According to an information placard posted down the hill from here, you could actually reach out and touch the ice some ten years or so ago. I think that’s how long ago. Today, this view point is a couple hundred yards away from the side.
Try as I might, I can’t seem to correlate this view point with the picture of the Glacier from a distance.
Lesson #2: The hike back down the trail to the parking lot reminded me that I was not wearing properly fitted shoes. The path is steep and my great-toe nails were jamming into the front of the shoes. I thought I had done a good job of trimming the nails before the trip. Not. The damage didn’t manifest itself for a few days. Now, I’m pretty sure I’ll lose both left and right.
Next adventure…, an airplane ride. As a Kenai Princess Lodge employee, Geoff negotiated us a discount on an air tour from Seward. The nose cowling of the Cessna 172 Sky Hawk is in the lower left corner of the picture as we make our first crossing through a narrow mountain pass on the way to see some glaciers.
Right around the corner of the mountain pass we came upon Bear Glacier. This was my first lesson in glacierology. Bear is a “landlocked” glacier. As opposed to a “tidewater” glacier, none of Bear’s ice can ever reach the open ocean. Around another corner, we found the Aialik which is a tidewater glacier. Note that black rock imbedded in the ice near the middle of the picture. We’ll see it again, tomorrow.
Up another fjord and over the Pederson Glacier (landlocked) we climbed up high enough to venture over the Harding Ice Field. According to our pilot/guide, this bowl of ice measurers more than 48 miles square and is more than 2,500 feet deep in some places. The surface is wind eroded and except for the color looks a lot like ripples on beach sand washed by the ocean or the wind designs created on sand dunes in the deserts.
In spite of the temperatures, the surface of the ice field is dotted with ponds of unfrozen water. The ponds are a startling blue but that could have been because of the clear sky reflecting on the surface of the water.
Craggy peaks jut out all over the place. The pilot said sometimes they fly over the icefield under an overcast sky. Uhmmm, not me, brother!
Passing over the northern boundaries of the ice field, almost in the twinkling of an eye, we descended into the lush green area of Russian Lake and Russian River.
The next quest was for bears.
No lions, no tigers, but bears we got…
In the top two photos, the white foamy disturbance was from salmon we could see from the air attempting to escape from the bears.
We could see squadrons (okay, okay, schools) of fish in the water. I want to say the long dark streaks in the top photo are salmon.
In the bottom photo, I think the bear has a salmon in his mouth and is headed for dry ground for a snack. These are stills captured from my digital video recorder and the resolution suffers some from the zooming and cropping I did. Altogether, I think we saw about five bears including one sow(?) and her cub. Geoff may have gotten pics of her, but I didn’t.
At my request, the pilot did give us a pass in front of the Exit Glacier for one last look.
Also a landlocked glacier, Exit has an unusual shape, narrowing down to a toe at its lowest point. The volume of water pouring out of the glacier is impressive, forming a significant river.
All too soon, our flightseeing adventure was over and we were on final approach to Runway 16 at Seward Airport.
The city is snuggled up against the mountains on the right side of the photo. Near the center is the Holland America cruise ship Veendam.
Barb (Burch) recalls the water in Resurrection Bay (upper left) being sucked almost out of sight by the tsunami that accompanied the devastating earthquake on Good Friday, 1964. When the tidal wave hit, it destroyed all of Seward. One of the Burch brother’s commercial fishing boats was washed up more than 1/2 mile inland. They did salvage that one, but their other boat was destroyed.
Next on the adventure agenda, another hike!
This one (paraphrasing Geoff) would be like a walk in the park. After all, the trail (see below) is indicated as being wheelchair accessible.
It was indeed a much easier walk than yesterday’s… even though half of it was uphill.
One fun spot was coming across a hen grouse. We saw a couple of her babies darting on and off the path. When another group of hikers came from the other direction we spooked the hen into flying into the trees to the left in the picture. As we continued to walk forward four of the babies flushed out of the weeds alongside the path, startling me and I think everyone else.
I couldn’t help but wonder why the rangers posted this next sign halfway up the trail instead of at the beginning.
This is NOT where I shot the Grizzly, but that is a story for later.
Russian Falls was worth the hike. I give it a 10+ for being something everyone should see in person and not just in movies or on TV or in National Geographic Magazine.
Check out the next four pictures:
…and the salmon have been doing this for thousands of years!
One sobering stop on the trail back to the parking lot…
…and then we were off to have lunch in Seward.
After lunch —- Boat Ride!! Kenai Fjords….. Geoff also got us discounts on Kenai Fjords Tours for a boat trip scheduled to include wildlife, glaciers, and more wildlife. We pretty much did the yellow line, the National Park Cruise, except we didn’t go to the Holgate Glacier, we went further up north to the Aialik… the one we flew over yesterday.
Geoff figured (based on his experience last year with the same tour) that we were leaving the dock with less than half capacity. Fine with me. We found a comfy spot in a forward area with six seats and a table all to ourselves.
We no more than cleared the harbor breakwater as Geoff was telling me that last year, the boat had barely began moving when they came across an otter having lunch.
Well, wouldn’t you know… here he is again. I’m wondering what kind of contract the tour company has with this critter. Maybe two crabs per trip? Anyway, we drifted along for several minutes doing lots of video and snapshots of our first denizen of the trip.
Among the thousands of birds we would see that day were several Bald Eagles. Barb has become somewhat inured to these creatures. Especially those she’s encountered at various dump sites. She said the white head is more grey slime from foraging in the garbage. Still, to me, they are a magnificent bird.
Next up we were treated to a close up view of a rock full of steller seals sunning and napping. Except for the two bulls that decided to argue over a particular piece of real estate.
One of the highlights was coming across a pod of resident Orcas (aka Killer Whales). According to the propaganda, the resident animalsare only interested in eating fish.
It is the provenance of the transient Orcas to attack and eat other mammals. We came upon this particular pod as they were swimming though a gaggle of salmon sport fishing boats. The tour guide speculated that the fishermen wouldn’t do very well in that spot for a few hours.
One behaviour we observed was what the guide called spy-hopping. To get a better look at us, the Orca hovers in a vertical position. We saw this a couple times.
Did I mention birds by the thousands? In addition to the ones flying in the mouth of the cave, look close at the rocks down the right side of the photo. I can’t remember all the names but one stands out: The Crested Puffin. We didn’t get close enough for a good picture and the tele-zoom on my new digital video camera isn’t steady enough without a tripod.
Before long we’d wended up the whichever fjord and arrived at the Aialik Glacier.
Check out the big rock behind Geoff’s right ear, then look at the following picture.
What you’re seeing is a big mass of ice that calved off the glacier, smashed onto the rock, then splashed into the water. The perception is deceiving. The crash and splash happened about two seconds before the sound reached us on the boat… nearly 1/2 mile away!
After what the tour guide said was 40 minutes of watching ice melt, we began the journey back to Seward.
If there was a disappointment on the trip, it was the sparsity of whales. The black spot under the triangle shaped island is one of the three hump-backed whales we encountered on the way back to Seward. I wasn’t so brash as to push my way up the railing, so this picure is taken between the shoulders of some of my fellow passengers.
Some 5-1/2 or 6 hours after we left I got this picture of Seward Harbor during the approach.
The day wasn’t over, yet. Remember earlier I mentioned the scenic stop spots along the highway? Well, we stopped at one on the way back to Cooper Landing. I’m not sure exactly where.
This time we got some close up looks at salmon spawning in the creek.
But wait! There’s more…
Looking over the side of Cresent Creek Bridge, we saw lots of salmon spawning below us. We also spotted several trout coasting along down-stream from the salmon and gorging on eggs that washed out of the salmons’ nests.
Geoff took me for a nature walk along the Kenai River below the Princess Lodge. A light drizzle had gone over the area a couple hours before. I decided that the flora folks among us should get a little satisfaction from this post so:
That put the wrap on the trip to Kenai Peninsula and a GREAT visit and adventure(s) with Geoff.
After packing my bags I made the rounds of folks I’d met at the Kenai Princess Lodge. Geoff and I spent several minutes together until finally I hopped into the Yaris and headed up the Seward Highway for a 2-1/2 hour trip that lasted more than five hours. Tragically, one of those horrible accidents I mentioned earlier occurred just around the point of the highway on the left-center of the photo. A sad punctuation to a wonderful leg of my Alaska trip.