Tuesday, January 07, 2014

50 States: Alaska - Glacier Coast

 In my review of the 50 States in 50 weeks, some states are going to need more than one post. Part 1 of the Alaska write-up is here

When most people think of Alaska, they think of the parts they can see from the many cruise ships that ply the coast. Since our trip to Alaska went in and out of Anchorage, we had to trek down to the coast to see the glaciers.

On a free day of our trip, the weather forecast was perfect so we decided to day trip to Whittier. On the way we were told to stop by the Alaska Wildlife Center which has all the native fauna where you can see them up close and personal, including bears, moose, musk ox, and caribou.



From there to get to Whittier, you have to drive through a train tunnel which is only open one-way for fifteen minutes each hour. We had just missed a passage, so it gave us time to admire the glaciers and lakes surround the waiting area.

Once through, we managed to just catch the last long glacier boat tour of the afternoon. To say that the views on this bright blue cloudless day were stunning is to understatement. The boat came right up to the glaciers so we could watch them carve into the bay. At one glacier the captain told us that the souvenir maps were outdated because the glaciers had retreated so much in recent years. It's not inconceivable that in just a few decades they might be gone altogether.

But there was more than scenery. The boat passed sea lion hangouts, bird rookeries, eagle nests, and floating sea otters.


After the tour we killed some time walking through the small waterfront area where we had some great food and ice cream before heading home with a return visit to the wildlife conservation.


The next day we embarked by train to Seward on an overnight trip. We basically went straight from the train to the sightseeing boat but the weather was more overcast than the previous day. However, this boat went further into open waters whereas the ones out of Whittier stick to the inner calmer waters of Prince William Sound. It was out on the ocean that we found some humpback whales. They would dive down for fish and then a few minutes later leap up just like in the nature films.



But not all the wildlife was mammoth. We also so the world's most adorable puffins,which it seems come in two varieties.


The Seward area also had some fantastic glaciers, just not as many as Prince William Sound.


The day ended with a build-our-own seafood feast where we ordered just about the entire menu knowing that many of these things came right off the dock.


The second day was the land half of the excursion. We took a tour of a sled dog camp where dozens of dogs practiced and trained for the Iditarod. It seems the major source of income for racers is doing exhibits and rides for tourists in the offseason.



Our tour guide talked us into a rather risky hike to the toe of a glacier which included taking our shoes off and wading through a glacial melt stream while hanging onto bushes on the bank to keep from being swept away.


 Seward was a delightful town with plenty to do for a day or two. Even the train ride there and back was gorgeous.


There is so much the coast of Alaska has to offer. When, not if, we go back we want to go to one of the islands where the grizzly bears live. We priced it out and it is massively expensive just to do the two plane rides needed to get there for just a day trip. But one can dream.

Here are more photos of Whittier, the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, and Seward.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey Yello, I'm happy to see all your pics of Whittier and Seward. I visited both of those towns and took the cruises almost ten years ago. However, I was still using a film camera then so my pics are not so great. Beautiful area, great scenery and wildlife. Your whales were more active than the ones we saw.