A Whale Spouting Rainbows

Seldovia 1“Mommy there’s a whale spouting rainbows”!  Overheard from a little girl on a Rainbow Tours boat cruise to Seldovia last week.

Seldovia 5Seldovia 2We set out on the Rainbow Connection, one of two vessels owned by Rainbow Tours, little did we know these names were an omen for something astounding that would happen later. Our research on weather paid off again, and it was another glorious morning, quite warm even, although at times it got quite breezy on the water.

Seldovia 4Seldovia 3We heard about this tour from some folks on our last boat tour out of Seward. It is part wildlife tour and part ferry transportation to Seldovia, a town that is across the water from Homer on Kachemak Bay and accessible only by boat or plane. We had heard about Seldovia from our friend Dan.

Seldovia 22Seldovia 23But the clincher was that both this tour and the ferry to Seldovia accepts dogs. So Angel could come along.Seldovia 15rainbow route

As it turned out, both our friends Karen and Jack had reserved this same date for the tour, and Dan and Amanda joined the boat tour with us as well.

Seldovia 7Seldovia 6The boat’s first stop was Gull Island, a seabird rookery owned by Seldovia Native Corporation. There we spotted pigeon guillemots, common murres and more horned puffins.Seldovia 10

Seldovia 16Seldovia 38We had great views of Mount Redoubt, an active volcano, and at 10,197 feet, the highest peak in the Aleutian range.

Seldovia 85Seldovia 19Seldovia 20As we reached the Eldredge Passage, we spotted otters. We are always excited to see them. There were quite a few otters, a group of them is called a “raft” of otters.

Camera & Bloody Mary ... heaven

Camera & Bloody Mary … heaven

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Seldovia 21Seldovia 29Seldovia 28Next we spotted some bald eagles and also an eaglet in a nest. Kachemak Bay is not as well known as the Gulf of Alaska for wildlife viewing but this was turning out to be a great wildlife cruise.

Seldovia 24Seldovia 36One interesting fact we learned from one of the naturalists on board was that the eaglets’ wingspan will be as large as or larger than the adults when they leave the nest at between 9 and 13 weeks old.Seldovia 30

Seldovia 32As we continued we spotted some more otters, these were mamas with babies. We did not stop so it was tough to capture photos, but we could see that one had a baby that she was carrying face down – usually the babies are face up on top of the mama’s belly. But we could see the pup’s furry back and at one point he turned his head to look at us. The otters are really enchanting.

Seldovia 35Seldovia 34Next we saw some humpbacks. They were feeding from the nutrient rich top layer of these waters, and so were not diving, simply surfacing for air. I had not expected to see whales on this cruise, so was pretty excited.Seldovia 33

Seldovia 37Unfortunately, we also found the remains of a dead whale. There have been several dead whales found in the general area around Alaska and scientists are still puzzled as to the cause.

Very sad.

Seldovia 40Seldovia 39Then we reached our destination, Seldovia, one of the oldest settlements of the Cook Inlet area. Seldovia’s first residents were the Alutiiq about 2,000 years ago then in 1800 Russian settlers arrived and named it “Zaliv Seldevoy” – Herring Bay.

Seldovia 51These first settlers came to mine coal, but the town later became a center for fur hunting and trading, and later yet for processing salmon, crab and herring.Seldovia 54Seldovia 56Seldovia 61

Before roads provided better access within Alaska, Seldovia became an important first stop for ships from Seward and other areas in the Cook Inlet. The town built a wooden boardwalk along the waterfront and businesses whose structures were built on stilts grew around the boardwalk. In its heyday, it became known throughout South central Alaska as the boardwalk town.

Seldovia 52Seldovia 62Seldovia 60Seldovia 64Seldovia 48The Good Friday earthquake of 1964 caused the town to sink four feet, and subsequent floods destroyed most of the boardwalk and structures around it. But its “new old boardwalk” is still a prominent feature in town, after being rebuilt along with new structures on stilts for businesses and residences alongside it.Seldovia 59

Seldovia 63People come for the day as we did, or to stay at one of its hotels or bed & breakfasts. You can hike, enjoy its beach, shop and eat at one of its shops and restaurants, fish, or kayak.Seldovia 55Seldovia 58Seldovia 53

 

 

 

Seldovia 43Seldovia 45A popular stop is The Russian Orthodox Church, St. Nicholas, built in 1891. It is still “an active religious facility in the community”, with a visiting priest offering Sunday services and performing baptisms, weddings and funerals.Seldovia 46Seldovia 44

We had a leisurely lunch by the water – made more leisurely by the restaurant’s being understaffed. But what we enjoyed most was the boardwalk and the colorful structures alongside of it. There are lots of flowers everywhere, and many artsy touches.Seldovia 47

Our almost three hours in the town flew by and it was time to return.

Seldovia 70And there they were; the otters, one was sleepy and holding a seashell from a recent meal.

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Seldovia 71Seldovia 72As we crossed the bay back towards Homer we spotted several humpback whales, they were on both sides of the boat. Most were not diving nor showing their flukes, but apparently feeding as the ones we had spotted earlier. But one of them, apparently a calf, breached – Amanda I think was the only one who saw it.

And then an amazing thing happened. As we were following along behind a humpback, because of the sun’s position relative to the boat, a rainbow appeared in the whale’s blow! Seldovia 77Seldovia 78Not once but three times! Something we had never seen before, and frankly I missed it because I was behind others. Hector saw it and captured two of the three.

Nature is so awesome.  Seldovia 81Seldovia 80

This boat trip could not have been any better. The rocking boat lulled Angel to sleep, thankfully. But she also got to walk around the boat a bit and “socialize” and several people commented on what a nice dog she is. In fact, one couple let her sleep under their feet for a while.

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Seldovia 84One last whale sighting, this one dove and showed its fluke, “waving” good-bye.
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Seldovia 91Seldovia 93Because of all of the wildlife sightings, the tour took more than its scheduled seven hours, but noone complained.

When we arrived back in Homer, we were all happy campers. Seldovia 95

We said our good-byes to Jack and Karen, who were leaving that evening, we hope to catch up with them again in Alaska. And we have plans to see Dan and Amanda again down in Seattle.Seldovia 49

Our stay in Homer exceeded all expectations, a campsite on a great beach, some rest and relaxation, good friends and socializing, and a beautiful cruise on the water.

~ BrendaSeldovia 92

On the Homer Spit

Homer 4Homer is a popular spot on the Kenai Peninsula, and we had heard very good things about it. But frankly we did not know very much and had no specific plans prior to arriving there. But we did know we wanted to try to stay on the Homer spit.  A long skinny peninsula where the town’s boat harbor and many tourist activities are centered.Homer 53

Homer 1Homer 2Homer 3Homer 42We drove over to Homer on the Sterling Highway, a beautiful road that we had driven earlier in our travels. The Kenai River, super popular for fishing, runs alongside part of the road. There are a number of towns along the way, including Ninilchik, where we made a brief stop at the Transfiguration of our Lord Church, a Russian Orthodox church founded in 1846. The church and its cemetery are quite picturesque and are one of many examples of Russia’s historical influence on Alaska.

Alaska Day driving day 5 recap:

Road Name: Seward Highway (a short section) to Sterling Highway

Road Type: 2-lane

Road Conditions: Seward Highway is generally good, Sterling Highway is good but quite narrow for a bit after Cooper Landing, including a mercifully not too long windy section with no shoulder and a guardrail on both sides where a motorhome like ours barely fit with another large vehicle on the oncoming lane.

Miles Today: 173

Driving Time: 4:15

Total Miles in Alaska: 1228

Total Miles since entering Canada: 3222

The road ends at Homer.  Beyond Homer lies more of the roadless Kenai Peninsula, Kodiak Island and the Aleutian Archipelago.  Alaska is both our westernmost and easternmost state.  How can that be?  The end of the Aleutian chain lies over the international dateline.  And just north of Homer on the Sterling Highway is the westernmost section of paved road in the entire USA.

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More of Kenai Fjords National Park

Viewfinder 5The rain that began on the afternoon of our last cruise intensified and continued for two more days. During those days, we moved from our inland campground to the water. The ocean is my favorite place in the whole world and with a view framed by snow-capped mountains, it is beautiful rain or shine. And we extended our stay in Seward so we could see more of Kenai Fjords National Park.Viewfinder 7

We stayed in the Resurrection South RV Parking section of the Waterfront Campground (City of Seward). Read my review of the campground here.Viewfinder 4Viewfinder 6

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In Search of Wildlife

NW Fjord 98One of the reasons we are here in Alaska is because we love animals, and we especially love seeing them in the wild. We feel a special connection to and are often in search of wildlife.  And our second cruise to the Kenai Fjords was an extra special one.NW Fjord 83

There is something about the whales that especially captivates us, perhaps their intelligence, the way they form social structures, the sounds they make to communicate, or maybe all of those things and others that we just cannot put into words.NW Fjord 78

So each summer when we have been by the northern seas on our walkabout, we have devoted quality time to whale watching. Going out looking for the whales in kayaks, zodiacs, and small to large motorboats. And we have seen lots of whales; blue, fin, humpback, minke, beluga, gray, pilot and orcas (although technically pilot whales and orcas are part of the dolphin family).

NW Fjord 109Our goal in Seward was to go on several wildlife cruises. We were interested in some of the longer cruises, but not sure we would be able to go because of Angel. But we found a pet-sitter to walk Angel during the day. So after our six-hour cruise earlier in the week, we booked two other full day wildlife/glacier cruises, one with each of the two major companies in town.

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Seward, Alaska with Joyce

seward 6We camped in Seward, Alaska with Joyce, our friend who was visiting from Denver, for the first four days of our stay. During that time the weather alternated between mostly sunny and beautiful and cloudy and rainy – a good representation of Alaska in the summer.seward 12

seward 18On one of the nicer weather days, we explored the (little) town pretty thoroughly. Seward is a fairly touristy town and has a good number of shops and restaurants for its small size. There are also quite a few lovely murals throughout the downtown area.seward 8seward 7seward 3seward 9 Continue reading

Kenai Fjords National Park

Kenai Fjords NP 5Just over three weeks after entering Alaska, we headed to the town of Seward in the Kenai Peninsula with our friend, Joyce. Seward was one of the places we were most looking forward to visiting, as we are avid fans of boating and whale watching. We spent a fabulous day at the Kenai Fjords National Park when we were here on a cruise years ago and saw lots of wildlife and were excited to do it again.seward 2

Alaska Day driving day 4 recap:

Road Name: Seward Highway

Road Type: 2-lane

Kenai Fjords NP 1Road Conditions: Excellent, however this much traveled highway is known for its number of accidents. Apparently sometimes people who are in a rush will pass in areas that are not really safe to pass, thus causing accidents.

Miles Today: 146

Driving Time: 3:15

Total Miles in Alaska: 622

Total Miles since entering Canada: 2616

It was a beautiful drive back through the Turnagain Arm, where we stopped to look for beluga whales once again. No luck.

Kenai Fjords NP 2We did spot not one but two moose on the drive, one swimming in a pond full of pond lilies. It was quite the sight, but we had no place to stop to photograph her.

We camped at the Stoney Creek RV Park one of the few parks with full hookups in the area. Read my review here. Our plan for was to go out on one cruise with Joyce, who was with us for four days, and do it again later in the week.

After checking out the boats at the dock and checking on weather, we opted for Saturday’s six-hour cruise with Kenai Fjords Tours.Kenai Fjords NP 3

The night before the cruise we were treated to a stunning midnight sunset.  It reminded us of the old saying, “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight”  We hoped that it would bode well for our day at sea.
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Back to the City

Anchorage 16Anchorage 6We went back to the city of Anchorage for a few days. Anchorage is the largest city in Alaska, with almost half of its population concentrated there. And like all cities, it has its problems; including a high crime rate and homelessness. And Alaskans like to joke that Alaska is thirty minutes from Anchorage.Anchorage 2

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We settled in at the Golden Nugget RV Park, read my review here.

The city of Anchorage has a lot to offer, and we were intent on discovering some of its positive aspects. Starting with a visit to the Anchorage Market & Festival a fun weekend downtown market with lots of crafts and prepared food and a very diverse crowd. Next up was a stroll around the compact downtown and a visit to the sod roofed Anchorage Visitor Information Center, a beautiful log cabin structure.

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Turnagain Arm and the Portage Valley

turn again arm 1turn again arm 4We have reservations in Anchorage at the end of the week so once our car was ready we headed out of the city. On Wednesday afternoon, we drove out to Turnagain Arm and the Portage Valley just outside of Anchorage to look for a scenic spot to boondock. Turnagain Arm is a narrow branch of the Cook Inlet that extends from the northwestern part of the Gulf of Alaska.turn again arm 3

Turnagain Arn got its name from William Bligh (later of HMS Bounty fame) when he was the navigator on a James Cook expedition seeking a Northwest Passage.  When they discovered it dead ended, they had to “turn again”.  Cute.

turn again arm 6Since this was a short little side trip outside of Anchorage, I am not going to count it as a driving day. After a little driving back and forth we found a nice spot by the highway that had room for Island Girl with sweeping views. It was a bit late because we had run a few errands earlier that day in Anchorage so we settled in and Hector began to cook dinner.

turn again arm 8As I walked Angel I noticed a Class C had just parked on the opposite end of the rest stop, so I made sure to steer clear and give them their space. A few minutes after Angel and I returned to Island Girl there was a knock on our door. Chris (@chris_technomadia) and Cherie (@cherie_Technomadia) were the people who had just parked on the other side of the rest stop.

turn again arm 7A few months earlier when we compared notes on our Alaska plans we decided that we were not going to be anywhere near each other. And yet here they were. Serendipity.

The four of us had drinks at our Tiki Bar that evening and breakfast together the next morning. It was great to get to know them a little better, since we had only spent a short time with them last winter in Anza Borrego, California.

turn again arm 12turn again arm 13After they left, Hector and I drove over to scout Portage Lake, where Portage Glacier is located. We really wanted to kayak to the glacier, and after checking it out decided it was doable and we would check weather the next few days to find a good day for a paddle.turn again arm 10 Continue reading

More of the Beautiful Valdez

Valdeez 4There always seems to be more of the beautiful Valdez surroundings to see and explore. We only touched the tip of the iceberg. But it was still spectacular.

Valdeez 21Valdeez 27Many of the structures of the town itself, mostly rebuilt in the late 1960’s after a huge earthquake devastated the original town, are pretty plain. In fact, the little office of the Lu-Lu Belle is one of the prettiest buildings in town. But the harbor and the surroundings more than make up for that. And that is what we focused on.Valdeez 2

One day we drove back out over the road we came in on and stopped once again at some of the beautiful waterfalls right near town. There are not many places that have this much beauty right next to the road.

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Hanging around Valdez

Valdez 30Valdez 1The town of Valdez sits amidst spectacular mountains and is part of the Pacific temperate rain forest. That makes for an interesting contrast, towering mountains; both snow-capped and with lush green forests, wildflowers,  glaciers, icebergs and of course the sea. We are very much enjoying hanging around Valdez.Valdez 2

Valdez 20Valdez 36Walking around the town has become a favorite pastime of ours since we stopped here. It has been both relaxing and entertaining.Valdez 7

Valdez 25Valdez 40Valdez 46Valdez 32Valdez 37There are eagles flying all around, sea otters eating and playing in the water, and lots and lots of seagulls.Valdez 66Valdez 68Valdez 64Valdez 23 Continue reading