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

Prince William Sound

Prince William Sound006Ice-capped mountains towering over the sea, picturesque fishing boats, sea otters, orcas, humpback whales, sea caves, sea lions, puffins, harbor seals, icebergs and a glacier. Our day on Prince William Sound was simply amazing.Prince William Sound001

We love being on the water, we love marine wildlife and anytime we have opportunities to combine the two, we are on it!Prince William Sound002

Two companies run glacier wildlife cruises out of Valdez. We chose the Lu-Lu Belle. First of all, how could we possibly resist that name?  And we got a wonderful report about this cruise at the Tok Visitor Center from two people who had just been on it.

The 75′ Lu-Lu Belle was custom built by Captain Fred in 1979 and has served as both his and his wife’s summer business as a tour boat and as their home in the winter.  Not your typical tour boat this one, she is a beauty.

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Prince William Sound009Captain Fred has a unique approach, he describes it as a 5 ½ to 7 hour cruise, depending on what is seen along the way. His wife told us that “he comes in when the wildlife lets him”. He is willing to stay put to watch the wildlife – and we really loved that approach.

So we booked Thursday’s cruise the night before, when we arrived in Valdez. As it turned out, the place where their office is located also houses a tiny RV park, Little Lu-Lu, in their parking lot. It accommodates up to eight spots, although those are also their parking spots. And somehow, we lucked out and got a rate of about $15-$20 less than others who offer full hookup.

Prince William Sound004Prince William Sound105Prince William Sound106When Hector and I discussed coming to Valdez, the first thing that came to my mind was the 1989 Exxon Valdez Oil Spill, at the time, the largest oil spill in U.S. waters. I remember the images of the birds covered in oil. It was a defining moment in my life, and I never looked at the environment in the same way after that.

The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council, consisting of three state and three federal trustees, has issued reports every 3-4 years since the spill that provide the recovery status of 28 species, four human services and several archaeological resources.

Recovery is based upon “pre-oil spill levels”. The 2014 report states that 15 of the 24 species studied over this time are “recovered”, 4 “very likely recovered”, 4 “recovering”, 4 “not recovering”, and 1 “unknown”. It is telling that 25 years later, the impacts of the spill are still being felt. But we were going to see how the wildlife recovered for ourselves.Prince William Sound005

The morning of our cruise was quite hazy in spite of a weather report that it was going to be sunny and clear. Megan, Captain Fred’s wife who works the office said that some of the haze might be due to some of the wildfires around.

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From Tok to Valdez

tok to valdez012Today we travelled from Tok to Valdez. When we arrived in Tok the day before yesterday, we immediately went to the Tok “Mainstreet Alaska” Visitor Center. This place has more information than anyone can possibly want about the state, plus some very interesting displays.tok to valdez001

Tok is the point where people must decide if they are going straight to continue to the official end of the Alaska Highway at Delta Junction, and then on to Fairbanks, or if they are going to make a left or head southwest on the Tok Cutoff to Wrangell St. Elias National Park and Valdez. We chose to make a left.tok to valdez002

Interestingly, most everyone that we have spoken with on the way here has chosen to go straight, or North. So it seems we will be swimming against the tide.

When we made that left, our plan was to go directly to the Wrangell St. Elias National Park, stay there a few days and then continue to Valdez. But in our long conversation with the nice lady at the Visitor Center about our planned route, she mentioned that if we saw a forecast of a good weather window in Valdez we should immediately head there. It seems Valdez is famous for having long periods of rainy weather. That is when we made our first change in plans. Continue reading