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North To Alaska (Seward and Soldotna)

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Left Anchorage the next morning, heading south toward Seward. A very nice state trooper at the state fair had given us some dire warnings about the Seward Highway–seems to be a fairly narrow two-lane which is notorious for wrecks. (If you grew up in WNC, it’s hard to get excited about narrow, two-lane roads–what else is there?)

Seward Highway is truly a scenic drive and we enjoyed it–everything outside our windows “looked” like we imagined Alaska would look. Mountains, rivers, glaciers, fireweed–the works!

We stopped along the way to see Portage Glacier. The Begich-Boggs Visitors Center, located on the shores of Portage Lake (left behind by the passage of the glacier), is a great place to take a break (nice indoor bathrooms!) as you head toward Seward. Beautiful views, marred only by some kind of irritating little gnat-beasts that hummed and buzzed and nipped at us as we ran for the building. 

Portage Glacier view across the lake

Portage Glacier view across the lake

Close-up of Portage Glacier ice field

Close-up of Portage Glacier ice field

Portage Glacier above valley floor

Portage Glacier above valley floor

Flapping at irritating gnat-beasts!

Flapping at irritating gnat-beasts!

Arrived at Seward in time for lunch at the Apollo Restaurant, which was highly recommended in one of our guide books. Fresh seafood with pasta–yum! The town looks like a movie set and definitely caters to tourists–lots of cruise ships dock at Seward and send passengers on by bus or train to Anchorage and Denali. The Alaska Sea Life Center was a big draw for most visitors, but we chose to skip it in favor of just looking around and sampling the lovely home-made gelato at Sweet Darlings. This view over Resurrection Bay was a pure postcard:

Sailboat on Resurrection Bay

Sailboat on Resurrection Bay

 but it was creepy to learn that the tsunami caused by the 1964 earthquake rolled into Seward, leaving casualties and destruction in its wake.

Chunks of the pre-tsunami roadbed and rebar still litter Seward's waterfront

Chunks of the pre-tsunami roadbed and rebar still litter a section of Seward's waterfront

Just outside Seward, we stopped at Exit Glacier and walked to the viewing area. It was a warm afternoon, but as we got closer to the glacier, we could feel its icy “breath” flowing over us.

View of Exit Glacier from the visitors center

View of Exit Glacier from the visitors center

Hanging onto my hair at the base of Exit Glacier

Hanging onto my hair at the base of Exit Glacier

 Picked up Sterling Highway and headed in the general direction of Soldotna and the Kenai River region, knowing that was as far as we wanted to drive that day. Back in Anchorage, a very nice shop-owner/photographer told us that even though it was late in the season, we might still be able to see bears slapping salmon out of the river at Coopers Landing. We arrived at the Russian River Campground in the late afternoon–they’ve installed a great walkway down to the water, and environmental matting to protect native flora, plus wooden fishing/observation piers into the river itself.

The last salmon of the year were still running, flinging themselves upriver against the current. We were amazedto see it, even though most of the fish were too exhausted to go much further. There was evidence of bears all along the river: wallowed spots in the ferns, wallowed trails disappearing into the woods (and huge, fishy “scats” — eek!), but no actual bears, which may have been a good thing! (There are warnings all over the area: don’t approach or feed bears; if a bear approaches you, give it your fish, etc.)

Salmon headed upstream

Salmon headed upstream

It had been a long day, and we were glad to find a place to stay at the Best Western King Salmon Motel in Soldotna.  Froso’s Resturant was almost across the street, so we staggered in (did I mention it had been a LONG day?) and had enormous plates of pasta in a setting that was more Parthenon than Alaskan frontier.
Giant moon over Soldotna

Giant moon over Soldotna

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About ltbrwnhare

A real Ashevillain, from the fabled town of Asheville, NC. There aren't too many of us "from here" any more, but don't ask about the secret handshake. Few people know I blog; they think I work for corporate America. I do. Both. There's probably a secret handshake for that, too. You can think of me as a "locavore," if you like: someone who consumes local food and culture. I'm not just local, though--I like finding out interesting stuff from all over the place, traveling, tasting, reading, writing fiction (actually, I write non-fiction--I just don't let my family read it and get mad at me for spilling the beans. There are some pretty funky beans to spill, sometimes, but that's just a fact of life in the South...), and lots of other things. If I think of them, maybe I'll blog about them.

2 responses »

  1. Pingback: day kayak tour seward Alaska?

  2. Pingback: Resurrection Bay, Seward, Alaska

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