Super Green Thumb
Posts: 2036
Joined: Thu Mar 10, 2005 4:58 pm
Location: Michigan--LP(troll)

Day 8, 29 VI 2007, Seward, AK

Finally got some oatmeal for breakfast! It's a big deal with me, really. Our lodging for the night was just outside Seward, at the Windsong lodge, on Exit Glacier Rd. That's important for later. BTW, the towel pillows are working out just fine, no more waking up to headaches.

As we drove into Seward, I saw my quintessential AK sight: A dead tree in someone's yard, decorated with about 15 fishing net buoys. The big honkin' reddish orange jobs about 2' diameter! Waay cool and soo Alaskan, IMO. Looked kinda sorta like a Christmas tree, in a way... Of course I didn't get a picture, I wasn't driving, and we took a different route out of town so I never saw it again. Anyway, we went to the Alaska SeaLife Center, built with settlement money (which I hear is tied up in litigation still, so I don't know how they got some) from the Exxon Valdez disaster. This place does the marine animal rescue for the entire state of AK. They hold classes to train spotters/watchers. Then, if you call their hotline to report a possible stranded/abandoned/injured seal or whatever, someone hopefully can come out and observe the animal and then call for help if needed. Especially in the case of babies, unless it's obviously bleeding, the mothers leave to feed for sometimes days and if a human interferes, she'll abandon it. I learned all this on the "Behind the Scenes" tour they offer. We had to go through several antiseptic foot baths as we travelled from room to room, to prevent carrying any noxious thing into an otherwise clean environment. I asked one chap about the spotter classes and, poor guy, his face brightened up and he asked me if I was interested. I said "Sure, but it'd be a heck of a commute!" He asked where I lived, and I'm sure he was expecting me to say Anchorage or Nome or something; when I answered "Michigan", his face fell to his toes. I assured him that had I lived in AK, I would have signed up for a course... Fascinating place, "touch tanks" for sea stars, urchins (the non-poisonous kind), etc.; get this, they rotate the animals in the touch tanks so they don't get too stressed out. How considerate is that! Saw some baby spotted/leopard/ring? seals in a smaller tank, one was floating vertically, head up, and bobbing around the tank, face to the sun. I named her "Buoy". She was sooo cute! Spent a lot of film on that one. They had observation rooms above and below the waterlines of various tanks, I got shots of mostly the back half of whatever fast-moving bird/seal/whatever. OK, I'm a little rusty... Bought some non-Alaskan souvenirs at the shop and made a donation.

On the way out of town we drove up Exit Glacier Rd., to Exit Glacier. It has the distinction of being the only glacier in AK that one can drive/walk to. The road parallels the moraine left by the retreating glacier. There are small, nondescript brown signs with four digits on them every few hundred yards or so, increasing numerically. It took us a mile or so to figure out that they were representing the date when the glacier was at that particular point, and the progression of growth reclaiming the exposed land. At one time the glacier reached the sea, now it's about 5 miles inland. The ground it leaves behind is scoured, sterile, gravelly and utterly incapable of supporting life. Only after centuries of litter and seeds being blown onto the moraine do the first scrubby growths take place. We saw white spruce on little islands of soil surrounded by the braided river flowing from Exit. As we got closer to the base of the glacier, the trees got smaller and vanished, the brush got thinner and scragglier and vanished, then the road turned into the forest, where the ranger station was. They told us of the two paths, one was flooded that led to the top of the glacier, but the one that led by the foot was fine. How a path going uphill gets flooded and the one at the base of the hill does not is beyond me, but it's Alaska and it's different up here. So we took the bottom path, a very easy walk (said by someone with bad knees). Remembered the bug spray this time and was very glad we had our coats. If you stand in front of the freezer with the door open, you get a small-scale idea of what it was like to stand at the foot of a glacier and feel the icy breeze coming off that (as glaciers go) relatively small one. We couldn't actually walk up and touch it, what with the danger of a piece breaking off and crushing us, but close enough, nonetheless. Would like to have finished the loop but the cuz thought it would be closer to retrace our steps. Wrong. Noticed some rather fresh droppings and decided to carry on louder conversations just in case it was a bear or something.

Retraced our trip up Seward Hwy., and again ran out of wows on the way back to Anchorage. CO cuz made us detour to Hope, AK, which turned out to be nothing more than a couple of ramshackle buildings and some campers out on a spit in the sound. Did however, find a good cafe on the way back with an excellent meal and home-made root beer. Mmmmm. Had to stop for a young cow moose whilst she crossed the road. Cuz made me get out and take a picture, told me to use my moose call to get her to turn around. The thing is as big as the minivan we're in and I want to call the thing over because...?? So I said: "Here moosey, moosey!" and she turned and, honest, gave me a disgusted "OMG another tourist with a camera!" look, then stepped over the guard rail and down through a campground to the water. I got pain-in-the-neck cuz' shot, though. And didn't get hoofed for it.

As we got closer to Anchorage we noticed an increasing stream of traffic southbound (it was Friday evening and everybody was "gettin outta Dodge" for the weekend). There were about five cars heading north into Anch. Did I mention the two really cool rules about traffic in AK? 1. If you are sightseeing and there are five or more cars behind you, you must pull over and let them pass. 2. If there is a bunch of cars off the side of the road up ahead, you'd better pull off, too, because there's usually something worth gawking at. Yes, those are real rules. Saves a lot of road rage up there. Anyway, Rule #2 came in handy. We spotted a bunch of cars off to the side we were on, so we pulled over and were treated to a mountain goat, not 20' above our heads on the side of a cliff, having dinner. He had a red patch of fur between his horns like he'd just come from a fight or something, but was totally unconcerned about all the squealing two-leggers below him. He was on one of those impossibly narrow ledges with a few scraggly shrubs clinging to the face of the cliff, and walking around as if it were you or I on flat land. Fortunately no one got the dumb idea to try and climb up to meet him. Got back into Anch., and saw a half-dozen folks on Segways! Chased them down (took some huffing and puffing) and got a card from the tour leader--they do Segway tours of Anchorage! Next time. We raided the continental breakfast area for some snax, and hit the hay. It was 11:00 p.m. for heaven's sake! Oh yeah, and the sun was still very much UP! We were booked at the Extended Stay hotel in Anch., so we got the same room each day, even though we left for a while. Kinda like coming home, except to a hotel room. But the stuff was locked up and right where we left it. They did make the beds, though. Laundry was right on our floor, so that worked! Washed and dried our clothes, all fresh for the rest of the trip. Same crappy pillows, so I took all the towels again. Probably didn't need the sleeping mask, the curtains were pretty good, but I'm used to it by now. Nighty-night!

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