Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Return to Williwaw and Wasilla

Williwaw Campground

As Homer is the “end of the road”, the only way we can go is back the way we came. At least until we get to Wasilla. We bypassed Seward and went back to the Forest Service Campground near Portage Glacier called Williwaw. When we were there last month it rained non-stop for all three days. (Our July 30th blog entry about Williwaw Campground ) As we said then even though it rained all three days “This is the MOST SPECTALUAR setting for a campsite since we have been on the road.” This visit we did have some rain every day, we also had partly sunny days as well.

Right next to Williwaw campground is a salmon viewing area. This is an area where salmon come to breed and die. When we were here in July we didn’t see any salmon at all. This time the river is full of Coho or Silver Salmon. Most are still alive but all will have spawned and died over the next few weeks.
One piece of unfinished business from our last visit was a hike to Byron Glacier. Like Exit Glacier near Seward this is an easily accessible glacier. The trail is less than a mile over mostly flat terrain. One thing I found very odd about the trail is: this is bear country and they have sign at the beginning of the trail warning about bears in the area. In bear country they always tell you to “be very careful around willows as they are food source for bears”, “make noise so that you don’t surprise a bear” and “keep on the lookout for bears near the trail”. So the Forest Service has built this mile long trail that is completely lined with willows and alders, so dense that you can’t see more than two feet off the trail. Right next to the trail flows a stream that is so loud you can’t hear anything else.

All of that aside it is a very nice hike and the glaciers are very intriguing.

While we were at Williwaw, Fred, Jo, Faith and Isabella came to stay for Faith and Isabella’s last day in Alaska. I can’t think of a nicer spot for a last day in Alaska. I think what makes the Portage Valley and Williwaw so special is this is the Alaska that most people think about when they hear the word Alaska. It has spectacular tall green mountains with snow fields, waterfalls and glaciers.


We returned to Wasilla because some of the parts needed to complete our repairs from July had arrived. Unfortunately one of the parts arrived defective so we still have an outstanding minor issue. However, we are good to go, to start back to the lower 48 states. Wasilla is the last big town we will see until we get to Whitehorse, Yukon in a few weeks. You can tell a town size in Alaska by their grocery stores. The really small towns have no grocery stores. The slightly large towns like Seward and Homer have a Safeway grocery store. The next size up has a Safeway and a Fred Meyer’s store. A big town like Wasilla will have a Safeway, Fred Meyers’s and a Wal-mart Supercenter for groceries. The really big towns like Fairbanks and Anchorage have multiple Safeways, Fred Meyer’s and Wal-marts. Big of course is relative and this entire enormous state has less than half the population of our home town of San Jose, California.

So the other reasons we are staying in Wasilla for a week are: to get the truck serviced, stock up on groceries and get Raider’s vaccinations up to date before we start south. Pretty much ever RVer we talk to now is staging to leave Alaska. I think the day after Labor Day someone will fire a starting gun and every RV in the state will head south. Our current plans are to make a few more stops and let the crowd get ahead of us before we leave Alaska.

The Headquarters of the Iditarod Dog Sled Race is here in Wasiila. Kathy must be the biggest Iditarod fan in California, so we made a stop at the Iditarod Headquarters and museum. Kathy even got a chance to fill a lifetime wish to be pulled by sled dogs. Since there isn’t any snow in Wasilla just now they use a cart on tires. Kathy said it was a great ride and she couldn’t believe how fast the dogs can pull. Her next breath was “Next time I want to be pulled on snow”.

Right next to Wasilla is the town of Palmer (only large enough to have a Safeway). It is the home of the Alaska State Fair. The State Fair is a really big thing here in Alaska. People plan for it well in advanced, they take time off work and pull kids out of school to attend. We went on a Tuesday afternoon and it was surprisingly crowded. I can’t imagine how crowded it must be on the weekends! It being the only State Fair we have ever been to we can definitely say that it is the nicest State Fair that we have ever been to.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Homer, Alaska – Part 2

A map of the Kenai Peninsula
Today’s blog written by Kathy

As we have reported earlier, this has been a cold wet summer for Alaska. Despite the rain, we decided we wouldn’t rather be anywhere else to just kick back and relax than in Homer. When Grant went up to the office at the RV park to extend our stay another week, Glenda in the office said not to worry, she’d already made room for us and we can stay in the same site. Great! She did warn us that 2 more caravans were coming in on Wednesday but would leave by Sunday, Holiday Rambler and Fantasy Tours.

These groups were a more quiet than the previous two groups and more considerate. Several days we slept into almost 8:00, because nobody woke us up hollering on their way to the fish docks at 5:29 AM. There were 3 days of non-stop rain of some kind: drizzle, mist and absolute down pours. Even though we are on hard packed gravel, the rain wasn’t sinking in like it had! Rain or shine, there are still the multiple dog walks Raider requires, and even he headed straight back to the trailer to get in out of the rain. No long walks on the beach for a few days.

I forgot to mention a lady we had met on the bay cruise to the Rookery!

Her name was Liz Bashaw, who owns the Alpenglow Chalet/Bed and Breakfast. She had a day off from the B&B and had decided to take the cruise of Kachemak Bay. While waiting for the boat trip, she overheard us say that we were from California. It turns out she’s from Chula Vista, CA, near San Diego and they run the Chalet and B&B during the summer up here in Alaska. Her husband is quite handy in construction, so he has guaranteed work no matter where he is and she is also a registered nurse. They stay in Homer until about November and then head south for winter. I was so busy taking pictures of the scenery that day that I forgot to get her photo!

Sunday in the afternoon we took a drive up to the highpoint above Homer, to look out and also find the Alpenglow Chalet. It is a way up the hill with a breath taking view of the bay and Homer Spit! I stopped by in front to take pictures, hoping Liz would be home, but she must’ve been at the B&B, which is down the hill, a few miles outside of town. It’s the weekend, I’m sure she’s really busy.

Oh well, it looked like such a charming place to stay in Homer. If anybody is looking for a nice place to stay, here is the website:

Saturday was rain-free and the sun even sneaked out for several hours in the afternoon, how nice it was! We walked down to the beach and watched a pair of Sandhill Cranes out on the sandbar. They weren’t in any sort of hurry, took their time to preen themselves while several of us looked on with fascination. Cranes are graceful and elegant. Naturally, I left the trailer without the camera not expecting too much on our walk!

In the evening there were no clouds in the west when the sun slipped down below the ridge. As I let Raider out for his nightly run before bed time I noticed a bright light in the sky, something we hadn’t seen since May in West Yellowstone! Is it a UFO?! No, it’s the full Moon, brightly shining over the bay!

Sunday morning we slept into 8:40 when we heard the first rumblings of the caravans getting ready to “bug out”. That is always so interesting watching these monster RV’s move. Do they have a coin toss to see who leaves first? Unfortunately, the couple in the big motor home directly behind us was having mechanical problems. Since our Montana has the great big picture window on the back, I could actually look over the guy’s shoulder as he was fixing the “do-hickey” and the “watch-a-ma-call-it”. Then he had to call in for back up. The tail gunner came to the rescue and they were ready to go by 10:30. By 11:00 AM, both caravan groups were gone and we had our scenic view spot again!!

The tide was way out due to the full moon, time to check it out. Raider was ready for a run on the beach, but the trail was still slippery so I convinced him we didn’t need to walk ALL of the way down there. I was able to get some photos from the bluff showing the low tide.

Then we walked up the hill and over a block where there’s a better viewing spot. As we’re standing on the bluff, I could hear the unmistakable call of the Sandhill Cranes. (At least a pair of them comes buzzing by our campground several times a day, but I hadn’t seen them in a few days.) I called out to them, “Hey, where have you guys been, goofing off?” All of a sudden they changed course in mid-air, made a right turn and flew directly over us! How cool is that?! Were they just curious of us? I don’t know, but I had a lot of fun attempting to get photos of them! Even Raider was watching their graceful flight overhead. And that call of theirs! It sounds something prehistoric like it should be coming from a “winged-dinosaur”!!

Monday-Aug. 18th we called Tim, our oldest son back in Chicago, to wish him Happy Birthday. Later we celebrated Tim's 29th birthday at Captain Paddies for lunch. Grant enjoyed the baked Halibut and I had the Crab Melt Sandwich, two of our favorites there. Outside it was intermittent sun, though the clouds were gathering, inside it was cozy with great food, good music to dine with and a view of Homer Spit! A fond memory for later!
By 4:00 PM it was drizzling and by 6:00 PM it was pouring very hard! In fact, at one point it was louder than the TV! It rained all through the night, but the next morning we could see clear across the bay and by 11 AM we had sunshine, which lasted all day!!

Not wanting to waste the sun, we took Raider for a long walk, enjoying the sea air and Homer's incredible view. When we got back to camp the first RV's were rolling in for yet another caravan! This was an Airstream group, trailers and motor homes. We were allowed to stay in our spot and they worked their way into their sites all around us. We are the SOB's in the middle! (Some Other Brand) Friendly folk, more around our age, on a 65 day whirlwind trip of Alaska, starting from Dawson Creek, BC. They endured lots of rain, rough roads (like that's new!), but they have the distinguished award for having one of their rigs attacked by a bull moose!

Fred and Jo came over the peninsula from Seward to Homer today and we stopped by during "social hour" to say hello and meet their daughter Faith and her daughter, little cutey, Isabella. What a treat to meet them after hearing so much about the family! Isabella was having a fun time playing with Boo Boo, the shitzu, while we chatted!

After that, since it was late, we opted to go to the Cosmic Kitchen for burritos. These were the largest burritos in the world!! They were so had to eat it with a fork. There was no way you could pick up in your hands like regular burritos! Delicious with all kinds of peppers and onions sautéed with the meat! Yum!This morning we woke up to more sunshine! Yeah! So we took the Raider dog for a long walk on the beach. Due to the extreme low tide there was so much sand exposed. We managed to get past the large stones and let him have a good run on the sand! Boy did he kick up his heels, he was in Fat City! I think he was thinking, "Now this is a beach!" The waves had made a wonderful pattern on the sand when the tide was high. Since it stays fairly shallow it resembled waves on a sand dune.

While walking along the beach we met the gentleman from Georgia, whose trailer had been attacked by the moose! He related the story of how he was driving, near Tok, Alaska, when all of a sudden a moose explodes out of the trees. He saw the bull and even pulled over to the side of the road to avoid him. The moose kept coming, hit their beautiful 1971 Airstream Classic mid-ship! With his rack he tore open a huge hole in the aluminum side!! The bull then stepped back, shook it off and charged back into the forest! They were stunned! They had saved up for 5 years to do this Alaska trip! Now their prize possession was a shambles! And the stupid moose lived! By the time they made it down to Fairbanks, their insurance company "totaled" the trailer as not repairable, and then handed them a check for the replacement. That sweet southern gentleman, with a great penchant for story telling we could surmise, told us, "I found someone who would buy the wrecked trailer as salvage!" So he came out of the deal very well!
I asked him, "It must have been sad to see it go?"

He replied, "well, yes, it was my favorite! I still have a 1975 Airstream and I'm in the process of buying a 1951 Airstream from a friend of mine. So, we're ok!". They bought a new trailer while in Fairbanks and have continued on the tour with the caravan.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

HOMER, Alaska – Part 1

Homer bills itself as the “end of the road” because from here the only place you can go is by boat to Kodiak. Yes, this really is the end of the great North American road system. We had seen this wonderful seaside town back in 2002, but barely had 24 hours to enjoy it before racing back to Anchorage to catch our plane. We vowed to return and spend some time here. Like the first time we came here, it was very gray out and the fog lingered on the mountains across the way, hiding all of the glaciers when we arrived. At least it wasn’t raining. We checked out the campgrounds down on Homer Spit, a sandbar that extends 4.5 miles out from the town. There were several to choose from, but we didn’t feel a need to be that close to the commercial fishing smells. So we drove back into town and found the Ocean View RV Park that was only 1/3 full. No problem finding a place here, plus they had nice wide sites, full hook ups, and cable with 150 channels! Plus we have beach access and a million dollar view! We signed up for 3 days, then adding another 7 days. We have now added another week to our stay here. This will be the longest we have stayed anywhere since we have been on the road except when we were unable to move on due to the flu in Tucson.

Tuesday we woke up and the fog had lifted, by lunch time the sun was out! YEAH!! What a dramatic difference up here when there’s sun!! We could see a lot more of the glaciers and grand mountains around Kachemak Bay! Off we went to visit the Spit. It is a unique place, with all kinds of charter fishing trips being booked left and right. The sockeye salmon season is over, but the halibut trips were all successful. We had a great lunch at Captain Pattie’s, tasting some of that wonderful fresh halibut! There is nothing like it.

Then we checked out some of the shops and returned home to spring Raider from his “Home Alone” feeling. He needed a good romp on the beach, off leash and feeling his oats. The beaches up here don’t have too much sand, just gray or black rocks. Perhaps that’s because Homer is in close proximity to at least 3 volcanoes, some still active.
The next day we woke to glorious sunshine, which helped motivate us to get out and about, especially walking Raider. After tiring him out, we could take off and see the sights. We went to visit the Islands and Oceans National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center just down the street. They had just started building this when we were here last, so it was quite impressive to see inside. There were lots of great interpretive exhibits for the region.

Grant had to check out what kind of volunteer programs they have, and spoke to a refuge employee. We had been kicking around the idea of volunteering at a National Park or Wildlife Refuge in exchange for a free camp site and utilities. She was very enthusiastic and asked if we had our own RV. We told her we do. “Oh great, we pay for your site at the Ocean View RV Park during your stay here, which include your hookups and we even pay a stipend. We have two groups. One group of volunteers that comes up in April and leaves in July and another group that comes up in June and leaves in September.” She encouraged us to fill out the application because they would be planning on next summer real soon.

We thanked her for the wealth of information she gave us, but it’s a little too soon to attempt a volunteer job way up here until we’ve done it down in the lower 48. It looks good on the “volunteer resume” to have prior experience. Plus, we’re still in vacation mode. Trying to see all of places we want on the road to see in the first place. However, given our absolute love of Homer, we definitely plan to come back and spend a summer as volunteers at the Islands and Oceans National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center. We just don’t know which summer we will be doing it.

We then checked out Beluga Slough and estuary out behind the visitor’s center. Bishops Beach was at the beginning of low tide, we didn't see a single shorebird just a few gulls.

After that we went back to the Spit to make reservations for a “Wildlife viewing and lunch cruise” on Kachemak Bay. Next we went to the local microbrew Homer Brewing Company. They have free beer tasting, but because they don’t bottle their beer you can only get it restaurants. They do sell half gallon Growlers (bottles), however they take up a lot of room and don’t make a good collectable for RVs. We didn't want to end up with another growler! However, they said they would fill any growler we brought in. Fortunately, we still have a growler from the Jasper Brewing Company, because we knew that our return trip will take us back to Jasper. Among the beers we sampled was “rye beer” a new type of beer for us. We will have to go back with our growler to get some to go. For lunch we tried the Sourdough Express Bakery. This is Alaska’s first green restaurant. It has an interesting history of being founded in 1982 by a couple that baked their way up the Alaska Highway in an old bread truck selling bread to get money for gas. Once here they never left. History of Sourdough Express . Next was a visit to the Pratt Museum. Homer is justifiably proud of the Pratt Museum; it is the nicest small town museum we have ever been to. It has exhibits that detail life in Homer from 1903 to the present day. Pratt Museum

Thursday morning we walked on the beach from the RV Park back to Bishops Beach and still no shorebirds. Walking back to camp we noticed all of the fields of Fireweed, a bright magenta flower that begins to flower from the bottom. When the top blossoms are open, Alaskans know that summer will so be a memory!

We decided to kick back the rest of the day and just enjoy our view. For dinner, we went to Fat Olive’s. It is an Italian place with wood fire ovens for the pizza. It came highly recommended and always has a full parking lot. Barely a block away, we walked down for an early dinner so we could get in. The pizza was incredible, maybe the best pizza we have ever had!

Friday was our day for the wildlife viewing and lunch cruise. We had a perfect day, the sun was out and visibility was 60+ miles. We could see the active volcano St. Augustine 60 miles blowing steam from its top. The cruise starts at the small boat harbor on the Spit and heads to “Gull Island”. Most of the birds on “Gull Island” are Black-legged Kittiwakes. There are also Pelagic Cormorants, Tufted Puffins, Common Murres and a few Glaucous-winged Gulls. The Kittiwakes and Murres were still had nestlings and were bustling to feeding them.

Our next stop was “60 foot rock”. It also would normally have Black-legged Kittiwakes, Pelagic Cormorants, Tufted Puffins, and Common Murres.

However when we arrived a Bald Eagle had taken up residence at the top of the rock and the other birds abounded from their nests for the safety of the water. The Bald Eagle apparently decided he had seen enough of us and flew off. Immediately the birds came back to check on and feed their chicks.

Our finally stop was the Rookery Restaurant. This is a magnificent setting! We dined out on the balcony on this gorgeous day. The food was very good but the view and the ambiance were OUTSTANDING! Rookery Restaurant .

We had a “small world” experience while on this cruise. When we were in Alaska in 2003 we did an 11 day small boat (only 60 feet long and only 6 staterooms) cruise on Prince William Sound. Christine was the 1st Mate and chef on our small boat cruise. Kathy recognized her as the guide and deckhand on the trip to the Rookery. Have you been in a place too long when you recognize the locals? NO! She definitely remembered the trip and was delighted somebody would remember her. It was a very memorable trip and Christine was a wiz in that tiny galley! Of course we would remember her!!

While we were out, our quiet almost empty RV Park was descended on by two RV caravans at once, between them they had more than 40 RVs. We never cease to be amazed by the number of RV caravans we see here in Alaska. Saturday thinking that the caravaners would be heading for the Spit; we packed a picnic lunch and went up the road to Anchor Point. Homer may be the “end of the road” but Anchor Point is the furthest west you can drive. We stopped to chat with Gordon and Juanita who we had first met in real time last week in Soldotna for a bit. Gordon and Juanita's Alaska blog . After that we went further up the road to an Alaska State Park for our picnic.

They have about 12 sites and are so small that our truck barely fit into them. There is no chance for a trailer of any kind. We had stopped there when we left Homer on our trip back to Anchorage in 2002. The park is on the edge of the cliff and has some great views, but to the north we could see mostly clouds.

Monday, August 11, 2008


Today’s blog written by Kathy

After enjoying our stay in Seward, Friday we moved up on the Kenai Peninsula to Soldotna, where we joined our friends, Fred and Jo at the Klondike RV Park. They pulled into camp just before us, so we each got settled in this nice looking park. Later we had a Happy Hour and got to meet Mel and Joann Nadler, friends of the Wishnies, who are on a birding caravan, this was their vacation time away from the caravan. It is such a small world! We’ve been reading the travel blogs of their Wagon Master for years now, Bert Frenz! He’s an incredible birding leader! Mel and Joan have added lots of birds to their lists! They’ve also have been to Gambel, Nome and Barrow for extra birding adventures with Bert! They needed a break from all of that running around. It was great to finally meet them.

All of the other RV parks along the river are for the fishing folk, packed like sardines in gravel parking lot fashion. Since we aren’t fishing, we opted for grass between the roomier sites. We were handed a “Handbook” on all of the rules while staying there. One of the key things to keep us paranoid was “thou shalt not let your dog urinate or defecate in the park. If so you will be asked to leave without refund”. Since we were so lucky to get a site at the end, right next to the road, we walked our buddy Raider on the highway for his needs. I’m glad we were only staying a few days, through the weekend! There was a dog run at the back of the park, but what if your dog has an accident before you get there?! And then there was Mama Moose and baby moose to watch out for in that area, too! RV Fulltiming has it’s unique experiences, that is for sure!
Saturday we drove over towards the town of Kenai and tried out luck on finding some birds. It was a cool gray day, but I managed to spot a Short Eared Owl flying low looking for his lunch, along with several immature Bald Eagles and a lone coyote in the field. The coyote was keeping an eye on the black Labrador retriever, near us, picnicking with his family.

We headed back to camp because we had a side dish to make for the potluck . Mel and Joann hosted the party at their site with several barbecues ready. Everybody brought their own meat to barbecue. Besides Fred, Jo, Mel and Joann, we met Gordon and Juanita, as well as Mary and Mike Camp that evening. Gordon writes a travel blog, too and we’ve been following his adventures since Dawson Creek, they are traveling a few weeks ahead of us. It was great to finally meet them. Mary and Mike are from Escapees, which all of us belong to, and they were also a delight to meet!

Right away we hit it off. No longer strangers when it comes to sharing RV stories while traveling Alaska. Great food and drink, good company, what more could we ask for?!
Well, perhaps some sun would’ve been a nice addition! It was still gray out, and we were all bundled up in layers with sweatshirts, but by 9:00 the wind kicked up and we all retreated to our individual homes on wheels!

Sunday morning, after church, we stopped by the Kenai Visitor’s Center and walked the nature trail called the “Keen Eye”, catchy! We walked through a thick forest down to a lake where we could hear a loon, but could never find it. Problem with diving birds, there always under water and come up for air somewhere else! As we’re walking along, I’m making sure we can be heard so as not to scare any bears or moose that might be around. So I said to Grant, “OK, so where is this mythical moose they keep telling us is in this area?!”

It was a loop trail, a little steep, but pretty. Grant was walking ahead of me, the mosquitoes were eating him alive. We’re just about 75 feet of the parking lot, when he starts walking backwards!! UH OH!! I yell, “What is it?!” He tries to whisper, “Moose”. As I come up from behind him, there’s this huge female moose right at the very end of the trail, half standing in the parking lot and half in the plants. She’s as big as a horse and watching us very intently. We had to bushwhack through the underbrush to get to the truck, avoiding her! With all of the noise we were making she apparently wasn’t startled, she just kept grazing! Since we hadn’t planned on anything but getting to church on time, neither one of the cameras was back in the truck!! Talk about frustration!! Oh man, we could have had great photos; she was less than 20 feet away!!

After lunch we wandered over to the town of Kenai to check it out. This area was first founded by the Russians, so there’s lots of history to be found. There are several Russian Orthodox churches nearby, and one was open to visit, called the Holy Assumption of Mary. The priest was dressed in his long black vestments and was quite friendly if you had any questions. The sanctuary was quite small compared to the building itself from the outside. One thing different, there were no pews or chairs. Their liturgies are done standing or kneeling. It was the first time I had seen the inside of a Russian Orthodox church.

Like a lot of our birding, it seems the birds have moved on already! We didn’t find any shorebirds on the beach, just gulls. Perhaps they’ve already gone south because the weather is so much more like fall than it is summer!

Saturday, August 2, 2008


Seward may well be the most picturesque town in Alaska and that is saying a lot. It is like Switzerland with an ocean. Tall snow capped peaks even in late July, glaciers seemingly everywhere and the amazing long, deep Resurrection Bay at its front door. Pictures cannot do it justice! When we were in Yellowstone in May a Bald Eagle sighting would cause a traffic jam. They are so common in Seward that people walking down the street don’t even pause to lookup. Our son, Kevin, on our first trip, called them “Alaska’s pigeons”. :-)

Montana Owners Alaska Hospitality Committee

Bernie and Tammy Jarriel are active members of the Montana Owner Club forum that live in Seward year round in there Montana 5th wheel. They have become the MOC Alaska Hospitality Committee; we are the 6th couple so far this summer to visit Seward and spend time with them, as they tell of living in a 5th wheel where the snow fall is almost as tall as your trailer. They had a wonderful table reserved for us at Ray’s on the wharf! It was great to meet them and swap “Montana” tales, though theirs are a lot more exciting! We can’t imagine driving their brand new Montana from the dealer in Anchorage down to Seward in JANUARY!! They have ice on those highways that time of the year! And then there was so much snow in their campground, it sounded like a roofless tunnel to back it into!! Thanks for such an enjoyable meal!

Exit Glacier

Just as you enter Seward is the turn off to Exit Glacier. This is the only place where you can drive into the 670,000 acres Kenai Fjords National Park. Exit Glacier is also one of the most accessible glaciers in all of Alaska. The walk from the parking lot to the edge of the glacier is only a 1 mile round trip. It is also the easiest place to get to the 300 square mile Harding Icefield that feeds all of the glaciers on the Kenai Peninsula.

Park Service Map of Kenai Fjord National Park

Kenai Fjords National Park Boat Tour

The Seward tourist industry includes cruise ships arriving and departing, fishing charters for halibut and salmon and boat tours of Kenai Fjords National Park. The boat tour industry is so big that everyday a passenger train of people comes down from Anchorage just for the boat tours. There are at least 4 different boat tour companies, most running several boats a day and tours are 3 hours, 6 hours and 8 hours. The very last day of our first Alaska trip 10 years ago we took a Kenai Fjords National Park Boat Tour. Even after 4 visits to Alaska and all of the great things we have done, I still think it is the single best tour in Alaska. This time we went on the Renown Tours catamaran. The seas were calm and the catamaran was very stable. We stayed outside the whole time until we started back to port. The whole trip was about 120 miles round trip and lasted exactly 6 hours. We saw sea otters, at least a half a dozen humpback whales, but no Orcas. We also saw 2 kinds of dolphins and 2 kinds of seals.

We saw 15 species of birds including 2 new LIFE BIRDS: The Red-faced Cormorant and the Parakeet Auklet! The Captain even said that if there were Birders on board just tell the crew or the ranger if there is a target bird you want to see and they would try to get you to it. Both the Captain and the on board ranger were Birders. We saw mostly Black-legged Kittiwakes, Common Murres and Tuffed Puffins. We also saw some of the Horned Puffins and Glaucus Winged Gulls on the cliffs of the islands. They take you to one glacier and depending on how they are doing on time they decide which one to take you to. This trip we went to the Holgate Glacier. We did not see it caving this time, but we got pretty close to it that we could hear it cracking and groaning. Throughout the day the scenery was INCREDIBLE!

Renown Tours Web Site

Alaska Sea Life Center

The Alaska Sea Life Center is also in Seward, it was built with some of the money that Exxon was fined due to the infamous Exxon Valdez oil spill. The Center’s mission is to rehabilitee injured sea life and to educate the public about the sea life in the area. Since we were members of the Monetary Bay Aquarium for so many years and went so often everything pales by comparison, but it is impressive for a town this small. One huge bull Stellar Sea Lion knew how to work the crowds. The tank is 3 stories tall, so you can go down below and see the seals and fish swim. This bull was right up to the window showing off. He even looked like he was trying to hug the little girls standing next to the window watching him. What a ham! One of the pictures in the slide show gives a good size perspective of this beast! They also had an aviary, which of course, we HAD to stop in first! Imagine our delight to be able to go up to a Tufted Puffin as close as 12”! Puffins do bite we were warned, but they look so comical with those bright beaks! You could also go down below and watch the Common Murres and the Puffins swim under water. There was fish littered on the bottom of the pool for them to hunt for themselves. Quite impressive to see them “Fly” under water.

Alaska Sea Life Center homepage

BirdingRVers complete slideshow of Seward