(July 6, 2006 to July 25, 2006)
You can click on "photos"
directly to the first photo page, which has a connector to the second
page (if there is one).
July 6 - July 7 Portage Valley (52 miles)
conditions: The road from
Anchorage to Seward is known as the Seward Highway (AK 1 and AK 9). It
was a mostly good road from Anchorage to the Portage Valley.
stayed at the Portage
Valley Cabins and RV Park. It was a big gravel
area with 30 amp electric. There were several campgrounds in the area,
including some U.S. Forest Service campgrounds. We had thought we would
get into Williwaw but didn't want to commit until we knew for sure when
we would be in the area. By the time we decided when we would be there
the reservation website at http://www.reserveusa indicated it was full.
Little did we know that the campground saved some sites on a first
come, first served basis. We stayed one night at the campground and
spent the second night in a large dirt pullout near the intersection of
the Seward Highway and Portage Glacier Road.
One of the coupons we had in the Tour Saver book was for a ride on the
Alyeska Ski Resort Tram in Girdwood. That was only about 15 miles up
the road so we drove up to check it out. Unfortunately, the mountain
was in the clouds and we thought that would be a waste, so we decided
to wait until we passed through the area again on our way to Valdez. We
did walk around the very nice hotel with it's beautiful fireplace and
Our main purpose in stopping in the area was to go to Whittier to take
a ride on Prince William Sound to view some glaciers. You
can also take a one hour glacier tour out
to see the Portage Glacier, but we decided the tour out of Whittier was
the one we wanted to do. This
was also part of the Tour Save coupon book. In the past, the only way
to get to Whittier was through a tunnel via train. A road was built
that shared the tunnel with the train. Vehicles can go through the
tunnel to Whittier on the half hour, and return from Whittier on the
hour. The cost for a car to go through was $12, and the cost for a
vehicle pulling a trailer was $35. The tunnel is a little over two
miles long and is touted as the longest tunnel in North America.
We arrived in Whittier and drove over to see where we would board the
boat. Some folks came past us and recognized the Escapees sticker on
the car and we chatted for a while. That's how we met Nick and Mary
Wagner from Acushnet, Massachusetts. We sat together on the cruise and
had a very nice day looking at the glaciers and chatting. The cruise
was four hours and served a halibut lunch that was good. We were able
to get fairly close to one of the glaciers and we were able to see it
"calve" (ice breaking off in big chunks). The captain of the boat said
he would turn off the engines so we could hear the ice cracking and the
roar of the calving ice but, for some reason, they weren't able to turn
off the fans and it was too loud to be able to hear anything except
One of the nicest visitor centers we've ever seen was the Begich, Boggs
Visitor Center located just prior to the tunnel to Whittier. A
wonderful film was shown about the glaciers in the area, "Voices from
the Ice". There were many exhibits in the center where one could learn
about glaciers and about the Chugach National Forest, America's second
largest national forest. We learned that glaciers are formed when snow
falls faster than it can melt. As snowflakes settle, they compress and
form ice. Gravity gives glaciers the power to move and carve the
landscape as they carry and push rocks along the terrain. There are two
types of glaciers, tidewater and alpine. Tidewater glaciers calve into
salt water. Alpine glaciers are those that form in mountain valleys.
Both of us were
amazed at just how blue the glaciers appeared and wondered why they
looked so blue. The visitor center explained why the ice is blue. The
following was taken from the brochure in the visitor center: "Glacier
ice is formed under the weight of countless snowfalls, which squeeze
out most of the air, leaving dense, compact ice. Sunlight, or white
light, is made up of all the colors of the spectrum. In regular ice,
like the ice in your freezer, the air bubbles scatter the light,
creating the white appearance. When sunlight strikes glacier ice, the
lower energy colors are absorbed by the ice and only the blue color,
which has the most energy, is reflected back to the eye."
July 8 - July 16 Homer (171 miles)
conditions: There were two
highways we drove on to get to Homer. The first road was a continuation
of the Seward Highway (AK 1) until it met up with the Sterling
Highway (also AK 1). The Seward Highway becomes AK 9 and will be
described when we drive to Seward. Conditions of both the Seward
Highway and Sterling Highway were mostly good to very good as the
highways varied between two lanes and four lanes.
planned for a week in Homer and we usually opt for a full hookup
campground for that length of time. We chose to stay at the OceanView
RV Park, which is the first park you see as you come into Homer.
campground is located right off the water and we had a nice view every
time we entered the campground and drove down the hill to our site.
Homer is located on the west
side of the Kenai Peninsula and sits on the shores of Kachemak Bay,
which is part of the Cook Inlet. Jutting out from Homer is the Homer
Spit, a 4.5 mile strip of sand and gravel with one road. The village of
Homer was located on the tip of the Spit from 1896 to 1902 when it was
abandoned. The current community developed slowly near the base of the
Spit in the 1910s. It wasn't always connected to other communities, but
when it was connected by a road to the rest of the world businesses
flourished and tourists found the town. Today, Homer is a main site
for fishing trips, bear viewing trips, and bay cruises to places like
Halibut Cove and Seldovia.
Homer is on the northern edge of the Pacific Ring of Fire with four
volcanoes rising above the far side of the Cook Inlet: Mount Douglas
Volcano, Mount Augustine Volcano, Mount Illiamna Volcano, and Mount
Redoubt Volcano. Recently, Mount Augustine was active and spewing
smoke, but it was quiet when we were in town. We were able to see the
Mount Redoubt and Mount Augustine volcanoes during our stay.
There are several glaciers in the Homer area and all of them are alpine
glaciers that form in the mountain valleys. We were able to see a
couple of them from the ridge that overlooks Homer, and also from the
After we got set up we drove down to the spit and drove to the end to
see what was out there. Then we parked the car and started walking
around to find a place to eat. Before we went out I went online to
email and had a note in my inbox from our RV friend, Liane Holder,
who told us about "to die for" chunks of halibut on a skewer. We
decided to eat at
the Boardwalk Fish & Chips restaurant and that turned out to be one
of the places Liane had in mind when she told us about the halibut
chunks. She was absolutely correct. The fish is lightly
battered and then deep fried and put on a skewer. We
ordered one halibut and one salmon skewer and they were delicious.
We stayed fairly busy during our stay in Homer, but also made sure we
had some "do nothing" days. There were two roads highlighted in one of
the Homer brochures: Skyline Drive and East End Road. We drove both of
them. Skyline Drive offered magnificent views of Kachemak Bay, the
Homer Spit, and the snow capped mountains and glaciers on the other
of the bay. While we were up there taking in the views a bald eagle
flew directly above us. He was no more than about 100 feet above us and
it was the closest we have ever been to a bald eagle in flight. He
looked majestic with his wings stretched out as he was gliding with the
One of the coupons in the Tour Saver book was for a day trip to the
Russian village of Seldovia. The captain and owner of the boat, M/V
Discovery, was Tim and he gave us a nice sightseeing tour out to
Seldovia. The first stop was Gull Island where anywhere from 15,000 to
25,000 birds hang out. One bald eagle was on the rock eating a meal,
probably one of the birds. Tim said that if the eagle took flight we
would see thousands of birds immediately also get up in the air to
avoid becoming the eagle's next meal. Sure enough, the eagle took off
and thousands of birds filled the air. It was quite a sight.
In 1898, Seldovia, which means "herring" in Russian, was the main town
in the area with a busy
seaport. The Alaska Steamship Company made regular stops in Seldovia
delivering mail, people, and freight. Two things happened to change
that. One was the construction of the Sterling Highway that connected
Homer with the rest of the world. Prior to that, Homer was a quiet
little farming community. The other thing that happened was the 1964
earthquake that devastated Seldovia. Today, it is a quiet little
village that caters to tourists. We had almost three hours to spend in
Seldovia. After a nice lunch at the Tide Pool Cafe we headed out with a
map of the town to visit some of the gift shops and to find the
Otterbahn Trail to take a hike. We found the gift shops, but the map
was a bit misleading as to the trail head for the Otterbahn Trail and
found it too late to hike it as we had to head back to the docks for
the boat ride back to Homer. However, we did have a nice sunny day and
enjoyed the trip.
The morning of our trip to Seldovia I was up at
the office doing email
and some other stuff on the computer. One of the websites I had been
monitoring was the rv.net forum, especially the Alaska threads and,
specifically, the thread about driving on the Top of the World Highway.
Someone named Greg Paine had posted to the forum and I answered the
post. The next thing I know I get an email from Greg saying
they'll be in Homer. I responded that we were already in Homer and at
the OceanView RV Park. Then Diane and I went on the trip to Seldovia.
That evening while I was washing the windshield on the motorhome, a guy
comes up to me and asks me if I'm Rich. That's how I met Greg Paine. We
got to visit with them one evening and then again over dinner another
evening. They were RVers from Lake Havasu, Arizona and we enjoyed their
On another evening while we were walking back from the campground
office, we stopped to chat with Noel and Carol Roe who we had first met
in North Pole when they were parked next to us at the Santaland RV
park. Another couple was there and I found out that the lady was Bev
who also was posting to the rv.net Alaska forums. Small world indeed.
In the summer of 1787 Captain James Cook, after which the Cook Inlet
was named, sailed into the inlet looking for a northwest passage. After
losing a large anchor to the tidal currents, they named the area Anchor
Point. Today, it is a small town popular with fishermen who come to
fish in the Anchor River. It's also home to the western most highway in
North America. So naturally, we had to go check it out and add it to
our list given that we've been to the most southern point in the U.S.
and to the western most point in the lower 48 in Washington.
The other reason we had to drive up to the Anchor Point area was to
visit Nikolaevsk, a Russian Village, which is located about 10 miles
east of Anchor Point. Nikolaevsk was the first of several communities
of Russian Old Believers and was founded by five families in 1968. Old
Believers had longed searched for a place where they could be free to
worship in the way of the Old Rite Russian Orthodox. Their search took
them to China, South America, Oregon and Alaska. Other people chose
other countries. I couldn't determine the current population, but
population for 2002 was listed as about 500 people.
Our purpose in visiting Nikolaevsk was to find the Samovar Cafe and have
lunch. It turned out to be quite a day and quite an experience. We
didn't see anything in Nikolaevsk except some houses, the beautiful
Russian Church of St. Nikolas, an elementary school, and the Samovar
Cafe. The cafe is a nice little building with a small gift shop and a
horseshoe shaped counter with four stools around it. Behind the counter
was the kitchen. The owner of the cafe is Nina Fefelov. I would
describe her as "pleasantly pushy" or maybe "pushy with a smile" with a
delightful Russian accent. This pushiness was due to the cafe being
small and Nina having to keep things moving in order to satisfy the
diners who come in to eat at the cafe. We did not know to call ahead to
make a reservation, but we were lucky that there was only one other
couple there when we arrived, and they were from Salt Lake City.
Nina greeted everyone with a "Hello. Where are you
from?". Then it was down to business. No time to look at the menu
for five or ten minutes. She wanted your order almost immediately after
you look at the pictures of the dishes she offered. Nina came out with
two bowls and announced "Small bowl. Big bowl. Which size you want for
borscht?" We each opted for a small bowl of her borscht, a soup
with cabbage, beets, potatoes, tomatoes, and celery. It was served with
piroshkis, which were pockets of lightly baked bread with a filling of
either potato or a mixture of cabbage, mushrooms, and vegetables. She
did the same with the main dish, which was a choice of polish sausage
or a combo plate of sausage and pelmeni. Pelmeni are Siberian dumplings
filled with beef and boiled in chicken broth until they float. Then she
offered (or pushed) her dessert, cream puffs with chocolate syrup and
topped with whipped cream and cherry. Along with dessert she suggested
her Russian Tea, a mild mixture of raspberry, boysenberry, mint, and
fireweed blossom. Diane is the tea drinker, so she ordered the tea.
Nina had a sign on the counter that said "Please do not talk to Nina
when she is cooking or you may not get fed". You learn quickly that
Nina will initiate the conversation when she has breaks in her meal
preparation. If you try to talk to her while she is busy cooking she
will remind you not to talk to her, always with a smile and always
pleasantly. But she does listen to conversations taking place at the
counter, we were sure of that. During one of her breaks, she encouraged
the guys to don a Russian style shirt and then she asked for our camera
to take our photo. For every course of the meal, she carried the food
out on a tray and asked us to take Nina's photo.
The net is that we drove up to find a cafe for maybe a $20 lunch and
ended up spending $56 ($40 for lunch and $15 for a gift for my mom) for
a very pleasant and enjoyable and fun experience. We met Nina, who we
found out from her website was an electrical engineer from Khabarovsk,
in the Russian Far East. She has lived in Nikolaevsk for more than 10
years and teaches the Russian language at the Nikolaevsk School. She's
a very interesting person. Our visit to Nikolaevsk was definitely a
highlight of our visit to the Homer area.
Allen and Sarah Sparks, who we visited in North Pole, were in Homer
visiting family while we were in town. We met for breakfast and then
spent several hours touring the Pratt Museum together. There were
exhibits about the Exxon Valdez catastrophe when millions of crude oil
was leaked into Prince William Sound after the ship went aground on a
reef. Viewing the displays and watching the movie reminded us of how
horrible it was at the time. Many animals and birds were killed as a
result of that oil spill, plus people who made their living from the
sea were harmed because fishing grounds were ruined for years.
Apparently, Exxon has still not reimbursed the people in the area for
their losses. Another
highlight of the museum was a live broadcast of brown bears catching
salmon in McNeil River Falls. The camera was controlled from a computer
in the museum. It was cool to watch as the person operating the
computer zoomed in and out, and panned left to right, to view specific
bears and their behavior. That web cam is available on the National
The Winckels and the Hirths arrived in Homer and found sites
on the Spit. They told us about a bear viewing trip they had planned
out of Soldotna during the upcoming week. Our plan was to head to
Soldotna for a couple of days to visit with Dave and Sally Stribling,
and we were hoping to park in the Fred Meyer for a couple of days. I
thought it may be easier to find a spot after the weekend so we decided
to move over to the Spit for a couple of days. That gave us a chance to
visit with the Winckels and Hirths and catch up on our travels. It also
gave Diane and I a chance to visit the Saturday Farmer's Market and the
street fair being held at the high school.
This is a prime example as to why we aren't fans of RV caravans. You
don't get to decide to stay longer, or shorter, in a location. When the
caravan is ready to move, you move. We prefer the flexibility to make
travel decisions on the fly.
Restaurant Notes: We ate at Fat
Olives one evening based on a couple of recommendations. Be aware that
they do not split checks regardless of the size of the party. They will
accept separate credit cards, but will not put different amounts on the
cards. Our server did process different amounts, but a bit grudgingly.
There is a bakery/cafe on the main road leading to the spit that six of
us went to for dinner one evening. The prices were high with entrees in
the $20s and the menu seemed rather limited. We all agreed the prices
weren't what we wanted to pay, so we left and went looking for another
place to eat. Fat Olives was not a choice for the reason mentioned
earlier. We found Mangia! Mangia! and had a great Italian meal at good
prices. We like dinners in the $20 to $30 range and Mangia! Mangia! fit
perfectly. Plus, they were friendly and they split the checks without
17 - July 20 Soldotna (74 miles)
conditions: We backtracked
along the Sterling Highway from Homer to Soldotna and it was a good
road all the way.
Meyer parking lot. The salmon run was going on when we came through
Soldotna, so spaces were hard to come by. Our first choice was the Fred
Meyer lot, but we had heard it could be hard to get in there. We got
lucky. They actually have "one day" and "three day" spots in their
parking lot and we got there in time to grab the last "three day" spot.
Another area for free camping was the large gravel area out near the
airport, but it was totally packed when we drove by in the car. We met
someone who referred to that lot as "Quartszite, Alaska". The
Soldotna Sports Arena had a large paved parking lot with several RVs
parked there and we couldn't figure out why there weren't more RVs
there. It seemed like a good place to park for a couple of days.
Soldotna is located on the Sterling Highway about 140 miles southwest
of Anchorage. Homestead filing was opened in 1947, and World War II
veterans were the first homesteaders in Soldotna. There was nothing
there at the time and transportation to the area was difficult. People
had to fly or take a barge to Kenai and then hiked the eleven miles to
Soldotna. The name of the city came from the creek that emptied into
the Kenai River. Some people say the name came from the Russian word
that means "soldier", others say it came from an Athabascan Indian word
meaning "the stream fork".
Soldotna is surely a salmon fisherman's paradise with the Kenai River
being the main attraction. It competes with the Russian River to the
north for spots where people can cast their lines. There are so many
people fishing side by side, at times, that is is often referred to as
"combat fishing". And people do get hooked by lines cast by people next
to them. Ouch.
We got set up in a spot in the Fred Meyer parking lot and then
contacted Dave and Sally Stribling who go to Alaska almost every year.
They used to live in the Anchorage area and became fulltime RVers after
they retired. They still have family in Alaska and that draws them back
every year, plus they love to fish for the salmon. We found out that
this has been a very poor season for catching salmon as they weren't
running good this year. Sally told us they actually use sonar to count
the salmon running up the river and they were down more than 70% from
past seasons. That hasn't made fishermen very happy. Sally and Dave had
time for lunch and suggested Sal's Klondike Diner. We met them there
and had a very nice visit.
The Winckels and the Hirths arrived the following day and were able to
claim two spots we had saved for them to park their motorhomes for
three days. While waiting
for them to arrive I went to the Soldotna Wash and Dry on the Kenai
Spur Highway to do email on their fantastic WiFi connection. The
laundromat was always a busy place, but they had some tables where
people can sit and do email. It was a great benefit for being parked at
the Fred Meyer. As a note to others who may be in the area in the
future, we did try the library but I could not get the WiFi signal to
work. It was working for some folks, but not for others.
One of the things Diane wanted to do while in Alaska was to see the
brown bears. There were several bear viewing companies that operated
out of Homer. They were mostly all day trips over to Katmai National
Park and were fairly expensive for a day trip (most were around $550).
We gave up on the all day trip and opted for a three hour bear viewing
trip ($245) out of Soldotna along with Fran, Karl, Roberta, and John.
company we used was
High Adventure Air Charter.
We took off in a float plane on Longmere Lake and flew for 30 minutes
across the Cook Inlet to Big River Lake. We transferred to a flat
bottom boat for a short ride to Wolverine Creek for about two hours of
bear viewing. Unfortunately, we only got to see one black bear, one
young brown bear, and one orphaned brown bear up on the hill who we
were told would probably not make it through the winter. However, just
as we were getting
ready to go back to the plane a sow brown bear and two cubs came down.
Our pilot and guide, Gary Kegel had a schedule to maintain as he had
several flights yet to do that day, but he was nice enough to take the
boat back to the creek so we could get a few photos of the family of
We were the only people out there to view the bears. Most of the other
seven or eight boats were there to fish for sockeye salmon, as well as
watch for bears. The black bear was funny because he wasn't very smart
or good at catching salmon. Gary told us that the brown bears are much
better at it than the black bears. However, even the young brown bear
we saw wasn't very successful at catching salmon. The bears, especially
the black bear, were up close and personal to the boats. They were
for a handout from the people who were fishing, but no handouts were
coming as it is dangerous to give food to bears. Bears are naturally
cautious of people. Feeding them makes them less cautious and that can
result in danger to people. The older sow brown bear that came down to
fish caught a salmon within minutes of arriving to the water.
The weather was great, so we had a very pleasant flight in the small
float plane. I even got to ride in the co-pilot seat on the way back.
Pretty cool. The weather and flight and some bear viewing made up for
some disappointment in not seeing more bears for a longer time. But
it's one of those "you get what you pay for" things. The $550 day trips
out of Homer pretty much guarantee that you would see lots of bears,
big bears, for a longer time because they have scouts in Katmai that
know where the bears are. One of the most famous places is Brooks River
Falls. You have probably seen the famous photo of bears catching salmon
as they try to jump up the falls to get to their spawning area.
On the way back to the Fred Meyer store Diane and I stopped at the Town
of Living Trees where we saw some magnificent chain saw sculptures done
by talented Scott Hanson and others. Some of the sculptures were
fantastic, and all done with chain saws.
Our last day in Soldotna was one of those great camaraderie days. The
day started with Fran, Karl, Roberta, John, Diane, and I meeting Sally
and Dave in the Fred Meyer for coffee and snacks. They just happened to
have a Starbuck's in the store, so that made Diane and I happy as we
got our tea and cappuccino. We started this little gathering about 10
a.m. There were three couples who have sites at the Escapees park The
Ranch in Lakewood, New Mexico who were touring Alaska together and were
parked at the Elks Lodge in Kenai. After a while, Sally
happened to notice one of those couples, Barb and Lou Novy, coming
into the store, so she went and told them where we were so they could
join us. Diane and I had actually met them before when we were at The
Ranch with John and Libby Veach back in February 2001. Our little
gathering went on until around 1:15 p.m. Plans were made to meet again
for happy hour at the Elks Lodge in Kenai at 5 p.m. with the other
Diane and I drove up to Kenai one day to look at the visitor center.
They had a small museum and some movies. There was an entrance fee of
$3. It was an okay visitor center, but we have been in much nicer ones
that did not charge a fee to enter. We didn't have enough time that day
to see other places in Kenai, so we drove up again to see the Holy
of the Virgin Mary Russian
Orthodox Church. It was built in 1894 and is one of the oldest standing
Russian Orthodox churches in Alaska.
We also went to a bluff in town to watch the dip netters fishing for
salmon at the
mouth of the Kenai River. Dip netting is where people catch salmon by
holding large nets in the current of the river. Only Alaska residents
can dip net, and only for a certain period of time during each fishing
season. Each head of household is allowed to catch 25 sockeye salmon,
and each dependent can catch 10 sockeye salmon. There were hundreds of
people down in the water with their nets. When the fishing is good,
many salmon are caught in a short period of time. Unfortunately, the
salmon weren't running that good this year which resulted in the
fishing season ending early.
Our second round of camaraderie for the day started about 5
p.m. at the Elks Lodge in Kenai and
went on until about 7:15 p.m. This time it was the six of us who were
parked at the Fred Meyer, plus Barb and Lou Novy from the morning
session, and Gene and Phil Sharp, and Marge and Mike Klick, all from
The Ranch. It was a wonderful way to spend a day and we enjoyed it a
21 - July 25 Seward (89 miles)
conditions: The road from
Soldotna to Seward had us backtrack along the Sterling Highway (AK 1)
to where it connected with the Seward Highway (AK 9). Both roads were
stayed in two campgrounds in Seward. The first two days were spent at
the Stoney Creek RV Park.
It was a nice park in an open area with gravel pullthru sites. It also
had cable TV and WiFi that was reachable from our site, but not from
all sites in the park. In some cases, it was necessary to go up to the
laundry room area to use the WiFi. The rest of our time in Seward was
spent at the one of the city RV parks.
In 1792, a Russian explorer,
Alexander Baranof, came upon a bay he named Resurrection Bay. Russian
settlements were established and the area became a ship building
center. Alaska was purchased from Russia in 1867. The man who
engineered that purchase was William Henry Seward who was President
Lincoln's Secretary of State. In 1903, the city was laid out by
railroad men and eventually named for William Henry Seward.
Seward was sort of a bust for us due to horrible weather while we were
there and a mishap with our car. People who own RVs are usually bound
to do what we refer to as a "stupid RV trick" during their RVing days.
Those of us who are fulltime RVers have many more opportunities to do a
stupid RV trick. Well, I managed to pull off one of those tricks during
our drive from Soldotna to Seward. Our hooking up process involves
Diane hooking up the hitch while I install the Brake Buddy and get the
windshield cover ready to put on. The Honda requires a warm up period
before towing and it is almost always idling while we perform our
tasks. Because the car is idling in neutral, and Diane is between the
car and the motorhome, I always pull up on the emergency brake. I then
have a two step process to make sure the car is in neutral and then
turn the ignition key to the accessory position and release the
emergency brake when Diane is finished hooking up the car. This time
the car had already been on the road and was warmed up so it wasn't
necessary to have it idling while hooking up. It was then that I had a
lapse of concentration and focus and forgot to release the emergency
brake. That meant that I towed the car for 89 miles with the brake on.
The result of that stupid RV trick was a $309 bill to repair the
damage to the rear brakes. SIGH!!!!!
It didn't help that it rained every day we were in Seward, which
limited what we could do. I am definitely a fair weather person, and
Diane isn't really happy to be out in the rain either. I have never
liked to golf in the rain, so why would I want to be out doing anything
else in the rain? At least I'm consistent.
Along with Fran and Karl, we did get to visit the Alaska Sealife Center
and the Exit Glacier. The Sealife Center is a marine science facility
with the purpose of combining a research mission with wildlife
rehabilitation and public education. We enjoyed the exhibits about the
marine ecosystem of Alaska and watching the animals. There were many
types of marine life on display, including seals, birds, and fish. It
was interesting, albeit we all agreed it was a bit overpriced at $15
for the entrance fee.
The rain stopped long enough for us to decide to drive out to see the
Exit Glacier where it was possible to hike right up to the glacier. The
Exit Glacier is an alpine glacier and is one of more than 30 glaciers
that flow from the Harding Icefield. The ice field is the largest in
the U.S. and covers about 300 square miles. It was pretty impressive to
get that close to a glacier. We could see how much it had receded over
the years, as have other glaciers. Some folks believe that is just a
cyclical thing, but Diane and I happen to agree that we are in a global
period that is being caused by us humans.
The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is a big thing in Alaska with teams
from around the world participating. The Iditarod is known as the "last
great race on earth". In 1925, there were many children who were very
ill with diphtheria in Nome, which is about 675 miles from Anchorage.
Serum was needed for the children and dog sled teams were used to race
the serum there for the stricken children. The Iditarod race replicates
that event. The race currently runs more than 1,000 miles. There are
several places in Alaska where you can get a ride on a dog sled. We
chose to wait until we got to Seward to take the kennel tour and dog
sled ride at the Seavey kennel referred to as the "IdidaRide Sled Dog Tours" owned
by Mitch Seavey. Mitch has finished 12 Iditarods and won the race in
2004. It was unfortunate that it was raining on the only day we had
left to visit the kennel, but we did it anyway.
The kennel had more than 100 sled dogs. First, we had a short
presentation by one of the mushers about the kennel and the Iditarod.
The dogs are mixed breed dogs that are bred for racing. Over time the
breeders brought breeds built for speed, such as the greyhound, into
the breeding programs. When it was our turn to ride we watched as two
people started hooking up 14 dogs to the summer sled built on wheels.
As we saw in Fairbanks, the dogs started to go wild when they realized
they may get a chance to run. That's what they live for and they seem
to love it. The summer sled is very heavy, and when you add eight to
nine people to the sled it could weigh up around a ton. This exercise
in summer builds muscle on the dogs and gets them ready to pull a sled
for a long distance over snow and ice. That sled, plus supplies and a
musher, weighs in about 300 pounds, so it feels very light to the 16
dogs pulling during the race.
We heard one more presentation about how the dogs are protected from
bitter cold during the race. The speaker had a champion sled dog,
Colonel, with her to show how they are protected from the cold. Colonel
has finished seven complete races. Our final stop was to look at the
puppies. Everyone was loving the chance to hold them because they were
so little and so cute.
Due to the rain we opted to skip taking the glacier tour we had
planned. Several folks we know who have already been to Valdez have
told us about the Stan Stephens glacier tour. We still plan to take
that tour when we get to Valdez.
Restaurant Note: We found the
prices rather high in many of the restaurants we considered eating at
while in Seward. Based on recommendations, six of us first checked out
Ray's on the Waterfront for dinner. That would have easily have been a
$50+ dinner so we decided we would come back there for lunch one day.
Not only were the dinner prices very high, but there was a wait to get
in. We did go back for lunch and had a very nice meal that came to
around $30. We eat out a lot, so we try to keep it to $30 or less,
which is in keeping with almost all of our fellow RVers we hang out
with. Being retired sure does change one's spending habits.
The other restaurant of note was The Apollo in the downtown area. We
ended up there for dinner after leaving Ray's. The Apollo was also a
pricey restaurant, but we decided to stay and eat there. Diane and I
often split meals, sometimes because the portions are just too large
and we don't care to take home the leftovers, or because the price is
too high. So eating at a pricey restaurant doesn't always deter us from
eating there as we can still keep the price reasonable and get enough
food to eat. The meal at Apollo was excellent. However, be aware that
they have a sign up front saying they do not split checks for parties
of six or more. We are not alone in finding that to be very annoying
and not very customer friendly. Our server was great and she did split
the checks for us anyway.
This wraps up our tour of the Kenai Peninsula. It was more of what we
expected when we thought about Alaska. Other than a few rainy days, we
enjoyed our visit to the towns we stopped in as we made our way around
the peninsula. Now it's back up to Anchorage to visit a couple of
places we missed the first time through, to enjoy some Celtic music, to
catch up on some movies, and to just sit around for a while before we
continue on to Valdez.
Until next time, safe travels.....
Copyright © 2006,
Roaming America with Rich &
Diane Emond -
All Rights Reserved