Alaska’s Riviera – rather not a sunbathing hotspot. Marine wildlife living in the icy sea of Kenai Fjords National Park and Prince William Sound west of Valdez and the glaciers near Kennicott.
Seward, 26th June
Seward: the town with the worst cost effectiveness in Alaska. To make it short: everything in Alaska is pretty expensive. And you don’t get much for your money. About 40% more expensive than the US in the Lower 48. But then you arrive in Seward. About 100% more in eateries and some 200% in their lousy sleeperies. What to do – no campsite for simple tents or rooftops. All concentrate on these beautiful huge RVs with integrated living room, home cinema, spa and bathrooms with golden tubs. Even Uncle Don would appreciate them.
Thus, we opt for a motel costing only 192% more than elsewhere in the US. Well, it’s rundown, filthy and not worth any cent we spend. Thus 1 with a huge potential for Uncle Don’s greatification program. Currently simply depressing.
So let’s quickly go to our bucket list. 1st of all a tour to the Kenai Fjords. Also not too cheap, but an absolute must.
Fortunately not too many co-tourists. So pretty fine.
The trip is famous for watching marine wildlife – especially whales – and the visit to 1 of these glaciers calving into the see.
Soon after departure the 1st guy ready to act as a model for us: an otter.
We leave Resurrection Bay and Seward behind us, pass a 1st glacier from far and …
… approach a colony of sea-lions – too lazy for anything.
A few moments later – Humpback Whales.
Then some more. Now Fin Whales – even bigger than all others. But less visible.
Enough whales. At least for the moment. We move on. Along the snow covered mountain range behind Aialik Bay.
Finally turn towards the Northwestern Fjord …
… and slowly approach the glacier at the end of the bay.
The glacier not too active, sometimes a loud crack. Just small pieces of ice calving.
Whatever. In the sea numerous young seals. Sunbathing on floes of ice.
Then it’s time to say goodbye to the Northwestern Glacier, …
… we’re on the way back. Some fellow travellers really feel slightly exhausted after all this wildlife, …
… then everybody has to get up again. Even those in deepest hibernation. The hell a lot of Orcas are playing around the boat …
… even a baby Orca with its mother.
On to Seward. A few more lazy seals. And by the evening we’re back in terrible Seward – after a terrific tour.
The next morning: ready for the next adventure. Exit Glacier and the Harding Icefield. Just a few km outside Seward in the Kenai Fjords National Park. 1 of the very few accessible trails in this park. An opportunity for a hike. Where else in the world can you see an icefield after just a few km of walking?
Then it’s time for a local brew. To get ready for more sensations.
Whittier, 28th June
The ferry ride from Whittier to Valdez is said to be the highlight of the whole Alaska Marine Highway network. Thus we have to experience that. Initially it has been planned for tomorrow. Of course, without considering that some other guys may have the same idea. Hence, it’s fully booked. We have to wait for 4 days. An opportunity to return to Anchorage and to visit Hatcher Pass. Exceptionally beautiful weather. Nevertheless, in Anchorage we take the chance to buy some waterproof shoes.
Then to the Hatcher Pass a few km north of Anchorage. Despite all information it’s still closed. So we’re limited to a visit of the Independence Mine.
A former goldmine, thanx to the current firstification policy with a certain potential for development. Should the country’s greatification program ever reach Hatcher Pass there would be an incredible opportunity to earn a fortune. Of course this may only happen after having made great again all coal mines closed under the regency of the former administration. Let’s hope that greatification happens here in a very near future. Just imagine, Chinese buying this place. And not American patriots. What an incredible shame for each and every citizen of this brave’n’heroic country.
Whatever. It’s still a historic park. A place for tourists to visit. And no investor in view.
Back to Anchorage. And then on to Whittier to catch the now available space on the ferry. Weather again pretty cloudy, rainy – a world in black’n’white.
Whittier is not really a beauty. Nor the center of life for any urban party addict. Built as an army stronghold during World War 2 to prevent Japanese from selling Sushi to innocent Alaskan natives. Later it quickly developed into a center for anti-Soviet insurgence. Not too far from the Soviet mainland it was an ideal outpost to listen to east Siberian bears’ digestion, nightlife of lonely Kamtchakan couples and the great nothing of this part of Asia. To host all these defence forces they built a huge barrack block. Nowadays it looks like an average Central Asian apartment block. Must have been an incredibly interesting time for these army guys deployed to Whittier.
Nowadays this incredible military infrastructure decays. The army closely observes Putin’s latest mess on Google Earth – and that’s it. Remain some 200 lost souls in Whittier. Many of them Chinese descendants. And there’s some fishing and some tourists.
Nevertheless, they have some picturesque beaches nearby.
Valdez, 29th June
Then the Alaskan Marine Highway’s ultimate ferry trip. To Valdez. Of course it’s best if weather behaves. Well, it does not really. No rain, but a pretty grey world.
We queue up for the ferry, …
… a last stroll thru incredible Whittier. Many signs of its fading glory. We’re pretty shocked when we discover how signs of former patriotism, greatness and the spirit of freedom are visibly decaying in the rain and wind at Whittier’s port. And to which extent this inexcusable situation in a formerly important hotspot of heroism is completely ignored by politics. How unfair to America.
Departure early afternoon. 6h to Valdez. We’re ready to enjoy the most enjoyable trip on an Alaskan ferry.
Well, it’s pretty grey and not that incredibly interesting. The ferry is simply too distant from the coast. And some guys are simply too sleepy to watch all the time.
Valdez – world renowned as the terminal of the Alaska pipeline and the accident of Exxon Valdez many years ago. A hotspot for fishing addicts. What else? Well, many fishing boats to see and maybe the Fat Mermaid – the most crowded eatery in town. They sell beer and fish’n’chips.
McCarthy, 2nd July
On to the St. Elias-Wrangler National Park. To McCarthy. As weather still shows its worst side we take some time to arrive. We’re optimistic. Weather forecast promises some wonderful, sunny days in the near future. And we want to believe that.
But let’s start in Valdez. To the supermarket. We urgently need to fill the fridge. And as usual some bread – if possible the good 1, not the 1 that sticks on 1s denture. No chance. But we find beautiful goodies to buy. All to prepare for the 4th of July – America’s National Day. Appetizing. Aren’t they?
Even the locals’ clothing adapts to this event – supposedly.
Back to real life. We’re on the way to McCarthy. Leave the Pacific Coast. Probably we’ll see it again in Southern British Columbia only. Some lush valleys, huge waterfalls – no wonder after all this rain, …
… then up into the mountains. Rainy, foggy.
A look at Worthington Glacier in the rain. An overnight stop in a nearby sleepery.
The next morning – a little better weather. But by far not the promised sunshine.
Along the large Chitina River, …
… some young Bald Eagles, …
… then we cross the river on the historic bridge.
And finally the last km without Prado. The bridge is simply to narrow.
McCarthy – a village with some 6 to 30 permanent inhabitants. It seems the US Bureau of Census has some serious problems to count this crowd here. Whatever, who needs to know that.
It’s a place where dogs get the best seat in the car …
… and the locals are afraid that dumb tourists use their bearspray to fight mosquitos wherever they are.
And finally, McCarthy’s inhabitants like to show the leftovers of their rich history.
Well, we’re not here to admire this village only. No, tomorrow we’ll have a stroll on the glacier. And weather forecast is good. So we remain optimistic.
And indeed, optimism pays off. The next morning we’re having the nicest weather we ever had for the whole last month.
As we have no idea about the dos’n’don’ts on an Alaskan glacier and on how to react in case of an encounter with an icebear we opt for a full day guided tour on the Root Glacier. Even if we’re not really enthusiastic about this form of exploring the unknown. They provide transport to the glacier, equipment and the knowledge on how to stroll on it. As we’ve seen some of their transport facilities the day before we’re slightly optimistic that everything will be ok.
A short drive to the Kennicott Mine. We get our crampons, a lot of sun cream and the usual advices on how to behave. Then we start. 1st on a path along the stone glacier – a glacier covered with stones if we correctly understand the explanation. Then to the glacier. Now without rock cover. Beautiful landscape.
Then a path down to the glacier, …
…mounting the crampons and the adventure begins.
Of course, some parts are more dangerous than others on a glacier. Especially the places they call the Moulins. Vertical caverns just going to nowhere. We learn that never ever anybody falling down has been recovered – dead or alive. Probably a suicider’s and definitely an ice climber’s paradise. And an opportunity to take a picture.
Finally a swimming pool on the glacier – for hot mid-summer days.
Well. That’s it for today. Hope you could reload your jealousy and enjoyed reading.
Cu soon. Be aware another post will follow.