No, We Didn’t Win the Lottery

After reading about all of the adventures we’ve had this summer, you must be thinking we hit the lottery. I mean, really, who could afford to do all of those things?

Links go to the blog post I wrote about the adventure.

Two glacier cruises…

Kenai Fjords Glacier Cruise-7651
Our cruise with Kenai Fjords Tours
IMG_4499
Our cruise with Major Marine

Two Helicopter tours…

Marathon Helicopter-8414
Marathon Helicopter tour
Seward Helo Dog Sled-8646
Seward Helicopter Tours

Dog sledding…

Seward Helo Dog Sled-8662
Turning Heads Kennel

Rafting…

img_5833
Rafting with Alaska River Adventures

Took the tram…

Alyeska Tram-8545
Riding the Tram

Visited the wildlife center

AWCC-7384
Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center

And did sight seeing on our own…

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8041

img_5653

Kenai NWR-8737

Kenai-8495

Hopw-8247

Hopw-8215

Drive From Anchorage-7268

Homer-9071
11 1/2 week old eagle in Homer

6J2A1219

 

 

One thing I haven’t written much about is the fact we are working. For May, June and most of July, we worked full time, 40 hours a week. We are the “On Site Hosts” at the Spruce Moose Chalets in Moose Pass. What does an on site host do, you ask? Well, lots of things. But one of the major things we do is be an ambassador for the area. Chalet guests come from all over the world and want to have the best experiences possible. But how can we recommend an excursion if we haven’t tried it ourselves? Would you recommend a restaurant you’ve never eaten at? No! So what I did was contact all of these businesses and explained to them we would be here for the summer and wanted to be able to tell our guests about our adventures. I asked if they would be willing to give us a discount in exchange for our testimony. Simple as that! Nearly every place I contacted offered us a deal and discounts varied from place to place.  We never would have been able to afford to do all these things if I hadn’t been able to leverage our position as the on site host.

I still have one more post to write (maybe two) about our time but I am pretty much caught up. Finally!

Our job contract here is almost up. We will be leaving Moose Pass on Sept. 4th, but our adventures are far from over! We are heading up to Denali for a week (where we have an interview for a job next summer), then we will be heading down to Haines for 4 days. I have mapped out a pretty ambitious trip back to Florida, 4 National Parks and lots of cool sights along the way. I hope you continue to follow our adventures!

We’d love to hear your comments!

Wonderful Whittier

Ok, to be completely honest, it IS wonderful, but it’s also a bit weird! If you are claustrophobic, you might want to skip heading to Whittier in your car since the only way to get there is though the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel. This 2.5 mile long tunnel under Maynard Mountain is not only the longest highway tunnel in North America, but it also one of the only tunnels used for trains and cars, oh, and it’s one lane! Although the railroad portion of the tunnel was completed in 1943, it didn’t open to vehicles until June 7, 2000. (Click here for some interesting tunnel history.)

We were going to be taking a cruise to Surprise Glacier with Major Marine Tours at 12:15. I wanted to have time to explore Whittier a bit before the cruise, so we opted for the 8:30am tunnel crossing. We arrived at the staging site, paid our $13 toll and waited for the tunnel to open to traffic bound for Whittier. Once the tunnel was cleared, we began our drive through the mountain…

img_5535

It was an interesting experience, to say the least. We arrived in Whittier with plenty of time to explore. One of the things we wanted to see was the Buckner Building. Steve had read about it on Atlas Obscura. Once touted as “The City Under One Roof”, it is now a place of moldy walls and asbestos filled air, not quite hidden behind chain link and razor wire. The daredevil in me wanted to venture inside but the saner side of me opted to take a few shots from outside. It was a close call though when I found an opening in the fence! If Steve hadn’t been pointing at the No Trespass sign and shaking his head, I might have done it.

Whittier Glacier Cruise-7981

Whittier Glacier Cruise-7966

We still had plenty of time before the cruise, so we drove out Shotgun Cove Trail. We stopped at a few of the day use areas and were treated to some spectacular scenery…

Whittier Glacier Cruise-7991

Whittier Glacier Cruise-7999

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8018

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8034

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8040
Notice the boat? Gives a small sense of scale.

And my first sighting of a steller jay…

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8006

At the end of the trail, we found  this…

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8011

I had been seeing splashes of yellow along the road and was finally able to get close enough to get a picture. Turns out, it was yellow skunk cabbage…

img_5544

As we headed back toward the harbor, there was one more building I wanted to see. The Begich Towers are home to almost the entire population (all 200) of Whittier. (great story here)…

img_5549

Finally, it was time to check in for our cruise. We found a parking spot and walked along the harbor to the Major Marine office…

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8041

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8043

As we left the dock, we had a great view of the Buckner Building…

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8188

The onboard park ranger and the captain did a great job of explaining the variety of things were to see. Our first stop was at a kittiwake colony…

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8051

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8063

I was content to take in the scenery and listen to the narrative as we navigated through Prince William Sound. The captain stayed a respectful distance form the sea otters, many with babies…

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8096

When I saw movement and splashes of color, it wasn’t until I got out the binoculars that I was able to see the kayakers…

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8070

The lingering clouds made a dramatic display in the mountains..

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8113

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8118

26 different glaciers can be seen from Prince William Sound and the ranger pointed them out as we passed…

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8127

But our cruise was to a specific glacier – Surprise Glacier. As we entered Harriman Fjord, we got our first glimpse…

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8131

The captain explained we would be staying 1/2 a mile from the face of the glacier since it is actively calving and a 1/2 mile was safety factor needed for the tremendous waves possible if a large shelf were to calve. The closer we got to the glacier face, the more ice we saw in the water…

img_5574

I knew ahead of time about the glacier ice margaritas we could enjoy, so I wasn’t surprised when I saw two members of the crew scooping up ice…

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8136

It is hard to describe the eerie beauty of the glacier. Between the stunning blue ice and the rifle like cracking sounds, I can only describe it as breathtaking…

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8143

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8142

It’s hard to get a picture of it calving because by the time you hear it, it has already happened, I got a very short video…

But, Steve managed to get a great shot of it calving…

IMG_4499

It was time to begin our journey back to Whittier, but there were still lots of things to see. We cruised though Esther Passage…

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8163

And stopped at a working salmon hatchery…

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8181

And of course, enjoyed our glacier ice margaritas…

img_5576

It was a thoroughly enjoyable cruise, made better by adding the all you can eat prime rib and salmon buffet! But, as you know, all good things must come to an end. So with our bellies full, our camera cards loaded with pictures and our eyes having absorbed so much amazing scenery, we once again took our place in line at the staging area to enter the tunnel one more time. This time, though, we had to wait for the train to clear the tunnel before we could enter…

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8197

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8201

An interesting article about 1899 Harriman Expedition can be found here.

Have you ever been to Whittier? What did you think of the tunnel?

Up, Up and Away

Our adventurous side was calling and Marathon Helicopter Tours answered! We’d seen Resurrection Bay up close on our glacier cruise, but seeing it from the air was an entirely different experience.We checked into their office at the airport, received our safety briefing and were soon ready to take to the air. Our pilot, Mike, has been flying helicopters since 2006 and moved to Seward in 2012. He clearly loves what he does! As we lifted off, he pointed out various Seward landmarks, giving a running commentary on the landscape…

Marathon Helicopter-8388

We hugged the shoreline as he told us how the 1964 earthquake forever changed the face of Seward (and all of southern Alaska).

Marathon Helicopter-8391

We flew over some kayakers enjoying the first sunny day we’d had in a while…

Marathon Helicopter-8395

Soon, we made our way up into the mountains, with stunning views of Resurrection Bay for contrast…

Marathon Helicopter-8401

Marathon Helicopter-8409

We saw mountain goats, deftly crossing the rocky outcroppings…

Marathon Helicopter-8447

As the mountains gave way, we got our first look at Bear Glacier and its bay…

Marathon Helicopter-8411

Marathon Helicopter-8413

Marathon Helicopter-8414

With a practiced ease, Mike swung his flying machine towards the glacier, giving us a close-up view of its beauty…

Marathon Helicopter-8425

Marathon Helicopter-8429

Mike explained the ridge of dirt on the glacier is a medial moraine. A moraine is the accumulation of dirt and debris on an icefield. When it is on the edge of the glacier, it’s called a lateral moraine and when 2 glaciers combine, their edges become the middle and a medial moraine is formed…

Marathon Helicopter-8435

As we flew near the edge of the glacier, we could see the lateral moraine forming…

Marathon Helicopter-8438

The landscape seemed other-worldly, as if Mike had transported us to another planet…

Marathon Helicopter-8444

Marathon Helicopter-8442

As we crossed into the airspace over Kenai Fjord National Park, we were treated with the sights of glacial lakes and rivers…

Marathon Helicopter-8458

Mike’s in depth knowledge and humorous commentary is only surpassed by his ability to spot wildlife far below of the forest floor…

Marathon Helicopter-8463-Edit

We knew our adventure was nearly over as we flew along the Resurrection River with its many creeks and streams…

Marathon Helicopter-8467

It was an amazing adventure! Mike, in one word – AWESOME! The scenery so breathtaking, I’m still winded. If you’re ever in Seward, stop by Marathon Helicopter Tours and they will take you on an Alaska adventure you’ll never forget!

Have you ever been on a helicopter tour? Was your adventure as fun as ours? I’d love to hear about it!

 

 

 

 

Cruising Resurrection Bay

The town of Seward is about 26 miles south of us and is the heart of Resurrection Bay. There are glacier cruises, fishing charters, kayak adventures – nearly anything you’d like to do on the water in Resurrection Bay is found in Seward. In late May, Steve and I went out With Kenai Fjords Tours hoping to see some wildlife and knowing we’d get to see several glaciers.

Our cruise left Seward at 10 am and I didn’t have great expectations about the weather. It was overcast, cold and windy.

Kenai Fjords Glacier Cruise-7475

Everyone was bundled up! As we left the harbor, we had a great view of the town’s waterfront RV park (a place I’d love to spend some vaca time!)

Kenai Fjords Glacier Cruise-7425

Looking back at the pictures I took, I was really disappointed. I don’t think any of them captured the beauty and excitedness we saw and felt.

Kenai Fjords Glacier Cruise-7431

We hadn’t even gotten out of the harbor when we saw our first wildlife – sea otters…

Kenai Fjords Glacier Cruise-7464

The captain and crew gave a first rate running commentary on everything we were seeing and made every attempt to get us as close to the wildlife as was possible without disturbing them. Despite the crappiness of the weather, there is no denying the beauty of the scenery…

Kenai Fjords Glacier Cruise-7494

Kenai Fjords Glacier Cruise-7523

Our next wildlife encounter was a group of Dall’s porpoises. They seemingly played in the boat’s wake, riding the waves and swimming along side of us, as if to race…

Kenai Fjords Glacier Cruise-7535

With their black and white bodies, if you look quick and don’t know the difference, you might think they were killer whales (orcas). The porpoises finally tired of playing with us and we moved on. Our next sighting was special because it isn’t often the endangered fin whales are this close to shore. Fin whales are the second largest creature to ever live on earth!

Kenai Fjords Glacier Cruise-7550

Leaving the fins behind, we came upon a pod of killer whales, aka orcas. Killer whales aren’t whales at all, they are members of the porpoise/dolphin family.

Kenai Fjords Glacier Cruise-7589

As we were watching, a smaller boat drifted in. They got a close up view…

Kenai Fjords Glacier Cruise-7885

As if the dramatic cliffs and soaring, snow capped peaks weren’t enough scenery to make your jaw drop, the captain brought us into a cove with a glacier fed waterfall…

Kenai Fjords Glacier Cruise-7638

All this excitement and we hadn’t even gotten to the glacier yet. Our destination was Aialik Glacier, deep in Kenai Fjords National Park. The closer we got, the more ice we came across and, luckily, the bluer the skies became…

Kenai Fjords Glacier Cruise-7681

Kenai Fjords Glacier Cruise-7690

And then, there was Aialik Glacier…

Kenai Fjords Glacier Cruise-7694

See the group of kayakers near the center of the picture? No thanks! As much as I enjoy kayaking, that wouldn’t be for me!

Kenai Fjords Glacier Cruise-7695

We didn’t get too witness any calving of the glacier, but the abundance of ice in the water suggested it had been active recently.I’m pretty sure Steve was enjoying himself, what do you think?

Kenai Fjords Glacier Cruise-7651

We were about half way through our cruise, but there were plenty of things yet to see. On our way back towards Seward, we motored around several of the islands. My favorite was the one with all the steller sea lions on it…

Kenai Fjords Glacier Cruise-7834

Kenai Fjords Glacier Cruise-7816

And the colony of kittiwakes nesting on the face of the cliffs…

Kenai Fjords Glacier Cruise-7866

Kenai Fjords Glacier Cruise-7855

But, our luck hadn’t run out yet, we came across a humpback whale…

Kenai Fjords Glacier Cruise-7725

One of the reasons we chose this tour over some of the others, was this tour stopped at Fox Island for an all you can eat prime rib and salmon buffet. I would have taken more pictures of Fox Island, but I was too busy stuffing my face! Steve and I both opted to add the king crab legs (at $15 a person, how could we not!)

img_5495

We were almost back to Seward when we got our final wildlife encounter. There were mountain gloats high above us on the rocky outcropping…

Kenai Fjords Glacier Cruise-7925

All in all, even if I think the pictures don’t do it any sort of justice, it was an amazing cruise with stunning scenery and more wildlife than I ever expected.

Up next…looking for bears…oh my!