Prince William Sound, a Sound you won’t forget – Valdez pt. 2

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Prince William Sound is ringed by the coastal mountains of the Chugach Range, and situated in the midst of the Chugach National Forest.  Within its 2,700 miles of coastline lies Valdez at the north shore edge.  When hearing reference to Prince William Sound, the Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster most likely comes to mind.  Today the port waters have recovered and wildlife flourishes.

Valdez,AK

That’s Val DEEZ

Prince William Sound

Shimmering beauty

The Sound is a premier fishing destination for Salmon and Halibut, and in fact the Women’s Silver Salmon Derby was underway during our visit.  The winner was a tourist from Anderson, California, and she took home $1,000 for her 15.22-pound Silver Salmon!

One way to enjoy and be amazed by the Sound’s shimmering beauty is to take a guided tour.  We can’t seem to get enough of glaciers, so we booked the Meares Glacier excursion. It wasn’t so much the destination we were seeking, but rather being able to smell the sea air and get another vantage point for viewing mountains, glaciers and wildlife.

Valdez, Alaska

Leaving Valdez

Otters in Alaska

A group of otters is called a “raft”. This is probably the largest raft of otters we have seen, and it’s a good sign that the otter population is doing well after almost being wiped out by hunters years ago

Since we had been on a similar cruise at Kenai Fjords National Park, we can’t help but compare the calving activity of the glaciers.  We were fortunate to see plenty of calving of the Aialik Glacier during our Kenai Fjords tour.  However, the wildlife that make Prince William Sound their home are abundant and the scenery is without equal.  It was quite a challenge going through hundreds of pictures to pick the right ones – they were all beautiful!

Sealed with a kiss

Talk about a wet kiss!

Humpback Whale

A rare “fluke shot” of a Humpback Whale’s tail as it does a “deep dive”, which means it will be submerged for at least several minutes.

Seal near Meares Glacier

You talking’ to me?

Meares Glacier

We were interested to learn that fairly large icebergs completely melt in only a day or two. With that in mind you get an idea of how fast the glacier is dropping all of this ice into the ocean

Female Harbor Seals resting on ice

Female Harbor Seals resting on ice

A closer look at the Kittiwakes

A closer look at the Kittiwakes

Steller Sea Lions

Steller Sea Lions

Columbia Glacie

Columbia Glacier is the second-largest tidewater glacier in America. It has been retreating since 1980 and in 2002 it had retreated 7.5 miles

Meares glacier

The Meares glacier is about 6 miles long and 1 mile wide where it meets the water. The face is approximately 250 feet high

Black -Legged Kittiwakes hanging out on ice

Black -Legged Kittiwakes hanging out on ice

For those who are fans of the documentary/Real TV series “Deadliest Catch“, two of the fishing vessels featured there – the Kodiak and the Cornelia Marie – were docked at the Sound for the summer.  It’s off-season for the Alaskan crab fishermen, and during this time they are contracted to buy fish from small operations and take them to commercial plants for processing.

Valdez, Alaska

Cornelia Marie, one of the fishing vessels featured on “Deadliest Catch”

In our opinion, a visit to Alaska just isn’t complete without a trip to Valdez to enjoy the gorgeous calm waters and wildlife of Prince William Sound!



 

BearFooting in the Kenai Peninsula

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We completed our “bear footing” (having a good time), in Alaska’s playground – the Kenai Peninsula. It left us full of wonderful experiences and spectacular scenery.  The bountiful wildlife in the peninsula borough allowed us to meet the real locals (critters) in Cooper Landing.  We got hooked, we clammed and then traded clams for Halibut in Ninilchik. We gazed at volcanoes and walked and biked the well-maintained pathways in Soldotna.  We went all the way to the end of the road in Homer and to the most westerly point in North America at Anchor Point.  The Harding Icefields and Kenai Fjords National Park formed the backdrop of stunning scenery on the horizon at Seward.  We witnessed frenzy Salmon fishing (or combat fishing as they refer to it) and dip netting for subsistence at the Kenai River in Kenai.  ML even met in person, for the first time, Gemma,  whom  she has been communicating with through FB for eight years.   We spent an afternoon with her, her husband also named Steve and sisters at their home in Nikiski.  The sea life, the Alaskan life,  the glaciers and everything else in between were just astonishing to watch and to experience.

Kenai Peninsula

Kenai Peninsula

The two weeks we spent traveling through the area were not enough. The pictures below are some of the many we took, attempting to capture the essence of what its like to be in the Kenai Peninsula.  We had a great time and we urge you to come and play in Alaska’s playground!

Anchor Point, AK

ML modestly posing at another sign

Homer Spit

Viewing snowcapped mountains from Homer Spit

Homer Spit

Beautiful Sunset at Homer

Anchor Point

North Fork Loop road in Anchor Point

Floatplane

Steve’s first floatplane trip, out of Homer.

Harding IceField

The Harding IceField covers over 700 square miles at the top of the mountain ranges, and spills over the peaks as hundreds of glaciers.

Grewingk Glacier

Grewingk Glacier

Glacier view

Yet another glacier, as seen from the plane from Homer during Steve’s flight.

Mt Redoubt

Mt Redoubt

Mt Iliamna

Mt Iliamna

Gemma, ML, Joy and Wennah

Ninilchik, AK

Steve attempts to fly with the seagulls. They were very graceful, he crash-landed.

Bald Eagle

Bald eagle hanging out near our RV site

Water music – Seward adventure part 2

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One morning in Seward we woke up with a surprise, the sun showed up!  When we reserved for the Kenai Fjords National Park tour, we were expecting rain and so were happy the sun chose to come out this day.  We took a 7-hour cruise tour of the Kenai Fjords National Park and on board was a knowledgeable national park ranger to point out interesting wildlife and answer questions from the passengers.  This tour also offered a prime rib and salmon lunch buffet that is actually very good.

Tour route

Seward Harbor

Clear sunny day at the Seward Harbor

We  saw  a lot of water wildlife on this tour, including humpback whales, sea otters, puffins, eagles and a bunch of dall porpoises that gave us a great show right next to the boat.

Raft of Sea Otters

Raft of Sea Otters

Otter

Isn’t the otter cute?

humpback whale

Our first humpback whale sighting

humpback whale

Here is a rare photo of a humpback whale fluke breeching the water. You normally only see this when the whale is doing a deep dive.

Steller Seal lions

Steller Seal lions

Steller Seal lions

Cute Steller sea lion

Dall Porpoises

Dall Porpoises

Puffins

Puffins

Kittiwakes

Kittiwakes, called as such due to their rhythmic calls of their names: kitty-weeeeik…it was really fun to listen.  Kittiwake is just a fancy name for a seagull…

Chiswell Islands

Chiswell Islands, where we heard harmonious singing from the sea birds

We learned how the fjords have been created as two tectonic plates collide and sea water fills in the glacier-carved valleys.  We really enjoyed hearing and watching the Holgate and Aialik glaciers calving, as we were able to get very close with the small boat and then sit there and experience them.  Very cool!

The many glaciers in the Kenai Fjords Park are spawn from  the Harding Icefield, named after Pres Harding. This icefield  is the largest icefield contained entirely within the United States and one of the reasons the park was established. Both Holgate and Aialik glaciers that we approached  are tidewater glaciers terminating at sea level and calves directly into the ocean.

Holgate Glacier

Holgate Glacier, has a face of 400 to 600 ft

Icebergs

Icebergs

Kayakers

Kayakers

Harbor Seals

Harbor Seals basking in the sun

Aialik Glacier

Aialik Glacier, where we saw and heard a lot of calvings, awesome!

Aialik Glacier

Calving at Aialik Glacier

Aialik Glacier

For perspective, check how small the tour boat is.

Aialik Glacie

Colorful kayakers with Aialik Glacier as the background

Although there were some swells as we crossed into the Gulf of Alaska (where Deadly Catch is filmed), it was a great tour and a great day.  We heard different voices from the moaning of the Murres, to the grumble of Puffins and chirping of the Gull chicks.  Not to be outdone, we heard the growling of the Steller sea lions and the slap of flukes of the Humpback whales and splashes of the playful Dall porpoises.

We recommend this tour (Major Tour Co)to everyone going to this part of Alaska!

Rainy Daze in Seward

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After basking in the sun in Kenai, we packed up and moved to the southeastern side of the Kenai Peninsula to  Seward. It is a  small picturesque city ringed by steep mountains on one side and the sparkling waters of Resurrection Bay on the other.  This is not only a fishing town but  it also offers a little bit of everything, hence tagged as  “Alaska starts here.”

Old Seward

Old Seward

Seward, nestled in by Mt Marathon

Seward, nestled in by Mt Marathon

We left the sun shine and drove thru rain again.  The plan was to stay here for five days but the forecast for that time was rain, rain and more rain.  The consolation however was that the RV park we stayed in had awesome views – we were entertained daily by playful sea otters, bald eagles, sea gulls, kayakers, and cruise ships passing over the bay outside our front window.

Miller Landing

Awesome view but surrounded by mud pools

Millers Landing

Kayakers ready to go

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle with prey ready for take off

Bald Eagle

Seagull flying after the fish that the Bald Eagle caught

Sea Otthers

Sea Otters frolicking right in front our window

Seward

Cruise ship passing thru

What to do on a rainy day and not get wet?  Go see some  animals at the Alaska SeaLife Center.  The center serves as a marine research center as well as an educational institution.  This sea life center is filled with amazing and wonderful displays of sea life and birds in Alaska that would otherwise be a rare sight.  There is a bird rockery display where beautiful and cute puffins were flying around.

Alaska SeaLife Center

Tufted Puffin

Tufted Puffin

Horned Puffin

Horned Puffin

It  continued to rain the following day, but we went ahead and explored Exit Glacier, one of the attractions in Seward.  Exit Glacier is one of the most accessible by foot and it emerges from the Harding Icefield .  We followed a moderately strenuous hike which lead us to the wall of the blue ice at the edge of the glacier.  The trail has markers showing where it ended on various years as it continues to recede during the past hundred years.

 Exit Glacier

Exit Glacier

Exit Glacier

Lines shows marking of moraine as glaciers extent in a year

Edge of Exit Glacier

Edge of Exit Glacier,note people at the edge

exit glacier

Result of a powerful river of ice carving the bedrock

Exit Glacier

The year where the toe used to be

There will be a part 2 of Seward to talk about the Kenai Fjords National Park tour in my next blog.

After the 4th day we realized that the rain was going to continue, and we had seen just about everything we wanted to.  So we hooked up the car and headed to Portage, which also had some nice surprises to offer.  Stay tuned!