Friday, October 1, 2010

Seward, Glaciers and Ferries

Sunset at Deep Creek
Days 36-39

36: From Seward I drove back to Soldotna, which is a few miles south of the Kenai River where I was before.  I heard an advertisement on the radio about there being a party at Hooligans Bar.  I stopped by, which turned out to be a raging party since it was a Friday night.  I met a couple from Tok who were summer time workers in AK.  Jim is a wilderness fire-fighter, whose season began in April and ran until the end of September.  Given that he works mostly overtime and has had only seven days off all season, he gets paid handsomely.  In fact, this is the only work he does all year so that during his time off, he spends months traveling.  His girlfriend is a construction flagger in Soldotna who makes $45/hr.  Thats $600/day to stand with a stick in your hand.  The point is that Alaska pays its people very very well for work that is sometimes grueling, but worth it for some.  They bought me a couple shots at the bar and we chilled until I drove to a nearby Lake campsite. 
Waterfall in Seward
Resting Sea Otters 
Massive Jellyfish
37: From Soldtona I decided to fish the Russian River closer to the Kenai and found it to be too low and holding only rotting salmon carcasses, but I bet the Steelhead were further upstream.  Regardless, the Russian is another beautiful spot that branches off the large Kenai River.  I carried my shotgun and got a few weird looks, but I did see three other people with guns so it made sense.  I drove east and then south to Seward to get a taste of the other lowest driving point on the Kenai Peninsula.  

Seward is different from Homer.  The surrounding mountains are actually the Kenai Fjords that fall into the sea while some of the peaks are blanketed with glaciers.  I drove past the town of Seward, which is a small town catering to fishing and sailing.  Its, Bay, Ressurection Bay, lies at the mouth of the town and just fifteen minutes from the marina is where I spotted the pod of sea otters.  Unbeknownst to me, they were reposing on their backs in a mummy position: arms crossed and legs/webbed feet limp in the air.  I thought it was the coolest thing since about nine of the them were floating in the same manner occasionally re-wetting their stomachs and readjusting their balance.   

Back in town, I put an end to my frugal spout and ate out at a local Fish and Chips joint.  Japanese style beer battered Halibut is sensational; it is the best type of fish for a fish fry.  Then I walked around the marina for a while until a Northeasterly wind picked up and made it too cold to walk.  White caps began to overtake the bay and right before I went to bed I was blessed with seeing the moonrise over the top of the fjords.
Seward by night
38: On the way out of town I stopped at a state park to see a glacier that was the exit route for a group of explorers in the 1900s.  Exit Glacier, as it is properly called was incredibly large even though it has been receding for decades.  A mile hike took me to the toe of the glacier where I could hear the water trickling inside of it.  The most faint crack could be heard.  I learned that what causes the glacier to seem blue in color is that it is so dense that the only color on the color spectrum that is absorbed from sunlight is blue.  

Exit Glacier
More of Exit
Surrounding Scenery 
This glacier is huge, were talking up to 200 feet tall with crevasses up to 150 feet deep.  Fifty miles later, I came to another glacier, which I had to pay $20 to see up close, but so be it.  This one was much larger and I had the chance to literally walk on top of part of it.  These ice anomalies are insanely cool.  

Another glacier
I was walking on the glacier, see where the rock fit that I uplifted for a second. 
I then got fuel in a town where an inuit man had asked me where I was going.  He had just come from Glenallen, which is on my way to Tok and he said that there was about three inches of snow on the ground and to drive carefully!  I thanked him and within an hour I hit the beginning of a long night.  For 125 miles I drove thirty-five to forty mph in four-wheel drive during the night.  I could not turn around because it was forecasted to continue dumping snow and I did not want to stop driving because I had no idea how cold it was other than the fact that my windows were freezing from the inside.  Honestly, it was terrifying at times.  I kept an eye on my GPS with its view completely zoomed in so that I could anticipate the direction of the next bend in the road.  Over the next four hours I saw five cars during the entire time.  When I got to Tok I felt like a hero, but the gas teller said, "Good thing you made it seeing that I am from Texas!"  

I bought two 1/2 lb hot pockets and crashed at a campground.  I should probably mention that all of the campgrounds in the MIlepost have been shutdown for the winter.  They do not run water and the bathrooms are bolted shut, so when I say campground, I mean a place to park and sleep that is away from the highway. 

Not much of a turning radius
Another vehicle's rim artwork
39: Today, I woke up and crossed into Canada at about 10 AM with my eyes set on Haines, AK to catch the ferry to Juneau.  The driving was more of the same, an inch of snow capped on top of ice, but since the roads in Canada are worse than AK, the driving conditions were worse.  Within two hours, I hit the best roads since the Kenai Peninsula; they were perfectly salted and brand new, wreaking of new asphalt.  I drove by Klunae Lake and village, which were both equally stunning.  I then flew into Haines Junction where I saw a sign for showers!  I got gas, a free bag of ice, a hot shower (they charged twenty-five cents/minute, so I went with an eight minute shower), and a Husky Burger lunch at Glacier Inn.  The lady at the restaurant knew that there was a ferry today and told me that I had a two and a half hours to drive 150 miles.  So I hauled ass the whole way.  

At the border back into the US, I had no problems and zipped right into the ferry terminal.  By the way, its amazing how much the weather has changed in the last two days: it has gone from windy and fall-like weather, to damn cold and winter-like near Tok, to chilly summer rain near Haines.  I drove nearly 900 miles in two days and finally my form of transportation will now change for the better: boat.  

I showed up forty-five minutes before the scheduled departure and was number fifteen on the stand-by list given my tardiness, but somehow, I was the last car on the ferry.  I backed into the boat and had inches of room from the cars behind me and the water tight hatch in front.  The ferry is extremely large, holding nearly ninety cars in route to Juneau.  I wish the ride was during the day so I could see the whales and sea lions, but at least I made it on the ferry.  From here I write, in the computer room of this massive and EXPENSIVE ride.  

Kluane Lake

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