Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Alaska by Car

After our kayaking adventure in Glacier Bay, H and I were ready for some luxury sight seeing. We at least wanted to sleep in beds, have showers readily available, and have our meals cooked for us. This was a honeymoon after all...
On the plane from Gustavas to Anchorage I discovered that my iPod was not working. I feared that it had been damaged while in storage. On landing in Anchorage, we discovered that our gear bag did not make it all the way with us. It had been taken off the plane in Juneau.
At least the rental car was ready and the bed at the hotel was soft.
We grabbed dinner at Today's Pizza. It is a standard pizza joint, except that it is run by a Chinese family. It caught our tired and hungry brains off guard. It didn't really matter. The pizza and the service were excellent.
After doing some laundry and making several phone calls to track down our missing luggage, we left Anchorage and drove down to Homer. The drive is winding and takes you along some of the best looking coast I've ever seen. The best view was just before entering Homer. You crest a hill and stare down on the town and across an expanse of water bordered (Cook Inlet) by jagged, glacier covered mountains.
Homer itself was cute. We went in the Salty Dog and also did some shopping. We also managed to finally get our hands back on our gear bag.
After one night in Homer we drove to Seaward on the other end of the Kenai Peninsula. In Seaward we took an excellent boat tour into the Kenai Fjord's National Park with an outfitter called Mariah Tours. The boat was only 42' and carried eighteen people. We saw tons of sea birds. Puffins are much smaller than I thought. They are like footballs with bright beaks.
The highlight of the tour was the whales. We spotted a Humpback and her calf feeding. While we watched, the calf put on quite an aerial display. He kept breaching and rolling his flippers up. This went on for a good half hour to forty five minutes!!
We also went out to Exit Glacier. The ranger spent a lot of time telling us about the different types of glaciers before we walked out to the glacier. The trails go all the way out the glacier's face. I snuck off the train and touched it!!
Before leaving Seward, we went to their marine center. It is quite a place. They do research on cold water marine environments. They also have a number of great exhibits. The highlight of the day was visiting the marine bird room. An evil puffin was on a rampage against the Muir and duck population.
From Seaward, we drove to Denali National Park. We only had one day to explore the park, so we decided the best option was to take one of the shuttle buses into the park. The shuttle buses travel the same route as all of the tour buses, but cost about a third the price. The big differences are that the shuttle buses do not provide lunch and the shuttle buses will stop when asked.
The park was awe inspiring. It is impossible to do justice to its enormity with words. We saw a good amount of wildlife: grizzly, hoary marmot, arctic ground squirrel, caribou, falcons, ptarmigan.
Our last night was spent in Talkeetna. Talkeetna is a small town about half way between Anchorage and Denali. If you are not familiar with small (very small) towns, it is an odd place. During the summer, like a lot of places in Alaska, the town gets a lot of tourists. However, there are plenty of locals.
As we were packing up to leave for the airport, the elusive peak of Denali (Mt. McKinley) showed itself. Seeing the mountain is a rare event. Its size relative to the surrounding peaks generates odd weather patterns. These patterns typically result in a heavy cloud cover that keeps the mountain under wraps, particularly in the summer.
The sight was a perfect token to take home.

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