From May through September, it's common to see cruise ships docked at the harbor. Seward is either a final destination or starting point for smaller cruise ships sailing the Anchorage to Vancouver route. Passengers are bussed to Seward or Whittier from Anchorage. Larger vessels sail out of Whittier.
In general, Seward seemed like a quiet town until the cruise ships were docked and thousands of passengers were roaming the streets.
Though Seward is a pretty...
Though Seward is a pretty town, the real reason to come to this part of the
planet is to experience fjord land at its best. There are numerous ways
to do this and all entail some kind of monetary expenditure on your part.
Their season is short and tourist dollars pretty much make this town tick so
forget about the costs and get ready to enjoy one of nature's fine displays of
splendor. You can do a cruise, flight seeing trip, or kayak your way with
an experienced guide or solo if you so dare. Whatever you decide, just
enjoy. Ina and I had been on a road trip that brought us from New Jersey through the
western Canadian Rockies to the Inside Passage of southeastern Alaska.
We'd done numerous hikes including the multi-day Chilkoot Trail from Skagway
into the Yukon and a week long solo kayak trip into Glacier Bay in that two
month period. So, we had taken some time in Anchorage to recharge our batteries
and act like tourists. We set off on our drive down the Kenai with a loose
plan to enjoy some nature but not do anything out of the ordinary. We wanted to
do a short backpacking trip near Resurrection Pass, but we'd ruled out another
kayak trip as too expensive, time consuming, and ultimately taxing on our
already frayed nerves. There was the Portage Glacier which
is a tidewater glacier that is accessible by car but despite its beauty, it's
really just a stop and snap a photo sort of place. It doesn't lend itself
to lingering and gets understandably crowded. We'd been on the ferry for a few weeks so a
cruise didn't appeal to us either. I might have opted for a flight but
they were steep in price and trying to keep the peace, I agreed with Ina that we
forgo it and look for another alternative to enjoy the park. And boy did
we find one. Kenai Fjords National Park is predominately an
inaccessible mass of land that is best viewed by air to get the full picture of
it's magnitude but for a close up inspection, a kayak is surely the best way to
fully appreciate it's intricacies. There are few ways to see much of the
park without parting with a fair amount of money so for the budget traveler it
can appear a daunting place to visit. I had read about the one
trail the mostly sea bound park offered months earlier and when we arrived at
the visitor center on a bright sunny morning, the rangers immediately said that
we'd lucked out with an extremely rare purely clear day and that the only
thing to do was the hike to the Harding Icefield. This 300 square
mile mass of ice with the occasional peak jutting through is part of what you
would see from the air and here was a chance to see some of it for free.
All it would take is some physical expenditure. The trail is only 3.5
miles one way but it climbs 3,500 feet in that distance so you know you are in
for a good steep hike. We set off a bit late for such an adventure but
Alaska summers allow such casual regard for time and light. We'd have
plenty of time with the sun staying up until midnight. The trail lacked
the dramatic buildup of the Mt. McGinnis hike we'd done near Juneau but it
passed through wild flower filled fields as it climbed steadily and then steeply
the first two thirds of the trip. The final portion was through a huge
permanent snowfield. Ah, nothing like hiking in shorts through vast white
spaces with the sun shinning brightly. Did I say, bring
sunglasses? As we pushed ever onward, those returning from the top
walked by with obvious looks of glee on their lucky faces. That gave us
all the motivation we needed to make it ourselves. Arriving at the hut, we
talked to the ranger on duty and he was even giddy with enthusiasm. I
guess when you are up there in bad weather a good proportion of the time, you
appreciate the good even more. He reiterated that days like this were two,
maybe three times a year and to just linger as long as we could. We walked
the short distance further to the edge of the Icefield and too excited to eat
just yet, snapped some photos and soaked in all that nature had bestowed upon
us. At times like these, there's little question that we are just a small
part of this thing we call the universe and yet enlightened enough to see our
ultimate insignificance in it.
Coming in on the train or driving in on the Seward Highway from Anchorage, you'll go through Moose Pass before getting to Seward. A lot of times you'll see a town listed on a road map of Alaska, drive right through it and have no idea you did so. Or there are just a couple buildings along the highway and no place to stop. Moose Pass isn't like that...it's actually a village with some organization and character. It's not large--like 200 people live there but it's the type of town where everyone waves at you when you drive by. I love those places!! If it wasn't 100 miles away from Anchorage, it would be the perfect place for us to live. It has accomodations, an RV park and campground, a general store with a deli, a cute church, school and places to eat. Around the summer solstice, they have a festival with crafts, a triathlon, food and other activities. It's located on Trail Lake so it's setting is gorgeous. Quiet, pretty and friendly--it's a great place to stay if you really want an alternative to Anchorage or Seward. Even if you are staying in another place, you should make a stop at Moose Pass.
The summer is short but the seasonal businesses open as early as possible to accomodate visitors. Many don't close down at all, which is wonderful for people like us who prefer to visit either on the shoulder or off seasons. Prices are much cheaper and while some choices may be a little more limited, you get more of a chance to interact with the locals and see what life is like without hoards of tourists. Granted, Seward doesn't get all the warm and they take the brunt of coastal storms, but it's quiet, friendly and has many places to hide from the weather. There are plenty of winter activities--guided or solo including winter fishing, snowmobiling (called snowmachining in Alaska), skiing and festivals.
See the Stellar sea lions in...
See the Stellar sea lions in the Chiswell Islands. They always pull out in a certain spot, so you are almost guaranteed to see them. Other marine mammals which I saw here during the summer were orcas, humpback whales, a fin whale, Dall's porpoises, and harbour seals. Unfortunately, I didn't have a camera for half the summer because the one I'd brought broke! :( Of course, that's when the orcas and whales appeared! The Orcas were so close that we could look them in the eye!