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The Land of Ice and Beauty

Updated: Feb 9

Wednesday, 25 January 2023, Seward AK

I was awake by the time the boat people called back at 7:45, and we settled details. That gave me time to get organized before calling Aunt May's Taxi Service ("$7 fare to anywhere in town!") to take me to the marina. I planned on walking back (in the daylight!) after the cruise, but didn't want to risk it in the dark.

The clerk at my motel recommended the Breeze Inn for breakfast. After fueling up, I wandered around the marina, finding it empty as a ghost town. Shop after shop - boat repairs, gift shops, tour companies - all bore 'Closed for the 2022 season' signs. Masts stuck up from the marina, but few if any boats moved.

The online map showed the boat I wanted docked at a slip near the bay side of the marina. The most direct route seemed to cross an ice-clad vacant lot. I took a few tentative steps, began slipping, and pulled out my phone. "Boat person? I want to make sure I'm on the right path before I slide on my keister into the harbor!"

"Hey, this is Bixler. I just pulled up behind you. If you can backtrack a few feet, I can drive you over to the marina ramp."

Once down on the water, Bixler introduced me to Joanna, who would captain the Missing Lynx today.

"I've been doing tours for nine years, been driving this boat for the last six," she announced. While we waited for the other passenger, I walked down the marina, past the inactive boats, and took a video of a sea otter cavorting in the water.

My first Alaskan wildlife! (Houseflies don't count.)

I told Joanna about my parks challenge, so she reiterated that the boat won't actually go INTO Kenai Fjords NP - though we will see it from just outside its boundaries. No problem, my official park adventure will come tomorrow. With that settled - and with Ashley, a young (compared to me) South Carolina man, now on the boat - Joanna cranked up the outboard motors and guided us to Resurrection Bay.

Ashley and I bonded over equipment. I looked forward to using my new camera for the first time today (took 80 pictures with it), and quickly saw that Ashley also had a new camera - same model as mine! I gave him a few hints on using it, and he offered me a cold can of Alaskan beer from his pack.

First up, she steered us by a bald eagle perched on harbor structure. (We would see our share of eagles on this cruise.)

Joanna continued at a slow pace, heading toward the shore. "Look closely," she confided, "and you'll see two Steller sea lions in the water, one of the largest pinnipeds. They're an endangered species."

After watching them for a few minutes, she motored on and pointed out another sea otter.

That quickly established the tone for the cruise, as Joanna gave us a running commentary on the wildlife, the history, and the geology of the area. A plethora of bald eagles proved a highlight, as we saw many perched in the trees, or even on a landslide. When a pair of them flew at the boat, passed it, and came back again, we took a raft of pictures.

We continued south in Resurrection Bay.

The sun hung low in the sky (but higher than in Denali NP!),

casting a rosy glow on the waters at mid-day. The rocky shoreline kept me enthralled, steep sea cliffs

and rocks jutting from the waters.

Joanna worked the boat south to Callisto Head, where a right turn could take us into the park's waters. "We can't go inside, because this is where the waters open up, and it can get real choppy in there. But you can see Bear Glacier in the background - oh, and it looks like we've got a small iceberg that calved recently!"

She circled it a couple of times, and I marveled at the sunlight glinting off and through it. Impressive!

She told us we had scored big time with today's weather. "The trees on either side of the bay are part of the world's most northerly temperate rain forest. As such, it usually causes a lot of cloudy, overcast days. When you get a day like today, with lots of sunshine, there's often too much wind to take the boat out. You got the winning ticket today - and the temperature is still unseasonably warm at 40°."

She then pointed our boat east and crossed the bay to Fox Island. In one cove, she pointed out a state park cabin and a few yurts that can be rented out, only $800

per night. To her surprise, she also noticed a pair of kayakers in the cove, out for an afternoon paddle. "Not many people paddle when temperatures are in the 40s."

On the far side of the island, she pulled the boat up to a terminal moraine and let Ashley and I hop out onto the spit of land.

For a half hour, we walked around, seeing dead jellyfish and starfish

on the gravelly shore, and looking at dozens of dead trees sticking straight out of the ground.

As Joanna explained after picking us up, "That used to be a living forest. But when the big 1964 earthquake hit up here - 9.2 on the Richter scale, and it shook for 4½ minutes - a tsunami submerged the trees. They stood in salt water long enough to kill them all. The rumor is that they can't be cut down - that if you took a chainsaw to them, it would break the chainsaw."

We continued cruising back along the eastern shore of the bay, saw more bald eagles and more relics from WWII fortifications.

As we neared the marina, she found one last otter who turned out to be a friendly sort, giving us a show as Ashley and I shot video.

Back on shore, I walked the mile back to the hotel. The sidewalks were choked with ice, so I walked in the street - the little traffic caused no problems. A block away from my hotel lay the waterfront, so I wandered over to soak in the last rays of the setting sun, seeing the light it painted the surrounding mountains with.

That evening, I took Joanna's recommendation and walked two blocks to the Highliner for dinner. Good food - Halibut Olympia! The hotel clerk said I could cut across the parking lot on the way home for a short cut - and I could see my hotel, just yards away! But my second step sent me sprawling. I got up, clung to the fence, and worked my way forward - but when the fence ended, so did my upright progress. Sigh... two falls to finish the day. I should be getting used to falling by now...

Accommodations: the Hotel Seward is the oldest hotel in Seward, originally built in the early 1900s (and renovated/modernized since then). My room had plenty of space, and comfortable beds encouraged me to linger under the sheets. The hotel oozed with character, though the layout took getting used to, with a number of hallways and wings, levels, stairs, and an elevator. The staff were friendly, tending to my needs. Alaskan decorations adorned the wall, including mounted animal heads. And nothing broadcasts a 'waste not, want not' ethic like stuffing and mounting the rear end of that polar bear, thank you.

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