Monday, August 6, 2012

Alaska Highlights

As you can tell from my earlier blog, Alaska is full of interesting things to see. I thought I would share a few highlights from our week in Alaska. In spite of running into rain on 5 of the 7 days we were in Alaska, the weather did not stop us from enjoying our visit.
The Matanuska Glacier could be seen from the Glenn Highway north of Palmer. The Kenai Fjords National Park north of Seward enabled us to hike up to the edge of Exit Glacier. They also posted signs along hiking path and road tracking the glacier’s retreat over the past 120-years. Our best experience was viewing the Holgate Glacier from a Resurrection Bay boat tour out of Seward. The boat approached within 1/4-mile of the glacier enabling us to hear and see the ice calving into the bay.
 Matanuska Glacier

 Exit Glacier

 A sign denoting where the edge of Exit Glacier was in 1917

Vegetation beginning to take hold on the rock surface left behind in the glacier's retreat
 View of Exit Glacier from the end of the hiking trail

View of the retreating end of Exit Glacier
 Holgate Glacier

 Close-up view of Holgate Glacier

Small icebergs floating near Holgate Glacier

Within one short week in Alaska we managed to see an abundance of wildlife. Although the best viewing was in wildlife conservation & rescue centers, we were much more excited by viewing them in their natural environment. 
 Muskoxen in Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center

 Brown bear in Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center

Tufted puffin in Alaska SeaLife Center

We took a boat tour out of Seward from which we saw humpback whales, orca whales, stellar sea lions, sea otters, horned puffins, tufted puffins, common murre and bald eagles. 
Stellar sea lions in Resurrection Bay

A bear watching trip took us from the Homer airport in a 6-passenger single engine airplane, landing on a gravel beach in Lake Clark National Park on Chinitna Bay. We were able to see more than 25 brown bears. It was exciting to observe a sow run into the stream, catch a salmon and share the catch with her spring cub. We approached within 70-yards of the bears and at one point had 10 different bears within eyesight. 
Plane sitting on the beach at Lake Clark National Park

 Brown bear fishing along the stream (the cub is at her side)

A salmon lunch on the far side of the stream

After hearing the hotel desk clerk in Homer tell us she sees as many as 18 moose on her evening drive home, we decided to drive the same roads in search of moose. We spotted 4 individual moose in an area south of Anchor Point; we also caught sight of a young bull moose the next afternoon as we were driving back to Anchorage. Before reaching Anchorage, we stopped to join a small group observing dall sheep as they made their way across steep mountain terrain.
Moose grazing along the roadside south of Anchor Point at 11:00 PM
Young bull moose walking through the brush south of Anchor Point at 3:00 PM
The official census reports that men outnumber women in Alaska by 11%. That does not take into account all of the male sport fishermen who visit during salmon season and tip the scales even further. The large number of men was quite evident when you travel through a salmon hot-spot like the Russian-Kenai River area near Cooper Landing. The same can be said of Homer where the halibut season was in full swing. You do see some women fishing, but the sport is primarily dominated by the male gender. It was interesting to note a higher presence of women digging for clams in the mud flats near the Deep Creek State Recreational at Ninilchik. You would think that sitting in a boat would have been much easier by comparison.
 Salmon fishing on the Kenai River at the Russian River Ferry

A day's catch of halibut at Homer
Digging for clams on the beach at Deep Creek

Deep Creek is adjacent to the shores of Cook Inlet with excellent scenic views of Mt. Iliamna and Mt. Redoubt  - - - when the sun is shining.

 Mt. Redoubt

Mt. Iliamna

Notable Sites
The Russian Orthodox church at Ninilchik beckoned us to stop and take pictures.
 Transfiguration of Our Lord Church

Leo Steik Memorial Wall honoring war veterans
Our deacon host inside the church 

Apparently John Deere log skidders do not fade away at the end of their forestry careers - - - they take on a 2nd life launching boats into the Cook Inlet at Deep Creek.

Best golf course I drove by without stopping to play was the Fireweed Meadows Golf Course in Anchor Point. Although the scarcity of fairways would make easy to lose the ball, players were rewarded with a very consistent putting surface since the greens were constructed with artificial turf. Each green had 5 permanent cups so changing pin locations was a breeze!

 View of a par 3 from the left side of the fairway (pin hidden behind the trees when viewed from the tee box)

Close up view of a smooth putting surface

The “Better Homes & Garden” blue ribbon winner for decorating belongs to a home in Seward. They selected a nautical/bicycling theme for their landscape.
 Celebrating the Christmas season 365-days a year!

 One man's junk is another man's treasure.

Best display of entree selections in a restaurant was at Ray’s Waterfront in Seward.
Ray's Waterfront Restaurant in Seward

Catch of the Day

Best name for a boat also was found in Seward. 

Thirsty is powered by three 450 HP Yamaha outboard engines (3 X 450 = 1,350 HP)

The best idea for getting tourists to freely part with their money came from the Salty Dawg Saloon in Homer. They made it popular for people to write a note on a $1 bill before pinning it to the ceiling of the tavern (perhaps beer was involved!). I suspect the owner needs to occasionally remove some of the bills to free up space, especially in advance of the cruise ships docking at Homer!
 The Salty Dawg Saloon

 Side view of the bar

 Serving up the local brews

Anyone have change for a $20?

Finally, the best depiction of Alaska’s life line was hanging in Peggy’s Restaurant, across the street from the Merrill Field airport in Anchorage. Using readily available materials, several handcrafted airplanes were hanging from the ceiling above the counter at Peggy’s.
Peggy's Restaurant
 We did not see any biplanes in Alaska aside from this version by Coca-Cola

 Squirt diving in toward the customers

The Pepsi float plane takes the cake!

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