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Day 12: Wednesday, August 10, 2005
Anchorage, AK to Seward, AK

Today we did the Kenai Peninsula, more or less on a whim. We set out from the motel at the northern edge of Anchorage at about 11:30, after eating some peaches and getting some sodas at the gas station next door. Went south on the Seward Highway, through the city and into the marshes north of Turnagain Arm. The road then followed the shore of the Arm for 48 miles down to the Portage Creek turnoff (where we'll go to Whittier tomorrow); lots of nice photo-ops, but the sea mist/haze sort of obscured the spectacular mountains even though it was a nice clear day. The road then climbed to Turnagain Pass, then we passed by the Sterling Highway turnoff (to Soldotna, Kenai, and Homer, which I guess we'll skip) and headed south down the deeply cleft valley along alpine lakes and little rivers and through tiny hamlets toward Seward. Stopped several times for photos, as well as to skip stones at Trail Lake, on the other side of the railroad tracks from the road.

We reached Seward around 2:00; explored the cute little town at leisure, including a little walk around the marina and some boat-watching in Resurrection Bay. The waterfront at Seward is very pretty, with a train station in a little park and a Marine Science Center (where we asked a clerk why all the flags were at half-mast, which we'd noticed ever since entering the state; turns out the universally acclaimed ex-governor Jay Hammond has just died, and the US flags were to be down for two weeks, and the Alaska flags will be down for the rest of the month). Then we had lunch at a little place on the main drag called the Marina Downtown, where we each had chili burgers that were yummy and big. The waitress seemed anxious to please, and to point out that this restaurant was like the only one in town that makes all its own food (as opposed to cooking up prepackaged stuff from suppliers, like the place in Teslin admitted doing, upon being pressed), and stays open all winter. After lunch we headed back up the Highway; we stopped at a marked hiking trail about 6 miles from Seward and hiked into the woods for about a half-mile before the jeep trail we were on sort of became overgrown (a hunter who passed us heading back to the parking lot, and shotgun shells on the path, made us a little uneasy about the wildlife we might meet and how friendly it might be). Apparently the hiking trails in parts this far north are far less well-established than the trails we might be used to in the Lower 48, where there are frequent trail markers and posted maps and things; here, you're mostly just sort of bushwacking along the overgrown jeep paths used for servicing power lines and such. So we got back in the car and retraced our path all the way back to Turnagain Arm. The sun in the west gave clear views eastward (rather than westward as in the morning—now the backlit west was the opaque direction), and we got several more good photos of the mountains of the fjord. We stopped at a marsh wildlife preserve with a boardwalk viewing platform just south of town; practiced some waterfowl photography. Then we got back to our hotel just before 8:00. It was too late to cruise the mall or anything, so we got drinks from the gas station and watched Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Dilbert DVDs until midnight or so. Oh, and there are some nice puppies staying at the motel/RV Park, including one fluffy white one that looks like a bleached Newfie that shrunk in the wash.

Tomorrow we catch the ferry from Whittier to Valdez; it leaves at 12:30, and we need to be through the tunnel by 10:30, so it's off to bed for a good night's sleep tonight.

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© 2005 Brian Tiemann