A May 2010 trip
to Seward by Wildcat Dianne
Quote: Larissa and I took a day trip to Seward with the Alaska Railroad. It was about 18 hours packed with fun on three modes of transportation, car, train, and ferry boat from Anchorage to Seward to Fox Island in Resurrection Bay.
Once inside, they told us to help ourselves to the nice little buffet they had set up in the restaurant/welcome center and then would have a little time to walk around Fox Islands rocky beaches before getting back on the boat for the return trip to Seward. I was pretty hungry and was looking forward to a nice filling lunch to give me energy to see the wildlife and enjoy the rest of the day. I filled up my plate with salmon, rice, and salad and then got my crab leg and something to drink. Larissa was still reeling from her allergies and after making sure she was OK, I headed outside. It was too gorgeous of a day to stay inside, and I was looking forward to some alfresco dining.
I noticed a woman sitting at one of the tables by herself and asked if I could join her. We introduced ourselves to each other, and her name was Raven, and she was from Washington state and was working the summer in Seward. During her days off, she goes sightseeing and looking for wildlife when the weather permits. Raven was full of information about the Seward area and the wildlife, and I enjoyed her company very much and hung out with her the rest of the trip. We exchanged e-mail addresses afterwards and keep in touch through our photos on Facebook.
The food was great. The salmon was grilled and was full of flavor (farmed salmon is banned in Alaska) and the rice pilaf was sublime. However, the crab legs were a little bit of a disappointment being a little overcooked and not much flavor no matter how much melted butter you dipped it into. BUMMER! Oh well, got my crab experience in Alaska anyway. For dessert, I indulged on three or four petit fours pastries before heading outside to walk the rocky beach with my new friend Raven.
We didn't venture far on the beach being we only had a few minutes before getting back on the boat, but we soaked in the beautiful views of Resurrection Bay and the Chugach Mountains as much as we could and took photos. Fox Island is the site of the World Rock Skipping Championships. There are thousands of flat rocks on the beach at Fox Island, and I revisited my childhood vacations in Maine by seeing how many times i could skip rocks into the water. Sadly, I am a bit rusty in my rock skipping skills and the most skips I got was two at best.
I would love to return to Fox Island to explore this little gem further, and go to www.KenaiFjords.com for more information on Fox Island and taking a trip there. It is not to be missed!
Attraction | "Sea Lions, Orcas, and Sea Otters: OH MY!"
After boarding the ferryboat in Seward's Small Boat Harbor, Larissa got a seat inside to rest because her allergies were so bad and making it hard for her to enjoy anything that day. It was a beautiful day with a bit of a breeze, but I put on my LL Bean vest over my Red Sox hoodie and was prepared for a the short trip across Resurrection Bay to Fox Island and getting some sun on deck.
Before taking off for Fox Island, our captain came over the radio to give us advice on how to take pictures of the wildlife we could be seeing and to obey the rules of the boat. To ensure a great ride on the Kenai Fjord Tours and get great pictures, this is the advice from them:
1. Be prepared. Have your camera out at all times and easily accessible because you might only have seconds to get that great shot of an orca or some other wildlife in the water.
2. Use the Auto Focus on your camera for best photo results.
3. Turn the flash off of your camera because the flast might disturb the animals and if you are indoors, lean the camera against the boat's windows to get the best pictures and keep the flash off.
4. Take lots of pictures. Don't have to ask me twice there!
Camera ready for action, I was ready for anything that would pop out of the water near the ferryboat.
The first part of the trip was a little bit chilly for me, and my vest and gloves from the Army Navy Store in Pensacola kept the chill off of me very well, but about halfway to Fox Island and a couple of cups of complimentary tea from below deck, I was feeling warm and cozy and decided to ditch the vest and gloves. Right after the vest came off revealing my Red Sox 2007 American League Champions logo on my hoodie and I leaned back to catch the sun's rays on my face, I hear, "Oh God, a Red Sox fan! Honey, look at her sweatshirt!" I had caught the attention of a couple of, Oh God help me, New York Yankee fans! Now, I could react to them like a character in the Showtime series Brotherhood with vampirefan's favorite hottie Jason Isaacs and shoot a Yankee fan who insulted Ted Williams and the Red Sox, or toss these folks overboard. But it wasn't worth the jail time and having Dad and Mom bail me out of jail (they would probably be chuckling as they wrote the bail check), and I engaged this couple and their daughter from Long Island, New York with some friendly trash talk about their team and mine. I can take the insults of my boys with the best.
Trash talking aside, it was time to look out for some wildlife, and before long, we are treated to a sight of a sea otter swimming in Resurrection Bay. Sea otters swim on their backs and this little guy was enjoying himself a lot. A sea otter will catch food in the water and then get on his back to break the shell of the clam or other shellfish and eat it that way. Those animal books I had as a kid were paying off!
I wanted to see some whales while I was on the ferryboat, and I wasn't disappointed when an Orca surfaced near our boat and was swimming in the same direction we were going in. I wish I had a better telephoto lens for my camera because my photos don't do seeing this magnificent creature of the sea justice! Just before getting to Fox Island, we saw a pod of Orcas that are regulars in Resurrection Bay. The bull orca and the two cow orcas seemed to be escorting us to the island in front of us. Magnificent!
After spending time at Fox Island (more on that in another entry), we are treated to more wildlife on the trip back to Seward via Bartlett and Barlow Islands and several other uninhabited rocky islands in Resurrection Bay. There were Horned Puffins on one island, and seeing them with someone's binoculars had me thinking, "Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern think these cute little critters are a delicacy!? Shame on them!"
Then my favorite part of the whole trip came on Barlow Island and other rocky islands nearby, tons of Steller Sea Lions sunning themselves on the rocks, playing and swimming in the water. I recorded the noises of the seals barking away and soaked it all in. I could have taken a nap with those noises in my ears!
Reluctantly, the ferryboat pulled back into Seward, and we were back on the train to Anchorage. This is something I want to do again, and you can do this trip as part of the Alaska Railroad trip or on your own. A trip to Fox Island for lunch is $89 for adults and other rates for children and seniors. There are also dinner cruises and cruises to Fox Island for dinner. For more information go to www.KenaiFjords.com.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on August 18, 2010
Kenai Fjords Tours
Small Boat Hbr
Seward, Alaska 99664
Well, I didn't let the waves crash on my legs or put my bare feet on the rocky beaches of Resurrection Bay off of the Southern coast of Alaska near Seward, but I was lucky to enjoy the views from Seward itself and on the Kenai Fjords ferryboat to Fox Island and from Fox Island. The blue waters and views of the Chugach Mountains are breathtaking!
Resurrection Bay is an island and wildlife filled work of beauty that was discovered by Russian explorer Alexander Baranov in April 1792 by accident. Baranov and his crew were caught up in a horrible storm during Easter and they needed shelter or they would have been drowned by the high waves that were hitting their ships. Baranov and his crew took shelter in what is today Seward and named the bay the town was on Resurrection Bay because it was Easter Sunday and felt their voyage was resurrected by discovering this place of shelter. Baranov and his crew stayed in Seward and built a fur trading area for the Shelikov-Golikov Company and also went to work on building a new ship that would take them home to Russia and explore other parts of Alaska. Construction of The Phoenix began in 1793 and was completed in 1794, but the life of The Phoenix was short-lived when the ship sunk at sea in 1796.
During World War II, Seward and Resurrection Bay were a strategic defense point in protecting Alaska from Japanese invasion and a jumping off point for the retaking of Attu and Siska Islands from the Japanese in 1942. When you take a boat on Resurrection Bay and pass Bartlett Island, you will see an observation tower that was used by the US Army at this time. The soldiers posted on this rocky uninhabited island in the middle of the bay endured lonely cold winters that had winds up to 100 mph. BRR!
On Barlow Island and many other islands in Resurrection Bay, you will be treated to a chorus of barking seals as this is the home to a huge population of Steller Sea Lions and might see a sea otter enjoying a bath on his back as you pass by. We also saw about 6 orcas who call Resurrection Bay home and were escorted into Fox Island by a pod of one bull orca and two cows.
My pictures do not do this magnificent hidden gem off of Kenai Peninsula justice. You have to see it for yourself!
Seward's recent history is older than Anchorage and Fairbanks and dates from 1793 when Russian explorer Alexander Baranov (working for the Shelikov-Golikov Company) established a fur trading post where the present-day Seward stands today. The town of Seward was named in 1867 after Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson's Secretary of State William H. Seward who was responsible for acquiring Alaska from Russia for the United States in what is now known as "Seward's Folly."
Coal is also brought to Seward from the mining towns of Alaska, and when you arrive in Seward you will see this tall coal chute in Resurrection Bay near the marina. The coal is put onto the ships by being rolled up the conveyor belt and dumped onto the waiting ships under the chute.
Seward is also the hometown of Benny Benson (1913-1972) a young Swedish-Russian-Aleut boy who was put into an orphanage by his father after his mother died and he couldn't take care of Benny and his brother. When Benny was 13, he entered an American Legion supported contest to design the Alaska Territory flag and won first prize. His design of gold stars in the shape of the Big Dipper on a dark blue background became the territory and then Alaska state flag which hangs all over Alaska today. Sadly Benny died of a heart attack in 1972 at the age of 58.
Seward also went Hollywood in the late 1980's when it doubled as Murmank Bay, Russia when the film The Hunt For Red October was filmed here. I wish I had lived here then just to steal a glance of Sean Connery!
Larissa and I only spent about a couple of hours total in Seward itself since we had to catch the boat to Fox Island and then get on the train back to Anchorage after the boat trip, but I was able to walk around the main part of town a little bit to see how quaint this little fishing town is. It is a good day trip by train, but you cannot get to Seward by ferry boat since the Alaskan Marine Highway has not had ferry service to Seward since 2005, but take a car or train trip here for a day or two, and it is enough to enjoy the stunning views of Resurrection Bay and its wildlife.
Luckily our seats were far enough away from Mr. and Mrs. Bickering Ashtrays, and after the train left the station, we realized we had a lot of room and Larissa, who was suffering from really bad allergies moved to nap behind me while I stayed awake to watch the scenery and took over 100 pictures of the mountains, glaciers, and wildlife that passed before me.
There were only three cars on the trip to Anchorage to Seward. One was the observation car where you could go upstairs to see the scenery, but I only stayed there about five minutes and felt my better views were from my seat in the next car. The dining car served good sandwiches and beverages for us to enjoy. I spoke with a lot of the other passengers along the way and they hailed from New Jersey, Washington, and even Florida. In fact, one of the conductors was from central Florida while the two young ladies in the dining car were from Gulf Shores, Alabama, which is a short ride from my home here in Milton, Florida. Small world! The girls in the dining car asked about the ongoing oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico, and I gave them the best updates I could since being on vacation and not near a TV, I wasn't getting as much news as I could.
After Girdwood, about 25 miles south of Anchorage, we hit higher elevations and snow that slowed our trip down until we passed through the area. Our guide was announcing every time there was wildlife to see in the woods, and a porcupine was at the side of the tracks. I tried to get a shot of him, but was too late to do so. Any way, I had seen Mr. Prickly up close and in person in Idaho enough to say "don't need no stinking photo" after dealing with a German Shepherd who took many trips to the vet's after his close encounters of the prickly kind. I saw a couple of bears in the distance running up the hills along with Dahl sheep and added to my moose count to 11 during the ride.
A very interesting spot on the trip is the run through Spencer Glacier. Spencer Glacier is named for an Alaska Railroad employee Edward Spencer wh disappeared in 1909 while travelling along the glacier delivering the Railroad's payroll to employees in Moose Pass, a tiny Railroad settlement. Bad weather forced Spencer to alter his route to Moose Pass, and he was never seen again. Co-workers thought he had run off with the money like Joseph Mollicone did in Rhode Island in 1991 during the credit union crisis there. But a body was found in 1909, and they thought it was Spencer, but they were never sure. The Railroad also never found the cash box Spencer was carrying with him. There is an unsolved mystery for the ages!
On the way back from Seward, I didn't take pictures as much, but met up with a mother and son couple who were going to be returning to their home in Tampa, Florida the next night. The mother had spent a school year teaching in the bush and told me that TEFL teachers were needed there because the Natives of Alaska consider English their second language. After thinking about that a while, I decided I don't know if I could survive the harsh Alaskan winters in the bush and 24-hour darkness and thought of other options. The son had a Tampa Bay Rays hat, and I broke the news to him that my Red Sox had swept them in the recent series they were playing. I am sooo evil! We pulled into Anchorage about 9 that evening and it was still bright as day outside and beautiful.
Prices vary for for vacation packages from Anchorage to Seward, and there are trips from Anchorage to Fairbanks you can take. You can ride the train from Fairbanks to Seward or just from Anchorage to Seward like Larissa and I did. You can enjoy the ride without having to worry about driving yourself an experience Alaska a whole lot better than driving the Alaska Seward Highway. For more information call the Alaska Railroad at 1-800-544-0552 or go to www.AlaskaRailroad.com. Very Very Highly Recommended.