Monday, May 30, 2016

Denali National Park and Reserve ~ Alaska

Our tour of Denali Park and its many beautiful sights and wildlife.

Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska was where we hoped we’d see lots of wildlife and Mt. McKinley, too.  Now known as Mt. Denali, which means “the High One”, it is the highest peak in North America and stands 6193 metres (20,320‘) high.   

Views of Denali National Park
We booked our tour before we arrived, as it is so popular that it could be difficult if not done early.  The only way to visit inside Denali Park during summer months is to take a bus tour, they just could not handle the traffic it would be should everyone take their vehicles.

A lone wolf
We stopped to watch a wolf walk by the bus.  Considering there are over 6 million acres and less that 50 wolves living in this Park, it was amazing that we would see this great guy.  He was alone and was not too concerned about the bus.  We remained very quiet and took photos out the window.

So many grizzly bears to see
Grizzlies are most easily recognized by the hump on their shoulders but the colors can vary.  Some look almost blond and others dark brown.  They are all free to wander this magnificent park of tundra, spruce forest and glaciers.

Caribou well hidden
The park is home to caribou, moose, Dall sheep, bears, wolves and grizzly bears but some days you may not see as many as we were lucky enough to see on our tour.  I don’t believe there were any black bear sightings but the grizzly bears more than made up for that, we saw many of those bears.

Fog shrouded mountains
Our bus driver was the tour guide and had lots of interesting information to share.  We had a bus full of visitors and everyone watched for sights and passed the info onto others.  The driver said there was more sightings on our tour than there had been for a long time, we had some good scouts with us!

Dahl sheep
Dall Sheep were spotted way up that mountain, not easy to see other than there was a group of white four legged animals!  We’d seen this same sight on our visit to Kenai Peninsula, but they’d seemed even farther away.

Munching moose
We did see a couple of moose but, although it was not far off the road, this one was hidden in the bushes.  The other was too far away and in bushes, to get a good photo.

Viewpoint of Toklat River
The day was wet and dreary, which made the sightseeing a bit difficult travelling dirt roads, causing muddy windows for us to look through. There were a couple of pit stops along the way and the driver would wash the windows at each stop.   The old school bus style windows could slide down half way and that was done if we were stopped to see some wildlife. 

Grizzly chews and paws the log
We stopped to watch one grizzly who, although he was paying no attention to us, seemed to know we were there and was performing for all to see.  He would rough up the log then lie down and rub against it.  I took over 70 photos while he enjoyed his backscratching, he was there for several minutes.

Grizzly scratches back and neck
He was up and down a few times, and we were all taking as many photos as possible.  The grizzly was not 20 ft. from the roadside, what a thrill to be able to watch him.  I think I can say that this grizzly was the star of all the wildlife we saw on our northern adventure travels.  We were so close, yet stayed quiet in the bus and did not disturb him, so were able to get these amazing photos.

Mt. Denali on cloudy summer day
This day was not a good day for viewing Mt. McKinlay which has, since our visit been officially renamed Mt. Denali.  We were at the Eielson Visitor Center, which was as far as our tour would be taking us, but this was all we saw of the highest peak of North America and not visible most days of the year.

For more information about this incredible Denali National Park and Reserve in Alaska, click here.  There are hiking trails for backpackers and lots more to enjoy.  

Click here to follow us across the Denali Highway.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Seward ~ Resurrection Bay ~ Iditarod Trail, AK

Our day in Seward, AK on Resurrection Bay.

We left the Russian River parking lot on an overcast morning but it wasn’t long and we had rain.  This was a short drive day of 102 km so we got into town early giving us most of the day to sightsee.

Glaciers at Resurrection Bay
When we arrived in Seward, it had been raining and with low clouds, rain threatening to return.  It was early enough in the day that we were able to get an RV spot in the Seward Waterfront City Park, and we were parked right on the waterfront with only a walkway between our RV and the beach!  The sky was overcast but we could watch the boats passing by and see the glaciers right across the bay.

Cruise ship terminal at Seward, AK
The fog was there but we were able to see the cruise ship and terminal which was not far from our front door.  Seward on Resurrection Bay is a busy port and has been a regular stop for the cruise ships for many years.  There is no airport here in Seward so the cruise ship passengers can catch a shuttle to or from Anchorage if beginning their cruise here.

Incoming cruise ship
There were not too many dark hours during these summer days but I did happen to catch an incoming cruise ship with all its’ lights on as it passed when approaching the port at 5am.  I had to quickly grab my camera and take this picture out the RV door so it’s not the best shot but I was excited to get it.

Downtown Seward, AK
This general store is the oldest business in Seward.  It was founded in 1904 and has been a family owned business ever since, still owned by the Hawkins family.  Mr. Brown and Mr. Hawkins met during the Gold Rush in Nome and first opened a store in Valdez then in Seward.  The Seward store also included a bank at that time.

Monument for Founder of Seward, AK
Seward was founded in 1903 when the Santa Ana steamer arrived in the port, which was to become the ocean connection to the proposed railway.  Seward was the name of the US Secretary of State who fought for the purchase of Alaska from Russia and won that in 1867.  The name and location was chosen by the founder John Ballaine, I could not resist sharing his quote seen on the monument.                                                                             

“If there is such a place as Heaven, I cannot imagine anyone admitted through its’ pearly gates with sentiments more joyous than I experienced that shining forenoon as we glided easily in those majestic scenes up to the timber-covered site I had chosen for the future terminal city – the future gateway into and out of Alaska’s great interior.”

"Current Home" at Seward
This amazing 6 ton sculpture was built by Brad Hughes in his shop in Homer, Alaska.  It is a carved concrete based sculpture and was moved here once it was completed in 2011.  The name of this grand sculpture is “Current Home” and can be seen at the SeaLife Center in Seward. Click here to see photos of our visit there.

Historical beginning of Iditarod Trail
This marks the beginning of the original Iditarod trail that was used to transport people and goods to places in the interior as far as Nome by dog sled.  This trip was 1600 km (over 1000 miles) long and was their main form of transportation until the 1920’s when the airplane then did the job.

Iditarod dog sled
The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race came to be in 1973 to commemorate the development of Alaska and continues today.  It begins on the first Saturday of March every year in Anchorage and would be a great winter spectacle to witness.  The trail was designated a National Historic Trail in 1978.

Sunny morning in Seward, AK
And then there was sunshine!  It was so nice to be able to enjoy the view with blue skies and sunshine before we left Seward and headed onto other places.  We leave the Kenai Peninsula today and head north, passing through Anchorage once again and will make our next stop at Talkeetna, AK.

Join us at the Denali National Park, click here.

Alaska SeaLife Center ~ Seward, AK

Our visit to the Alaska SeaLife Center

We spent the afternoon at the Alaska SeaLife Center.  It is a private, non-profit corporation opened in 1998.  There is a staff of volunteers and about 105 employees, a large employer considering the population of Seward is just over 2500 people.

They rescue sea life and are the only rehab center in Alaska.  They are also a science center which researches the ecosystem of Alaska.  The project was mainly funded by the Exxon Valdez oil spill settlement funds, after a very tragic oil spill at Valdez, AK in 1989.  

There are some beautiful sights to see.

Some sights are not so beautiful,

and some are just darn cute!

Seals are quietly basking in the attention.

Puffins are such an unusual sight to see.

And what aquarium would be complete without the performing seals at mealtime!

Their high standard of accreditation at the Alaska SeaLife Center puts them into the top 5% of the nation’s 6000 zoos and aquariums.  A visit here is highly recommended.  To learn more about the Center, click here.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Anchor Point ~ Ninilchik ~ Russian River ~ Alaska

Still enjoying the sights of the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska

We left Homer with overcast skies this morning.  Sunny days are always preferred but with a few clouds up there and no rain it’s another great day ….. as long as we can see those mountains!

Mt. Redoubt, Alaska
We are travelling the Sterling Highway on the Kenai Peninsula.  We followed this same route into Homer, which is at the end of Highway #1 and will make our way back to Highway 9 then south towards Seward. The sun is shining down on the mountains from above the clouds.

Anchor Point, Alaska
This small community is the most western point on the highways of North America.  The story is that it is named for being the location where Captain James Cook lost an anchor.  This also marks the Blue Star Memorial Highway of Alaska. This is a program started after WW 11 which honours all men and women who serve in the US Armed Forces and a Blue Star Memorial Highway is found in most American states.  The blue star indicates a soldier fighting in the war and was used on service flags.

Mt. Iliamna, Alaska
This incredible view was across a field with access from a pull-out on the highway.  We were among others who stopped to get photos and enjoy the sight of Mt. Iliamna of the Pacific Ring of Fire across the Cook Inlet.   The fireweed is found all over this northern countryside adding great color.  See more of the Pacific Ring of Fire on a previous page by clicking on here.  

Russian Orthodox Church
Alaska was originally owned and occupied by Russia until it sold to the USA 149 years ago so has many of the descendants still living in this region.  The small town of Ninilchik, Alaska is the home of this little Russian Orthodox Church which was just a short drive off the highway.  Luckily we managed to get in and turn around with our big RV units which can be a challenge at times, so were able to stop here for a visit.

American Legion Cemetery
The Russian-American Company established Ninilchik in the 1820’s for those who could not make the journey back to Russia due to age or health problems.  Other Russians began to move to the area and in 1901, the settlers built the church.   This is also the home of the American Legion Cemetery.

Caribou and moose antlers
This is not likely something we’d normally see on our travels anywhere else, but if one wants to buy some antlers, this would be a place to come.   The moose and caribou shed their antlers yearly so there is no need to trophy hunt for their antlers; these begin with a $250 price tag.  Antler carving is a popular art form in Alaska so this may be one market they cater to.

Two Rusty Ravens Gift Store
Right next to the antlers, there was a very chic little gift store.  It was such a contrast to their neighbours and fun to browse and shop while the men checked out the antlers and rocks.  I’d say this was clever planning by the owners of Two Rusty Ravens and the Alaskan Gifts in Soldotna, AK.

Russian River Ferry
The first ferry for the Russian River was a rowboat in the 1930s and the office looks like it may have been built back then, too.  By 1950 the ferry was on a cable system to carry fishermen across the river to the south side and good salmon fishing.  This ferry still gives access to the Kenai and Russian Rivers and costs $10.25 round trip for the one minute crossing.  The area attracts 150,000 fishing visitors every summer but the fish also attract the bears so one must always be on alert for them.

Gulls enjoying fish in Russian River
There was a small RV park at the ferry landing but no space available so we were given permission to stay in the parking lot overnight. This was not the first or only time we parked our RV’s in a parking lot!  We spent some time watching the doll sheep on the mountain behind us, too far away for photos, but there were about 60 sheep spotted up there.  We also had a nice visit from a game warden who was able to tell us interesting stories about the area.  Another great day of our northern adventure!


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