Sunday, November 24, 2013

Alaska 3 of 4: Seward

******************************Warning:  Picture Heavy Post************************

The most memorable part of my trip to Alaska has to be the day trip that my sister, Eva, and I took to Seward.  It's a small coastal town on the Kenai Peninsula.  It is connected to Anchorage by the Seward highway, and I'd say it takes a good 5 hours to drive from Seward to Anchorage.  We were coming from Kenai so it only took us about an hour and 45 minutes to drive there.

My sister researched the different companies that offer glacier/whale watching tours and she said that one stood out as having fantastic reviews, so we went with that one.  The name of the company is Kenai Fjords Tours (http://www.kenaifjords.com/), and they offer several different cruise options.  There are a few different companies that offer tours, so you really just have to decide which you'll like best.  The cruises are not cheap, but trust me, they are worth every penny.

Here is a rather choppy video I took of a pod of whales bubble feeding near the boat.  The quality isn't great because I didn't have a good camera at the time, plus the boat was moving, and I kept having to figure out where the whales were gonna pop up next.



Now, on to the pictures.  We took this tour in July, so the weather was nice and the animals were out and about.  You will notice that we're wearing heavy coats despite it being summer time. It's necessary to bundle up well on the glacier tours because the temps drop quite a bit when you're up next to the glaciers.  I definitely recommend a warm coat, gloves, and a beanie or something that will keep your ears warm.  There are different tours to choose from and they range anywhere from 4 hrs to 9 hours.  I believe we did the six hour cruise. Despite being 3 years old at the time, my daughter did great on the cruise, but if you have a child who has trouble sitting still for long periods of time, then definitely consider packing something to keep them entertained.  

I apologize ahead of time for all the pictures, but I took hundreds and it was really difficult to narrow it down to just a few.  

When we got on the boat, everyone was trying to get seats on the top deck, which I'm sure has the best views, however, it is cold out on the water and those same people kept coming inside to take a break from the chill.  We sat inside and enjoyed the views from the windows.  I stepped out every now and then to take photos.




The captains are really great at spotting whales and other marine life and they will call out over their  speaker when they spot something so that everyone can come outside and see it.  On our trip we were fortunate enough to come across a small pod of whales bubble feeding.  It was absolutely amazing to watch.

Can you believe those people on that small raft were sitting right next to the whales, taking pictures and fishing?  I would have freaked out.  






On the cruise we mainly came across solitary humpbacks so I included a few pictures of random whales we saw.  


I believe this picture is of Holgate glacier, but we didn't get too close since our main goal was to visit Aialik glacier.  



I couldn't believe these rowers were going through tons of ice that was just floating on the water.  


 This other boat got closer to Aialik than we did.  












Random pieces of ice break off and sound like thunder.






On the way to the glaciers and back, we saw tons of small islands.  They were all so pretty.


The captain also spotted a bald eagle and pulled up as close to the island as possible to allow us to take pictures of it.  It was so beautiful.




We came across a lot of puffins in a cave as well as swimming around leisurely.  




There were also a lot of Stellar Sea Lions playing in the water and sunning themselves on rocks.  


Eva loved seeing it all.  







 The tour was so magical, we didn't want it to end.  A light lunch was served on the boat, so we were famished by the time we got back.  We decided to stop in at a place called Chinooks because it was next ot the marina.  Sadly, the food was terrible and the server we had kept forgetting about our table. The view from the second floor was stunning so that made up for the rest :) 


After dinner we drove around Seward for a bit before heading back to Kenai.  It seemed like such a charming little town.  I would definitely go back and visit to take another daytime cruise.  

Up next, the last segment of my Alaska trip...Anchorage!  

Monday, June 24, 2013

Photo errors

Hi everyone, 
I'm looking forward to blogging a bit more often, but I just realized that my blog had a bandwidth error message on my photos.  I went ahead and fixed the problem, but if you're still seeing an error message, simply clear your computer's cache and hit the refresh button once you're done.  Sorry about the inconvenience!  


Sunday, May 5, 2013

Alaska 2 of 4: The Homer Spit

As promised (3 months later), here is the second installment of my four-part post on my trip to Alaska.

I know it's taken me a long, long time to get to this post, but I think part of the problem was that I didn't have a whole lot to say about Homer. We made a quick trip down for the afternoon without really planning out what we wanted to do, so we were just winging it.

That doesn't mean that there isn't anything to do or see there.  I thought the Homer Spit was a lot of fun, especially if you're in the market for local handmade goods.  So I'll just share how we spent our afternoon.

Since we were coming from Kenai, it was only about a 2 hour drive.  So we all hopped in the car, excited to go do some exploring.

Of course we couldn't go exploring without Diego...oh wait, Dora goes exploring...so scratch that.  We couldn't go take pictures without Diego and his trusty friend Click, the camera.  



One of the first things I noticed driving into Homer was that it was surrounded by a chain of mountains.  



What makes it even more breath taking is that the mountains are snow capped year round.  

Homer is known as the Halibut fishing capital of the world, but we weren't there to fish.  


Signs show up as soon as you drive into town, so we pulled over to take pictures.  The views were beautiful!  


While we did drive around Homer for a little while, we really didn't do much there.  Our objective was to figure out where to catch a ferry that would take us to some remote island/village.  I don't really remember anymore.  It may have been Seldovia. 
So we drove straight down the Homer Spit in search of lunch and ferry info.  



Driving down the spit, you will see adorable little shops lined up along both sides of the street.  


We drove all the way to the end of the spit and wound up having lunch at the very aptly named, "Lands End Restaurant."  The food was good and the restaurant had great views of the water and mountains. 





 We ventured outside to walk to the water's edge.  It was SOOOOO cold out there!




Here's a random little video I took, showing the chain of mountains:


As with all the other beaches I saw in AK, the shore is covered in stones, not sand.


And here's my rather pathetic attempt at taking a panoramic picture:


At the end of the spit you can see the Seafarer's Memorial:



After lunch we found a parking spot and set off walking to explore the shops and get times for the ferry.






We found out that it was too late to catch a ferry so we shopped instead.  I found souvenirs for different family members, a handmade bear sweater for Eva (which you will see her wearing in my other Alaska posts), knit hats, multi-tools, etc...  

I saw this on the window in one of the shops and thought it was cute:

We also went and checked out the harbor, took more pictures, etc...





Since we couldn't go to Seldovia after all, we kinda cut our trip short, but it was nice to go explore Homer, which was a very unique little fishing town.
The most memorable stop we made there was to a place called the Salty Dawg Saloon, which is a hot spot for local fishermen while also being popular with tourists. 


I know what you're thinking.  You took a child to a saloon?!!!  The horror!  Well, this wasn't a regular saloon. It was a popular stop in Homer, filled with families checking out the interesting interior. 

It's interesting because it's a teeny tiny place with really low ceilings and it's completely covered in dollar bills.  


We walked around and read what had been written on some of them.  It was mainly names and dates, but it was fun to read all the countries the tourists were from. 


Of course we couldn't go without adding our own:


Like I said, we didn't do a whole lot in Homer since our plans didn't work out, but we still had a good time.  Eva had a big smile on the way back to the car so it was a nice little day trip.


Next up in my 4 part series is Seward...hands down my favorite part of our vacation since we did a whale watching/iceberg boat excursion so be sure to check back in oh...say another 3 months?  I kid, I kid! (I hope :))