Alaska Day 6 - Déjà vu & au revoir, Alaska

Trip Start Jul 24, 2010
Trip End Jul 31, 2010

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Flag of United States  , Alaska
Friday, July 30, 2010

Alaska Day 6 - Seward to Anchorage

Déjà vu OR Paula and Angela wish they would have booked a longer trip

We went with Dad on his helicopter/Christmas present tour.  He kind of wanted to share the experience with someone (I know……a little surprising!), and mom said she’d rather lose us all at once if someone had to go.  So we all went.

Since we had just done the helicopter tour yesterday, doing it again today was a little boring, a little repetitious.  HA!  It was just as amazing!  Paula and I were so glad we went again.  This time we didn’t take pictures from the air.  We each video’d the trip.  Pilot Eric flew us out to the lagoon, and on the way we saw an otter in the water near the harbor.  We also saw the eagle’s nest again, and a few eagles here and there.  No black bears, though, damn it.  We flew over the lagoon and saw quite a few seals all over the place, more than we had seen yesterday.  Eric said this was because of the salmon.  They must be running and plentiful.  Clearly, someone should have told the black bears.  Damn it.

We landed and walked around.  The icebergs had moved since yesterday.  The rocks on shore were super skipping rocks, so we took advantage.  I think our pilot often spends his shore time doing this, as he was pretty good.  We needed a bit more practice.  We heard a big splash at one point.  We weren’t sure if it was a chunk of iceberg breaking off or maybe some sort of freezing sea sea monster.  Well…… was a LOUD splash, and we couldn’t see it.  We talked about it for some time, then resumed looking for rocks.  When no one was looking, unfortunately, there was a splash close to us, close to the shore.  FSSM?  Or a fish?  We kept looking around the spot, and soon a small seal popped it’s head out of the water!  Right near us!!!!!  It was amazing!!!!!!  

Again, I’m so glad we did the tour again.  And I’m pretty sure my dad smiled a few times.  Maybe we got that on film…………

Back at the campground, we packed and started to load the car when we learned that someone had spotted a mother brown bear and her 2 cubs heading down the super steep incline that my dad and I had climbed yesterday.  So maybe it was bear scat…….big bear scat.

I grabbed Paula’s camera and ran out to the river near the incline, armed with my best Timothy Treadway imitation, just in case.  My dad joined me with his camera.  We made our way through the bushes and climbed a bit up the incline to see if we could see anything.  I’m not sure why we were so bold, as we could have bumped into a bear at any moment, could have surprised or been surprised by a bear at any moment.  I began to wonder if I really could stand still and not run if we encountered a bear……

This day neither of us were tested, but I did begin to question why I never bought bear spray.  Alas, the bears were clearly gone, not to be seen anywhere.  I’m not sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing.

We said goodbye to the folks and headed to Whittier.  We drove through a 3 mile road-rail toll tunnel to get there.  It was one way, so traffic goes in on the half hour and comes back on the hour.  Synchronize your watches and have a plan!  Other than by boat, that is the only way to get there, so we were really interested in this town.  When we arrived, I immediately thought……..what the hell?

So I looked it up.  Whittier is named after the American poet John Greenleaf Whittier.  I have no idea why, so if you find out, let me know.  The town (and I use this term loosely) was founded in 1943 when the US Army used this ice-free port to build an Alaska base.  After the army left in 1960, some crazy residents decided to stay – a few hundred.  Luckily some of them can cook up some incredible halibut, salmon, and crab cakes.  Yum.  And the setting of the town is spectacular, surrounded by glaciers and thundering waterfalls, not to mention a million little gift shops.  We walked around, which took about 3 minutes, then we tried to find a location on our map – Salmon Stream.  With a name like that, we were hoping to see some spawning or running salmon and maybe some BEARS.  We left the paved road and headed into the mountain on a dirt/rock road.  I’m pretty sure we threw out the front and back alignment, but it was a rental car, and we ended up finding the most amazing little spot:  awesome little waterfall, opening into a little stream, which poured into the bay.  Zen.

Jade went crazy running all around the rocks and cove.  Paula had several mini heart attacks and squealed a lot.  We stayed on the lookout for birds of prey, and tried to keep Jade mostly under trees and brush.  All ended well, and Paula got a few pictures.

If you go to Alaska, I would recommend checking out the cruises and tours that go by Whittier.  There is a 26 glacier cruise that operates out of Anchorage (Phillips Cruises and Tours), visits Whittier, Prince William Sound, and accesses Barry Arm and College Fjord, getting right up on the glaciers where they hit the sea.  I do not know if they have an all-you-can-eat salmon, prime rib, and dessert buffet.  Also great kayaking in Whittier if you have the time (sigh).  

We went back through the tunnel, survived it again, and stopped by the Wildlife Refuge Center.  Jackpot:  black and brown bears, as well as bull moose.  This was a great park.  We drove through, as we (and by “we” I mean me) were really cutting it close to get to the Anchorage airport.  Some of these animals were rescued and rehabilitated or are being rehabilitated.  We saw the above mentioned, as well as reindeer, caribou, 2 different kinds of bison, musk oxen.  We spent the majority of our time with the brown bears.  2 were playing in the pond, and one was eating from a massive pile of grapes, right by the fence.

We exerted herculean willpower and left the park.  Then we drove like hell.  We needed to get the car back by 6:00 pm or pay $200 more.  Driving down the road, as we passed by some prime moose habitat, I commented that I REALLY hoped we didn’t spot a moose.  And guess what?  I spotted a moose in prime moose habitat right beside the road!!  We didn’t stop.  Thankfully, it was not our only moose spotting, or I’d be $200 shorter.  

We pulled into the rental car drop off at exactly 6:01 pm.  I credit my driving and failure to stop to fill up the gas tank.

I won’t bore you with the trip back home.  Suffice it to say my red-eye flight turned into the swollen, puffy, bleary red-eye flight.  I finally made it home to 90 degree weather.  I was a bit overdressed…………..

My one regret:  not having Bob with me, and not forcing Steffan to go.  When his teenage years are behind him, I believe he will regret, too.  Then I’ll force him to read my travel blog and look at 3,000 photographs.  

At home I took the longest nap of my life, and dreamed the dreams of Alaska.

(via Paula)

Like she said.  

Jade was fearless at Shotgun Cove.  For a dog who is afraid of hardwood floors and her water/food bowls, it was an amazing transformation.  She was leaping over logs, running to the end of mini-cliffs, and having a really good time.

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