Travelling alone through Alaska.

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I’m not sure if I should share this secret with you, however I am approaching my 70th year of life so one starts thinking about oneself differently. Keep it secret OK?? ( An involuntary thought process I might add! ) When I run out of energy I think it Is my age. I never used to think that way… when I forget your name, I think that is my age!! When I park the car and have to think hard where I left it I blame my age! When I can not eat all my dinner, and I always used to eat everything on the plate, I blame my age! These days I struggle to cut my toe nails, that is a new predicament; so I blame my age!!  Two years ago I didn’t blame my age for anything…what has changed may I ask??? I’m not sure I want to hear the answers. But I can still catch good sized fish, laugh and enjoy life !!

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My14 pound Silver Salmon – caught and released to spawn!

People still say to me you have so much energy or you look sooo young. I like those people. I recently planned and booked an exciting adventure to Alaska. Before I went I was a little concerned how I might manage the driving on the wrong side of the road and  about being away from my friends and family for almost a month. Silly thoughts in hindsight. I managed absolutely fine. Many of you have husbands and wives to travel with – you are fortunate so don’t bitch when the navigation goes wrong, or he wears the wrong shirt with the wrong shorts! Enjoy the fact you have someone else to blame in life. I could only blame myself,f so I paid extra for a GPS …money well spent! I added in a couple of extra nights so I wouldn’t get too tired. In other words I took it calmly.

I say to you single folk out there don’t hesitate to go alone … book a trip, drive yourself, have fun and push yourself out of your comfort zone. You will come home feeling confident and young again. Well once you recover from the flight although I personally don’t believe in jet lag! I feel like I have been at a party all night and apart from tiredness I am fine. Don’t let being on your own stop you having an adventure! To my married friends keep on exploring; it keeps us all young!

Now about this latest trip. The first week was 6 days at Lake Clark National Park where I was invited with other photographers to observe and photograph brown bears. See my previous blog about the bears.

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Typical scenery Seward Highway

Following this week and a night to recover in Anchorage, I collected a rental car (avoid Hertz although the car was fine- rude staff) and headed off for 12 days to explore the wilderness of the Kennai Peninsula. No cruise ship moly-coddling until I am 80. “Concentrate on your driving Lynn” was all l thought about that first hour or three as I headed south  to Girdwood. Actually it was only a 2 hour trip. I took it quietly that first day!! I stayed at the beautiful Girdwood resort called Aleyska Resort for 2 nights. This is a ski resort in winter and in summer is a very pleasant stopover. I caught the gondolier to the top both evenings where I sipped a glass of wine and watched the sunset.The second night I dined at the Seven Glaciers a fine dining restaurant worthy of the claim, and I enjoyed the sunset over theTurnagin arm. Next day I drove to the scenic town of Whittier, 217 people live here, a fascinating seaside town through the Whittier Tunnel at 2.5 miles long this is the longest tunnel in North America.The tunnel is one way so check the hours and you do share it with trains and trucks. Now you are in the Prince William Sound complete with marina, glacier views and quaintness. I thoroughly recommend Varleys Seafood for Halibut and Chips, the best I had in 3 weeks. This town played a major role in war time but these days it is a largely forgotten and in winter it is virtually closed down!

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I also visited the Alaska Wildlife Centre a few miles from Girdwood. I pre-booked a behind the scenes tour but you can just pop in anytime. My behind the scenes tour had me feeding green beans to a porcupine, an apple to a very large moose and petting a small musk ox which is really a sheep! Quivet is the extremely soft hair gathered form these beasts for top of the line scarves and hats.It is very expensive; a high quality knitted scarf can cost more than 300 U.S. dollars, but will last over 20 years with good care. I actually decided New Zealand Merino would suffice in my wardrobe! The tides in this part of Alaska rise 30 feet so at times the animal park was under water however I saw most of the animals. They rescue animals that often would meet a certain death in the wild such as two homeless Lynx kittens  and a bald eagle with one wing and others.IMG_4057IMG_4072

I discovered some great coffee shops, the roads were good, the sun was shining and I was happy driving The Seward Highway. Sometimes one sees Beluga Whales off this highway but I was concentrating on my driving! Actually there are places to pull over to shoot the views and I did make numerous stops.IMG_4001

See the gondola shadow as we climb higher into the mountains.

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Aleyska Resort – Girdwood

Seward is a fascinating town. Many of the cruise ships start their voyages here but I only saw one. Mr Seward was a very forward thinking man – Seward is named after William H Seward the USA Secretary of State under Abraham Lincoln. In 1867, he fought for the U.S. purchase of Alaska which he finally negotiated to acquire from Russia. In 2015 we realise what a stroke of genius this was ! Seward was a partner in the law firm in New York where my son  worked for 4 years, Cravath & Co… small world.  Seward was badly damaged in the 1964 Alaskan earthquake 9.2, also known as the Great Alaskan earthquake or the Good Friday earthquake.  

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Beautiful red flowers along the highways

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The North Western Glacier ‘calving’- looks like an icy waterfall!

Around Seward and most Alaskan waterways in September there is an abundance of trout. They are heading upstream to spawn. Seriously wall to wall salmon in many small creeks and rivers. I spent two hours trying to capture these salmon jumping up a weir near Seward. Dertermination paid of for them and me as they achieved their goal and I got the photo!IMG_3010-Edit

Bear  Creek Weir.

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This National Park sign was slightly amusing at Exit Glacier near Seward.

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This is the boat they took President Obama out on from Seward the day I was there – a decoy older style boat!

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A sea otter basking in the sun in Seward. Note the jelly fish!

Currently the population of the Seward is 2,528. The quake and tsunamis ( 67 m high) caused major damage and today there is no high rise or waterfront building. I kept thinking about Christchurch when I was there. Seward boasts some great cafes overlooking the water. I sat and enjoyed lunch watching a sea otter playing in the marina outside. This is the town where the day cruises leave from and I fortunately had pre- booked  the 9 hour boat trip to the North Western Glacier. Most trips don’t go this far so I was indeed lucky. The boat passess beautiful scenery, Sea Otters, Humpbacks and Orcas. The boat passes over some very ripply water and this is an undewater moraine with powerful rips, we could see the water surging. The Glaciers are numerous and this North Western Glacier is impressive despite the fact that it too has receded in recent years. The booming noise as it ‘calved’  was something you need to hear to believe as the sound echoes around the  mountains. Harpers Sea Lions lay sleepily on the ice below. I saw several Humpback whales, sea otters and numerous Orcas on this trip.IMG_4669-EditThe Autumn colours were a beautiful contrast – this is Summit Lake Lodge an ideal stopover.

Back in Seward I also walked to the strangely named Exit Glacier where President Obama followed my foot steps the next morning!  Some one had to check the track for him!!   New Zealand has Fjords and Glaciers as well, but this is like New Zealand on steroids, they have dozens of glaciers and the wildlife is a real bonus. The regions and the people are different as is the food. Food in Alaska generally was simple, chips with Salmon, chips with Cod, chips with Halibut, chips with Spare Ribs, chips with Steak… I am sure you get the picture. Mind you the Spare Ribs and Black Cod or Sable Fish were memorable. I often saw NZ Sauvignon on the wine lists and once I spotted New Zealand lamb 🙂 Seward has a few tourist shops and excellent coffee. There is a  Safeway and  a small hospital, a large aquarium and several gas stations.This is a tourist town 100%.IMG_3668

A Tufted Puffin in Seward

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Spooky misty trees along the Seward-Homer Highway.

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I didn’t see a wild moose, however 85  motorists have been killed on the roads by moose this year!

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Nilinchick – old Russian cemetery

Nilinchick is a coastal old Russian settlement complete with a pretty turreted church and hundreds of jet black noisey ravens; or maybe they were crows! Voznesenka is at the end of the road near Homer…there were no road signs saying it was 4×4 road so I drove down the razor back to the beach before deciding if the ominous rain clouds dropped any moisture I may never return from the end of the road!! Hence I curtailed it out of there quite quickly! On Google it tells you the road is 4×4  only !! My Central Otago farm driving skills  became useful. The third Russian town I visited was Seldovia two hours by boat from Homer with no road access. A deserted little town but it had just hosted a world-chainsaw carving expo.     IMG_4419

Homer is a tourist town at the far end of the Kennai Peninsula, famous for the halibut fishing! Yes I managed to drag in a halibut, not as exciting as the 14 pound trout I caught  earlier in my holiday! In New Zealand we see many old cars abandoned, in Alaska it is old boats. Homer virtually closes down over the winter but in summer it is bustling and boat tours are plentiful. I stayed in a small Inn with friendly owners, the oldest TV I have  seen in years and sixties décor. In Homer there is little time to watch TV and the bed was comfortable. When I caught my Halibut I gave the Inn owners my fish and she returned a piece all seasoned with vegetables etc so I could cook my own dinner! Most enjoyable even on my own! I also had a wonderful dinner at The Homestead where they attributed the Pavalova to the Aussies but I set them right of course!

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The weather was absolutely beautiful for much of my trip however Homer lived up to its’ reputation and we had four moody, misty days. I saw my first ever fog bow, absolutely beautiful, albeit difficult to photograph.IMG_4497-Edit

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Seldovia had a chain saw carving expo.

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A beautiful spot for Seafood Chowder and Pinos Gris overlooking the Seldovia MarinaIMG_3740-Edit-EditHomer summer houses.

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One of the many abandoned old boats in Homer.

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IMG_4470Some serious fishing fleets – Homer & Seward

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In Homer they have an annual wooden boat day.
I also loved the way many of the small boating lakes provided spare life jackets for children. Is this something we could adopt in New Zealand?

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A typical roadside eatery – lovely people very helpful with directions!

IMG_4152-EditSo to finish my story, I had driven hundreds of miles and not seen a moose. My last day I caught a glimpse of what I thought was a moose, then did a U turn and back to see two of these magnificent animals. This is a Caribou or Reindeer.This chap was around 1.7 m to his shoulder…that is one large animal.I was so excited and watched them for 30 minutes or more before they wandered in the woods. I ended my holiday on ‘natural high’ with this relatively rare moment between myself and two Caribou.

If you have questions or comments please reply in the comment box. Enjoy and don’t stay at home another moment!

 

Kenai-Peninsula-Alaska-Map

 

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8 thoughts on “Travelling alone through Alaska.

  1. Pingback: Best Blogs 2015 – holiday reading | KIWIGRAN – my escapades, my images, my thoughts :)

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