Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Day 8, 9 Time to Head Home

One last stop....We spent our last night in Alaska at Cabelas, the chain sporting goods store, in Anchorage...BEAUTIFUL store....they have dry camping slots available, quite a few as a matter of fact, for no charge, so we took advantage of that. Thank you, Cabelas! The grounds outside were gorgeous....
The inside of Cabelas was filled with the usual taxidermy...Two fighting moose as you come in the store, it was a really big store as many Cabelas are...And this fireplace was so fabulous! Checkers games on tables in front of it.. Faux leather sitting chairs...
Eldy made himself right at home....

Need bear spray? Cabelas has it. It's expensive!

There was a terrific Mexican restaurant in the shopping center next to Cabelas..It was called Xalos Mexican Restaurant....Delish! And very pretty inside...The food was excellent!
Norton's Seafood Restaurant at airport
We had a good night's sleep at Cabelas...And were ready to roll the next morning. We had to fill our tanks and come back with everything topped off. We found a Holiday gas station in Anchorage, which accommodated us on everything for no extra charges. Some of the stations provide water to fill your tanks, so we called around first to make sure we could get it all done in one place.  We refueled, dumped our tanks, filled the freshwater tank and gassed up to return the motorhome back to its lot.

After dropping off the motorhome, (sniff, sniff) it was off to the airport.....We had the entire day to wait till our flight left that evening...Sparky REALLY wanted to go to Kincaid Park, a huge Anchorage park/preserve, et. home of many moose supposedly, but the logistics of trying to get to the park, rental car (very expensive for one day) and getting that back and returning to the airport was just a bit too fiddly, so we sat down and prepared to people watch and explore the Anchorage Ted Stevens Airport. Sparky just LOVES to explore airports. There are ALWAYS cool things to see at an airport, and interesting people to watch and food to eat...

Beautiful artwork.....This is a huge panel of glass made up of several hundred slivers or strips of glass  an inch wide (?) or less, set side by side and how the glass ripples or waves in different sections is where the depth and imagery comes through of salmon migration upstream.... Sparky started to count or estimate how many slivers there were per square inch, but then gave up. The slivers were about five feet high or higher so this was a TALL glass sculpture. It was beautiful!

There are paintings on the walls of native Alaskans....
There are about 195 works of art throughout the airport and the Ted Stevens International Airport is a showcase for Alaskan art. There is a world record Kodiak brown bear in a showcase as well. They measure the skull to determine the world record size---30 10/16".

Another beautiful piece of glass near the front entrance...It looks like ocean waves and as the sun moves through the sky and through the airport, the colors of the glass radiate different colors throughout the day.
And there was a beautiful three panel mural-- Here is the artist's explanation of it. If Sparky remembers right, it was on the ceiling at the airport above a big moose, but she forgot to take a photo of it. :-(

“Rainbow Creek” is a 9’ x 32’ oil painting on canvas on three panels. The work is based on studies done in the field at Rainbow Creek near the trailhead at mile 108 of the Seward Highway. The artist, David Mollett, said, “I've painted in the area for many years and love the crashing waterfalls as the creek approaches Turnagain Arm. The huge rough bark cottonwood trees, devil's club, and thundering water with a network of fallen branches, makes for a dramatic woodland scene. The light is even and soft due to the canopy of leaves high overhead.”

Sparky did so much walking and exploring at the airport, she wore herself out!

Finally, the departure hour arrived...early evening... Bye bye Alaska!

We had a five hour flight to Chicago, then a two hour flight to Orlando, then an hour and a half drive home...We made it!

PS. For those wondering how costly a trip such as this was, for renting an RV AFTER arriving in Alaska, here is a rough breakdown...
Flight from Orlando, FL to destination Anchorage...$503.00 per person round trip
$1400+ tax to rent the 28ft. motor home for 8 nights
Less than 300.00 for gas...
This didn't include groceries or souvenirs or the cost of staying in RV parks...The average cost of staying in Alaskan RV parks was around 40.00 a night and the conditions of the parks varied from decent to parking lot, to cramped and jammed.... :-)  There were PLENTY of places to boondocks everywhere we went, so if you wanted to save money by not staying in RV parks, it can be easily done. Lots of pullouts and roomy sections to stay overnight, although many were along the highways.

Eldy did a really wonderful job getting the best pricing for airfare and rental, in Sparky's humble opinion. Hope we can go again some time....It was one of the best trips ever, to be able to go and stay or leave whenever we wanted to, especially since we no longer have an RV and are usually now restricted to hotels and motels. It was terrific to be RVing back on the road. The weather was great, the experiences were amazing, and Alaska is an AMAZING state...hope you got some helpful information from following us on this trip! Sparky is headed to Virginia soon so come back and see us soon!

                                           Bye for now.....Sparky and Eldo

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Day 7 Travel Day and a Visit to Potter Marsh

We were working our way back to Anchorage from Seward....After the fantastic cruise to the Kenai Fjords yesterday, we thought it was going to be a quiet trip back and nothing else planned as we headed towards Anchorage. We were traveling back past the fabulous Turnagain Arm again...the 40-50 mile waterway that has the occasional bore tides. For an explanation of the bore tides, read here.

Sparky remembered a cool birding marsh when we had first come to Seward, and wanted to stop by to see it on our way back....It was called Potter's Marsh. Here is how you get to it:
Roughly fifteen minutes south of downtown Anchorage, Potter Marsh is accessible from the New Seward Highway. The entrance is located just past the Rabbit Creek exit and across from the Rabbit Creek Rifle Range entrance. A small highway pullout at the southern end of the marsh also allows for viewing and photography.

It's a beautiful marsh across from a section of the Turnagain Arm. A 1550 foot boardwalk takes you around inside the marsh...

Lots of ducks, an eagle's nest with babies, and a MOOSE! Yep, a moose just stepped out of the rushes and into our view. Woo hoo! One more moose sighting on our last day. Sparky was thrilled!

Here is what you might see depending upon the time of year....

From late April through September, Canada geese, northern pintails, canvasback ducks, red-necked phalaropes, horned and red-necked grebes, and northern harriers use this wetland. Look for eagle nests in the cottonwoods near the base of the bluff using binoculars or a spotting scope. Eagles have a sharp sense of sight and can see at least four times better than people, enabling them to detect movements of small animals like hares from a mile away. When eagles soar overhead, they are scanning open areas for prey.
From May to August, gulls, Arctic terns, shorebirds such as yellowlegs, and occasionally trumpeter swans are present during spring and fall migration.
In addition to birds, look for slow movement and a v-shaped wake in the waters of the marsh, signs of muskrats swimming past. Their small brownish heads peek just above the water as they meander in and out of the wetland's open areas.
Moose also frequent the marsh year round. May and June are good times to see these large ungulates standing in the marsh foraging for new growth.
About halfway along the boardwalk, Rabbit Creek flows underneath and provides a good spot to see spawning chinook, coho, or humpback salmon from May to August, depending on the species. Spot their bright red bodies swimming in the creek.
With its nearly panoramic view of Turnagain arm, Potter Marsh, buffered by spruce, cottonwoods and alders, is one of the most accessible and scenic wildlife viewing areas in Anchorage.
Or, you might not see anything! I think, there were a couple of wise guys here one day. What did you see? "nothing". Another quip, "narwhale".
Add tree swallow to the list...a pretty bird...

We spent a couple of hours at the marsh and then, as the afternoon was getting on, we headed back to the motorhome and back on the highway, destination....Anchorage. And if you read the entire description of the marsh, did you learn a new word today? Sparky did... "ungulates"--a hoofed mammal. :-) She did not know that! That's such a cool thing about RVing, and we miss it...the accidental or purposeful learning new things about our world because you enjoy that sort of thing or it just pops up right in front of you!...It might be geography, history, archaeology, biology or any other scientific/artistic field. It's there, waiting for you to explore.....But then again, you don't have to RV to learn things, it's just that getting out in our world thru travel makes it easier to experience things and knowledge first hand. Like this sign for instance, at the marsh...Sparky had no idea there were so many bears in Anchorage. She knew about the moose walking all around town in Anchorage, but not bears!
See you at the airport....a little more to tell, come back and see us....Bye!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

RVing in Alaska--Day 6-- A Cruise in the Kenai Fjords

Seward Public Library and Museum
What happened to day 5, you ask? Sparky forgot to allow some traveling time in there somewhere and forgot to take enough notes to refresh her memory about all the cool stuff we did in that lost day. Probably a combination of traveling and stopping to see things along the way.. At any rate, we spent two nights in Seward, but recommend staying longer. It's one of the nicer towns that we've seen. We've been to Ketchikan, Juno, Whittier and Skagway as far a cruise ports and docking for the day or for half a day, but Seward really has a lot going on for it. Lots of action at the docks, some nice stores, some great restaurants, the RV park by the bay, The SeaLife Museum, over a dozen beautiful murals all around town, all the wildlife, the hiking, just a really great destination, in our humble opinion.
A harlequin duck at Resurrection Bay

Not remembering exactly the sequence of events and leaving out a few things comes with getting older, we guess. That's what happens when you don't blog immediately upon returning from a cool trip! Life gets in the way! The main thing is, this was an AMAZING trip! There were so many more photos that Sparky wanted to publish, but felt like the essence of the trip could still be shared despite paring the photos down to a manageable number. So here goes some info about the Kenai Fjords cruise we took while we were there, a HIGHLY recommended cruise and with excellent reviews on the internet...We booked for 10% off through the Seward Visitor's Center a few days beforehand...The company was Major Marine, out of Seward....and the ship was a nice, stable catamaran. The days leading up to the cruise had been rainy and windy and not too nice, but we checked the weather ahead of time, and picked a great day to go---sunny and calm!

There are SIX tours you can sign up for....The web link provided above gives the breakdown for what you get for each scheduled tour. Sparky was in for the 7.5 hour cruise as soon as she heard "all the prime rib you can eat"! :-) We liked the idea of the 7.5 hour cruise giving the captain plenty of time to find wildlife, if Mother Nature wasn't cooperating. It leaves at 10:00 in the morning, and you are back by 5:30 PM. You also get up close to TWO glaciers, Holgate and Aialik. It's 189.00 a person WITH the all you can eat buffet which also included Alaskan salmon. An onboard National Park ranger narrates and they are 99% of the time always knowledgable and wonderful with their information. And, they provide free binoculars! So, off we went! Captain Josh was hilarious....He gave us some advice about seasickness.

1) Don't head for the bathroom. It's the "Room of Doom". No windows makes it worse.
2) If you are on the third deck, remember there are people below you. Aim far.

It was just fabulous! We saw a stellar sea lion being born, no kidding! We were watching the sea lions lazily bathe on the rocks, when Sparky saw something black and slithery and what looked like blood on the rocks beside the sea lion. The park ranger, Lynn, was checking the scene and announced that the mother was having the baby, right then and there! Holy cow! (heheheh, isn't a female sea lion a cow? wonder Eldo and Sparky).  Yep, that's what it endangered sea lion giving birth...the ranger was almost speechless....

We saw SEVEN orcas......They are very chatty, by the way, lots of clicks and whistles talking to each other....

Sea otters rolling around and having fun....

SEVEN humpbacks.....And one of the humpbacks was doing fin slaps and playing and just messing around for quite some time near us.....That fin was just waving and waving and spinning all around at us. We were laughing....

And then he breeched! And of course, Sparky missed it, trying to get from the back of the boat to the 1:00 position at the front of the boat...She got part of it as he was coming back down....

We saw puffins from afar and HUNDREDS of them circling the skies above a rock island..So hard to get a photo of a puffin, they are little bitty guys, about 12" tall. We saw quite a few bald eagles, too.....

And the TWO glaciers, one was over 750 feet tall....AMAZING! See the little sightseeing boat down in the front? It gives you just a little perspective at how massive the glacier is....even if it is shrinking...

Sparky got to experience a glacial margarita....The crew scooped up a big chunk of glacial ice bobbing around in the sea, after we visited one of the glaciers, rinsed it off and started chipping away to make ice cubes for the margaritas. The ranger said it was probably 200 year old ice. And it took FOREVER to melt and was amazingly sparkly and crystal clear. It was cool! Really!

And if you are thinking, yeah, we'd go on that cruise and probably not see anything, we doubt that would happen. Everybody we've heard that has taken this cruise has seen lots of wildlife, because it's Alaska, and this is the place to see wildlife! And when you are out at sea for that length of time, your chances are EXCELLENT! The Kenai Fjords cruise rocks! But not on a calm day, tee hee, hee....

It was a wonderful day in the Kenai Fjords.....And soon, our trip was ending...As a matter of fact, we have to leave Alaska to head home on day 8....But there's still more to see and tell....Bye for now.....

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

RVing in Alaska--Day 4 Exit Glacier

The day dawned gray and rainy again....We decided to do the Exit Glacier hike...Milemarker 3 on the Seward Highway. After arriving in the parking lot and checking out the small Exit Glacier Visitor Center, there are two hikes you can take to see the glacier. One is a one mile hike, an easy loop to view the valley glacier, and the other one is a 1.25 moderately strenuous hike to get closer to the glacier. We chose the 1.25 hike, we really didn't realize there was an easier loop. The first 1/4 of the hike is paved and fully accessible. At first, Sparky was just going to do the hike by herself, but Eldy wanted to try and we went together! This is a guy who just had quadruple bypass in February and it's only 4 months later! He was careful to take his time and stop along the way often.

The views were spectacular! But the glacier is a small one, and of course, has shrunk over the years. They keep moving the people barriers further and further back...
 Eldy did a really great job, and finally, we were at the foot of the glacier...

 Sparky was really proud of him for completing this hike! And he felt fine.....

But he was tired on the way back!
Sparky decided she wasn't done hiking yet...She wanted to see snow! The Harding Ice Field hike was a LONG hike and Sparky wanted to do just part of it, hoping to hike 4.1 miles (ONE WAY) to a ridge where another hiker said you could scoop up snow on the trail. Sparky wanted to make a snowball, so off she went, leaving Eldy in the comforts of the motorhome while she went hiking. Lots of people on the trails today and the reports of some baby bear and mama bear sitings only stoked Sparky more. So off she went....she figured an hour up and that would be it...And it was.....a VERY strenuous hike. Now Sparky was in relatively good shape, biking 12-15 miles three times a week back home, but hiking up mountains is totally different!

After an hour of huffing and puffing, and seeing no snow, no baby bears or mama bear, (which is a good thing, says a worried E.) and the ridge was still very far away, Sparky decided to turn around and come back down. Her feet were so swollen, she kicked off her shoes and stuck them in a stream running down the mountainside, forgetting this was GLACIAL water! BRRRRRRRR! But it sure felt good!

The last thing she saw today was this steller jay, hopping around in the parking lot. He was happy! Nice to see some different birds here in Alaska.

After our hikes today, we were tired! Time to head "home" a new campground called Stoney Brook RV park. Stoney Brook is on the outskirts of Seward, in a residential section back in the woods, nestled up against the mountains. Head south on Seward Highway, turn left on Stoney Creek Avenue (mile 6.3) over the railroad tracks, right on Bruno, left on Trail Rd., follow Trail around till you reach Leslie Place. They had wifi (very very slow), the bathrooms were really in need of updating, and they had a system of reservations where if you didn't call in ahead and happened to come in when no one was in the office, (office hours seemed to be very irregular and sporadic) you were to come in and look at the chart on the office window to see which spots were taken. The only problem with that was, they didn't update the site reservations. They also didn't seem to care about maintaining the sites and keeping them free of high grasses. Guess things are just a little more casual in Alaska....We found our spot, left our water hoses to claim our spot...took our rig and headed out for supper, and when we came back, somebody was pulling into our spot! We quickly reclaimed it. BUT---the views were AMAZING!!!! We stayed there for two nights....

Next on our Alaskan adventures, we are going on a 7.5 hour cruise in the Kenai Peninsula! See you on the boat!

Monday, July 11, 2016

RVing in Alaska--Day 3--Seward

We decided to leave Denali a day early...We had had a complete exploration of the park, had toured the visitor center, and were anxious to see more of Alaska.
The Denali National Park Visitor Center, one of two (?) It was beautiful!
We were on a tight schedule, trying to cram as much stuff as we could in about 8 days, so we decided to move on....Pulling out of the campground, we saw the moose calves the campground host had been talking about the day before. Sparky yelled, "STOP THE RIG, ELDY, THERE ARE THE TWINS!" And Eldo, sweetheart that he is, pulls off the side of the road in the 28 foot rig, with traffic coming both ways, and lets Sparky get a photo. Sparky was so excited about seeing the twin moose calves, that she didn't think about the MAMA. You KNOW that mama had to have been close by. She all of a sudden thought about that, so only took ONE photo of the twins. Do you know how hard that was for her to pull herself away from taking any more????? (Very, very hard, nods Eldo. She's crazy about moose, you know.)

Before we left Denali, we had to dump. This is where we found out that the Coachman Freelander has TWO dump valves. We didn't realize that until we went to dump, and nothing happened. The gauge said we were full. What the heck?! Nothing was coming out. Eldy looked around the coach and underneath and lo, and behold, the second valve was on the opposite side of where you pull the valve. We opened the second valve, and whew! We successfully dumped our black and grey tanks. We did not know there were TWO valves to open the tanks on the Coachman. NOW we were ready to head out. We drove from Denali to Seward, a distance of about 375 miles. It was a fabulous drive, and the roads were great. At about mile marker 221 on the Seward Highway, there was an awesome pullout that was by the mountains, and secluded from the highway by trees. If we ever came back this way, that was one pullout that we would have boondocked at. We'd stop now and then for Sparky to take in the scenery, and we'd see fresh moose tracks!

The scenery was breathtaking....
You travel along the Turnagain of the most beautiful stretches of highway in America, according to some...Chugach State Park is on the left side of your drive with 3,000 foot mountains constantly within view. The flats of Turnagain Arm are on the right...

And if you time it right, you might see a Bore Tide...A bore tide is one of nature's most unique and unusual tides. It frequency of occurrence depends on a full or new moon and a big differential of about 27 feet between high and low tides. It's a tide from 6-10 feet high of succeeding waves that washes down the Turnagain Arm. It's so high because the water rushes into the narrow inlet there at the Arm. It's one of the biggest tides in the world! It moves quickly, 10-15 miles an hour, and because the inlet is so filled with silt and muck from the glacier river flow, the area becomes very dangerous for anyone who happens to be out on the gravel bars in the arm during low tide. Harbor seals often ride the tide into the arm, and beluga whales come a little later after the water gets deeper.
Turnagain Arm

A serious rainfly is needed when tent camping in Alaska!
There were lots and lots of big pullouts along the way. We think anybody who wants to boondock and doesn't mind a little road noise, would have no trouble finding places to spend the night. We decided to stay at an RV park, Waterfront Park, which is on Resurrection Bay in the town of Seward. Waterfront Park is divided into several sections for RVers and tent campers. You can check the link for more descriptions and info, if you don't mind! We didn't need reservations at Waterfront Park in early June, but you might in July or August. They have full hookups for 40.00 but are limited on the full hookup sites. We had water and electric (no sewer) for 40.00 bucks a night. We stayed there for two nights. It's basically a gravel parking lot, and in early June, the winds come in off the bay and it's quite chilly! Here are the temps for the some of the days we were there, from June 9-15th...Sparky just loved it.... :-) Eldo, not so much....The weather was damp and rainy, OFTEN!

You can walk to town easily in about 10 minutes. There is a boardwalk that runs all along the bay in front of the RV sites leading to the waterfront and marina of Seward. There are several groupings of campsites along Resurrection Bay. In our particular section that we stayed, some sites are in the back of the parking lot towards the street, there is a middle row section and a front row section at the front of the bay. Our campground was called Resurrection North. For you crafty ladies, there's a great fabric store in town, AND a great knit shop! (Yes, Sparky supported the local economy while she was here, laughs E.)

While we were there, there was a big halibut fishing tournament going on for the weekend...Lots of tourists hired ship captains to take them out and go fishing and some really BIG halibut were caught!

Sparky loved going down to the docks and watching the day's catch put up for weighing and display..."It's all in the details," said one captain. He's got the black rockfish interspersed with the halibut. Very neatly arranged.
Sparky watched the fishermen fillet all kinds of fish...It's hard work some times! One halibut took two men to flip it over! These orange fish below are yellow eyed rockfish.

She learned that the orange ones are called yellow eye rockfish. This one was pregnant!
There were some good places to eat in Seward! Zudy's Cafe for breakfast, right at the waterfront, next to the Sea Life Museum.....Great for breakfast...The Railway Cantina--great Mexican food...Thorns' Showcase Lounge--great chili, sandwiches and cool atmosphere....
We decided the next thing we were going to do was go on the hike to Exit Glacier...It's a short hike to see a glacier up front and can't touch it but it's right there and it's just outside Seward within just a few miles...Sparky promises to speed up the blogging for the rest of the Alaskan trip if you come back to read about it.... See you at the glacier....