A great week started on Monday at 1 am when Kevin, Becky, Dayna and Peter arrived at the Anchorage airport… sadly, their luggage didn’t fly with them. It was delivered to our campsite at 4 am! Thank you, kinda. It would have been fine if they waited till 9 am! But we were super blessed to have them and their luggage with us! We drove later that day down to Seward. We had a campsite close to a river, and they got a hotel right on the bay. [We won’t talk about the horrible place we’d reserved, that was so bad we bailed and were blessed to find a nice hotel in a better location.]
The next day Loren, Karen, Ashlyn and Bryan were to fly in. Cherryl drove the car back to Anchorage to meet them, and the rest of us took the motorhome to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, which is on the way to Anchorage. The plan was for the car and motorhome to rendezvous about 11am at the Conservation Center… and the gang in the car drove up 30 seconds after we did! Plans never work out that well! We are truly blessed! I usually don’t take pictures of animals in a zoo or otherwise confined, just because. So while we saw lots of amazing Moose, Caribou, Musk Oxen, Bears and more, you don’t have to look at the pictures.
We noticed that photos of people work best when downwind…
The views were terrific!
An exception to my animal photo rule was this little bear, seemingly asleep in his tree perch.
OK, one more… They have a great bear exhibit! The bears were fun to watch.
We got a kick out of all the names for groups of animals. Ever seen a smack of jellyfish? Or an unkindness of Ravens?
After the great Conservation Center, we all went back to Seward.
All of us enjoyed the river. The grandkids found this huge pile of rocks – excuse me – a huge fort with rooms and guard towers and such.
During a picnic lunch, the gang decided to prove they were all eating by biting in unison.
We took a trip up to the Exit Glacier. This is just one of 35 glaciers that make up the Harding Ice Field. In 1968, an expedition crossed the entire ice field for the first time, and exited by way of this glacier. So they named it to commemorate their exit. I’m just glad they didn’t name the rest Entrance, First Third, Midpoint, Really Tired and such.
Notice the sign reading “1926.” There were several of these along the path, starting with the mid 1800’s. These mark the glacier extension at that date. The glacier has been receding since the mid 1800’s! And all because of those pesky antebellum SUV’s.
Exit Glacier is fascinating… We have to wonder if the brown stripe is from Rangers sliding down when nobody is looking!
After a while at the glacier, Loren, Kevin, Bryan and I decided to hike up to a different overlook. It was threatening rain, and the trail was severe, but we said we’d turn back if it was taking too long.
So the trail was really steep in spots, and we were working hard, but it’s hard to turn back without knowing how close we were to the lookout. So we pushed on, and were rewarded with some fabulous views.
Another day we had a wonderful boat excursion through the fjords, and I hope to have a nice photo essay on that trip, but it’s not ready yet. Tune in next week!
Our last day in Seward… We moved the motorhome down by the beach, and had all our meals there that day. We had Helicopter tours scheduled the next day. Cherryl and I at 8:30 in the morning, the rest of the gang at 2:30 in the afternoon. (We couldn’t all get the same time.) So we drove the motorhome up to Palmer, near the Helicopter base, and the kids would meet us there early afternoon the next day.
We’d expected to have the Helicopter Excursion cancelled, because the weather was really foggy with some rain, but we showed up anyway. After a delay of about an hour, they said if we still wanted to go, they would fly us. They would have taken all ten of us if the kids had been there, but they were still driving up from Seward. So we, and one other couple, boarded our twin helicopters and flew up to a glacier at something like 5,000 feet. The trip was awesome!! The fog just made everything etherial and mysterious. So beautiful!
We landed at Dallas Seavey’s dog camp, populated by Iditarod Champion sled dogs and their trainers. We got to ride behind a team of 10 dogs. The musher (musherette?) drove the lead sled, with two passengers, and then a second sled was towed behind that with one passenger and one “Musher in Training.” We stopped during our couple miles of trail to let everyone have a turn mushing. It was amazing!
We saw sled dogs training in Fairbanks, and could see how all the dogs are just hyped up excited to run. These dogs were super excited to run! It’s like they all bark “Pick Me! Pick Me!” They love running so much that the musher spends a lot of time slowing them down. She has a brake in between the runners; really just a lever that puts spikes down into the snow to create a lot of drag. She used the brake a lot, just to keep the dogs at about 8-9 miles per hour, which is where they best run the Iditarod race. The dogs are capable of 25 mph!
When she released the brakes, and tells the dogs “Ready,” they leap forward with surprising energy! It was foggy, and snowing slightly. At one point on the run, we had complete whiteout, meaning we could see nothing of the mountains around us or anything else.
After our run we get a few pictures with the dogs.
We got to play with some puppies, and see the sleeping quarters for the humans. The blue plastic buildings are shaped to fit into a truck bed. They have no insulation, and nothing but a bed an a couple benches you could sit on. They have a portable gas heater the can warm it up before climbing into bed, but our musher said they like to have a dog or two in there with them at night for warmth (and love.) The rest of the dogs sleep outside, or in their little plastic igloos. We also saw inside their cook shack. Pretty spartan living! They spend a week or ten days on the glacier, then rotate out with a new crew.
We were told we had to leave quickly, because the weather was getting worse. Our pilot, Ben (the best!), joked that if we waited too long we might be spending 3 days at the dog camp!
We took off, but while following the glacier down, the fog beat us to the bottom! We landed on a little peak to wait for clearing.
Our unscheduled stop had some excellent views of the glacier – everything was magical and mysterious looking.
While we waited, the fog covered the camp, and our possible return there. Three days in camp looked good compared to on this lonely peak! We waited about one and a half hours, and then were informed that some alternate landing spots were opening up not far from our base. We decided to try it. By now the helicopters were all fogged up inside, and we were very cold and wet.
Did we make it out? You’ll have to watch this video to find out! Ha! The video is a bit long, but if you like helicopters, glaciers, dog sledding or scary weather you might enjoy it.