2012  HIKING, CYCLING,

& RV TRAVEL ADVENTURES

 

   
 
Runtrails' Web Journal
 
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   SIX DAYS IN SEWARD:  DEFINITELY NO FOLLY!

THURSDAY, JULY 5

 
"March 30, 1867: [On this day in history] Secretary of State William H. Seward 
signed a treaty with Russia for the purchase of Alaska for $7 million.  
Despite the bargain price of roughly two cents an acre, the Alaskan Purchase
was ridiculed in Congress and in the press as "Seward's Folly,"
"Seward's Icebox," and President Andrew Johnson's "polar bear garden."
 
~ from the website This Day in History re: the topic "Seward's Folly"
 
 
The ratification of this treaty was a real squeaker in Congress, passing the Senate by only one vote. Most folks knew next to nothing about the bountiful human and natural resources in Alaska and considered the purchase a colossal mistake.

The controversy about the wisdom of purchasing over 486,000 square miles of wilderness in the Far North continued for nearly 30 years -- until about the time gold was discovered! That was in 1898. When Seward was asked what he considered his greatest achievement as Secretary of State he reportedly replied, "The purchase of Alaska -- but it will take people a generation to find out." 


Lily Pad Lake along the Seward Hwy.

It's too bad Seward died before that discovery so he'd know he was more than vindicated for pushing so hard for the purchase. He had more foresight about the possibilities of the Last Frontier in North America than most of his contemporaries -- and he didn't even know about the gold and oil when he negotiated the treaty with Russia. (Bet Russia later regretted that decision!)

Alaska has contributed to American prosperity, defense, culture, and enjoyment in many ways ever since. It finally became a U.S. state in 1959. Now the last Monday in March is celebrated by Alaskans as "Seward's Day."


Golden yellow pond lilies

The town of Seward, the Seward Peninsula, the Seward Highway, and some other landmarks in Alaska were named after the man wise enough to envision the potential of this magnificent place and gutsy enough to push the president and Congress for its acquisition. Thank you, Mr. Seward.

We will spend six nights and parts of seven days in the town of Seward -- and hope that's enough time to do everything we want to do here. After several hours we already think it's pretty special.

TRIP NOTES FROM COOPER'S LANDING TO SEWARD

Although we had only 53 miles from our campsite at the Russian River Campground on the Sterling Highway near Cooper's Landing to the Seward Military Resort in Seward we took two days to get here.

The route was simple -- east on the Sterling Hwy. to Tern Jct., then south on the Seward Hwy.

Seward is at the end of the highway on the eastern side of the Kenai Peninsula so when we leave we'll be retracing our route north. Like Valdez, no other roads go in or out of Seward, just the marine highway.


One of the views from our parking spot along the Sterling Hwy. this morning

I explained in the last entry why we chose to stay at a scenic turnout along the Sterling Highway last night. That made this morning's drive to Seward even shorter --just 41 miles. We took our time because check-in at the campground in Seward is 1 PM and we didnít know if we could get in early.

The sky was overcast when we began, then rained part of the way to Seward:

One of several rivers we crossed on the Seward Hwy. (above); this one drains into Kenai Lake (below).

That was disappointing because this is supposed to be such a gorgeous drive.

The clouds were so low by the time we got to Seward that we could barely see the mountains surrounding the town. We had good views of the numerous lakes and streams we passed, however, including some of Kenai Lake.

We stopped at a couple of overlooks on the Seward Hwy. to take pictures. I especially liked the one overlooking Lily Pad Lake at MM 14:

 

The yellow pond lilies are very photogenic:

 

There were some other flowers at this overlook, including this fireweed just beginning to bloom:

On the way back north I want to stop at MM 12. We missed that one today. There are beautiful flowers, mostly lupines, at that turnoff overlooking one of the many lakes on this scenic section of highway.

I was unable to get any really good photos on either side of the road while Jim was driving because of the rain and mist. We also missed the historic waterwheel in Moose Pass, where I intended to stop briefly. I'll try to get some better pictures to show you next week if the sky is more clear.

Jim spotted a mama moose and baby on my side of the road in one of the marsh areas near Victor Creek. I got a quick picture out the window in passing but didnít have time to zoom in with the lens. The highlighted moose are fuzzy in the cropped photo:

 

Even if I'd gotten a better camera recently with a super zoom lens I wouldn't have had time to get it set up properly to take a decent picture of those moose unless we'd had a place to pull off the road there. It wasn't safe at this spot while we were pulling the camper.

There are lots of beautiful views in this section -- even when it's raining. I hope itís more clear when we drive back north in a few days so we can see more and I can get better pictures.

As we drove south traffic was very heavy going north away from Seward, as we expected the day after the holiday. Seward's population swells by more than ten times for the popular 4th of July festivities.

We were glad to see so many RVs going the other direction! That makes more room for us in Seward. We have reservations so we werenít too concerned about finding a spot, though.

 
Construction on one of the bridges we crossed

The first few miles of the Seward Hwy. were nice and smooth. We hit several miles of construction, including the rebuilding of two bridges, with some rough pavement and one-way traffic. The final miles to Seward were better.

There arenít very many parking areas along this road that are suitable for spending the night in an RV.  There are several trailheads with some parking. If you have a small RV you could stop overnight at one of these and do some hiking during daylight hours.  


Low clouds approaching Seward

Our visibility of the surrounding mountains diminished as we approached Seward. It remained cloudy the remainder of the morning and afternoon, then cleared up some during the evening.

SEWARD MILITARY RESORT:  YOU MIGHT BE ELIGIBLE, TOO . . .

This popular U.S. Army  resort consists of an RV park and handsome motel rooms, townhouses, fabric-sided yurts, and a log cabin.

 

 

Additional facilities include a lodge with office and gift shop, an activities building with bar, grill, and wide-screen TV, conference rooms, a large fish cleaning building, picnic tables and grills around the shaded grounds, restrooms, laundry rooms guests can use, and maintenance buildings. 

The resort operates several deep-sea halibut charter boats that can be used by guests.

It also offers discounted prices on activities through local companies such as wildlife and glacier cruises, scenic river trips, river and fly-in fishing, kayaking, white-water rafting, horseback riding, dog sled tours, glacier treks and landings, the Alaska Sea Life Center, and other activities, modes of transportation, and lodging in Alaska.

That gives you an idea of some of the recreational/touring activities people enjoy in the Seward area. We'll be inquiring about a few of them.

Above and below:  motel accommodations at the resort

 


One of the townhouses

The resort can be used by a variety of individuals and their families if they are somehow connected to the U.S. military -- active and retired military personnel (including the Coast Guard), reserve components like the National Guard, military academy cadets, disabled veterans, DOD civilian employees, and many others.

Even if you have no military connections yourself you may be able to enjoy the facilities as a guest with a proper sponsor. Check the eligibility page for the whole list. This resort appears more inclusive than most military installations where we camp. Reservations can be made a year in advance.

Click this link for a photo gallery of the resort, tours, fishing tips, winter pictures, etc. 

SETTLING IN AT THE RV PARK

We arrived at the military resort about 11 AM. It is located at the north end of town, one block west of the Seward Hwy.

On the drive down to Seward Jim called to see if we could get into a campsite early and the woman who answered the phone said no, we'd have to wait until 1 PM.

When we got there we parked in a large gravel area across from the office building and walked around the RV park to kill time, noting that about 15 of the 40 sites were empty and several of those were suitable for big rigs. Almost all of the sites are back-ins, not pull-thrus.

We went into the office. I approached a young lady who wasn't busy with another customer and asked if we could get in early since there were several vacant sites. She was quite agreeable to that, saying the folks in #27 had already checked out. That was one of our preferred sites.

 
Check-in, discounted tickets, and information desk at far end of gift shop

Better yet, we could have that site for a longer time than originally planned. We had reservations for three nights. This site is available for five, so we extended our stay to five nights. If we want to stay longer we can either hope for a cancellation or stay somewhere else.

The Air Force campground next door is our second choice for camping in Seward and right now there is an open site when we might want it.

Staying a few days longer gives us more opportunity for the sun to come out! There is a lot to do around here. It's supposed to be overcast and/or rainy for the next two days, which "puts a damper" on our plans to hike, ride our bikes, and take a boat tour of Kenai Fjords National Park. The weather is predicted to be more sunny by Monday.


Some of the 40 full hook-up RV sites

Another good thing is that we had to pay for only one night up front. We can leave any time, supposedly without a penalty (thatís not what the website says, however) and pay when we leave. That way folks turn in their bathroom/laundry key cards and pay for the length of time theyíve stayed Ė and the office knows which sites are now available.

We like that system. That's essentially how we were able to get into our site two hours "early." The military isn't always so flexible.

There was no one next to our door side when we parked. A couple hours later a retired couple in a tan-colored Class A motorhome with Florida tags pulled in next to us with their door facing ours. That was good because they were folks we'd already met when they were camped near us at JBER recently.


That's our Cameo at the Seward Military Resort RV park.

Although weíre closer to other RVs than weíve been for a while we have plenty of room to put out our slides and awnings in this site.

After riding around town this afternoon and seeing some other camping options we decided we prefer this campground to the cityís harbor RV parking area. We have more room and itís $6 cheaper per night here. We donít have water standing all around in our campground, either. The gravel sites at the resort are on a slight slope and drain well. We havenít seen the private RV parks yet that are farther north of town. I'll report on those later.

We have 30-amp electricity, water, good phone and MiFi connections, free WiFi thatís pretty easy to get on, and free cable TV for $25/night. The sites don't have sewers; there is a dump station.

Weíre close to the grassy area used for a dog run so itís easy to take Cody out to potty. Thatís also where people park their boats. Thatís different than most campgrounds where we stay; boating is big here.

 
Boat storage at the campground; note all the low clouds obscuring the mountains this afternoon.

Since we don't have a sewer connection (or a portable "Blue Boy") weíre using the very nice restrooms in the campground. Guests are issued key cards to open the restroom doors (and laundry rooms) so "outsiders" aren't tempted to use the facilities.

The men's and women's rooms each have ten showers. The water flow is great. We both agreed after taking showers this afternoon that those were the best showers weíve had since we left our house a month ago! We can take nice, long showers in our camper when we have full hook-ups but we haven't had that luxury for most of this trip so far.

There are two clean laundry rooms on site for guests to use. Each has several washers and dryers at reasonable cost. They can be used by people staying in the campground, the motel rooms, townhouses, yurts, and log cabin at the resort, as well as RVers across the street at the Air Force Campground. That usually beats having to use private Laundromats.

Next entry:  this afternoon's foray into town to see the harbor and other areas

Happy trails,

Sue
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, and Cody the ultra Lab

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© 2012 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil

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