This was our best–weather day yet in Seward and excellent timing for a
marine tour. It was so good to see blue sky and sunshine for several
hours, especially while we were out in the gulf south of Resurrection Bay.
Most of the immense
Fjords National Park is inaccessible by car -- or
foot, for that matter.
Deep into Aialik (EYE-a-lick) Fjord
In previous entries I showed photos of Exit
Glacier and the Harding Icefield Trail, the only accessible places to
reach by car, then foot.
About half of the park lies under the vast
Harding Icefield and most of the remainder is along mountainous
coastline with numerous coves and fjords carved out by wind, water, and
glacial ice over the millennia.
The best ways for
visitors to see the spectacular scenery are by boat or plane. We chose a marine tour so
we could see the landscape and animals close up. That was a good choice.
FEAST FOR ALL THE SENSES
I can't write as eloquently as the lovely prose in the booklet quoted
above but I'll do my best in this entry to describe what we saw, heard,
smelled, and felt today
and illustrate those observations with some of the photos we took.
From the water, majestic mountains dominate
the view in every direction:
About forty named glaciers flow down
from the ice field in the valleys between the mountain peaks. We could
see several of them during our tour:
Aialik Glacier, at today's turnaround point
Interesting rocky cliff faces with
nooks, crannies, and caves provide rookeries for nesting sea birds:
Picturesque Three-Hole Point
A pair of puffins find shelter in a niche in the
colorful rocks at Emerald Cove.
Little rocky islets and outcrops dot the fjords,
giving harbor seals and Steller sea lions (shown below) a sunny perch:
These two types of hardy marine mammals, as well as sea otters, remain here
year-round; they do not migrate south in the winter like the
whales and most of the bird species we observed.
Waterfalls fed by copious summer
rain, snowmelt, and hanging glaciers tumble from the mountainsides to
Hardy spruce and hemlock trees,
shrubs, and low-growing plants form a lush, narrow strip of bright
emerald green between the crashing waves and the treeless alpine zone
that begins at about 1,000 feet elevation in the park:
A humpback whale breaches the water near
thickly forested slopes; we got to watch several whales.
This view from Aialik Fjord shows peaks well above
tree line in the background.
This is the northern limit of the
temperate rain forest. Above a thousand feet, snow, ice -- and in
the summer, exposed rocks -- define the mountain peaks.
SUN, GLORIOUS SUN!
I've been waiting since we got here to get some blue-sky harbor scenes.
I took this picture of the small boat harbor before our cruise began
That's what I'm talkin' about!!
I mentioned in a
previous entry some of the reasons why we chose
Kenai Fjords Tours for our day cruise.
It is one of several companies offering sea excursions in Resurrection
Bay and the Kenai Fjords National Park coastline. Kenai Fjords Tours is
part of a regional corporation that is owned and operated by Native
Bottom line: we
were very pleased with our choice of tour
companies, the knowledge of our captain, the route we took to and from Aialik
Glacier, and the length of our tour (six hours).
We had a great time
and definitely feel like we got our money's worth.
Aialik Glacier from several miles out in the fjord;
our boat got much closer than this.
Jim took a bunch of photos with our older 12-megapixel Canon camera and
I took even more with the new Sony 16-megapixel, 16x zoom camera that I'm
still learning to use.
I already wish I'd gotten a more sophisticated camera. <sigh> The Sony is
fairly adequate for landscape photos but I couldn't get detailed close-ups
of all the wildlife we saw, especially birds, far-off whales, and a
mountain goat high on a cliff.
Fortunately, the adorable sea otters and playful Steller sea lions, like
the ones below, were close enough -- and big enough -- to come
out pretty well in the cropped pictures:
This entry is three pages long.
I edited the 500+ pictures we took down to about 300. I'll include
enough here (about 70) to give you a decent virtual tour of the scenery and
wildlife we enjoyed.
Nothing compares to being there in person, though.
Jim took this photo of me (blue jacket) as we
watched Aialik Glacier calve for about 1/2 hour.
The face of the glacier is 200-300 feet high; we're
out several hundred yards from it for safety reasons.
If you're in Seward, we highly recommend taking one of the marine day tours
by Kenai Fjords Tours or Major Marine -- especially if the
weather prediction down in the fjords is promising. It can be overcast
or raining in Resurrection Bay but clear farther south.
Both companies have been around a good while and are reputable. Each has
several lengths of tours (2+ to 9+ hours) that cover various routes and may be modified
depending on the weather, water conditions, time of year, and where the wildlife is
located that day.
For example, on the
way back our captain detoured a bit to go past Emerald Cove, where we
saw lots of birds and a mountain goat:
He also paused each time a whale, sea otter, sea lions, or other
critters were spotted, allowing passengers to take photos and watch the
marine animals do what they naturally do.
We could hear him sharing such information with other captains during
our trip. I like that spirit of cooperation.
A humpback whale exhales ("blows") and
breaches (comes partly
out of the water, above) and begins another dive, revealing its fluke
Our six-hour tour
went south through Resurrection Bay along the Kenai Peninsula coastline
past Caines Head and the large Bear Glacier, around Aialik Cape and into the
long fjord that contains Holgate, Pederson, and Aialik glaciers, and
back north on a more easterly route past Emerald Cove between some
islands and Cape Resurrection.
I drew the general
route in yellow on this map section:
We deliberately chose a tour that didn't stop for a meal at Fox Island,
which this company owns (on the right middle of map section). We wanted to
spend the maximum time on the water.
You can see a larger map of Kenai
Fjords National Park and the Gulf of Alaska at this
Continued on the
next page . . .
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the ultra Lab
© 2012 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil