Seward, Palmer, and Valdez

It is late on Saruday night here inValdez but we have had a great time since we left Homer…not that Homer wasn’t great fun!

We left Homer on Friday the 26th of July and headed for Seward. An easy driving day with only 163 miles.

We were in Seward 13 years ago when we took our first cruise on Royal Caribbean. We flew into Anchorage and rode a bus down to Seward. Being total newbies to cruising we didn’t know that arriving a day or two early was even an option…we’ve since learned.

Friday afternoon, after parking and setting up, we drove into town to check things out. Small town but well laid out with loads of restaurants. We chose to eat at Ray’s on the Waterfront. It was in the center of the marina with a lovely view of the Celebrity Millenium (which we sailed on from Ensenada to Hawaii). Seems a cruise ship is in port about every other day in Seward. Great meal, exceptional service in addition to the great views.

Saturday morning the group had a date with some Puffins at the Alaska Sealife Center. I am not a fan of flying birds so I had some extreme reservations about this encounter because we were told we’d be locked in a room with the birds for an hour! Seriously, a whole hour? Not even the opportunity to leave for a potty break? I envisioned a room where the little suckers would be flying everywhere!! Alfred Hitchcock all over again.

Sometimes the lack of information is harmful to my health! πŸ˜‰ We were in a classroom type room with one of the staff and there were two puffins both in cat crates and only one out at a time. Granted the first one did take flight though I was t the back of the room. Truth…Puffins don’t fly or at least they aren’t airborne for more than a few feet…I was safe! Beautiful birds when they have their mating plumage otherwise they are just fairly boring black birds with webbed feet and hooks on them. Their real talent is their diving! They can dive up to 400’…400 feet from a sitting position on the water!! The Center has a tank that is very tall (not 400′ tall) and you can watch them dive a out 50′ in amongst other sea creatures…very cool! The Center has some amazing displays and we enjoyed our time there.

Rhinoceros Auklet

Rhinoceros Auklet

She was so comfortable being around a large group she just sat down and watched us!

She was so comfortable being around a large group she just sat down and watched us!

After the Sealife Center we went to Safeway and then went home and did some laundry…the occasional reality check. πŸ˜‰

Sunday was a 5.5 hour of the Kenai Fijords, Glacier, and Wildlife Cruise…lunch included. Beautiful day though I was a bit sceptic of being trapped on a boat for 5.5 hours without a stateroom! πŸ˜‰ I packed my own lunch since catered lunches tend to sneak wheat into the strangest places. However, the carnivores were extremely happy because it was an all-you- can eat buffet that had grilled salmon and prime rib…nobody remembers the sides. We saw Dall porpoise, sea otters and humpback whales! It was an amazing trip and didn’t seem anywhere near 5.5 hours long!

Monday we hiked up to Exit Glacier so named by the Klondikers because it appear to be an exit from the surrounding glacial area. It was hot that afternoon! Probably not Texas hot since I would not have hiked the 3.6 miles (round trip) and the area was covered in flies! To the point that I waved my fan so much and so hard that it broke! I asked a Ranger why the flies were so bad and their theory (and they’re sticking to it) is the flies are feeding on the decaying blossoms of the cottonwood. Some theory, who knew flies fed on vegetation?

Tuesday, July 30th we traveled to Palmer…we hadn’t a clue as to why this place would require a two night stay. Well it seems that Palmer was one of at least 100 Colony Towns set up by the Federal Govt during the Depression. 204 farming families were moved to Palmer from farming communities in the lower 48, mostly Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois. They were given 40 acres, a house (that took over a year to build), 2,000 pound shipping allowance, and a furniture allowance. They had to sign an agreement to pay $3,000 over 30 years for the opportunity ( no set payment amount and no penalty or late fee). Palmer has quite a few of the original houses. The new residents left the upper Midwest by train to Seattle, then by boat to Seward and then by train to Palmer.

An original Colony House

An original Colony House

We're we had lunch and the building was a dormitory for the ingle men who came to work in Palmer.

We’re we had lunch and the building was a dormitory for the ingle men who came to work in Palmer.

That afternoon we visited a Musk Ox Farm that belongs to the Inuits. The Musk Ox became extinct in Alaska but were brought back, though not to roam free, with the help of Canada. The indigenous people take care of the farm, harvest the undercoat known as qiviut and spin it into yarn that sells for $95/ounce. The yearn is beautiful, it is machine washable, doesn’t shrink, can get wet but still keeps you warm, and can be dyed. The yarn is beautiful, the animal…not so much. In fact, the adult is better looking than the babies! We entered the raffle for knitted items (the blanket retails for $6,000) but the ticket price of $10 buys a bale of hay which helps to feed the herd over the winter. The animals are never sold for meat but buried in a special area of the farm once they die.

A bull on the farm

A bull on the farm

Thursday, August 1…is it really August?…was a travel day to Valdez. Nice port/fishing town regardless of it’s name being attached to the Exxon disaster. We did a 9 hour boat tour of Prince William Sound on Friday and it was lovely. Saw otters with pups, saw harbor seal pups, saw Dall porpoise and even a humpback whale with her calf! We went up to the Merses Glacier where we saw lots of calving. The weather was spectacular! I hardly knew I was gone for 9 hours.

Today, Saturday the 3rd, we had a black bear cub in camp. He has been here before because he knew about the trash cans. Seems Mama was in the area but I didn’t see her.

Later in the morning we went on a Bear Hunt along the rivers when the salmon are spawning but didn’t see any. We did see gulls fishing and going straight for the eggs/caviar. We also went down to the local Hatchery and watch the salmon (pinks) climb the ladders to the hatchery.

We went to dinner tonight at the Dat Mermaid and had a good meal and great fun with friends we have made on this trip.

Tomorrow we travel to Tok again for one night and then one night in Destruction Bay. We then travel to Skagway where we will be for 5 nights…I’ll catch up with y’all while we’re there.

Oh, today was our first totally rainy day! It was wonderful as the temperature never got above 57* gonna be hard when we get home…

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