Sunday, January 13, 2013


Day 7 - We had another day to explore the Seward area before heading to our next destination - Homer. While in Homer, we wanted to take a bear safari in the Katmai National Park area. Bears had eluded us in other National Parks  that we had visited and so the prospect of seeing them up-close in their natural habitat sounded both thrilling and adventurous. We had heard rave reviews about the safari from a colleague of mine and decided to splurge for the experience that it would offer. I just hadn't made any bookings, to keep our plans flexible.

Post breakfast, I called up 'Emerald Air', the tour operator my colleague had recommended, to book our spots. They told me they were booked until the 14th of July! I hated myself for waiting till the last minute and hoped that we would find an alternative. A quick search on Tripadvisor, led us to 'Alaska Bear Adventures aka K Bay Air'. They were rated #1 on TripAdvisor and also had open spots for the next day. I promptly reserved our spots for the next day. SNAFU averted, phew!

We checked out of our B&B around 11 am. We planned on visiting the nearby 'Exit Glacier' before heading to Homer. There was still no sign of the sun; it was going to be another wet day. The drive was beautiful. After a brief stop at the visitor centre, we took a trail that took us to the edge of the glacier. The trail was flat and open in the beginning. We could see the receding glacier in the distance. The trail then veered in the other direction and took us through some woods. Streams gushed by and a variety of wild flowers could be seen. The trail gradually climbed. Towards the end of the hike, we were back in the open and could see the huge mass of ice as we approached its edge. It was an easy hike that offered beautiful views along the way. No surprise that we saw a lot of people, young and old, on the trail...

Almost near the edge of the glacier

Wild flowers along the hike

We then started our journey towards Homer. Road construction and multiple photo stops slowed us down. So we ordered take-out lunch from the Sunrise Inn in Copper Landing. At Anchor Point town, bout 20 miles before Homer, we pulled up at a vista point. The vista point offered a panoramic view of the Kenai mountain range, the Kachemak Bay and the Homer Spit jutting into the bay. It was a beautiful sight and I knew then and there that I was going to love Homer! Our B&B offered the same breathtaking view but from a different vantage point. When we checked-in, the house was quiet. Outside in the distance, a lone mountain bird, repeatedly sang its song. Oh! it was just wonderful....

View from the living room of our B&B in Homer

Wednesday, January 02, 2013


Day 6 - Today we were scheduled to spend 6 hours on a boat watching marine wildlife, birds and glaciers. We had bookings for the 8 am cruise and so rose early. For the first time in days, we had slept soundly, thanks to the complete light blocking window blinds of our B&B! We felt well rested and ready for our day on the water. If there is one thing that Alaskan accommodation owners should pay attention to, it should be window blinds, IMO. Nothing is more appreciated than a good nights sleep.

Another reason I loved the B&B accommodations in Alaska is for their self-serve breakfast. Hosts typically stock their kitchens with eggs, bread, cereal, fruit, etc. Guests make their own breakfast. Breakfast is my favourite meal of the day, especially, when I am travelling. I prefer savoury items on my breakfast plate over sweet preparations like pancakes, muffins, waffles. So you can imagine my delight when I discovered that we had our choice when it came to breakfast.  I made us omelettes and toast and some tea. The boat harbour was only a mile from our B&B. We decided to walk as we weren't sure about road-closures and parking situation due to the race. 

Seward harbour
Our cruise boat was big vessel with enclosed seating on two levels. One could also be out in the open along the sides of the boat. Lunch was part of the package and hot beverages tea, coffee and hot chocolate (much needed in that weather) were complimentary. Restrooms (very important) were outside on the side of the boat. There were guides on our boat if we had questions and we could hear the boat's captain (cum chief guide) on the PA system. I was happy with the overall logistics.

During the cruise we saw many humpback whales (one even did a back flip for us!), otters, seals, sea lions and a variety of birds - puffins, common murres, kittiwakes, to name a few.

Stellar Sea Lions
One of the awe-inspiring moments of this trip was seeing glaciers up-close. We saw a couple of them, but we went closest to the 'Holgate Glacier'. Our captain turned off the engine once we were close enough to the glacier. It was drizzling but we went out on the deck. The glacier rumbled and roared, pieces of it cracked and broke (this is called calving of a glacier) and collapsed into the water. The silence only amplified these sounds. It was eerily wonderful....

Just as afternoon lethargy was getting to us, the sweet smell of freshly baked cookies filled the air. Surprise! The crew had baked us cookies. Who doesn't like freshly baked cookies?

Holgate Glacier
We got back in time for the men's Mt. Marathon race. The town was bustling with people. Many of them lined on both sides of the race track. Tom and Nick (our B&B owner and his son) were participating in the race. We found ourselves a good spot so we could cheer for them as they went.

Ready, Steady, Go!
As the race started, runners whizzed past us. In a matter of few minutes we could see them scaling the mountain. We were bundled in layers of clothing, yet cold and uncomfortable. I wondered what motivated these people to brave the cold and run up and down the steep mountain.....

From our explorations on the previous night, we had concluded that restaurant options in town were plain boring. We had access to the kitchen and decided to cook our own meal that night. Nothing like eating a home cooked meal when on the road! We bought some potatoes and pita bread at the Safeway in town. I made us some potato curry. Oh! it was the most wonderful dinner....

Our B&B kitchen - Spacious and well equipped

Yummylicious Dinner

Kia Ora our B&B owner's pet. I think she got hungry with all the smells that resulted from my cooking

Tuesday, January 01, 2013


Day 5 - We bade good bye to the Denali area and started driving towards Seward in the morning. The cloudy, overcast sky dashed our hopes of being able to see Mt. McKinley along the way. 

After a break for lunch in Wasilla (Mekong Thai), our next stop was in the town of Eklutna. We stopped by the Eklutna Historical Park. The park is famous for its colourful spirit houses. Traditionally the native Athabaskans buildt  spirit houses over the deceased's grave. Over time, native traditions blended with those of Orthodox Christianity. Here the graves of the Athabaskan people are marked not only with their traditional spirit houses, but also with an Orthodox Christian Cross. This was undoubtedly the most cheery cemetery I have seen to date.

Colourful native spirit houses inside Eklutna Historical Park
Once past Anchorage, we were looking forward to our journey south on Alaska's Highway 1. Designated as a National Scenic Byway, we had heard that the sights along the 127 mile highway are unparalleled. Alas, the weather gods were not on our side; the sky was a morose grey and a light drizzle accompanied us throughout.  

AK - 1 S. The highway parallels the tracks of the Alaska Railroad most of the way.
When we reached Seward it was about 7:30 pm. The city was getting ready for its annual 4th of July festivities. Some blocks were closed to traffic and street vendors were setting up booths. The city experiences a population explosion during this holiday due to the famous Mount Marathon race. We were lucky to have found accommodations at the Seward Front Row B&B.

We met the owner of our B&B - Tom, in his office who took us to his home - the Seward Front Row B&B.   That's right, he operates the B&B in true Alaskan fashion - the host shares his home with the guests. Over the course of our travel, I came to like this concept of Alaskan B&Bs. Tom showed us around the house and  helped us to our upstairs room. The house was beautiful and very thoughtfully constructed. The living room and dining were wall to wall windows and offered a spectacular view of the waterfront. I could spend all day just hanging out in that living room!

V & I took a walk around town. Dinner options seemed uninteresting overall; we grabbed a light dinner at the Chattermark. For the next day, we had made advance reservations for the National Park Tour, a wildlife and glacier cruise to the Kenai Fjords National Park. I was worried what the cruise would be like given all the rain. Tom assured us that the cruise would be fine due to low winds and clear near term visibility.

We headed out, one last time, a few minutes before midnight to watch the fireworks. Despite the rain, a lot of people had gathered near the waterfront to witness the fireworks. The fireworks weren't spectacular, but it was an interesting experience; watching fireworks in the rain, against a sky that wasn't dark. I was already tired of the rain but it appeared that it was going to be our companion for the rest of our trip.

4th of July fireworks Seward