For someone who spends most of his time hanging out at my desk, Finn McSpool is a well-travelled Beastie. He’s caused trouble In fascinating places like Italy, Ireland, and London and has also kicked up his paws in exotic locales like Hawaii (okay, exotic to him). So when I told him we were heading to Alaska he was a little confused.
-Are we going to see ancient monuments?
-Well, only if you count geological features as ancient monuments.
-Are there warm beaches where I can snorkel?
-Yeah, probably not.
-Is there going to be good food and tasty beverages?
-Just pack your bag, Finn. And don’t forget your sweater.
Finn stomped off on his stubby wooly legs grumbling something about what kind of place I was taking him to?
In fact, we were headed to Seward, Alaska, a tiny town that sits about a three-hour drive south of Anchorage. Why in the world were we heading there? Because Mr. Husband’s son is stationed there as part of his first U.S. Coast Guard duty and we thought we’d pay him a visit. So…
Let the Adventure Begin
After his grumbling, Finn shrugged his non-existent shoulders and hopped in his travel seat (aka, zippy plastic baggie). It wasn’t long after take off that he discovered our plane was equipped with Beastie holders. Who knew Beasties were an integral part of aviation design. They really are coming up in the world!
Never one to be shy, the moment we disembarked in Anchorage, Finn was already making friends with the locals.
The drive south to Seward runs along the not-so-cleverly named Seward Highway which is pretty darn scenic as you zip alongside the Turnagin Arm (part of the Gulf of Alaska) and the Kenai Peninsula.
Arrival In Seward
Not to disparage the poor little town of Seward, but other than serving as a Coast Guard station, it’s little more than an end point for cruise ships. And that means it’s crazy touristy with plenty of tour companies trying to attract your business, a kitschy downtown full of souvenir shops, and painfully pricey restaurants.
A Depressing Day Out at Exit Glacier
Although there’s little within the town of Seward, there’s plenty of nature to gawk at outside of town. One of those gawk-worthy spots is Exit Glacier, which we headed to on Day Two of the Alaska Adventure.
So, the numbers and facts…this glacier is part of the Harding Ice Field which extends for about 300 square miles (that’s around 780 square kilometers for the rest of the world). Exit Glacier stretches out a mere 4 miles from the Ice Field and, sigh, is rapidly retreating (in 2013 alone, it lost 187 feet).
This photo should give you an idea of just how far the ice has retreated. You can see the glacier in the background (just right of center). About 100 years ago, the entire foreground would have been covered in ice.
Basically, it’s a see-it-now-before-it’s-too-late thing, so we made it our first priority to pay a visit. Unfortunately light conditions did not behave that day, so if you want some more spectacular photos, please visit the National Park Service site.
Despite it’s rapid retreat, this is still a heaping hunk of ice and the closer you get, the colder the wind whipping off that thing is.
Luckily, Finn listened when I told him to pack his sweater!
By the time we got back to the visitor center, Finn was able to ditch his sweater in exchange for some fancy new head wear. He’s really going to fit in with Alaskan natives now!
Finn Tries Out for the Coast Guard
After only a little harassing, we managed to get Stepson to give us a tour of the ship he serves on. It’s a tiny little cutter that measures a mere 110 feet in length (about 34 meters)…the perfect size for an ambitious Beastie!
Finn immediately started showing off his nautical skills in the hopes of being their next recruit.
-Look! I’m driving the boat!!!
-Um, Finn, that’s the hatch for a door to go below decks.
-Yeah, um, I knew that. I was just seeing if you did. (Runs off to the engine room…I quickly follow to keep him from destroying government property.) Hmm, yes, I see…
-What do you see? Can you actually read those?
-No, but I can see my reflection in them. I really am handsome, aren’t I?
-(insert eye roll) Finn, I’m not sure if you’re really qualified for anything on this ship.
-I found it! I found my perfect job!
Before I could catch him, he’d darted off again (he’s surprisingly good at climbing ladders!). Then, a clanging sound filled the harbor.
Don’t worry, I scooped him up and we scuttled off the ship before there was any widespread panic or an international incident.
Hiking with the Bears
With the Kenai Peninsula being Nature Central, we decided to head out and take a hike in the forests along Kenai Lake. Let’s just say, this is a fabulous spot for taking photos, especially with the amazing weather we had during our stay (except for Glacier Day).
After posing for his Instagram moment, it was time to hit the hiking trail. As ever, it’s important to read any signage to see what you’re up against on your stroll.
-(Finn sounding very nervous) Um, um, um….
-What is it Finn?
-This sign. They’re joking, right?
-Nope. This is Alaska, there’s grizzly bears, brown bears, black bears–
-You’re not helping!!!
-And moose who can get really aggressive when they’re angry. Plus, there’s probably—
-Enough!! Secure me in the backpack and make sure you’ve got your running legs on.
Luckily, the hike was uneventful. The only wildlife we encountered (besides Jurassic-sized mosquitoes) were some interesting fungi…
…and some wildflowers that Finn was brave enough to explore.
Bear Wrestling Beastie!
It wasn’t until we got back into town that Finn had his first bear encounter. Right there, smack dab in the middle of downtown Seward was a bear. I told Finn to be careful because the bear had just caught a salmon and you really don’t want to get between a bear and its lunch (I know the feeling).
Unfortunately, Finn doesn’t always listen….
After this bear meeting, Finn was feeling really brave. He’d heard of a place in town that was riddled with bears. He flexed his wee Beastie muscles and marched right in, pumped up and fully ready for a round of bear wrestling. I’m not sure who won the competition, but I can guarantee the bears of Seward will never be the same again.
Finn was convinced the town of Seward had been saved thanks to his Irish Fighting skills. I mean why else would they honor him with this big sign from his homeland…
Anyone else been to Seward, or elsewhere in Alaska? Ever have a bear, moose, or other beastie encounter? Are you traveling anywhere this summer? It’s great to hear from you, so don’t be shy about leaving a comment!