States visited: 49!

visited 49 states (98%)
Create your own visited map of The United States
Miles driven so far -
LOOP 1 (Aug 2009 - Aug 2010): 29,000
LOOP 2 (May - August 2012): 10,800

Highest altitude with camper: 11,158ft (I-70, CO)

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Major Marine Tours – Kenai Fjords National Park

This cruise promised to be a highlight of our trip, so it was with great excitement that we began our day by checking in at the Seward Harbor ready for a 10am departure on the 'Spirit of Adventure' Catamaran style boat.  Although pricey, by using a coupon from the Northern Lights discount book (we bought three to ensure the best deals, which Dave then sold on eBay on our return!), we were able to secure a good deal. Of course Dave spotted a boat which he'd like to own eventually; we just laugh, not really seeing a boat in our future!

Aboard ship, each family was pre-assigned a table and comfy seats as our base for the 8-hour day.  This particular cruise was the only one to visit two glaciers and also have a National Park Ranger on board to narrate.  Today was its maiden voyage for the season on this route.  The kids started on their Junior Ranger books and interviewed Ranger Dan.  Captain Colby introduced himself as well as his First Mate and the rest of the crew who took care of us throughout the day.  We were so impressed with the entire operation.

Within minutes of leaving port, we spotted eagles and mountain goats on the cliff-side: a couple of ewes with babies, so sure-footed on the steep slopes.

In a number of different spots throughout the trip, the Captain stopped the ship to view humpback whales diving and coming up.  Humpbacks release tiny bubbles underwater to round up small fish into dense schools.  They then swim up through the middle and scoop up their prey.

Along the (beautiful) cliff edge, we were treated to the sight of multiple harbor seals and further along, gulls.  One of the crew commented that they rarely see so many seals in one location.  Harbor seals can dive a quarter mile below the surface and stay there for nearly an hour while hunting for their favorite treat, young halibut.

Later during the afternoon, resting on island rocks, we watched Stellar’s Sea Lions named for the male’s bulky neck which resembles a lion’s mane.  Thankfully Ranger Dan was on hand to identify the different species we were privy to.  I’m afraid we can never recall the differences between some of the similar species.

Mew gulls were scattered throughout the trip of course, along with many other types of birds nesting on the various islands which we passed.  Arctic terns flew around us, the most accomplished migrant, flying 20,000 miles each year between Alaska and the Antarctic.  Fun fact: they enjoy more daylight than any other living creature!

The first glacier we stopped at was Aialik Glacier and was incredibly spectacular.  As the ship motored along, the ice could clearly be heard bashing against the bottom of the hull.  These broken off pieces of ice are referred to a ‘growlers’.  The water was littered with vast chunks of ice and as such, the air temperature was unsurprisingly chilly!

After a delicious dinner included in the price of the ticket, we then watched the crew haul a large chunk of glacial ice from the water.  They proceeded to chop it up and make delicious margaritas; it would've been rude not to sample one!  For some the journey was becoming quite exhausting.  Even the lure of more whales didn't entice the youngest to awaken.  Jake, never one to nap during the day, bought himself a virgin drink!

We moved on to the second glacier: Holgate Glacier - equally spectacular but not quite as gorgeous as the first one.  These glaciers all stem from the Harding Icefield, most are receding at quite a pace.

Relaxing and resting in the afternoon, one of the crew suddenly came in to let us know we’d want to come out on deck.  Sure enough, there were a few Dall’s Porpoise playing in and out of the wake of the ship with black and white markings.  They looked just like miniature orcas swimming around us and jumping, putting on quite a show.  Nathan and Chelsea were screaming with excitement each time they popped up – definitely the highlight of the trip for them.  Dall's Porpoise cruise along at 35mph so outpace many small boats.  In their wake, they leave a ‘rooster spray’ tail; the crew told Nate if he got splashed that it was good luck.  He was so happy!

We continued to enjoy the scenery, spot more whales and eagles, and watch a puffin take off as the boat moved along on the return portion of the cruise.

Later in the afternoon, Ranger Dan called all the kids aboard who had completed the Junior Ranger program to come together and be recognized.  Along with our six, another three had also spent some time working through their books.  As the ceremony was completed over the microphone, it was pretty special for the kids to be recognized by everyone.

Shortly before we returned to the harbor, the Captain spotted some sea otters relaxing in the water.  They were so funny, just laying on their backs, gazing up at us, and floating along.  To protect itself from the frigid waters, the sea otter’s fur is the finest and densest of any animals – an estimated 650,000 per square inch!

What a perfect day.  Certainly the weather could have been a little better, but it did not mar our wonder or enjoyment.  We would highly recommend this trip.

The kids were excited to return to the campground to run around, play, and roast marshmallows and hot dogs over the fire.  We just could not manage to put them to bed at a reasonable hour – the light nights continued to throw us off completely!  It gave Karen and I chance to catch up with the dreaded laundry too – have I mentioned, I desperately miss my camper washer/dryer?!

1 comment:

Liane said...

Love to "go along" back to Alaska with you as you share these posts. This one in particular reminded me so much of our cruise last year, and how beautiful everything was! And cold! And light out!! Something we hope to do again. I'm glad you and your kids got to see all of this it is QUITE different from anything we see here!! (And for me, the huge expanses of land untouched by humans, was mind boggling). Looking forward to seeing you when you get back!