Day 5: Wednesday
In our apartment this morning we breakfasted on leftovers (we had a fridge and microwave, remember): salmon sticks, salmon, and salmon roe. The fresh roe is creamier and far less salty than the roe you get at sushi restaurants on the east coast, or even that you buy, fresh from frozen, at Sea to You and other sushi supply places.
With more espresso/steamed milk in hand, we wandered down to the dock, ready for our cruise to glaciers. It was a beautiful, chilly, misty day, with clouds making lovely patterns over the mountains in the background behind the harbor. At right, we pose on our boat with seabirds and sea lions in the distance.
Our cruise (and all of the other companies’ cruises sailing that day too, actually) ended up not going all the way over to the tidewater glaciers because of very rough seas. Instead, we spent the time cruising around the more protected and less rough Resurrection Bay, which is great for spotting wildlife. The glacier would have been cool, but we’d already been up close to two glaciers on foot, and the animals that we did see were really and truly amazing.
Incidentally, the rough seas made for a very exciting white-water ride: I stayed inside so I couldn’t fall overboard (my fear; I didn’t fear seasickness so much as falling out of the boat). Some people were definitely green and seasick, and the crew kept trying to hustle them out to the rail, but they seemed reluctant to go despite the promise that the fresh air would make them feel better. There really were lots of bumps, for over an hour. it was amazing! Waves were breaking right over the front of the boat pretty constantly, so that the people standing there (mostly boys and a few men) were getting quite happily soaked. I think Robert longed to join them, but aside from the fact that he then would have been completely wet for the remainder of the trip, I noticed how the boy’s and lighter men’s feet were lifting up in the swells and waves, and how their hands holding onto the rail were getting frozen, and I could imagine Robert getting swept away. We sat inside, dry and happy, during the rough parts, then, and went outside to stand and take pictures and look when we were in calmer seas with lots of animals. At left, huge steallar sea lions relax on a rock.
The park ranger on board provided narration on geology, history, and wildlife, and she answered our question about the funny mid-level misty clouds that we keep spotting around the mountains in Seward: apparently, the clouds are trapped between the warm moist trees below and the colder dryer mountain top; they’re right at the tree-line, always hanging out there, even when the rest of the sky is basically clear. Through the mist, we admired Bear Glacier, and when the mist cleared and we were able to go right up to the fjord walls (because fjords go virtually straight down, with almost no sloping bottom), Robert was able to touch them. At right, puffins nest in small ledges high up in the walls of the fjord.
We saw lots of wildlife: a pair of sea otters swimming on their backs, several bald eagles flying overhead, lots of puffins diving and swimming on the water as well as puffins nesting, lots of other seabirds, a few river otters near a dock in a rocky fjord cove, a rock full of huge stellar sea lions, looking like large brown lumps until we got up close, and, most unusually of all, a resident pod of orcas feeding on fish, some very close to the boat. Apparently it’s very rare to see them right in Resurrection Bay; we were just glad we saw them today and went fishing yesterday, so they didn’t scare away all the silver salmon before we had a chance to fish.
The meal on the boat, which we both ended up taking, was a not bad buffet of prime rib and salmon. Overall, we had a really good day: the company refunded us a third of the price of the cruise, since we came back an hour or so early and hadn’t gone all the way out, but the fights and the animals were terrific.
On our way off the boat and through the harbor, we checked out the daily Derby updates and ran into today’s women’s heaviest winner--a real celebrity, there, right in front of us at the Derby weigh-in station. We hung around a little talking to people about fish and the Derby, and watching more captains fillet their day’s catch, before heading out of town. I have to say I really liked Seward: it had a great, bustling feel to it around the busy times in the small boat harbor, there were a lot of restaurants and motels, and there were several more museums and outdoor walking places we could have spent time at if we’d stayed longer. Plus, the harbor area smelled delightfully of fish.
We bought some Old Glenn’s Salmon Sticks from a fish processing place at mile marker 3 (at the turn-off for Exit Glacier). Since we weren’t super hungry after the 3:00 buffet, nibbling on these on the road served as our dinner.
We drove just a little bit and spent the night at Summit Lake Lodge again, on what happened to be their company picnic day. We turned in a little early, watching more DVDs, but figured that this way we could drive the rest of the way to Anchorage not only in daylight (that was taken care of, as it didn’t get dark until 10:00 at night--10:30 in Fairbanks), but also in standard business hours for sight-seeing.