– Seward, Alaska to Kenai Fjords National Park –

We had another big day today. Today was our trip into Kenai Fjords National Park. We took a boat tour through the park, which was an absolute blast.

Our morning started early, as we had a lot to do before boarding our boat at 7:30am. Everyone showered and stuffed down some breakfast, and we packed up the dogs and all of their paperwork and headed for the dog sitter around 6:45.

Since we planned to be out on the boat until 2pm, we decided to board the dogs today. We chose the Seward Pet Lodge, which is just a few miles out of town and only a little way from our hotel. Heidi, the owner, met us a little early so we could board our boat on time.

She looks happy to see me
Picking Ripley up from her baby sitter

She did a fantastic job today. I know this is a little out of order, but this seems like the best place to talk about our experience. Heidi took care of Ripley and Sabre all day during our cruise, and she even sent Mark and I a picture of Ripley enjoying her day out with the other dogs at the lodge.

When we dropped them off, Heidi¬†took note of everything she needed to know about our dogs and asked several helpful questions herself. Her kennels looked great, she was a nice woman, and our dogs came home healthy and happy and safe. I can’t recommend her service enough for anyone needing boarding in the area. Her prices were reasonable too.

We left our kids at the Seward Pet Lodge with complete confidence. With their day settled, we headed off for our boat tour. It was already nearly 7:20, and our boat boarded at 7:30, so we dropped my parents off to get us good seats on the boat while we took care of the car.

Our tour boat, docked in Seward
Our tour boat, docked in Seward

We booked our tour through Kenai Fjords Tours, and their parking lot is on the edge of town, away from the docks where you board the boat. You park your car in the lot and catch the shuttle bus, which runs every five minutes, over to the docks. It’s a nice service, and the parking lot is good-sized. It only took us about 5 to 10 minutes to drop off the car and catch the shuttle back, which wasn’t bad at all.

It turned out to be a good decision to have my parents board the boat without us. They got great seats, and we didn’t have to settle for a table in the middle or no table at all. By the time Mark and I arrived, all of the tables by the windows were taken.

While we waited for the tour to start, someone in the cabin gave a speech about motion sickness and how to avoid it and what to do about it. His talk was almost terrifying for me, as someone that gets terrible motion sickness. I took two Dramamine, willing to risk the drowsiness. I did not want to get sea sick. I was sea sick on the way home from Dry Tortugas National Park, and it was not a great experience. You feel badly all day after.

Two bald eagles on a dolphin
Two bald eagles on a dolphin

We sat through all of the safety information, which took about ten minutes, and then we were off into Resurrection Bay. Not 5 minutes into our cruise, we spotted two bald eagles on a dolphin. Before today, I’d never heard that “dolphin,” could also refer to a structure. I thought the captain was joking, especially since it was just the beginning of the trip.

We bought some tea, coffee, and hot chocolate for the family members that were interested, and Mom immediately ran to the front of the boat in 14 layers of clothes, where she would sit for most of the trip. Mark spent a more reasonably amount of time outside, but he was still hot on her heels. Dad and I sat by our windows and watched from the warm cabin.

The first part of the trip was pretty quiet. We could tell that whales were in the area, because we kept seeing their water spouts above the water. They weren’t interested in showing themselves, however, so we moved on. The captain kept emphasizing that the tours don’t want to bother or harass the wildlife we are viewing. The boats try to be as quiet and unobtrusive as they can and still allow visitors to look at the animals.

We saw quite a few birds, but nothing more interesting for while. We waited for a few more whales to surface, and we briefly flirted with some Dall’s porpoises, but we didn’t see too many animals. We did come across some harbor seals, and we watched them quietly for a little while before moving on.

Surprise Glacier
Surprise Glacier

The middle of the tour stops at a glacier back in one of the inlets in the Gulf of Alaska, and today we stopped at Holgate Glacier. As you approach you suddenly come upon another glacier to the left. It’s called Surprise Glacier, because you can’t see it until you are practically on top of it. Mark and I really like that one in particular. It looks a little bit more interesting than Holgate Glacier, which is much wider, and looks more like the solid sheet of ice that it is.

After the glacier stop, we had lunch in the cabin. Mark and I had hummus wraps, and everyone else had chicken wraps. The lunch wasn’t bad at all, although the water from the kitchen’s galley tasted pretty funny, I have to say.

From here, things really picked up. We saw thousands of Moon Jellyfish in a huge knot in front of the boat. They looked like ghosts floating beneath the surface.

Thousands of Moon Jellies beneath the ocean surface
Thousands of Moon Jellies beneath the ocean surface

After the jellies, we saw some Stellar Sea Lions hanging out on some rocks. The boat was surrounded by puffins, both horned and tufted. We also spotted some cormorant and common murre, although I can’t say any of us really have much of an interest in birds.

A little bit later, we spotted a few Dall’s porpoises. They decided to ride along on the sides of the bow of our boat, where they sort of danced along beside us, swimming erratically. Apparently the porpoises really enjoy riding the waves that run along the bow, according to our wildlife guide.

After a couple of minutes, the porpoises led us to two huge humpback whales. The whales come to Alaska to feed for the summer before they return to Hawaii in the winter to breed and give birth. Hawaiian waters don’t have any food for the whales.

We watched these whales for perhaps 20 minutes as they surfaced slowly over and over and flipped their tail fins for us. Mark caught a few pictures of their backs, and their flukes as they flashed them in the air.

Humpback Whale Fluke
Humpback Whale Fluke

The whales were really neat. I think that they took everyone’s breath away. The captain joked when we were done that he was glad we’d found them, because the tourists might have mutinied if he hadn’t found us a whale.

After the whales, the trip really felt over, and we headed back to the harbor while munching on cookies that the crew brought for us. The whole boat smelled like vanilla, which was quite nice in the cold. It smelled warm, for whatever reason.

As we made it just into the harbor, we saw a few sea otters swimming alongside the boat. We snapped some pictures as they swam towards us, stopping just a few feet from the boat. It was almost like they were showing off. Once the sea otters left, we docked the boat and took the shuttle back to our car.

We picked up our girls first thing, because we missed them and wondered how they were. Of course both of them were fine, so we headed up to the last glacier we were planning to see in Kenai Fjords National Park.

Walking back to Exit Glacier
Walking back to Exit Glacier

Exit Glacier is the only glacier in the park that you can basically drive up to. We stopped at the lookout and Mark and I hiked around, looking for somewhere to get good pictures without climbing all the way up the glacier, since we didn’t want to leave my parents waiting. We didn’t do a great job, and we ended up getting better pictures at the lookout back along the road outside of the park.

It was pretty warm by this point, so we headed back to the hotel and changed into shorts. Mom wanted to head down to the shoreline to take some pictures of Resurrection Bay, so Mark, Ripley and I joined her on a walk down to the water.

A sunny day in Resurrection Bay
A sunny day in Resurrection Bay

Ripley had a lot of fun clambering over the rocks and sniffing around their edges, checking out all of the interesting smells. Today was much warmer and prettier than yesterday, and I was glad that we had both sunny and cloudy pictures of the bay. In my opinion, it is beautiful both ways.

We walked a bit back into town and looked around for a restaurant to have dinner. We picked out a pizza and Greek place (weird, right?) and went back to the hotel to pick up Dad and the car and drop off little Ripley. Without the critters in tow, we headed out and grabbed some dinner.

Dinner was passable, although a little slow, and when it was over, we decided we wanted some dessert. We stopped at a local candy shop that had chocolates, fudge, and gelato. Everything looked delicious, but we all ended up with fudge, which we’d been craving since early on in our trip.

Getting fudge after dinner in Seward
Getting fudge after dinner in Seward

With candy in hand, we came back to the hotel to hard boil fresh eggs for lunches relax before tomorrow. Ripley needs a bath after her joyful day with the dog sitter, but I don’t think we will have time. She’ll be a stinky girl for another day.

Ripley probably wouldn't make much of a sled dog
Ripley probably wouldn’t make much of a sled dog

Mark and I are planning to get up to run the Iditarod National Historic Trail with Ripley in the morning. I guess it will be nice and light when we get up at 5. Tomorrow evening puts us in Valdez, which I hear is lovely. We’ll be back through Anchorage around lunch time. Maybe we will have Qdoba again.

– Trip Total : 5,404 miles

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