Wednesday, July 18, 2007
SEWARD, ALASKA — This morning, for the second time this week, we switched our trailer from one site to another in the same campground. This time, at least, it was an upgrade move from dry camping to full services, but it still means a fair bit of fussing for a small gain. It’s an indication that we are in high season for RV camping, if the sight of so many rigs on the highways and byways wasn’t enough!
Once we were settled again, we went off to pick up Georgette and Farid at the auto repair shop, where their rental camper was getting new bearings in both front wheels. It was very close by, and they were pleased to escape a day of waiting on a seedy couch in the cramped shop office.
On the way into town, we spotted a bald eagle preening its feathers atop a tall pine tree. Their white heads aren’t hard to see against the dark trees if you look out for them. Our friends were delighted to check off one more creature on their wildlife-sighting list! It was the first one they had seen.
We decided to visit the Sea Life Center again; as Georgette and Farid hadn’t been there yet, and there was plenty for us to enjoy a second time around. The facility is funded in part by the Exxon Valdez Corporation in order to showcase the effort that has been made toward the recovery of the environment from the disastrous oil spill years back. Today the sea lion was out and about in his tank, and we marveled at his enormous size and swimming ease. The other display that entertained us at great length was the bird habitat and its underwater viewing level below, where we could watch the little puffins plunge down and flap their wings as they zoomed past sleepy fish, trailing a silver tail of bubbles behind them. They had such energy!
We stopped for lunch at The Bakery, and the cool drizzly day inclined all of us to order the soup of the day — navy bean — which came, hot and thick and full of chunks of ham and carrots, and accompanied by big sandwiches made from wholegrain, homemade bread. It was so filling even the sweet lovers among us couldn’t find room for the lovely pastries in the glass case on our way out.
Our friends suggested we have a look at the Exit Glacier, where they had already been, which was accessible on foot along a hiking trail of less than a mile. It was an eight-mile drive in, through beautiful forest with tall pine trees and beside the creek that was fed by the glacier. The walk wasn’t too taxing, although there were plenty of other people doing the same thing. As we ascended the rocky path, we could feel the temperature dropping from the cool breeze blowing over the ice in our direction. We could see the top of the glacier between two peaks, and it curved behind one of them and around and down like a large, backward C. It wasn’t possible to actually touch it, but we got within 15 feet of its base where we could see the blue-green colours and the deep folds where little trickles of ice-cold water flowed down toward the creek bed below. All along the route to the hiking trail they had planted signs showing where the end of the glacier had been in 1899, 1916, 1922 and on through the years. The distance between the furthest point out and its current location was considerable. However, even if global warming is the cause, we didn’t feel any too warm on the windy rocks next to the icy mass that still remains!
By this time, it was time to check in at the auto repair shop, and both Georgette and Farid were relieved that the work had been completed and they were road-worthy again. So we said farewell, wondering where our paths will cross the next time. They are off toward Anchorage again, while we are headed for Homer for a couple of days. But, thanks to the magic of the Internet, we’ll keep in touch.
One of the things they had suggested we go see was the return of the fisher folk at the end of the day, so we headed over to the docks to see what kind of luck people had had. They have structures set up with crossbeams along which a series of large hooks are mounted, so they can display their catch and stand in front for photo opportunities. There were some impressive fish! Nearby was a cleaning station with long counters where staff were filleting fish after fish for their clients, stashing the silvery salmon or ling cod fillets in heaps and tossing the guts and heads down a hole, then hosing off the blood before tackling another batch. On the rooftops and boat masts of the marina behind them were noisy seagulls, anticipating some fishy nibbling of these remains.
Before heading back to the trailer, we picked up some groceries and stopped at the memorial for Benny Benson, the 13-year-old Aboriginal boy whose design won the contest for the flag of Alaska in 1927. He grew up in Seward in a home for children where his father had left him at age four, after his mother died. The flag is a rectangle of deep blue with golden-yellow stars of the big dipper and the north star on it.
We were still so full of our navy bean soup when we got home that we didn’t bother making supper tonight! I may nibble later on, but that was one hearty meal we ate today.