North To Alaska (Seward and Soldotna)
Seward Highway is truly a scenic drive and we enjoyed it–everything outside our windows “looked” like we imagined Alaska would look. Mountains, rivers, glaciers, fireweed–the works!
We stopped along the way to see Portage Glacier. The Begich-Boggs Visitors Center, located on the shores of Portage Lake (left behind by the passage of the glacier), is a great place to take a break (nice indoor bathrooms!) as you head toward Seward. Beautiful views, marred only by some kind of irritating little gnat-beasts that hummed and buzzed and nipped at us as we ran for the building.
Arrived at Seward in time for lunch at the Apollo Restaurant, which was highly recommended in one of our guide books. Fresh seafood with pasta–yum! The town looks like a movie set and definitely caters to tourists–lots of cruise ships dock at Seward and send passengers on by bus or train to Anchorage and Denali. The Alaska Sea Life Center was a big draw for most visitors, but we chose to skip it in favor of just looking around and sampling the lovely home-made gelato at Sweet Darlings. This view over Resurrection Bay was a pure postcard:
but it was creepy to learn that the tsunami caused by the 1964 earthquake rolled into Seward, leaving casualties and destruction in its wake.
Just outside Seward, we stopped at Exit Glacier and walked to the viewing area. It was a warm afternoon, but as we got closer to the glacier, we could feel its icy “breath” flowing over us.
Picked up Sterling Highway and headed in the general direction of Soldotna and the Kenai River region, knowing that was as far as we wanted to drive that day. Back in Anchorage, a very nice shop-owner/photographer told us that even though it was late in the season, we might still be able to see bears slapping salmon out of the river at Coopers Landing. We arrived at the Russian River Campground in the late afternoon–they’ve installed a great walkway down to the water, and environmental matting to protect native flora, plus wooden fishing/observation piers into the river itself.
The last salmon of the year were still running, flinging themselves upriver against the current. We were amazedto see it, even though most of the fish were too exhausted to go much further. There was evidence of bears all along the river: wallowed spots in the ferns, wallowed trails disappearing into the woods (and huge, fishy “scats” — eek!), but no actual bears, which may have been a good thing! (There are warnings all over the area: don’t approach or feed bears; if a bear approaches you, give it your fish, etc.)