Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Alaska -- Day 76

A taste of home after a busy day. We read the Anchorage newspaper yesterday and saw an ad from Fred Meyers announcing they have Olathe sweet corn. We had to get some. It is absolutely the best corn you can buy and it is grown in western Colorado. After our drive from Seward to Anchorage today, we shopped for groceries at both Walmart and Fred Meyers. We had the corn tonight and it was delicious.

Our drive of about 125 miles was uneventful (that's the way we like it) and beautiful. Everything is so green in Alaska this year.

We drove by Portage Glacier.

These dead trees are called a ghost forest. In 1964, the largest earthquake ever to strike the United States caused land in this area to drop about 14 feet (I think). Then the salt water in Cook Inlet flooded this forest area, killing the trees.

Cook Inlet has some of the highest tides in the world. If you look closely at this photo, you can see a small wave as the tide rises.

We encountered one construction zone on our drive today. If you have to stop for construction, this is about the best view I can imagine.

After we got set up here, we went grocery shopping, then I did the laundry. By the time I cooked dinner, it had been a very full day. Tomorrow, we take the RV in to have the slide checked. It sounded pretty good today as we pulled it in and put it out again. Hopefully, the cleaning John did made a real difference.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Alaska -- Day 75

It has been another cool, cloudy day in Seward, Alaska. The high temp was 54 degrees. Last winter Alaska saw all-time record amounts of snow. July has been the coolest on record. The state is having a summer that they call a "little winter." We love to see sunshine, and we have seen it every day it was really important to our plans. However, we would rather be here in this chilly summer than in the lower 48 with your record-breaking heat and drought.

Today, sunshine didn't matter. We used our Alaska Toursaver book to visit the Alaska SeaLife Center here in Seward. Entrance for two cost one single ticket price of $20. We hadn't really known if we would visit this place or not when we first came here. But the more we heard about it, the more we realized we wanted to go. And are we ever glad we did. These two folks from Colorado saw sea life like we hadn't even imagined existed. But first, we saw more beautiful flowers here in town.

The SeaLife Center has numerous tanks of fish and other sea life, as well as facilities for birds and seals. They have some exhibits where you can touch some sea life, like sea stars and sea anemone. The facility rescues and cares for animals. This week they took in a six-week-old walrus calf, stranded near Barrow. We didn't get to see it, but facilities that care for creatures like that are certainly great.

We did learn a lot about the life-cycle of salmon, the various fish and other sea life that are harvested in the Bearing Sea,

and about the Exxon Valdez oil spill. The most startling facts I learned about the spill is it was not even among the 50 biggest oil spills in the world and that every 9 months, more oil goes into US marine waters from run-off from roads and parking lots and incidental land oil spills than came from the Exxon Valdez spill.

We saw numerous birds that were new to us. We had seen puffins on our cruise earlier this week and today, John finally got a really good photo of one. I have wanted to see and photograph puffins for at least 8 years, when we were first in Alaska. Finally!  It is a tufted puffin.

This is a parakeet auklet.

I'm pretty sure this is a king eider.

I know there were red-legged kittiwakes.  I don't know what this one is.

The bird on the left is a long-tailed duck and the bird on the right is a pigeon guillemot.

This is a black scoter.

We were able to watch stellar sea lions from above the water and also below. They moved too fast underwater to be able to photograph them.

The invertebrates are as beautiful as the flowers we had seen earlier.

Sea anemone.

A sea urchin.

Sea star.

I don't know what this is.

We were both fascinated by all we saw and learned so much. We know we will visit other aquariums in the future. It was a great experience.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Alaska -- Day 74

We had another quiet day at home in our trailer. After lunch we did drive into Seward to look around the small boat harbor. There are lots of small boats, ranging from commercial fishing boats to sail boats to small pleasure boats.

We walked down one dock, where we saw mostly sail boats.

This one looked especially nice.

This one appears to have been named after John's oldest sister, Kendal.

And this one comes from our home state, Colorado. I wonder how it reached the body of water it sail on to Seward?

We saw several boats carrying kayaks.

We spotted these beautiful lilies around some of the shops.

Eight years ago we returned from a salmon fishing cruise and stood next to our catch right here. Today, John wondered where our fish went. Oh, that's right, we didn't go fishing.

We had parked near the Icicle Seafoods processing plant and, when we returned to the truck we saw them bringing in today's catch. I think the fish came from one or both of these boats.

Somehow, the fish get from the boats to this area. Most of them go on a conveyer belt into the top box-like area you see here.

The fish are then dumped into the carts below.

A few fish from each area continue on the conveyer belt, down to the man you see in the corner of the photo before the photo above.

He cuts out the brain of the fish. Tests on the brain can determine if the fish are farm raised or wild salmon, apparently.

It is all very interesting.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Alaska --Day 73

After 7 1/2 hours sightseeing on a boat yesterday, today seemed like a good day to stay home, do fairly ordinary things. After we did our weight training, I did one load of laundry. I would have done more, but people there ahead of me said the washers didn't spin well and things were pretty wet when they went into the dryer. Plus, it was $2.50 to wash, $2.50 to dry. We will return to Anchorage on Tuesday and I can do the rest of the wash then, at lower prices.

We have been having issues with the slide, so Thursday I called Lippert, who built the slide mechanism. When I told them what had been done so far--spraying with lithium white grease--and the fact it still squeaks, they said, "Oh no, don't use any kind of grease. Use WD-40, even oil. Not grease." So, I asked for suggestions for cleaning off the grease.

Today, John climbed under the slide and spent over an hour scraping and wiping the grease off.

It was messy. In addition, two loose dogs, both yellow labs, came over to check him out. He had to just be friendly. What else do you do when sitting on the ground under your RV? The "nice" doggies smelled him, then wandered off. Thank God.

Wednesday, we have an appointment in Anchorage at a Keystone-affiliated dealer to have the slide checked out. Hopefully, that will at least get us down to the lower 48 before we need major repairs.

The rest of the day, we relaxed, read, did computer work. Ordinary things that don't require taking anything new into our brains. We set out to spend our summer in Canada and Alaska. Today, we spent time doing as little as possible.

Alaska -- Day 72

We took a 7 1/2 hour cruise out of Seward to Kenai Fjords National Park with Major Marine Cruises. Other than driving to Exit Glacier here in Seward, the only way to access the park is by boat. It was a wonderful day. Everyone has assigned seating at tables inside the heated cabin, so you have somewhere to spend the day, or somewhere to store your stuff while you go outside to watch the scenery.

Even most of the young children on board were interested most of the day.

It was a beautiful, sunny day. However, the wind off of Resurrection Bay and the Gulf of Alaska is cold, so we were really bundled up.

There was some fog. It obscured our view for a short while, but since that was while we were enjoying our salmon and prime rib, all-you-can-eat buffet, that was OK. At other times, the fog just made for pretty views.

We saw a number of humpback whales, sometimes 2 or 3 together. They flipped their tails for us.

Blew air spouts.

Look at close we came to one of them. I don't think my camera was even zoomed for this shot. It was really cool.

We also saw sea otters. At one point, Dan, the US Park Service ranger who was our interpreter for the trip, called this group of 24 or more otters a "raft." He said it was unusual to see so many at one time.

We also saw this pair of adults with a baby sitting on one of them.

This old fellow (Eskimos called the aging, white-faced sea otters, "old men") posed for us, rolling over several times.

We also saw a number of glaciers. This is Bear glacier, the largest in Kenai Fjords NP.

Look at the towering face of Holbrook glacier. We sat in front of it for some time, listening to the ice crack and watching a few small calving events.

We sat for a long time in front of Aialik glacier. Look at how still the water was. We had great reflections of the ice.

Aialik is a very noisy glacier. We heard lots of cracks, often sounding like gun shots. We saw numerous calving events (when a chunk of ice breaks off the glacier). Notice all the chunks of ice floating on the water surface.

The splash would settle down.

We weren't the only boat load of tourists out, enjoying the glacier action. This boat was a little smaller than the one we were on. There were also other, even smaller, boats out there.

Then the waves from the calving would make our boat roll. It is really dramatic.

We also were treated to harbor seals sunning on the rocks.

Stellar sea lions and birds, as well.

Last, but not least, a jelly fish.