If you’re scoring at home, you might have noticed that I skipped Day Eleven of this Lap Around Alaska. That’s because yesterday was a day off the road to rest and recuperate. Aside from one trip out of the hotel to pick up some phad kee mao at a local Thai restaurant, I did a whole lot of nothing. And of course, when you think of Thai food, you think of Anchorage, Alaska, right? Hey, it was good!
I was up and at ’em early this morning, because I had my sights set on seeing Seward today. Seward is special to me because I spent the summers of 1974-76 in this little town. I was anxious to see for myself how much the town has changed.
I don’t think I’ve mentioned it in this blog, yet, but I am writing a new memoir that I’m going to call Reeling in the Years. It’s essentially going to be about what it was like to grow up in a small town in the 1970s, including those summers in Alaska. In my first draft of that book, I wrote about my impressions of that drive between Anchorage and Seward, circa 1975:
I goggled at the scenery the whole drive to Seward. I had always thought that Mossyrock was rural, but it was civilized compared to Chugach National Forest. Mile after mile after mile of hills, towering mountains, trees and, even though it was June, a lot of snow-capped peaks.
That paragraph was based on a four decades old memory, but it absolutely fits. Here’s a bit of what I saw on my drive today:
That’s Cook Inlet, which runs alongside the New Seward Highway as you leave Anchorage.
One lasting memory is the first time I flew into Anchorage. When we broke through the top layer of clouds, I looked down to see mountaintops, peeking through another layer of clouds. I thought of that today, when I saw these peaks getting lost in the clouds above me.
Spring is here in south central Alaska, but the melt-off is a work in progress. I saw a lot of lakes and rivers today that were starting to lose the ice and snow, but there was a long ways to go. Every few miles, I saw small waterfalls of runoff down the sides of the hills:
An odd thing happened as I drew closer to Seward – things started to look familiar. Yes, I’ve spent a lot of time in Seward, but it’s been so many years ago, I thought everything would be foreign to me. That wasn’t the case. Certain curves in the road, hills that butt right up against the shoulder, all felt familiar.
And then I got to the Seward Harbor. Holy crap. The last time I saw Seward Harbor, it was a beautiful little spot with a nice mixture of commercial fishing boats and pleasure boats. It was quiet. If you wanted to go to the store or to get something to eat, you had to drive in to Seward proper. Not any more.
The harbor is now like a second small town adjacent to Seward. There are restaurants, souvenir shops, coffee shops, ice cream shops, charter fishing outfits and more. The harbor and breakwater itself has been expanded to a much larger size than the last time I saw it. I learned that cruise ships – big ones – now stop at Seward.
In a slight daze, I parked the car and wandered out amongst the boats, trying to get my bearings. That’s when I saw these guys:
Few creatures are as much fun to watch as otters. The fellow on the right above turned out to be a true ham. When he noticed me and my camera, he rolled over on his back and started playing peekaboo with me. Think I’m exaggerating? Check it out:
I spent a long time watching them play and frolic in the water. A bit further away, this otter floated on its back, ignoring the other two:
I have more to report on Seward, but since I’m staying here two nights, I’ll write more about the town proper tomorrow. Also, I am taking a four hour whale watching cruise tomorrow, so with any luck, I might have some shots of them, as well.
Cheers, and safe travels!