Sunday, July 18, 2010

Road Trip 2010: Day 37 (Part 1)
Seward, AK

Thursday, July 15 Seward, Alaska

This morning we got a short bus tour of downtown Seward, Alaska. Short because it’s only a few avenues wide and a dozen or so streets long. Much of the old town—that part that was on the waterfront anyway—got washed away back in 1967 when the 9.2 earthquake centered near Valdez occurred. The canneries, docks and much of the waterfront was totally destroyed. Being that this occurred late on Good Friday afternoon, however, meant that few folks were on the docks and only 13 people lost their lives.

Murals are a Big Thing in Seward.
This one is at the Visitors' Center going into town.

This "Flower Garden" mural is at a main bus stop in town.

Some stores have used art in their siding and roof shingles.

Two Orcas meet on this roof.

From “downtown” Seward, we went to Exit Glacier where we were able to walk ¾ of a mile to the head of the glacier to get an up close look at both the ice and the results of that ice upon the rock and land over which it once flowed. Exit Glacier has a well documented history of retreat going back to the late 1800s with maps and aerial photos marking its terminus almost yearly. The Katani Fjords National Park, has marked the position of the terminus with markers so you can see where it was, say, in 1877. The road that currently takes you to the Exit Glacier Nature Center ended at the outwash plain and river just a few short years ago.

Exit Glacier is the smallest of the dozen or so glaciers coming off the Harding Ice Field in the center of the Kenai Peninsula. It got named when a team of hearty explorers began on the western side of the peninsula and walked across the ice field to the eastern side. They came off the ice at Exit Glacier which was a good choice since the other glaciers all have steep cliff-like faces many of which are over 100 or 200 feet of sheer ice.

Nature Center at Exit Glacier

Outwash Plain in front of Exit Glacier

The Approach to Exit Glacier

It's melting!

Of course it is! Has been for centuries. It's summer and above 32 degrees. If it wasn't melting, we'd be in the midst of a really bad Ice Age.

The surface appears very dirty for the same reason snow on the side of the road does. As it melts, the crud (in this case stones, rock flower and even volcanic ash) gets more and more concentrated on the surface.

This is from the spot you used to have to view the glacier from until the road was completed. It's also where the front of the glacier was around 1877.

After our walk, we went back to a nearby restaurant for coffee and cookies and to hear the story of the couple who were driving our tour buses. They told how, in 1969 they sold all they had and left Oakland, California for the Last Frontier: Alaska. They lived in the wilds for several years, walked out to the road (1 ½ miles) in the snow of Christmas Eve in 1972 to (finally) get to the hospital in time to give birth to their first son, raised sled dogs, built homes and businesses, and bartered for their current log home—which they dismantled and moved log by log to a new location. Then they told us that this was their last year in Seward. They were in the process of selling all they had and were planning on moving to a quiet, peaceful piece of land they own in eastern British Columbia.

Whitey tells the tale of homesteading Alaska in the 1970s.

No comments: