Great Alaska Adventure: The Kenai
Kenai. Beautiful. The End.
That could be the whole blog for today. A month after we embarked on the Great Alaska Adventure we arrived at Alaska’s Playground: The Kenai Peninsula. What a gorgeous country. As I expected, the day was overcast and low-hanging clouds obscured the tops of most of the peaks as we rode along the northern side of Turnagain Arm on the way to the Kenai. In some instances, though, the tops of the snow-streaked mountains reared majestically above the cloud layer. In some ways, I’m glad my introduction to the peninsula came not on a bright blue-sky day with plenty of sunshine. Today, I think, with cold and gray captured the essence of this spit of land on Alaska’s southern coast. The temperature probably didn’t climb above 60 all day. Properly dressed for the ride, Marilyn and I cruised along the mountain-framed highway, absorbing as much of the breathtaking beauty of Alaska as we could.
We detoured to Portage Lake at the foot of Portage Glacier with the intent of going through the 2 1/2 mile tunnel to Whittier, but as I considered the time involved waiting for our turn to enter the tunnel and the risks for Marilyn taking her bike into the tunnel, we opted instead to visit the Portage Lake Visitor Center. The well done exhibits there helped us understand more about the land we were in and the animals (especially fish) that inhabit this wild place. Every time I visit a museum, a visitor’s center or even stop to read road-side information plaques, I learn more about and expand my appreciation for Alaska.
There are so many things I won’t be able to see or do while I’m in Alaska for less than two weeks that I would like to do. Even though I planned this trip for years, when I finally get here I discovered how much there really is to see and do. I’ve said it in earlier blogs but I’ll repeat myself again tonight: I’m coming back. And probably more than once. And maybe even in the winter (but not on a motorcycle). I’m so much in awe of this place. The pitiful pictures I take and the weak words I write don’t do this place justice. But when you see me coming back again and again, you’ll know how special this place is. To me. And apparently to thousands of other damn tourists who clog the roads, trash the roadsides and drive up the price of food and lodging. I suspect true Alaskans have mixed feelings about those of us who intrude from the lower 48. They like our tourist dollars but they probably aren’t as thrilled with what we’re doing to their Alaskan slice of paradise.
On the way to Seward, our destination for the day, we took a second detour, this time to Exit Glacier. I had hoped to walk on the glacier but after a 40 minute climb up a wooded then rocky mountainside we could only approach but not actually get on the glacier due to large crevasses, heavy melt-water, and the danger of unstable ice. I’m not sure how big the mountain was we climbed, but when Marilyn returns to Orange Park, her version of the story will no doubt place this mountain second only to Denali in the entire state of Alaska. Seeing the glacier up close was worth the climb and learning that it’s receding faster than my brother Kent’s hairline was eye-opening. In about 100 years the glacier has shrunk to 3/4 of its early 19th century size and the rate of melting has been documented and has been increasing in the last couple decades. Future generations will almost certainly not have the opportunity to see the Alaskan (and other) glaciers that have been around for tens of thousands of years. That will be a shame.
We arrived in Seward for our two-day stay hungry and ready for fresh seafood in this fishing port town. We weren’t disappointed by the suggestion made by the motel clerk who checked us in and directed us to Chinook’s for dinner. All the fish they serve is Alaskan and it’s fresh. Yesterday my salmon and Marilyn’s halibut were happily minding their own business in their native habitat and today they satisfied our fishy dietary cravings. We very much appreciated their sacrifice on our behalf. Not only was the dinner the best we’ve had in a long time, but the scenery outside the floor to ceiling windows next to our table added an ambience not found at most McDonalds or Taco Bells. A glass of Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel and two delicious Washington state wines were the perfect beverage accompaniments. Aaahhhh, life is good.
Tomorrow we’re not riding, but will be on a cruise going to several glaciers in the Kenai Fjords National Park while whale watching and checking out other marine creatures. Man does not live by Harley alone, after all.