Next up on the Alaskan adventure, we headed to Kenai Fjords National Park after our time in Denali. Over half of Kenai Fjords is covered by glaciers; together all called the Harding Icefield, which is why the park itself is primarily experienced on the water. From Denali and Anchorage, Seward is only a couple hours away on a beautiful coastal highway. Seward, the park headquarters, is a cute port town that is bustling with tourists.
We got to enjoy this park with Mike’s friend from home, Chris! He flew in around the same time I was getting back from Kotzebue so Mike swooped us both up from the Anchorage airport and we headed down to Seward. When we arrived that afternoon, we checked in for our boat tour the following day, picked up our maps and my junior ranger booklet, and got some groceries and drinks.
The town was filled to the brim with people at the campgrounds and hotels, but we skipped right on by all the established campgrounds and found the most amazing dispersed camping area along a little glacial river. There is one main area for hiking in the park (like I said, it’s mostly boating), and along that road up to that area, there are a few campsites that are all super private and we managed to get one right on the creek. It was incredible. Since we had a guest, I got fancy and actually cooked a dinner (stir fry, but still… it wasn’t salad or lunch meat). The absolute best part is that we finally got to have a campfire. Every place we’ve been so far on this part of the adventure has been in high fire danger so everywhere has had a fire ban, sadly.
The next morning, we headed back into town and departed on our Major Marine boat tour. There are lots of boat tour options, but this one was recommended to us by some Alaskan locals that Mike and I met in the Arctic. I am SO glad we went with this company. Besides the fact that it was a badass all female boat crew, they also had some sort of connection with the marine wildlife; immediately we saw whales in the bay. We chose the 7.5 hour tour and we also saw all the sea otters, fin whales, dolphins, humpback whales, puffins, and stellar sea lions. They were all so adorable and amazing. The otters were my favorite; we saw some “rafts” of them, which is where they group up and float along holding hands so they don’t lose each other.
The tour also took us to Aialik and Holgate Glaciers, and we got to see and hear them calving! (Calving is when it breaks off and falls into the water). There is all this glacial ice floating in the water, and our boat crew used large nets to pick up a few of the pieces to show all of us. And better yet, then they used some of that ice to make margaritas, which obviously I didn’t say no to. We had also signed up for the lunch buffet that they offer; it’s all you can eat prime rib and salmon, which was delicious. I don’t even like salmon all that much, but when in Rome, right?
There was a Park Ranger on the boat the whole time too. Throughout the day, he would go over some of the park history and wildlife facts, and he led the junior ranger program. At the end of the tour, all the junior rangers got sworn in together in front of all their parents (or in my case, my husband) and boat guests. I went above and beyond and showed up all those little kids because not only did I do the junior ranger booklet, I also did the Explorer booklet so I got an extra badge.
After the boat tour and I had said goodbye to all my new otter friends, we went back to the same camping area for the night. The next morning, we drove up the road to Exit Glacier and hiked to the glacier. It’s pretty crazy to see how much the glacier has receded. Along the road to the parking lot, it has a couple signs that say 1897, then 1916, and so on… it’s marking where the glacier used to be. As you continue to hike to the glacier, the signs get further from each other, but with less years between them which means the rate of recession is increasing. Every few years or so, the park actually lengthens the trail to the glacier because it’s receded so much. It’s very sad, but I won’t get started talking about climate change because then I won’t stop ranting.
After that hike, the three of us drove back up to Anchorage and explored the downtown area. Chris stayed the following day while Mike and I flew to the next park; Lake Clark!
- Go on the Major Marine boat tour! It’s pricey (just about $200 a person), but so worth it! Splurge for the prime rib and salmon buffet too. It was delicious – how often do you get to eat fresh Alaskan salmon?
- Get out of the Seward craziness and go to my favorite campsite! To get there, you’ll drive like you’re going to the Exit Glacier trailhead. There is a road called “Old Exit Glacier Road,” a couple miles up the road on the right. You’ll turn on it and then immediately take a 180 degree left turn. Drive down it a little bit and you’ll see all these incredible private campsites! You’ll get to fall asleep to the babbling water and feel like the world is yours.
- If you’re a badass, and know what you’re doing, you can kayak to a glacier and camp! However, they highly recommend you be a very experienced kayaker, which sadly I am not.