Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Kenai Peninsula, Part 1– Seward

Our plan for the 4th of July was to hunker down in Seward at the Waterfront Park. Typically we would have made reservations in advance to make sure we had a spot, but the campground we wanted to be in was first come, first served. It is a crazy popular place and it's where the locals go. We didn't know it at the time, but Seward is THE place to celebrate Independence Day.

To ensure we had a spot, we arrived on June 27th. We hoped this was far enough in advance that we could snag a coveted waterfront spot in the dry camping section. Haha, foiled! There were only two sites available in the whole park and they were nowhere near the water. Bummer! Many campgrounds that are FCFS will not allow you to "save" a spot, they require that you occupy it. At the Seward Waterfront, a water jug or chair with a "paid" ticket attached is all that's necessary to reserve a spot. A lot of folks paid for two weeks and actually showed up for a couple of days.

There were a few scalpers, too. They had a pretty good system going and as it got closer to the holiday, even though folks were leaving, sites never opened up. On one hand, that seems kind of unfair, but on the other, it may be the only way to ensure locals aren't shutout by the tourists.

Anyway, we barely fit into our spot and we were about three feet from our neighbor, but at least we were in! Since registration requires only a license plate number and not a site number, you are free to move about the campground if a better site opens. This musical RVs is what we had hoped to avoid, because Steven and I get stressed out having to constantly be on the lookout. 

As luck would have it, the next morning I noticed folks in a little trailer on the waterfront readying to leave. Steven hoofed it down there and talked to them. They said no one had claimed their site yet, so he texted me, "start packing!" As soon as they pulled out, Steven drove Toadie right in and an hour later we were set up on the water and paid up for two weeks! YAY!

Our amazing view at the Waterfront Park in Seward.

Steven chillin’ by the waterfront with a panoramic view of Resurrection Bay.

Our first sunset on the waterfront made us think it just doesn’t get better than this.

Wave-like shapes of early morning fog on Resurrection Bay.

The remains of a dock that fell victim to the 1964 earthquake.

A cruise ship would arrive every other day. This one sat on an ethereal morning fog cloud.

One of the many glaciers on Resurrection Bay. This one visible right from our front window.

A young bald eagle perched himself just outside our rig!


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We loved watching the traffic on the water each day. So exciting to see what would show up!

Scoping out our upcoming tour with our son Zac.

The day’s catch at Seward harbor.

Fireweed was blooming while we were in Seward. It looked spectacular next to the mountains.

There is a lot to love about Seward and at the top of that list for us is that Bill & Kelly were working at Renfro's about 19 miles outside of town. We had sure missed them after we split up in Glennallen a few weeks earlier and it was great to see them again. Of course we started off with Happy Hour the day we arrived and from there made plans since they had the week off. We visited their place where they showed us around the cabins and a couple of days later we packed a picnic for a daytrip to Whittier.

Bill and Kelly show us around the cabins at Renfro’s.

Whittier is one of those places you either love, or say, "what's the big deal?". We all LOVED it! Of course, weather has a lot to do with it and we were there on a warm sunny day. It's not that there is a ton of stuff to do there, it's that the natural beauty is jaw-dropping. Sometimes you just have to sit and look around and be amazed. There were steep mountains and glaciers everywhere we looked and the jade-colored fjord was stunning. We dropped Steven off at the Buckner building, originally built as an army barracks but abandoned since the fifties, and left him to his photography. In the meantime, Bill, Kelly and I drove to an overlook where we just sat and took it all in.
To arrive (and leave) Whittier, we had to travel through a 2.5 mile one-way tunnel that is also shared with the train. It's kind of unique and more than a bit eerie. We *may* drive Scoopy through it on our way back to Anchorage, as there is a great boondocking spot we'd love to get to for a couple of days. I guess that will probably depend on the weather and if I can drive through the tunnel and not freak out :)

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The tunnel to Whittier can be a little claustrophobic to go through…

It was a beautiful day when we arrived in Whittier. It is breathtaking in the sun!

We all had a picnic lunch at the end of the pier with amazing views!

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The Buckner Building (left) and Begich Towers. Both built in the same era. One is completely abandoned while the other is home to most of the population of Whittier!

While Steven was shooting dilapidated buildings, the rest of the gang focused on views of Emerald Bay.

There were waterfalls and rivers aplenty around Whittier.

When we left Whittier, we stopped to go in the Begich Boggs Visitor Center on Portage Lake and took note that the services map showed a gas station in Hope. We were running low and knew with certainty we would not make it back to Seward without filling up. Since a visit to Hope was already on our agenda, off we went!
Hope is another one of those love it or leave it kind of towns. It has a bit of charm, but at this point I think we were kind of charmed out. There is only so much we can fall in love with in a day. What we wanted was to find the gas station and our trusty app Gas Buddy confirmed what we had learned in the visitor center - there was one in Hope. We finally did find it, and let's just say it only slightly resembled a gas station. The app indicated the next closest gas station was six miles away, but then it dawned on us that six miles was "as the crow flies", in other words, across Turnagain Arm in Anchorage! In reality, that's an 80 mile drive!

We were at empty when this photo was taken and we still had 18 miles to go!

Hopeless “gas station” in Hope. Unleaded for the undead :)

Ooh, looks like they just got a new delivery of fuel in Hope!

After much discussion, out of nowhere Kelly suddenly remembered her boss telling her there are no gas stations between Girdwood, south of Anchorage, and Seward. Well then, back to Girdwood we go. We rolled into that station literally on fumes and overall, it added two hours to our day. We were exhausted by the time we dropped Bill & Kelly at their rig and made it back to Scoopy, but we had enjoyed a fantastic day.

I think I've mentioned before that we are members of RVillage, a social media site for RVers. There are tons of different groups on there and we belong to the "North to Alaska" group. Since we knew there were lots of our group in the Seward area, we put out an invitation for a Happy Hour get-together at our waterfront site on July 3rd. Since it never really gets totally dark in Seward, the city sets off fireworks at 12:01 a.m. - officially the 4th, but just after midnight on the 3rd. Since there was literally no chance Bill & Kelly could get a spot at the campground, we planned a sleepover!

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A fantastic RVillage gathering celebrating Independence Day!

We had 22 people show up for the RVillage gathering and it was so fun to meet those we had been following online. Les & Sue from the Rambling RV Rat gang came early and hung out with us for a while. It was great to spend time and get to know them.

Staying awake for midnight fireworks is like waiting for the clock to signal the start of a New Year. Honestly, I haven't been awake for that in years. As the night progressed, there were several times I could have easily retreated to my bed. But in the end I stayed awake for the spectacle and enjoyed the show. The night really brought out the characters (some quite inebriated, but polite) which were a lot of fun to watch.

The crowd gathers at midnight in anticipation of the fireworks show.

A montage of the fireworks on July 4h in Seward.

Kelly and I had all kinds of ideas about taking selfies in our PJs, but after the show, all we really wanted to do was sleep. We may act like we're still in high school, but we don't have that kind of stamina anymore. Well, I don't. Kelly can still dance the night away, but she's a few years younger than me. I was going to get a photo of our living room with with all the beds folded out, but Bill & Kelly were up and had it all put back together before I could make an appearance the next morning.

Seward is a little town of 2,500 people, but in the days leading up to the 4th of July, there is a distinct buzz about town as the population swells to over 30,000. There is a parade and festival with vendors set up in the downtown area, our most favorite being the fried halibut tent. OMG, that halibut was to die for! We had it two days in a row! The highlight of the day's festivities, though, and the event that draws the crowds, is the Mount Marathon Race. It is pure madness.

Walking around downtown Seward during the Marathon. Hey Kelly, where you going??


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The parade was fairly short, but enthusiastic.

The base of Mt. Marathon is right in the town, so basically sea level. It is just over 1.5 miles to the top, with an elevation gain of 3,022 feet. At points along the way, the race is nothing more than a scramble over rocks or a slide down a patch of snow. As they get higher on the mountain, the runners look like a little trail of colorful ants. We could see them from below where we were stuffing our faces with halibut.

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The runners were giving it all they had while we ate all we could at the halibut stand!

Yummy halibut!

Those who win this race are world-class athletes and mountain racers. This year the winner of the men's race broke the record and finished in about 40 minutes, while the female winner came in under an hour. Just the thought has me gasping for air. When they reach the finish line, for some, there is a whole lot of puking going on.
I didn't know that spending the Fourth of July in Seward was a good Bucket List item, but I added it and checked it off on the same day! We had a blast being in Seward for the holiday, and if you're thinking of making the trip (you know who you are!!) I highly recommend getting to Seward for the 4th!

Even three-year old girls got in on the marathon action!

The women’s race starts off with a bang!

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The winners of the Men’s and Women’s race celebrate their victories.

This is probably what we would look like before we started the race!

Next up: The Kenai Peninsula, Part II - Having Fun Is Exhausting


  1. You guys are having the best adventure! Even with the mad scramble for the water front site - which was totally worth it I see. The Eagle is amazing. I feel your pain with the empty gas tank - I can't believe we both made it to a pump :-) Definitely a fun-filled, and long, Independence Day celebration!!!! Those tiny runners are too cute.

    1. It's not like you weren't invited! Kids, blah, blah, grandkids, blah, blah. :)
      Seriously, we have thought often about how much you guys would have enjoyed this trip. I hope it's in your future plans!

  2. So happy we got to spend the long holiday with you guys! What fun it was! And - next time (if/when there's a next time) I'll leave the beds all messy and let you get your pic of me in my flannel moose jammies! Promise! Pinky swear and all!

    1. Our sleepover was epic, but I kind of forgot that at our age we need our beauty sleep more than we need to keep on partying. :)

  3. We saw the mountain the race was on and could not imagine anyone getting up and down in 40 minutes! Great town with lots see see.

    1. Next time you go, try to be there for the event. I didn't realize it, but the Fourth of July quickly became a Bucket List item, added and fulfilled on the same day! Loads of fun!

  4. That looks like soooo much fun! Definitely going on our list. (Maybe I could enter into the three-year old category for the race.) You guys really lucked out with scoring a waterfront site for two weeks. Such wonderful photos of your waterfront views (including the fireworks).

    1. They need a category for fat fried halibut eaters. I could have done well in that one.

  5. I'm sorry you didn't enjoy Hope as much as we did. I think it's the kind of thing that needs to be explored on its own, and inhabited for a few days, not an add-on on a busy day. There's not much to see. It's the atmosphere. Then again, thing could have changed between 2008 and today. At least you checked it out. Great pics as usual on this and the following blog entries. You are having some great weather.

    1. Hope was actually a cool kind of place. If we had moved the rig there and gotten to know some of the folks, I think we would have liked it. We were just in a great spot and where we wanted to be, so we didn't move there.