Seward: Alaska Starts Here!®

That is the motto of this little seaside town. Situated at the head of Resurrection Bay on the Kenai Peninsula, Seward is one of Alaska’s oldest and most scenic communities.

The founders and settlers of the town of Seward arrived in 1903 to build the railroad. Seward was named in honor of William H. Seward, President Abraham Lincoln's Secretary of State, who was responsible for negotiating the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867 (yes, 150 years ago this year).

I love otters. I could have watched this guy for hours. AND it was a riot to listen to him eat. He crunched so loudly.

We hung out on the docks until the fishermen came in with their amazing catches. This is today's Only in Alaska photo.
The Iditarod National Historic Trail is Alaska’s sole National Historic Trail. This network of 2,300-mile winter trails evolved to connect Alaskan Native villages, established the dog-team mail and supply route during Alaska’s Gold Rush, and now serves as a vital recreation and travel link (the famous Iditarod race didn't begin until 1973). We are camped right next to Mile 0 of this cool trail.
In 2008, Seward was officially designated, “Mural Capital of Alaska” at the completion of the town’s 12th colorful mural (there are now over 22 of these beautiful works of public art).
Of the murals we saw, this was my favorite. The view in the side mirror is sometimes the most lasting of the sights seen.
I do love clever. This just cracked us up.
We are traversing Alaska at a rather brisk pace, yet we feel that we're seeing/ doing/ experiencing all we had hoped and planned to do. This license plate gave us permission to Keep Moving. Tomorrow we are off to the next Alaska adventure.

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Glaciers, Whittier & Hope...

We began our day by strolling to the Byron Glacier.

What a thrill to be surrounded by blue ice.

Our next stop was to visit the harbor town of Whittier. Steve grew up in Whittier, California (both named after poet John Greenleaf Whittier).
To get to Whittier, we had the opportunity to experience the weirdest transportation system we've had on this trip- the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel—the longest (2.5 miles) highway tunnel of its kind in North America, and the first designed for -40 Fahrenheit temperatures and 150 mph winds! 
What's strange about it is the fact that the one-lane tunnel must be shared by cars and trains traveling in both directions (taking very organized turns), and it usually needs to be aired out in between trips (with jet turbine ventilation, another first). This unique design, that enables a single lane of traffic to travel directly over the railroad track, saved tens of millions of dollars over the cost of constructing a new tunnel. So weird yet cool, truly!

Glaciers were everywhere!
The area where Whittier sits today was developed during World War II. The United States Army constructed Camp Sullivan, a military facility with a port near Whittier Glacier. When a spur of the Alaska Railroad was completed to Camp Sullivan in 1943, the port became the primary debarkation point for cargo, troops, and dependents of the Alaska Command. Population in the area reached 1,200 people.
To house all those troops, and what catches everyone's eye in Whittier, is the Buckner Building, a Cold War-era military installation which once held an entire city within its walls. Started in in 1949, and completed in 1954 at a cost of $6 million, the compound was was renowned as the City Under One Roof and was used as a secret and self-contained military base. The “city” included: a small hospital, a 320-seat theater, a 4-lane bowling alley, a 6-cell jail, a church, bakery, barbershop, library, radio station, rifle range, photo lab, commissary, a huge cafeteria and kitchen, an officers’ lounge, and more than enough rooms for the military and their families to stay in at the time.
In 1960, the Whittier Army Port was closed and the building was mothballed by the U.S. Army. It has been vacant ever since, making for an interesting horizon.
Wanting to experience some of Whittier's nature and since the salmon were spawning, we headed to the river to watch the magic happen. Wow. These fish were huge and determined.

Lunch was overlooking the Harbor for Halibut Fish & Chips (again).
This area will be our home for the next several days. Let the exploring continue.
Tonight we sleep in Hope. I love the name!  Hope, Alaska lies on the northern end of Kenai Peninsula, on the south shore of the Turnagain Arm of Cook Inlet. Once a mining camp for Resurrection Creek, established in 1896, it is now a cool vacation spot with a great, welcoming vibe.
First stop was at the Historical Society Museum to learn a bit about the town's past.
Then we headed to Sea View Café, Bar & Campground for Hope's future, in the form of 14 year old Miss Ava Earl... wow.

With live music and foot tapping on the patio, life seems so much sweeter in a town called Hope.
"Hope is but the dream of those who wake."
-Matthew Prior

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Denali (Finally) and Glaciers...

We awoke with hope that the illusive mountain peak would peek. We were not disappointed.

After getting the view we had hoped for , we returned to Talkeetna's Roadhouse for pancakes made with a 1902 sourdough starter. Yum, right? ABSOLUTELY.
We then decided to take a side trip, from Anchorage, to have the Cook Inlet as our view.
While we never did see a Beluga whale, it was exciting to drive along the road, with the promise of maybe seeing them on the horizon.

Portage Valley may be one of the most popular visitor destinations in Alaska due to its extensive and spectacular collection of glaciers. And we were there, wow.

We dry camped along this peaceful lake, awaiting tomorrow's explore of this picturesque valley.

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Talkeetna: Day 2 of 2...

This was morning at our campsite, along the river (to answer Karen's comment) and it was spectacular.

After taking care of neglected business at camp, we headed into town. This is today's Only in Alaska photo. The racks were visible from far away, and I was drawn to peek in the truck's bed.
Our first stop was at the old school house, now the home of the Talkeetna Historical Society Museum. The exhibit space uses three different buildings to tell the various aspects of the village's history.
I am enthralled with the mountain climbing of Denali (Mt. McKinley) even though we have yet to see it. This exhibit showed the gear of the first climber and of today's adventurer. And who was that crazy soul who was the first person to reach the summit of Denali, the highest mountain in North America, in 1913? Walter Harper (1893 – October 25, 1918) was an Alaska Native mountain climber and guide and the inspiration for the mannequin on the left. What an incredible life story.
Wanting to know even more about mountain climbing, we visited the Ranger station armed with many questions. We were shown an informative film all about the ins and outs of summiting Denali. So not on my bucket list! "How many people had summited and how many people had died trying?", we asked. A: An estimated 32,000 climbers have attempted Denali with about a 50% success rate. One hundred have died including 11 in 1992 (the most in one year).
The final stop, on this knowledge quest, was the City Cemetery.
Moving on to happier components of what makes Talkeetna delightful, we visited the Farmers Market.
We fell in love with Romanesco Broccoli while living in Italy. It's fractal shapes still intrigue me.
Aren't turkey eggs gorgeous?
When in Rome... I mean Alaska... Halibut Fish & Chips for dinner- Wow.
We ended our day with Live at Five! These Friday evening concerts in the Village Park feature a wide variety of musical talent from all over Alaska as well as the lower 48. This was the perfect last night event in Talkeetna.

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