Day Two: Anchorage, Seward, Fox Island

7:10 a.m.

Thank you Mary for giving me the night mask. It was still broad daylight when I got to bed last night at 11:00. I woke up periodically during the night and had to look and see how light it was. At 1:30 it was kinda dusky. At 3:00, it looked like dawn. Mask or no mask, I woke up at 6:00, an hour before my alarm. So I showered and dressed and now I'm sitting on the bench on the front steps of the B & B. It looks like a great morning -- light overcast, pleasant. Kate should be up shortly with breakfast, and the van comes at 8:00.

Last night I sat at the market for a little while, then came back here and read my book. (Thanks again to Mary, who lent it to me -- Timeline by Michael Crichton -- a good, engaging read, perfect for airports and other places with lots of distractions.

Speaking of distractions, I just heard a raucous squawking. Grabbed the binoculars to have a look, but it appeared to be seagulls. I never heard seagulls make a noise like that before.

So I've been looking forward to this trip for months, and I'm finally here, waiting for the "adventure" to begin. It all still seems so unreal. I don't feel excited, or even anticipatory. Just going through the motions, doing what I do. Almost ho-hum. Of course, I didn't feel that way looking down at the mountains yesterday from the airplane, and I suspect my mood will change once we get out of Anchorage and into the wilderness.

2:40 p.m.

I'm sitting on the front deck of the Coastal Explorer, our cruise ship that departs Seward at 3:00 for Fox Island. The sun is right in front of us, not a cloud in the sky, pleasant breeze. Mountains are all around us. A perfect day. I wasn't expecting to come home from Alaska with a sunburn!

This morning on the way out of Anchorage, we stopped at Earthquake Park. It's hard to imagine the neighborhood that was once there.

There we made our first acquaintance with Alaska's state bird--the mosquito. They were relentless.

From there we drove around the airport looking for moose--apparently, that's their common grazing area--but no luck. Driving past the small-airplane and float-plane airport was impressive, so many bush planes, float planes, 2-seaters and up.

Finally we hit the Seward Highway out of Anchorage, driving along Turnagain Arm. Every turn in the road was one more stunning panorama.

Our guide/driver is Patrick. He's from Provence, and he's very charming. He's been here doing these tours for ten years. There are five other people on the tour. Art and Jeanne are from Clearwater, Florida. Joyce and Dick from Columbus, Ohio. Either Joyce and Art or Jeanne and Dick are siblings, I can't remember which. Andrew is from Windsor, England. They all seem nice, fun, and friendly.

We arrived in Seward for lunch at a little cafe with outdoor seating.

Then we had a short visit to the Alaska Marine Life Center. Some interesting exhibits, especially the marine birds, sea lion, and harbor seals.

While waiting to board the boat, I took some photos of the scenery.  

 8:25 p.m.

I'm sitting on a log on the "beach" on Fox Island. There's going to be a campfire, complete with s'mores, at 9:00. The boat ride was okay--a lot of kids, but once we got going, it got really windy on the bow and all the families took cover inside. We saw a nesting pair of bald eagles and a good sized flock of puffins.

We arrived at Fox Island around 4:00, and for those who were interested, a hike started right away. I dropped my stuff in my cabin (which I'm sharing with Andrew) and the hike took us over a very challenging trail, about 45 minutes each way. First we had to navigate tree roots, then mud, and after all that work came the steep uphill portions. The view at the top, about 1500 feet above the water, was worth it, but it was a killer hike.

Two fascinating things I learned about this island on the hike:
  1. There are no foxes on Fox Island. It got its name because the used to farm foxes her for fur. That ended during the 1930s.
  2. The combination of seismic and glacial activity caused this island to tip over 45 degrees. We sat at the top looking down a field of boulders. The guide told us that this was sedimentary rock and was once flat level. Today it drops precipitously. On the other side is igneous rock that got pushed upward.
After we got back down, I was so hot and sweaty that I was eager to take a dip in Resurrection Bay (actually Halibut Cove, the small inlet that is in front of me right now). They said the water is 40-45 degrees. Sounded great to me! It was frigid, but felt great once I got in. Walking barefoot on the beach, however, which consisted of flat rocks as big as 6 inches across until you got close to the water, where they became small, pointy pebbles, hurt like hell.

Our cabin on Fox Island

View behind our cabin

After the swim and a hot shower, it was dinnertime. We gathered in the Wilderness Lodge for a really nice dinner of Caesar salad, fresh baked bread with herb butter, and pork chops (or chicken breast for the non pork eaters). It was served with apple chutney (that's what the chef, Brooke, called it, but it was really just stewed apples), twice-baked potato, and grilled broccoli and cauliflower. The dessert was a really good, decadent chocolatey thing.

(L to R) Andrew, Jeanne, Art, Lane, Joyce, Dick, Patrick

10:30 p.m.

Having a campfire in broad daylight was kind of weird, but it was fun.

Afterwards, I took a walk on the beach to the south end of the cove, and I'm sitting here on a really big flat rock, lying back, just taking it all in. Earlier, we watched a bald eagle perch in a tree and three gulls proceeded to harrass it until it finally flew down, behind the trees, probably to get a duckling for dinner.
The sun has dropped down behind the mountains but hasn't really set yet. But it's starting to get chilly. I can't really go much further without climbing over a lot of huge boulders, and my legs are kind of wobbly from the hike this afternoon. I guess I'll head back and see if I'm ready to sleep yet. It'll be a relaxing morning here before our boat leaves at noon for the tour of Kenai Fjords National Park.

I'm glad I got up from where I was just sitting. A mini rock slide just came off the cliff behind me. I wouldn't have been conked on the head, but I'd have been scared witless!