Monday, July 31, 2017

Random Alaska

I know I've spent two full weeks, and a lot of posts talking about Alaska.  And yet, I keep thinking of little tidbits of our trip that I haven't covered yet.  Mostly random, not in order by place or location, some that actually could have been included in one of my posts, and others that seem so unrelated that they almost could have been a post of their own, yet there isn't so much to tell or show to devote a whole post to it.

So, this is going to be the disorganized, random, some photos and a few explanations post to cover all that.  :0)

In the Kenai, we seemed to see eagles everywhere.  Near the river, in particular.  One day when we were driving elsewhere, DH just pulled over into a little parking area that had a small trail for walking to the river.  He was hoping to see a bear fishing for salmon, but apparently the salmon (and the bears) weren't there yet.  Too early in the season, I guess.  What we did see though, was an astounding number of eagles.  It started with two, an adult and a juvenile bald eagle.  Then they flew off to our right, and disappeared behind some tall trees.  A few minutes later, an adult bald came flying toward the river from that direction.  Shortly after came another adult bald eagle.  Then, nearly on it's heels, a juvenile bald.

DH and I were feeling lucky to have seen not one, not two, but three bald eagles in one spot.  Imagine our surprise when, over the course of a few minutes, from the same direction, came several more.  It was like someone behind those tall trees had a pitching machine that was firing out not balls, but eagles at regular intervals!  Not just bald eagles, but also some golden eagles.

Some flew off over the river, toward a mountain in the backdrop.  Two landed in trees and perched there, apparently watching for fish.  Others just soared in circles overhead.  At one time we counted ten different eagles all in our field of vision.  And of course neither of us had brought a phone with which to take pictures of this.

There are many glaciers, and we saw several during our travels. One we got to see closer than the others, and that was Exit Glacier.

I had always just pictured glaciers as big white blobs.  Because they are layer upon layer of packed snow, right?  Well, sort of.  They are layers of snow that has just piled up through the ages without melting away completely.  But they're not bright, pretty white.  From a distance, yes, they look white.  Up close, they look kind of dirty and grimy, like old snowbanks in the early spring that built up on the sides of the road all winter long and collected dirt and salt spray as well as snow.  Glaciers are snow, and ice, and lots of debris that they pick up as they move.  They are a little white, but more streaks of gray, and areas that are blue from the light reflecting on the dense icy layers within.

The meltwater that comes out of the base of a glacier as it recedes is a very opaque gray color.  It reminded me a lot of the color of cement slurry.  In a way, the glacial water is a kind of cement slurry; it contains lots of silt and small stones, as well as water.

As the water flows away from the glacier, the silt and stones are deposited, forming a glacial outwash basin.

outwash basin, looking toward the glacier

outwash basin, looking from the base of the glacier outward

the current base of the glacier
(I wanted to hike all the way to it, but the rest of my fellow travelers didn't like the steep, narrow, rocky path leading from this observation point to the glacier itself, and I was voted out of continuing our hike.)

Once the sediment and rocks have been deposited as the water (known as a braided river because of it's many small intertwining paths in an outwash basin) flows further and further from the glacier, the color of the water changes.  Glacial lakes are a beautiful blue color.

Random Photos:

our home on wheels

a misty morning

Honorary Son and DD1 spent most of their wakeful hours in the RV like this,
 taking pictures out the open window even while rolling down the road

my one moose photo

I think, hopefully, I've reached the end of my show and tell about going to Alaska.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Botany Post

While in Alaska, I learned a few botany related things.  Everywhere I go, my eye is usually drawn to the natural world.  And if I'm on foot, well, I've been known to stop and take pictures of plants and flowers so that later I can look them up and learn what it was that I saw.  I was looking forward to going to Alaska and seeing what flowers I recognized, and also seeing flowers that were new to me.  What I didn't anticipate was 'discovering' other types of plants.

Like the moss I was amazed to see hanging from some spruce trees near Denali.  I knew that was a boreal forest region, but I didn't know that mosses which inhabit trees (envision Spanish moss in wet humid southern areas) lived there.  Upon doing some online searching, I found a really cool PDF of Alaskan mosses and liverworts that helped me to identify this surprising find as cat-tail moss.

While hiking the Bear Mountain Trail that I talked about in this post I saw and photographed what looked like pine cones growing upright out of the ground.  I knew they weren't actual pine cones, but I wasn't sure what they were.  So I took a photo for reference (a typical MO for me) and to help me remember identifying features when I had time to look it up later.  Turns out they are a kind of boschniakia; a parasitic plant that feeds on the root systems of certain trees and shrubs.

boschniakia rossica

I also saw many flowers that were unfamiliar to me.  Flowers such as:

chiming bells

arctic wintergreen

Jacob's ladder

chocolate lily 

snow arnica

fireweed (close up)

a patch of fireweed

There were also some grasses I saw for the first time:

Alaska cotton grass

squirrel tail grass

There were also several wildflowers that I knew.


wild iris aka blue flag

prickly rose

western columbine

wild geranium

No matter where in Alaska I went, no matter what the weather, I was usually commenting on the flora around me.  And, if we were out hiking, I was getting left behind as I stopped to examine the leaves and/or blossoms.  But what's the point of walking around somewhere if you aren't going to look at what's growing there?

Friday, July 28, 2017

Alaska Beer

Let me preface this by saying I am in no way a beer aficionado or even consider myself to be a beer lover.  I'm a picky eater, and an even more picky drinker.  DH says his favorite beer is a free beer, but me, if I don't like the taste you couldn't pay me to drink it.  I tasted many beers while in Alaska, and often I decided I didn't like them enough to actually order a glass and just asked for water instead.

That said, I'm sure many people would love the beer offerings of Alaskan breweries.  DH had no trouble finding an IPA he liked everywhere we went, and he often liked most of the ones that I sampled and turned up my nose at (I felt they were often hoppy, no matter the style.)

Here's where we went or breweries that we tried their beers at a restaurant or in an airport:

Midnight Sun
Mooses Tooth
Bear Tooth
49th State
St. Elias
Kenai River Brewing
Denali Brewing
Last Frontier
Silver Gulch

Most places I didn't take pictures; we were just there for a pint, or we were there for dinner and they were crowded.  I'm really not that into taking pictures of food or beer while sitting at a table in a public place.  So.

49th State, however, had a really neat beer garden, and it was the best weather day of the whole trip.  Plus, we'd gotten a text from DS2 and friends that they were heading toward Denali and wanted to meet up with us at 49th State Brewing, which is in Healy just outside the park entrance.  While their beer wasn't on the top of my list of favorites, I did drink an entire pint of the McCarthy's Stout (layman's beer review: too bland of flavor and 'thin' of mouth-feel to rank high on my list of yummy stouts, but then again it did say traditional dry stout and I'm not a fan of Guiness).  Even better than their beer was their guacamole!  Since we sat a while, waiting for DS2 and crew to arrive, we ordered some guac and chips.  Simple food as it was, it was amazing!

We sat outside in the beer garden, where they played Led Zeppelin over strategically placed speakers, offered disc golf, picnic tables, and other seating arrangements.  There was a signpost that told the mileage to other Alaskan points, plus the "Magic Bus" that was used in the movie Into the Wild.

Denali Brewing is actually outside of Talkeetna. We stopped in their tasting room on our way back to Anchorage after leaving Denali National Park, in the rain.  I recommend the Chuli Stout. I believe it was served on nitro, but honestly, I don't remember for sure.  That 800 mg of Motrin (I took in Denali for my back/shoulder pain) was in full swing and having a beer with it probably wasn't wise. Did make the rainy drive back to Anchorage more enjoyable, though.

Last Frontier in Wasilla was a dinner stop that same night.  Excellent food.  Really, really tasty food in generous proportions.  Beer to me was, well, I sampled two and ended up ordering a glass of water.  DH said it was good IPA, though.

We'd heard that Mooses Tooth, in Anchorage had to die for pizza.  So we went there for our final meal in Alaska.   The rumor wasn't wrong.  The pizza was some of the best I've ever eaten.  Beer, though, was too hoppy for my tastes.  DH and I ordered a sampler with three of the styles I typically drink from: brown ale, porter, stout; and a fourth that was an ESB, because here and there I have found an ESB that suited me.  I had one swallow of most, two of the stout, and DH ended up drinking pretty much the entire sampler because I didn't want any of them.  So, it was water for me again.  But the pizza was awesome.

My favorite brew of the trip was found in the Anchorage airport, while waiting for it to be time to board our plane.  We'd had to turn our RV in before dinner, and DS2's friend who had rented a car for the three of them to drive around in had to return it before 8 p.m.  Our flights didn't board until midnight.  So, we all ended up seeking a place to relax after going through security and before our plane was ready.  We found Silver Gulch.

Silver Gulch had an imperial stout.  I'm a little partial to imperial stouts.  And after almost two weeks and hundreds of miles of brewpubs with (to me) not so appealing beer options, that imperial stout had my name on it.  Actually, it's called 40 Below.  Which, after a few swallows, had me singing the Rodeo Song in my head.  Or, maybe not in my head, at least until DH protested me singing it in the airport lounge.  What can I say; it was the end of a long trip that had fallen way short of what I'd hoped for.  The weather, the extra time at the reunion, the total lack of real hiking. . . and it was pretty close to my bedtime, yet I wouldn't be arriving home for nearly eleven hours and I cannot sleep sitting up so knew I would be up all night because I wouldn't be able to sleep on the plane.  40 Below and the Rodeo Song it was.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Visiting Denali

Denali.  What can I say?  This was a big Must See on our Alaska list.  It was both more, and less, than what we had anticipated.

It was more driving than I'd wanted to do in a day.  From Anchorage to Denali is about a four hour drive.  Maybe a little less in a car, definitely more in an RV.  I had wanted to do four hour hikes, not four hour drives.  To that point, the longest hike I'd been on in Alaska hadn't even reached the two hour mark.

It was more beautiful than we'd anticipated.  The day we drove there was clear, sunny, bright blue skies, and we could see the peak of Denali.  Did we stop to take a picture from any point on the road?  No. We were in a hurry to get there and figured it would be even better up close.

Inside the park, there were less options than we'd thought.  There is one road, and you can only drive on it so far.  After that you have to take either a shuttle bus or a tour bus to designated locations.  I had envisioned something more like Yellowstone, or Glacier (National Park), where you drive yourself around and see things, stopping (and possibly hiking) at will.  There were some hiking trails-- all near the entrance of the park--but up the road was just, well, road for buses only, and wilderness.  There were a few campgrounds, all of which were full for the nights we planned to be in Denali (I don't know why DH persists in trying to play nighttime lodging by ear, especially when it gets really frustrating to not have a reservation when you want to be in a specific location.)

DS2 and his friends had made it from Seward to Denali, where they had a 3-day back-country permit and tickets for the 8 hour bus ride to the end of the road at Kantishna.  From there they would hike and camp until making their way back to Toklat on the third day and taking a shuttle bus back to the park entrance.  We met up with them our first morning at Denali, and since they had about a two hour wait for their bus, we all did a short hike to Horseshoe Lake to pass the time.

That was the only hiking I got to do in Denali.  DH was sure that we'd see more wildlife if we took one of the bus tours, and he really, really wanted to see some bear.  I had my doubts about that, but agreed that we could do a bus ride.  A short bus ride; not the twelve hour one, and not the eight hour one.  The thought of sitting still on a bus full of people for hours and hours, for me, negated any extra wildlife or scenery we had the chance of seeing.

Turned out, since we hadn't bought any tickets in advance (gee, reservations, anyone?!?) we had two choices of buses that day: Toklat River at 6.5 hr round trip ride or Eielson Visitor Center at 8 hour round trip ride.  If we bought shuttle bus tickets, rather than tour bus tickets, we could ask to be dropped off at any point and then later picked up by any shuttle bus, we didn't have to do the entire round trip on the same bus.  Which meant we could do a short hike if we wanted to.  (Remember, my Alaska wish list had included at least one 4+ hour hike, preferably several of that length and we had yet to do any that even lasted two hours.)

Trying to use my best neutral face and voice, I told DH that the 6.5 hr bus ride sounded preferable.  So he bought tickets for that.  Unfortunately, there were only two departure times left: 3 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.  Since I wasn't particularly wanting to be on a bus instead of in bed in the RV at midnight, we went with the 3:00 bus.  After we were on it, I figured out that hiking wasn't going to be possible.  Not even if I got off that bus.  Because it was the second to last bus going back to the park entrance that evening.  And the last one didn't arrive back until midnight. So if I got off 'my' bus in order to hike for several hours, I had to catch the last bus back--arriving at midnight--or no bus at all. (Imagine me silently swearing while sitting on what was pretty much an old school bus with at least 60 other people, while retaining my neutral face.)

We did see some animals.  The bus stopped for every animal the driver or anyone else saw.  If a squirrel ran across the road, we stopped.  When a ptarmigan was in the road, we stopped.  And waited for it to cross.  Apparently ptarmigan walk slower than turtles.  Slower than snails.  At least the ones we stopped for did.  And every time we stopped, at least half the population of the bus stood up to take pictures out the window.  I think our shortest stop was five minutes in length.  Most were 10 minutes, some a little bit longer.  Ironically the two potty stops on the trip were only 15 minutes in length.

I didn't get any pictures of the arctic squirrels, willow ptarmigan, moose, pika, snowshoe hare or Dall sheep that we stopped for.  Too many people's heads/arms/cameras in the way. Of the three caribou that were spotted, I got pictures of two, but only a few that weren't from far away and kind of blurry.  The best one was in the evening on the way back, when there was a caribou standing in a glacial outwash plain to the side of the road, calmly eating fireweed pretty much right out my window.  Ah, nobody to 'shoot' around for this picture.

What I did get some decent pictures of was the scenery at many of the scenic overlook types of stops the bus made.

at Teklanika  overlooking one of many braided rivers

Polychrome Mountains

the bridge where the road goes to Toklat

 Toklat River

also Toklat

So, the scenery was pretty nice, the bus itself not as uncomfortable as I'd anticipated, but overall not the Denali experience I had desired to have. (Confession:  I had brought a book in my backpack of snacks and drinks, and I did read for roughly half of the return trip portion of our bus ride.) Even DH got a bit bored with it and was more than ready to get off when we finally returned to the park entrance.  We'd spent more than twelve hours in the park at that point, but only less than three (total) actually walking around outdoors.  On a fairly decent weather day, we'd spent a large portion of it 'indoors' (but clouds covered the top of Denali, so again, no picture of the famous mountain!)

I don't want to make the bus experience turn anyone off from going to Denali and seeing/experiencing it for themselves.  It wasn't horrible. If you like to sit and listen to a guide and look out the windows at things, it was really a perfect trip.  Me, I like to move, to walk, to hike, to examine things at my own pace (and preferably close up).  I can't sit still anywhere for 6.5 hours (I was a horrible doodler in school, keeping my hands busy was the only way I could keep my rear in the seat all day), and I would have much more enjoyed being tired and sweaty and using my own feet to transport me for 6.5 hours.  I also like the little view (as DH says, look at the hairs on a bee's legs) versus staring at distant scenery.  So the bus wasn't bad, it just wasn't my kind of adventure.

There were a few more things we wanted to see in the park, like the sled dog demo, the Murie Science center, and try a longer hike than to Horseshoe Lake, so we planned to return the next morning.  We wouldn't be able to spend another entire day, but we could stay until roughly 2:00 or so.

We found a nice overlook pullout about half hour down the road from the park entrance, and parked the RV there for the night.

The next morning didn't go so well.  We did get to see the sled dog demonstration which was cool in many ways.  I was familiar with sled dog training and their wheeled summer 'sled' (cart) as I had grown up across the street from (and babysitting and dogsitting for) a family who raised, showed, and mushed Samoyeds.  So the handling, the harnessing, and even the cart were nothing new to me.  DH and DD2 loved seeing and learning though.

What was most interesting to me was seeing more than a few dogs who looked almost exactly like our own Old Dog, whom we'd had from puppydom to the ripe old age of 12 years 11 months, who was supposedly pure German Shepherd but was built with a flatter more level back and longer legs and larger feet than any shepherd we'd ever seen.  When we'd take him places, people always asked us what he was crossed with.  Now I think I have the answer.  Alaskan Husky.  Those dogs are bred for work, for pulling, for running through deep snow with long legs and large feet.  They aren't the big, fluffy, black and white dogs you think of when you hear Husky. (Your stereotypical Husky is a Siberian Husky.)  Alaskan husky is a type rather than a pure breed.

this (young) dog looks almost identical to our beloved Old Dog in his later years

this dog is the coloration of Old Dog as a youngster

Another part of the sled dog demo that I found entertaining was the park ranger.  We rode shuttle buses from the entrance area to the sled dog area (15 min ride or so).  Upon arrival, this ranger boarded each bus, introduced himself, gave some rules about being in the dog kennel area, and explained to us what the order of our visit would be.  10 min to walk around designated areas, then go to the viewing stands, watch about a 30 minute demo, then 15 more minutes to walk around and see things.

But from the instant he stepped onto the bus I wasn't focusing so much on what he was saying, but how he looked.  His build, his facial expressions, the way his clothes fit. . . if he wasn't a dead ringer for Ranger Tom (from Escanaba in da Moonlight, all you Michiganians).  That was it, my concentration on anything but getting a pic of this guy and texting it to my kids was blown.  (And yes, they agreed he definitely was a twin for Ranger Tom.  Guess that's where he went after the Bearwok scared him out of the U.P.  LOL) 

After the sled dog demo was over, we decided rather than take the shuttle bus back to the visitor center at the entrance, we would take one of the short paths that led in that general direction, and stop at the Murie Science center.  I was anxious to move around.  Except the faint discomfort I'd started having underneath my left shoulder blade while watching the dog sled demo grew into more of an actual pain while we walked.  It was a strange pain I'd never experienced before, like someone was trying to either shove a knife from my spine toward the front of my ribcage and up underneath my shoulder blade, or hit me occasionally in that location with a sledgehammer.  Drawing a deep breath became difficult.  

When we got to the Murie center, I thought maybe sitting down would help.  It didn't. Sitting actually intensified the pain and made breathing in general a struggle.  I'm not one to panic, and I have a pretty high pain tolerance (4 births, all natural, not one single scream!!), but this was pretty intense and worrisome.  Any desire to hike was gone.

No, scratch that. I still wanted to hike.  I just knew that, right then in that condition, I couldn't hike. I wanted to hike, but I didn't want to keel over out on a hiking trail.  Alaska was not supposed to be the final trip on my bucket list. I could barely breathe.  I could barely keep from crying out.  Plus, my mind was going a hundred miles an hour trying to pinpoint and categorize exactly what was going on with my body, then do a memory search on what those things might be symptoms of or caused by. 

 Appendix?  Nope, too high and wrong side (although back at the RV, I did lay on my back and do a quick knees-to-chest check for appendix pain).  Heart?  Hmm, maybe, I have mysteriously had increasing high blood pressure this year and it was really high two weeks prior at the dentist, but an EKG the month before that had come back normal.  Mostly, though, it seemed to be deep muscular pain, especially the way I could definitely feel it near my spine and under my shoulder blade at the same time.  Lungs?  Possibly.  I was diagnosed with two calcified granulomas in my left lung last summer, possibly indicative of a condition known as farmer's lung.  With the location of the pain and the accompanying difficulty breathing, lungs couldn't be ruled out.  So, at least I wasn't having a heart attack, right?

DH and DD2 were getting a bit concerned about me.  They weren't so sure I wasn't having a heart attack.  To be sure, DD2 commanded me to "Cough really hard, that is supposed to restart your heart rhythm."  Not sure where she got that idea, but I did it to humor her.

We ended up cutting our visit to the Murie center short, so that I could go lay down in the RV (which helped ease the pain and make breathing less difficult) and take a shit ton large dose (800 mg worth) of Motrin for the pain.  It wasn't for the pain relief itself that I wanted the Motrin, it was for the muscle relaxing and anti-inflammatory ability of the ibuprofen.  That did the trick, although it took nearly an hour for the pain to go away enough that I could walk or sit comfortably and talk without coughing.

So much for getting to hike in Denali.  It was almost one o'clock by then, so we just hit the road back toward Anchorage. By bedtime that night, I was fine.  I'm thinking it was either my lungs, or I just had my first ever back spasm and it was incredibly nasty.  (DH occasionally has a spasm in his lower back that brings him to the floor; I've just never personally had one.) There had been a little niggling soreness in that area beginning a few days before, and I'd thought I was just uncomfortable from sleeping cramped up on my side in the RV's 'queen' sized bed with DH.  Maybe the (mostly bumpy) bus ride the previous day had inflamed that irritated muscle enough that sleeping on the bed again was just too much and I ended up with spasms?  Who knows.

Before it got difficult to breathe, I had managed to push away the pain enough to get interested in examining a really cool quilt that was hanging in the Murie center. It was a representation of Denali National Park, and it had basically been turned into a GIS map (DD2 was super geeked when she saw this; she had a class on GIS mapping last semester and knows how to take data and create a GIS map with it), then each category on the GIS had been given a fabric color and a quilted map was created. You could 'see' Denali and know what type of tree or terrain or water feature was predominant in a location by what color fabric was sewn there.  The entire border of the quilt was of different trees, animals, etc, that live within Denali.  Some of it featured applique or other special piecing techniques.  The quilting itself gave texture to the quilt and incorporated animal tracks (moose & wolf).  

Looking at it as a quilter, I was totally blown away.  Looking at it from a scientific mindset, the whole design, with the GIS mapping, was brilliant.  As a whole, that quilt is a masterpiece of art and science and a perfect example that they can and do exist together and don't need to be mutually exclusive.

I really wish my mystery back pain/breathing problem had waited long enough for us to get that one last hike in before leaving Denali.  Shortly after we left the park, the weather turned to rain, and the rain continued through the night.  I totally could have been in intense pain laying on the RV's bed, while DH drove in the rain.  If I could have scheduled it, that's the way it would have happened.  As it was, I felt okay and interested in hiking about the same time the weather got crappy.  So even though we'd planned to leave at 2:00 in order to stop on the way to Anchorage and do some hiking, yet be close to Anchorage by dinner time, nobody wanted to hike in the pouring rain.

Including DS2 and his friends, who still had another day and night in Denali's back-country, and ended up having to pack up and lug wet tents and other gear back to the airport.  Apparently we all picked a rainy spell to visit Alaska in.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Seward and the Alaska Sealife Center

DH, DD1, Honorary Son, DD2 and I spent almost an entire day in Seward.  DS2 and his friends spent three days in the Seward area doing some adventuring (involving a zodiac boat, an island, backpacking, swimming to an iceberg. . .) on their own.

Again, the weather was too cool and damp for DD2 and I to be excited by the thought of going out on the water, so we stayed on land while DH, DD1 & Honorary Son took a half-day cruise to see glaciers and whales (although a fog made viewing difficult).  DD2 and I explored Seward on foot, and checked out many of the indoor activities available there.

Seward is one of Alaska's more well known cities.  You'd think it would fairly large, right?  At least, I thought it might be sorta big.  I was surprised to find it has a population of less than 3,000 and you can walk from one end of town right out the other in roughly a mile.  There are lots of boats; it seemed to me that half the town is taken up by the marina and businesses related to that.  The other half is shops for tourists, restaurants, and the Alaska Sealife Center.

DD2 and I perused several of the shops, partly looking for souvenirs, partly for entertainment looking at the made in Alaska wares which typically incorporated antlers or whalebone or ivory.  There were many pretty objects to see, although with each "that's cool" DD2 or I exclaimed, the other would say "but what would you do with it?"  In other words, yeah it was neat, but it's only function seemed to be to look at.  We were looking for more practical souvenirs.

Like the sweatshirt DD2 bought with a moose on it that says 'Alaska'.  Like the ball cap with a stylized bear that says 'Alaska' and the knee-high socks, two pair--one with loudly colored bears and the other with a variety of Alaskan animals and their tracks, that I bought for myself.  The knee socks are intended to be worn with my breeches and riding boots.  Like the handful of postcards I bought to write on and send to K3, Toad, DS1 & K2, my parents, and a couple good friends (one of whom had jokingly told me "make sure you send me a postcard" and thus instilled the idea in my brain of what fun it was, as a kid, to get postcards from places visited by people you knew).

I liked Seward.  We spent hours walking the main road, and visiting the shops.  Included in that category was a book store, a yarn shop, and a quilting/fabric store.  The only thing that stopped us from dropping loads of cash in those venues was the fact that somehow we had to get anything we bought back home on the airplane with us.  We each had an allotted number of free checked bags, but now with DH's fish box in addition to the (overstuffed) suitcases we'd brought with us, we had no more free luggage left.  Neither of us wanted to pay for a box containing yarn and/or books and/or fabric to travel home by plane.  So we limited our purchases to what we could fit into our carry-on bags, which had little room unclaimed in them.  The sweatshirt, hat, socks, plus a skein of locally dyed sock yarn and a 2018 calendar with photos of Alaskan scenery were what we settled on.

One thing I found dis-likable about Seward was that it was very difficult to find somewhere for DD2 and I to buy lunch.  Not that there weren't about a hundred food establishments to choose from. It's that fish and seafood are very much part of Seward.  But neither of us can/will (me due to allergy, she due to personal taste) eat seafood or fish.  And it seemed like every darn restaurant we went to either smelled strongly of fish (the smell of cooked fish makes me almost as nauseous anymore as the smell of raw fish does) or there was nothing on their menu that didn't first live in the water.  We were getting pretty hungry, and more than a little grumpy, when we stumbled on what turned out to be a jackpot:  Zudy's Cafe.

Zudy's Cafe did not smell like fish.  It also had a menu that was not full of water creatures.  In fact, I can't recall if they had anything fish or seafood on their menu.  What they did have was a small cafe with friendly staff who gave great service, a quaint--if quirky--atmosphere, and awesome food.  If you ever go to Seward, I highly recommend you catch some lunch at Zudy's.  Both DD2 and I were delighted with our sandwiches. Lots of fresh veggies, fruits, and yummy (non-typical for a bought sandwich--not American, Swiss, Provolone, etc) cheeses in addition to the meat(s) and the panini bread.

inside Zudy's

every table had fresh flowers in a vase of some sort

After Zudy's, we spent the rest of our Seward trip inside the Alaska Sealife Center. They have some sea mammals, birds and fowl in residence, in addition to lots of aquatic creatures.  You can view things in tanks, you can watch videos, you can read and interact with displays.  And, our favorite part: you can stick your fingers in several 'touch tanks' and actually touch starfish, sea anemone, sea cucumbers, sea urchins and other things you'd never thought of poking your finger into before!

this harbor seal kept trying to get something off the bottom of it's tank

There was also the most amazing artwork on display.  It was watercolor on canvas, and as someone who once upon a time did a little watercolor work (I loved art classes in junior and senior high school) I found the paintings fascinating.  Not just in the bold colors and depth of pigment used, but also the use of space and how the artist depicted her subjects. I possibly took more pictures of the artwork than I did of the actual living creatures.  All the artwork is by V. Rae.

Seward was probably one of my favorite stops on vacation.  In addition to the shops, the Alaska Sealife Center, Zudy's Cafe (YUM!!), the boating/fishing, it also has a number of murals painted on various buildings.

my favorite mural

If all of that isn't enough, Seward boasts to have lots of hiking trails.  Unfortunately we didn't have time for hiking there (next trip, maybe?) as we had to get DD1 and Honorary Son back to Anchorage in time for a midnight flight home to Michigan.

After taking dropping them at the airport, it was time to head for Denali!