© 2011 jemma

Mixing it up in Seward

So here’s what happened. After camping – based out of Seward – we went back to Anchorage for two nights and then got on a bus back to Seward. We really just missed it that much!! Hahaha.

No…we didn’t get to explore Seward at all when we were staying there, so we decided to head back and see more sights. I found the cheapest bus to Seward – $220 return, I know, cheap? – and we were picked up at our hotel and driven to the bus depot. We should have been worried when we were picked up by a guy in his family car, but I think we really should have started worrying when we got to the depot to find a run down building and a run down bus.

Now the driver of the bus was an elderly gent who was loud and obnoxious and took a fancy to a group of Japanese adventurers who spoke very little English. In my head, they had gotten this far with what they knew, climbed a few mountains (by the look of their mountain sunburn) and didn’t need some old guy hell bent on finding an interpreter by ringing all his ‘friends’ in Seward who owned factories and yelling at them. Besides they had said they wanted to go to harbour quite clearly if the old guy would have shut up and listened.

So we set off to Seward, the crazy old bus driver, scared us, random tourists, the Japanese guys and a group of Russians going to work for $7 an hour at a Seward fish processing plant. It was a great drive and only mentionable because of the fact that we almost died several times from breaking, swerving all over the road and the old guy yelling at the council of Seward many times on his mobile…hence the swerving. Oh and he was VERY liberal with the horn, not even the swans were immune re: other posts.

Lets just say the return was VERY similar, only this time we went through a few read lights, he pretty much drove on the ripple strip the whole way and Jess and I and this other lady received some great whiplash! Needless to say, he didn’t get a tip.

So we eventually got to Seward in the late afternoon and spent the evening shopping at Safeway and walking about town. Exciting I know, two minute noodles for dinner was a highlight!

The next day Jess and I woke to rain – very common here – and so we decided to head to the Sea life centre because climbing Mount Marathon was not an option in the rain. The Sea Life centre is an educational facility designed to inform the public about the marine area surrounding Seward and the Kenai Peninsula. You are even able to watch a TV channel in Seward that watches a Stellar seal colony off the coast. It was on this channel I saw a seal pup being born!

When you have finished walking through all the educational rooms that basically tell you everything is dying and the jellyfish are taking over, you get to see the aquariums with all the fish, shrimp and octopus that live under the sea. They are really cool, except for the halibut which look absolutely disgusting and weird.

The three biggest exhibits they have is the puffin and water foal, the Stella sea lions and the harbour seals exhibits. We walked into the water foul exhibit to find a tufted puffin sleeping soundly on the edge of the water tank and a rhinocerous auklet sleeping soundly on the rocks, so close to you that you could touch them – you weren’t allowed to though.

It was fun watching the birds fly around, swim and dive into the depths to swim around the big fish living below. We even got to see a pregnant cod. I felt a bit sorry for the gulls however who kept flying into the net trying to find freedom. A funny moment was when two guys arrived in the exhibit for their ‘puffin encounter’ to feed the puffins, but no puffins wanted to be fed. Only all the other birds.

Next to the puffins lives the biggest Stellar sea lion male I have ever seen. His name is Woody and he weighs over a ton and his girlfriends name is Sugar and she is about 1/4 of his weight. I don’t think that is fair! He is huge and I would not like to meet him if I were in a kayak. We watched him being fed and he is loud, noisy and has very bad breath! You can see how big and cranky he is from the photos!!! Woody is in trouble though because he is not doing his job and making babies.

On the way back from the Sea life centre into town, we saw a horse and buggy coming towards us. We took a photo and the man stopped to talk to us. We chatted merrily and he said he would give us a free ride into town. He had just started his business talking tourists around town and doing historical tours. He was interesting to talk to and his Clydesdale Ian was a beautiful horse – shame about the name. It was good to get a free ride too, because apparently it was expensive!

The next day was pretty much a non event. It poured all day!! Not a day for climbing, not a day for even leaving to hotel. A nothing crappy day. We eventually did leave the hotel in the rain and bought a sundae to cheer us up. It did for a little while. From the sundae shop we walked around the harbour where we found out the Stanley cup final were playing, so we decided to have an early dinner at Ray’s and watch the AWFUL VANCOUVER CANUCKS get DEMORALISED by the Boston Bruins. Lucky we weren’t in Van and missed the riots.

Thursday was sunny, very sunny and that meant it was time to climb the mountain. From everyone we talked to it was going to be awesome. Every year in Seward they run the Mount Marathon race and Allen our camping guide had done it a couple of times. It’s a dangerous race in which many people get hurt, but the fastest person can do it in 45minutes. They get hurt as it turns out because first you have to climb a cliff, then run (hike quickly) up a steep slope through bushes, then run (hike quickly) up the scree and rock climb up a few head walls of sharp shale, then run to the top, turn around then run as fast as you can down the scree in the avalanche chute, down a waterfall and then down another chute to the bottom. It finishes at the hospital if you get my drift.

We didn’t know all the above information before we left for the hike. The only tip we were given is to hold your hands on your legs, don’t grab grass/roots to balance and to take the wider less steep side track to stay away from the cliff and then cut across onto the race track. Oh and also talk loudly to scare away bears. We didn’t see any so my talking worked. Jess puffed loudly so I think that worked well too. 🙂

We weren’t out to race, just enjoy an early afternoons hike in the sunshine. We stopped a lot along the way to take in all the views and catch our breath. It took a lot of concentration to get up the slippery slopes and not fall back down. By the time we were half way my calves were on fire! At the half way mark we were at the scree and had to climb up an even steeper slippery slope in the wind. The best was when you had to rock climb and try not to cut yourself on the shale and find a piece of shale to plant your foot that wasn’t going to move.

When we finally made it to the top the view was amazing. Jess admitted he was a little scared going up the shale and I had to admit I was more scared of going down. 45minutes of shale walking will take it out of you though, and so we stopped for snacks at the top and watched some mountain goats on the mountains behind us. It was well worth the hard work and fear just to sit at the top and admire the views that stretched far and wide around us.

Then it was time to go down. We chose an easier path that for the first 5 minutes didn’t involve us risking our necks at the beginning of the avalanche chute in the snow drift. The easiest way to go down is to run down the scree. It is like skiing on rocks, you step once and the rocks move you about a metre. It does however leave you a little breathless, but once you are in a groove it is pretty fun. Jess took to it straight away bounding his way down the rocks well ahead of conservative me, he was certainly winning whatever race he was running.

The scree track got very steep about halfway down and ahead of us we could see a family who had decided to do it on their bottoms. Not us however, we bounded down faster than ever until we reached the waterfall. It’s always exciting when a perfectly good track turns into a waterfall/ stream. Gives you a wake up call in concentration, you know, it’s all fun and games until you fall over on a thin ice bridge kinda thing. At least unlike Jess I didn’t grab the spiky devils club!

We got lost on the last third of the track and missed the last downhill chute. You have to envisage a single track with half a dozen other tracks off it and no signs to tell you where to go. So instead of going down the chute we ended up having to go down the cliff. I know – sounds like fun! It was though, however I did get angry at one point when Jess was getting rocks out of his boot and it rolled 10m away down a cliff onto a ledge.

We eventually made it down though thanks to the many tree roots and rocks and were even laughed at by some local girls for going the wrong way. Made us feel special though because we did what the locals wouldn’t do! How cool are we!

On the way back to the hotel though the three hours of solid hiking had taken there toll and we were well and truly stuffed. The lady back at the hotel was proud of us though, but her husband told her she probably should have given us more information about the hike besides take a picnic. She said she thought that if she had told us we wouldn’t have gone. We would have though and we are proud of ourselves for doing it!

The next day was our ride back to Anchorage.

I think I would have preferred to climb Mount Marathon again!