Seward Highway, Alaska, USA

26 - 28 July 2014

The drizzly weather didn't really do justice to the stunning views on the Seward Highway, neither did the volume of traffic. It seemed that every tourist in Alaska and most of the population of Anchorage were headed south to the Kenai Peninsula that weekend.

Phil dabbled at fishing the river running alongside the highway but with little success.

Luckily by the time we reached Seward, things were brightening up and despite the huge number of visitors, we had no problem getting a camping spot in one of the many campgrounds along the beach, provided by the town.

Fishing alongside the Seward Highway

How good are you at pole climbing?

We had the chance to augment our National Parks fridge magnet collection. Although with the exception of Exit Glacier, the Kenai Fjords National Park was only accessible by boat, the visitor centre was far more accessible, located in downtown Seward.

After this we were off to the excellent Alaska Sealife Center, at the opposite end of town. As we strolled down the main street, it seemed that people in Seward were rather partial to Chinese food, as every second building seemed to be a Chinese restaurant!

At the Sealife Center we were able to get up close and personal with native Alaskan sealife, mostly rescue animals, some being rehabilitated for release and those which couldn't staying as ambassadors for their wild relatives.

Downtown Seward

Hey Bert, are those weird looking animals with legs still looking at us?

In the sea bird enclosure we had to duck as puffins, Kittiwakes and other native seabirds flew overhead. It seemed the birds had invented a game, each time a human brings out a camera, start preening yourself and see how long you can make them wait for the photo they want!

Puffin and his tufted cousin.

We left the Center to be greeted with the wonderful spectacle of a rainbow spanning the mountains across the bay.

Camping right in a town being such a novelty to us, we decided on an after dinner stroll, which brought us to the town's fish cleaning station. Here hard-working fishermen and women were efficiently gutting and filleting their day's catch at the speed only an expert can.

Seward's fish cleaning station

Campground view.

Exit Glacier

On our way northwards again the next morning, we hiked to Exit Glacier. We were early enough to more or less have the place to ourselves to enjoy the beautiful views in peace.

Keen to get away from the busy weekend road traffic, we stopped a while later at Ptarmigan Creek campground. Here we planned to hike up to lower Ptarmigan Lake. Phil was prepared, dressed in his waders, to fish the creek along the way. The hike proved longer and more challenging that we'd thought.

At a point where we thought, based on the mileage we'd been told, that we must have almost reached the lake, two forestry workers told us we were only about halfway. At this point Phil was already melting in his waders, from hiking up the steep trail, which had led us far away from the creek. We decided to head back so Phil could fish the creek we'd walked along earlier, while Christine could fill her hat with wild blueberries.

Ptarmigan Creek

Our next stop was at the Russian River, a famous fishing hot spot on the Kenai Peninsula. We were greeted, on requesting a camping site for the night at about 10 am, by being told that we would have to go on the standby list and return at 5 pm, to find out if we were allocated a spot. This gave us a clue about how busy the river would be, as the salmon were already making their way upstream to spawn.

We spent half a day walking the river and fishing, having some success before we tired of the crowds and headed instead to the quieter Crescent Creek. That river had also been recommended by the local fly shop and had only 9 campsites. Despite the rain, there Phil enjoyed his first experience of fishing for Dolly Varden on this peaceful stretch of water.

Finally a quiet spot on the Russian River

Phil's first Dolly, luckily all the others were bigger!

That's more like it!

Sockeye salmon heading upstream in their best spawning colours.

Before we headed to Homer the next day, Phil was back on the water, improving his Dolly fishing skills, with great success. Although the water was quiet in terms of the human activity, it was boiling with bright red salmon making their way upstream, finally getting some peace from the fishermen as the river was closed to salmon fishing.

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