Seward: Alaska’s 4th of July HQ

We deliberately planned our Alaska itinerary so we could be in Seward for the fourth of July. Seward is kind of the center of the July 4th universe in Alaska, where the town of about 3,000 residents balloons to about 30,000 for the weekend. The beautiful setting, great weather, and expansive camping opportunities are just the start of the attraction. We’ll break it down.

Seward sits at the foot of Mount Marathon, a 3,000 foot vertical climb on less than a mile and a half trail. The infamous Mount Marathon race is run every fourth of July and draws crazy trail runners from all over.

How crazy? The leading racers run the top of the mountain in about 35 minutes and descend in about 10 minutes. We watched the men’s and women’s race from downtown with binoculars and cheered the runners on as they crossed the finish line. Here’s this year’s winner, Max King, nearing the finish with a final time of 43:37.

In between the men’s and women’s races the town hosts a parade right down the race course and everyone turns out! 

We weren’t crazy enough to hike the runner’s trail but we did take on the Mt Marathon hiker’s trail, which is a little longer and more scenic. Still very steep, the hike afforded us great views of the town and harbor and gave us a sense of what it might be like to take on the race challenge. 

Fourth of July wouldn’t be complete without fireworks, and Seward puts on a show. We took our chairs to the harbor and watched the fun boat parade at 11:00 p.m.

The fireworks show followed at 12:01 a.m. on the morning of July 4th. We think the hour had something to do with the fact that it doesn’t get dark until after 11:00 p.m. Here a few shots with the bursts over Mt. Marathon.

When we last posted a blog the guys were out fishing. Well, it was a successful trip as the waters near Seward are very fertile. They came home with bags of fillets that totaled four pounds of rockfish, 12 pounds of halibut, and 29 pounds of cod!

We tried to package it up and freeze it but eventually took it to the professionals when we realized what a job we had before us!

After leaving Seward we spent a few nights in the small Russian village of Ninilchik. The cute Russian Orthodox church that overlooks Cook Inlet kept us mesmerized. It’s a popular stop on the way to Homer.

Then Steve caught another 14 pounds of Halibut on a day trip out of Ninilchik. What are we going to do with all this fish?

Steve continues to shoot the flowers that abound in Alaska this time of year. Here are a few from our time in and around Seward.

Our next stop is Homer, and oh boy is that gonna be fun!

Fayetteville is My Favorite ‘Ville’

Fayetteville is very cool! Our primary draw to this area was to attend the US Trail Running Conference and participate in the Spartan Trail US championship races. But there’s so much more. 

We camped at a new campground, Hog Valley RV & Treehouse Resort, just 10 minutes from downtown Fayetteville, which gave us easy access to the University of Arkansas, a great downtown area, and Kessler Mountain Regional Park, which is well known for its hiking and biking trails. Kessler Mountain Park is where we started.

We hadn’t been here an hour before we set out on the trails to explore where our races would be held the following weekend. The fall colors made for a spectacular hike. And check out those bike trails! We are certainly not in Prescott anymore!

We had a few good days during the week in which to explore Fayetteville, and we took in some live music at George’s Majestic Lounge, which seems to be the place in town. In the process we discovered a great new band, The Arcadian Wild. Check them out!

Then the rain began. It rained and blew and turned cold for three days. We enjoyed one day in the trailer just listening to the rain, reading, and hanging out.

Rain and more rain…Brr…

By the second day we were ready to explore. Despite the weather we headed up to Bentonville where we visited last year. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is one of the most incredible art museums we’ve ever seen, and a rainy day was the perfect invitation to explore it again.

Luckily, the bad weather cleared for the weekend and our race activities. On Saturday we attended a conference for trail runners, which provided us with some new perspectives about the sport.

The big event was Sunday morning which greeted us with clear skies and cool but tolerable weather. I ran the 10K and while I wasn’t fast, I wasn’t last. It feels good to be able to take on challenges like this again after two foot surgeries last year. 

Steve took on the challenge of the 50K, which is about 31 miles of running on trails. He’s done one race like this before, the Whiskey Basin Trail Run in Prescott which is 54 miles.

Still, the Arkansas hills, with many rocks, roots, and wet leaves proved to be a challenging event. He finished the course in about 7 1/2 hours and only suffered a skinned knee and some sore muscles. Now Arkansas is counted as another state where he’s finished a marathon or more. Only 27 more states to go! Next up is a marathon in Florida in a few weeks!