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!

Animals and Views on the Kenai Peninsula

We’ve been on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula for almost two weeks, so there’s a lot of catching up to do.

We began our exploration of the peninsula in Soldotna. Based at the Klondike RV Park, we could walk to the famed Kenai River.  We had a week in this area, and the guys spent two days fishing with a guide. First they went out on the Kasilof River and then out on the Kenai. Unfortunately, the salmon run is late and light this year, and the guys were shut out (except for a catch and release trout and a great moose sighting). We’re hoping the fishing improves as the summer moves along. 

While in Soldotna, we enjoyed the local farmer’s market, hiked to the nearby Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center, and saw several moose. We checked out the town of Kenai and its Russian roots.

On another day we drove up to the Russian River and hiked to the falls to see the salmon. Of course, salmon fishing was not allowed in that area but there were a lot of those suckers trying to get up stream! 

After a week we moved to the eastern side of the peninsula to the town of Seward. Kenai Fjords National Park is based here and is accessible mostly by boat. On our first full day we set out on a six-hour cruise to see what the park was all about. One word: whales!

Within 20 minutes of setting sail, a gigantic Humpback surfaced right in front of the boat. Within 30 minutes we were watching a rare and exciting Humpback whale behavior: bubble-net feeding.  Bubble-net feeding is a cooperative, learned feeding method where the whales circle a school of fish and together disorient and corral the fish into a “net” of bubbles. Once one whale sounds the feeding call, which we could hear with an underwater microphone, the whales swim to the surface at once. It’s quite spectacular, and we watched it happen about a half dozen times. 

After this incredibly lucky start, we rounded out the day with Orcas, Stellar Sea Lions, a few Sea Otters, and the spectacular Aialik Glacier. If you ever find yourself in Seward and can do just one thing, we recommend the Major Marine cruise through Kenai Fjords National Park. 

You know we like to hike, and the Tonsina Point hike to the beach at Resurrection Bay was a good choice. Over about four miles we passed through lush rainforests, all the while watching for bears (we didn’t see any).

The trail ends at a vast black sand/gravel beach on Resurrection Bay, at right about the point where we saw the whales the day before. Ringed by snow-capped mountains, this view is about as good as it gets. Plus, Bob enjoyed the adventure, and it was pretty good exercise!

Kenai Fjords National Park is actually accessible by car in one place. Exit Glacier is rapidly receding, as indicate by the year markers along the road and trail.

We walked to the overlook, which at one time was bordered by ice. Now it’s a bit of a distance to the icefield, but the landscape illustrates the power the ice has in carving canyons and rivers. We had a beautiful day for a photoshoot.

The town of Seward offers a lot of fun and we are checking it all out. One day we hit the Alaska Sealife Center to learn more about ocean creatures and efforts to preserve our environment. The boat harbor in Seward is very scenic and is ringed with shops, hotels, and restaurants, which we enjoyed. We also found a fun, hole-in-the-wall bar, called the Pit Bar, that is open until 5AM. Don’t worry… we were there for just a little bit one afternoon.

As you can see, Sam has easily settled into RV life. Everyone is so happy he’s here!

Today the guys are out on an all-day halibut fishing trip. We’re hoping today will be a big payday.  Tune in next week when we’ll give you the results and a summary of Seward’s Fourth of July festivities. It’s supposed to be big!