Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Summer blows away and quietly gets swallowed by a wave

Way back in October, I posted the first recap of my September trip to Anchorage. And then I sort of forgot about the whole thing until recently. Mostly I put it off because I had almost 500 photos from the trip, and no time to sort them out. But I finally found a bit of time, so here's the story of our adventure at sea. The meeting I went up there for was over on Wednesday night, and on Thursday the host had arranged to rent a van and drive us down to Seward to go on a glacier cruise.

The weather was terrible -- cold, gray, windy, rainy -- but the drive from Anchorage to Seward was stunning. (Unfortunately, photographing it from a moving car in the rain wasn't quite the best way to capture it.)

The cruise was supposed to be an all-day affair, but as soon as we got to the dock we found out that the weather was going to cut our cruise short. We were supposed to do the whole National Park Cruise, but a squall had blown up overnight, and the water out in the Gulf of Alaska was way too rough. I have to admit that I was disappointed at first, though once we got out onto the pier and saw the boats, I got over it and started to get excited.

This one's ours

I hadn't been on a boat since I took a wildlife cruise on James Bay during a college trip back in 2002, so I was kind of nervous that I'd get seasick. At the beginning of the trip, I did start to feel a bit ooky, but once the captain gave the word that we could go outside, we headed up to the top deck and I felt a lot better. Then I started to worry about my mom just a bit, because she's not usually a big fan of wind or cold weather, and she actually hadn't ever been on a big boat before.

We had to stay within the shelter of Resurrection Bay for the whole cruise, and even then the ride was pretty wild. We found out about midway through the trip that we were getting 10-foot seas, with a few 12-footers thrown in for kicks. It's hard to describe how crazy the ride was. We were almost always holding on to something. When the captain advised us to stand in the middle of the upper deck (where we were somewhat sheltered behind the upper cabin) we had to kind of let go of the rail and make a hail mary dive for the bars on the backs of the deck seats. My officemate and his girlfriend spent most of the cruise on the lower deck at the back, and he told me later that there were points where we'd hit a trough, and the wave coming up behind was taller than the freaking boat.

wicked-cool rock slide

In the cabin, people were dropping like flies. Probably 2/3 of the passengers ended up getting sick. We went inside one time, but then I started to feel ill and so we went back out and stayed out for the rest of the trip. It was cold as hell, wet, windy, and it was a damn good time. My mom? TOTALLY bad-ass. She's a shy, vastly stereotypical Midwestern library bookshelver, for God's sake, and she LOVED being out on this crazy wave-tossed boat in the freezing spray.

Now, quite obviously the captain could not control the weather and because of the constraints of our trip we could not come back on a better day, but I was somewhat disappointed that we didn't get to see more of the glaciers. We were supposed to get right up against Bear Glacier, possibly even be able to reach out and grab a piece of it, but this is about as close as we could get:

still pretty incredible, even from far away

To get this (not very) close, we almost had to leave the shelter of Resurrection Bay, and the water got pretty insane. At one point the captain was looking for a certain rock where sea lions usually hang out, and then realized that the storm the night before had smashed the rock to pieces.

After the glacier, we went into a beautiful, (relatively) calm cove. I have no idea where we were on the map, but this place was breathtaking. The water was this insane blue-green and we could see the gorgeous pine trees surrounding us.

slice. of. heaven.
No lie, wouldn't this be the fucking COOLEST vacation home EVER?? I covet.

More pretty:

And finally! At long last! Sea lions!

They were really huddled together on their rock, and who could blame them? Between the boat rising and falling several feet at a time and the spray and the wind, it was hard to get a good shot of them.

I put a bunch of photos of the drive and the cruise on Flickr, in case you're not sick of them yet. There are also a few videos, if you want to hear my big mouth for yourself. If you ever make it to Seward, I definitely 150% recommend taking a cruise with Kenai Fjords Tours. I promise they are not paying me to say it, they don't even know I'm talking about them, but I was so impressed with everything about our tour. The weather was atrocious and we still had a fantastic time. Rock. On.


  1. I think I should be honest and admit that I'm wildly jealous of you for this trip. The pictures are gorgeous!

  2. Stunningly beautiful. I've always wanted to get to Alaska. Should have gone when I was living in Seattle - now it's a bit more of a trip!