Seward and the (Seemingly) Neverending Exit Glacier

Please note, this post is part of a series. Click here to read it from the beginning.

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Continuing our journey around the Kenai Peninsula, we headed to Seward. I’ve heard that cruise ships regularly stop here, but thankfully there were none there when we arrived. Due to changing ferry schedules, I only got to stay in Seward one night. On the condition it was minus the cruise ship passengers, I would have liked more time there. There is something very quaint and traditional about the town, which says a lot in a state where everything is practical in design and had to be rebuilt after the 1964 earthquake.

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Seward was our entry point for hiking to the top of the Exit Glacier. If you’re looking for a leisurely stroll, then this is not for you. Out of our group of eight, only four made it to the top. The entire hike, up and down, with A LOT of near vertical, is about 7 miles. We did start to question the miles markers, though. We’d trek for an hour, only to find the next mile marker telling us we’d covered less than half a mile.

Year markers show how much the glacier has receded.
Year markers show how much the glacier has receded.

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You don’t have to make it all the way to the top to see the glacier, there are lots of great photo opportunities on the way. Although it’s all tough, the last third is by far the hardest. There was thick snow on the ground by this point, slowing us down even more. There are lots of false horizons too. Just as we’d get our hopes up that we were near the top, we’d see yet another hill in front of us with a line of orange route markers dotted up it. If you do manage to battle the slope, snow and rocks, the view of the Harding Ice Field from the top is definitely worth it. A white landscape stretches for as far as you can see. I feel privileged that I’ve been able to witness it, but then also saddened that for future generations the glacier and ice field, along with many others, will simply be a thing of history.

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It took us two hours to descend back to the car park, and my reward was a hot shower at the Hotel Seward. Ms Gene bought the hotel just a couple of weeks before the earthquake in 1964. As well as repairing the hotel, she helped other locals in Seward to rebuild. A true example of the Alaskan spirit of survival.

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Hanging Out in Homer

Please note this post is part of a series. Click here to read it from the beginning.

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It’s only when you start to travel from one point to another in Alaska that you realise just how big the state is. After meeting up with my G Adventures group in Anchorage, our guide Miles drove us to Homer.

There are two parts to Homer, downtown and The Spit. Downtown is fairly boring, but practical. That’s where you go if you need grocery shopping. The Spit is where all the action is. The long, thin strip of land that protrudes out into the water feels like it could be washed away at any minute. It apparently used to be wider, but a lot of the land was lost to the 1964 earthquake. Now, artists’ studios and fish restaurants balance on stilts out into the water. Sea otters regularly float by on their backs, and bald eagles here are known as the ‘Homer pigeon’ due to their high numbers. We ate at one of the restaurants overlooking the water. Afterย a few sighs and the sucking of teeth from the waiter, he decided that yes they could rustle up a vegan, gluten-free meal for me. He produced some grilled veggies in coconut milk on brown rice, which was fine for me. I noticed that I still paid the same as everyone else, but I wasn’t complaining. It irked me that he kept addressing me as ‘no protein’. I desperately wanted to point out that my meal contained lots of protein, it just wasn’t from animals, but I bit my tongue. The waiter stressed that they were ‘really busy’ as it was Fathers Day – with a population of less than 5000 I wondered just how busy it could be.

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We spent 2 nights in Homer. While one of our travelling companions went halibut fishing to catch dinner for the rest of the group, the remaining nine of us caught a water taxi across the bay and hiked up to a glacial lake. I’ve walked and skied on glaciers before, but this is the first one I have visited that ends in a lake. As soon as we left the green forest we had trekked through and walked onto the lakeside the air was noticeably cooler. Icebergs floated in the water, another first for me. We had the lake all to ourselves while we ate our lunch, then when more hikers turned up and disturbed our peace we decided to head back down. The trail leads back another way, zigzagging down the mountain to a secluded beach where we waited for the water taxi to come and collect us. The tranquillity of the moment was only shattered by a screaming American kid upset with his brother and complaining about having to be in a row boat with him. We figured, though, that at least his screaming would keep the bears away.

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