We hit the road early Saturday morning in a downpour, which was actually the first real rain storm we've had all summer. After a quick stop in Cooper Landing to peek over the bridge and get some coffee, we arrived in Seward shortly before lunch time. It was still raining, which was not a surprise, so we took cover at the Bakery at the Harbor for lunch. After lunch, it was still raining, so we went to the only indoor attraction around- the Alaska SeaLife Center. I think we were spoiled by the Mystic Aquarium. Both aquariums have Alaskan animal exhibits, but the one in Mystic surprisingly has a much better layout and more exhibits that small kids will enjoy. Even with Little Man getting in for free and the rest of us getting a military discount, we spent nearly $50 on admission and were pushing it to keep the kids occupied for an hour before getting bored. For adults and much older kids, it may be more interesting as there are lots of things to read about at each exhibit and some really cool artwork to enjoy.
Watching the harbor seals
Next we headed to check into our cabin at Abode Well, which is located on Old Exit Glacier Road. It's just far enough out of town to be quiet and peaceful, yet close enough to be a 10-minute drive to the shops and restaurants. We stayed in their family cabin, which has 2 bedrooms, a full kitchen, and sleeps up to 8 people. We're so glad to have found it, as it will be a great place to stay next summer when we will have lots of family members headed our way.
Before dinner, we made a quick trip (still in the rain) to Exit Glacier. We've seen glaciers before, so it wasn't anything new to us. The thing that makes this glacier special is its location. To get there you travel through the Resurrection River valley, surrounded by towering mountains. The drive alone is worth the trip. Since Exit Glacier is part of Kenai Fjords National Park, it has a great visitors center with a park ranger on hand to answer questions. We were able to fit in a walk of the Glacier View Loop trail, and hope to go back next time and take the trail that goes right up the glacier's "toe"--which apparently is what they call where the glacier meets the water.
Next it was on the the Exit Glacier Salmon Bake for dinner. The LT had been there several times before when the ship he was stationed on in Kodiak spent time drydocked in Seward, so we knew what to expect. Or so we thought. We have decided that the halibut nuggets were, surprisingly, the best fried halibut we have ever had. Ever. Yum! It was so good, in fact, that we considered going for dinner again the next night.
After dinner, we returned to our cabin tucked in the woods, where the kids were able to go to bed- in separate rooms, even- while we enjoyed the lack of TV (oh, but we had a computer...and wifi...and may have watched an episode of The Glades) before turning in ourselves.
Sunday morning we woke up to clearing skies and made a quick breakfast in the cabin's kitchen before heading to Lowell Point for a hike that was recommended to us by another Coast Guard family who recently moved from Seward. Our destination was Tonsina Creek via the Coastal Trail. We weren't quite sure how long the hike was going to be, since every map and description of the trail we came across showed a different distance. We're pretty sure it was between 3 and 4 miles round-trip. The kids are turning out to be great little hikers, and no one complained of being tired until halfway through the return trip. The trail was very muddy, and had actually turned into a stream at some spots, due to the several preceding rainy days, but lucky for us the sun was finally shining. The last portion of the hike, down several switchbacks to Tonsina Creek, gave spectacular views of the mountains and bay. The creek itself was full of spawning salmon (which is why we were warned of bears in the area, but didn't see any) and lots of seagulls eating lunch.
View from Tonsina Creek
We picked up lunch for ourselves again at the Bakery at the Harbor, mainly because it was the only place we knew that we could get something easy to go, but were disappointed for the second time in a row with their service. The food was okay, but nothing as exciting as its status of #2 restaurant in Seward on TripAdvisor makes it out to be. We enjoyed the layout of the Family Cabin once again while the kids napped, and then it was on to the highlight of our weekend--the sled dog tour!
We all had a favorite part of meeting with the sled dogs and going for a ride (which in the summer is on a wheeled "sled" that seats 6 and is equipped with hydraulic breaks because the dogs are so strong). I loved watching the yard full of dogs jump around and bark while the mushers were choosing who got to go for a run. You could tell they were just so excited that they couldn't stand it...it's obvious that these dogs love what they do. The kids loved the ride itself. Adventure Girl grabbed my hand several times while the dogs were racing ahead to whisper, "This is so cool." Little Man loved watching the dogs take breaks along the way (they stop frequently on summer runs to keep cool, as they are used to racing in temperatures of 30-40 below zero). Each stop they sniffed around and constantly looked back at the musher to see if they were allowed to run again. I think The LT's favorite part was meeting the 9-week-old puppies. They were cuddly and adorable, and not nearly as crazy as you expect puppies to be. Our tour ended with a demonstration of the gear that the dogs and mushers wear while racing, and a chance to try it all out ourselves. The kids chose a book about sled dogs from the gift shop before we walked back to our cabin. Along the way we came across several little bunnies!
"Pick me, pick me!"
Getting harnessed up
Since the ground was still pretty wet, we decided to forgo our plans of a campfire with hot dogs and s'mores and instead headed back to town for dinner. We ended up at the Railway Cantina, which turned out to be just perfect for us- affordable, delicious, fast, and a great view of town. Then we walked down the street for some ice cream and a quick visit to the harbor before heading back to the cabin.
Right after we put the kids to bed, The LT spied a black bear right outside our window, eating the berries from the tops of the devil's club plants. We got the kids back up to watch it roam the grounds for awhile before it disappeared back into the forest. We're glad we got the chance to observe the bear from inside rather than come across one while out hiking!
Right out our window!!
The next morning it was rainy again and time to head home. What a great way to spend the last days of summer! We will definitely be returning to Seward next year, as we now have a list of other places there that we didn't get a chance to visit.