Current news – This blog may be the last for a week or two, tomorrow we backtrack to the Grand canyon before resuming our journey south again toward Mexico.
In this blog we are heading down the Kenai peninsula to Seward, Alaska.
Leaving Wasilla we paused briefly as these cute old trucks outside a closed cafe caught our eye.
The obvious next stop was Anchorage but we decided to ride straight through and head down the Kenai peninsula to Seward and Homer and then explore Anchorage on the way back. The ride down to Seward was brilliant hugging the water all the 68 miles down past Turnagain arm named by William Bligh (Cook’s sailing master and later mutineer on “The Bounty”) after orders from Cook to explore the two inlets led to the frustration of having to Turn again on the second inlet.
The railway parallels the road for a lot of the way and the views across the bay were spectacular. It took a while as you have to go the long way around skirting the wet stuff but we got into Seward at about 8pm.
As part of Cook’s inlet Turnagain arm is tidal and with the tide out we saw the mud flats.
One of the views looked out towards Portage pass an important land gateway between Turnagain arm and the open sea of Prince William sound.
It still wasn’t getting dark until about 11pm so light wasn’t an issue as we set up camp and cooked dinner on the excellent shore front campsite which ran almost the whole length of the town. The price for camping was a very reasonable $10 and we were looking straight out over the bay with glaciers visible on the far side and a cruise ship passing by. Behind us was the mountains and we even saw a black bear foraging for food high on the hills just past the snow.
While Kev was photographing the scenery he stumbled across this unusual looking kayak, we used to like kayaking and canoeing at home so it aroused his curiosity, he could see that it looked like it had an engine compartment at the back. After a few minutes its owner appeared so Kev asked about it, it’s called a Mokai and is powered by a small single cylinder Subaru engine with a hydro jet on the back of it like a mini jet boat. What a great invention, we never even knew such a thing existed.
When we were setting up camp Kev also noticed a little rabbit sitting on the lawn of the house opposite, it was really close to the road and every time a vehicle came by it would cower down. He was a bit concerned it had escaped from its hutch as it was obviously not wild so he went over and knocked on the door of the house saying “Excuse me but I think your rabbit might have got out” to the owner. “Ah” she said don’t be worrying about them there are lots of them around town. Apparently an old local man had bred lots of rabbits and when he had to go into a home he just released them all, they fend for themselves and obviously seem to do alright although the odd one gets carried off by an eagle now and again.
After dinner we decided to make the most of a campsite right in the middle of town and go for a wander around. Although we knew we were heading into Tsunami zones we thought this evacuation route a little hard to achieve except maybe by flying.
The sound of some good blues slide guitar caught our attention and lured us into a bar. There were all sorts of memorabilia and knickknacks dotted around the place including life preservers from several ships hanging from the ceiling along with hundreds of one dollar bills, it had a good atmosphere so we ordered a couple of beers and sat at the bar enjoying the music for an hour or so.
When we got back from town we were invited over by a group of locals to join them by their campfire for a beer. They were curious about us and wanted to know what we were doing on this strange-looking motorcycle. They were down from Anchorage for a few days to go fishing in their traditional Alaskan fishing boats. This was a close as we got to a sunset that night.
Seward makes its living primarily from fishing and tourism but thankfully like a lot of Alaskan towns it isn’t overly touristy and retains some of its old world charm. It gets its name from William Henry Seward the politician who brokered the deal to buy Alaska from the Russians. The bay interestingly though named Resurrection Bay was discovered and named by the Russian Alexander Baranov when he was forced to shelter here from a storm on Easter Sunday when Alaska was still a Russian province.
If you didn’t know, Alaska was a Russian colony up until 1867 when America reluctantly bought the entire province for 7 million dollars. Russia had run Alaska as a fur trading colony and had all but exterminated the sea otter and beaver population to feed the demand for fur. Hence Russia was glad to be rid of what its leaders considered a spent resource. At the time it was regarded an idiotic decision for America to buy it, Alaska was seen by the lower 48 states as a useless frozen wilderness and the deal to purchase it was known as the time as Seward’s Folly or Seward’s Icebox. How different history might have been had this transfer of ownership had not occurred.
In 1867 the steamer John L Stevens bought the first 250 American soldiers to the former Russian settlement of Sitka to “govern” Alaska the new colony.
In 1903 the steamer Santa Ana landed in Resurrection Bay and founded the town of Seward with the intention of it becoming the hub for the Alaska Central railway. They underestimated the task ahead and the railway quickly went bust but some of the rail beds became part of a network of dog sled trails into the interior of Alaska, one of the most famous went to Nome eventually becoming the Iditarod Trail. This was primarily used by dog mushers delivering the mail and supplies to Nome and then shipping out gold back to Seward and eventually the lower 48 states. Nome had a gold rush in 1899 after gold was found on the beaches, at that time it became the biggest town in Alaska. Modern day Nome is still not accessible by road the only way in and out remains by dog sled, boat or aircraft.
The Iditarod Trail has had a resurgence in recent times, as in 1973 the first Iditarod Trail Sled Dog race along its 1,049 mile length was held. The race has now put the trail firmly on the map and it was designated a National Historic Trail in 1978. The sign below marks Seward as mile zero on the Iditarod trail Nome being at the end of the trail.
Next up – Lowell Point