Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Altoona, IA - Favorite Place in Alaska

When I tell someone that we were in Alaska last summer, they often ask: what was your favorite place? Well, that’s tough. We enjoyed lots of different places some for just a day, some for just an hour but, if I were to choose where I would like to spend more time, I’d have to pick Seward. Seward had sunny days, things to do, museums, sights and - ice cream. But, of course, I like the ocean and small boat harbors and cruise ships on the horizon and otters floating on their backs between the boats and watching the fishermen back from their trip displaying the fish they caught. Well, I like the water. And, this Seward had. We spent a week here and I could have spent more time. 


In Seward we hiked on a glacier. Cool experience but, I’ll be honest, I was happier to have done it than I was doing it - although a second time I’d be much more relaxed. There were four in our group and a guide, Sage. Interesting person - she’s spent 2 summers on Antarctica - yes, I wrote that correctly - Antarctica. We hiked 2 miles up to the entry point where we put on our winter clothes, our crampons, our helmets and got our instructions for glacier hiking. Hike:

HIGH - lift your knees high so when you step you come down hard and your crampons get a good grip on the ice
WIDE - keep your feet apart so your pants don't’ get caught in the crampons and you trip and slide on the ice
LOUD - hit the ice hard and loud with your crampons so they lock into the ice
FLAT - both your toe and heel crampons need to lock in

OK, now I’m scared. I thought this was an ordinary, safe hike - nope, this is scary. I was scared the whole time I was out there. That’s what I mean when I say that I was glad to say I HAD done it than actually DOING it. But, looking back, I’d do it again. It was fun.

We also took a cruise boat out to view Northwestern Glacier and the views of the glacier, the wildlife and the ocean were scrumptious. 

And, at the end of the day, all the fishing boats and cruise boats head back to harbor. 

Only to be greeted by this little character munching down on dinner. 


But, Seward is a fun town to roam around in. There’s the small boat harbor with the cruise ships docked out side. I could sit on a bench and watch the activity all day. But, check out that beautiful mountain and circe glacier in the background. 

We even saw a pet reindeer. 

There are murals all over the city and we tried to get to all of them. 

Here’s one celebrating the commercial fishing that is a great part of the economy in Seward. The commercial fishing is off to the side and not readily visible to tourists but it’s extremely important. Halibut, cod, salmon, herring - all play a significant part. 

There is also the annual run to the top of Marathon Mountain on the eastern side of Seward. 

Then there’s one celebrating the annual Mt Marathon race on July 4th. It’s only 3/1 miles but it goes up to a 3022’ peak - from sea level. According to local legend, grocer Gus Borgan bet $100 in 1915 that no one could run up and down Mt Marathon in under an hour. Well, the winner, James Walters did it in 62 minutes. He lost he bet but became a legend and started a tradition. Here’s the Mt. itself. Note the trails on the face. Neither one looks easy. 

Here’s the guy with the most consecutive races - note that he is heading straight down. 

And, here’s the oldest. 

And the youngest. 

And, in answer to your silent question, NO, we did not climb Mt. Marathon. I like to hike, not plummet.

Here's dinner in the harbor. 

The Senior Citizens’ Center has this one on it side. You’ve got quilt makers, card players, WII champs and a birthday party. 

But, through it all, you’ve got the views.

Of course, no mention of Seward can go without a mention of Benny Benson who designed the Alaska Flag. In 1924, this orphaned 13-yr old Alaska native submitted his design for the Alaska state flag and won. His design includes the North Star symbolizing the northernmost state, the Great Bear constellation for strength and a blue background for the sky and the forget-me-not, the state flower. 

Things to see, activities to do, places to visit, a waterfront - yes, I liked Seward the best. 

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