Day 31 – Another National Park

bearBy now you know that I am a big supporter of National Parks, Monuments, anything.  I particularly like the big natural spaces set aside, these seem most representative of the west, but I am beginning to really appreciate the history set aside in the east.  Alaska is unique all in itself.  There are so many wide open spaces, carved from the mountains, isolated by the weather, lack of roads, desolateness of the area.  Add that to it’s remoteness from the Lower 48 and you can find space anywhere to breathe, really breathe.

It’s the end of the season in Alaska, the tourists are slim, the stores are closing, the rain has come and the temperatures are dropping. Even the rangers at the Visitor’s Center are talking about where they are headed next.  The place has an emptiness about it, as does the community of Seward.  It feels like everyone is holding their breath, waiting for the harshness of winter to set in.

Kenai Fjords is the National Park on the outskirts of town, it’s purpose is to preserve and protect the Harding icefields and glaciers.  Fjords are the water valleys created by the melting glaciers, and they are definitely melting.  Photographs tell the story best, the retreating of the ice over the course of the last 100 years.  Exit Glacier is the easiest to get to by land, it is beautiful and serene, the blue glaze from the captured sunlight in the ice is spectacular, seen even in the small pieces that have calved off the main glacier.  Easily one of the most peaceful places I have been.

Back in to Seward, we went by the Sea Life Center where we took our grandson earlier in the week, window-shopped the local stores in the rain, and drove out to the ends of the roads.  First on to the east side of the bay, then the road on the west side, here was where I encountered my third bear in the wild EVER.  The two times before, I had seen them crossing roads, this time, he was sitting in a tree.  It was raining a little and we had seen a cluster of people gathered, so we stopped to see what they were looking at.  What appeared to be a mild mannered black bear was sitting about 30 feet up in a tree, trying to get comfortable on his perch.  To be able to see such a creature in the wild is a rare treat.  I know it happens a lot in Alaska, but not to me, I was thrilled.

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