We made it off the ship and through the pier terminal. LJ stopped at the Alaska Railroad stand and almost had a tentative commitment to take our bags we were planning to check later in the day for our trip from Seward to Anchorage but once she spoke with her supervisor, it was a no go. So off we trekked to get a taxi and head to Liquid Adventures - time check: 7:15 AM.
Our cab driver was a lifelong citizen of Seward and lives there today with no running water in his house. He talked about poaching salmon from the stream near the fish hatchery but LJ did a very good job of not making any comments.
We saw sea otters on the way out, they were super cute! There were wild rabbits (on the larger side) that he said were all over town and multiplied quite quickly.
We made it to Liquid Adventures and Pam was ready and waiting for us. Bags were offloaded to cover the picnic table and we began preparing our items to take with us on the trip. Soon the other couple arrived and we all got our kayaking boots on - they were super comfortable - I think they would be perfect for the winter! We walked down the beach with Mark, our guide, while Pam drove the gear down to meet us at the Water Taxi launch. There were more sea otters here and also a harbor seal.
The water taxi arrived and our kayaks were loaded overhead on the boat, I took a seat inside with our camera gear. It was about a 2 hour boat ride to Aialik Bay and the glacier where we would be kayaking. There were 18 people on the taxi, ten for kayaking (between two companies) and the rest were going over to a new lodge that is opening there - they are going to be guides for the outdoor activities and they would be staying overnight.
On the ride out, more sea otters, sea lions basking in the sun on the rocks, doll porpoises swimming beside our boat and a humpback breaching several times and also pec slaps (or slapping of the pectoral fin).
That was amazing - so much activity all at once for a humpback and we got some great photos and video.
We arrived at our destination and felt like we had already had a full excursion! Off went the kayaks and us and here we were - in the bay with the bergy bits and the glacier in the distance. We were given our skirts and PFD's (Personal Flotation Devices) and then given the "if you capsize" speech.
Now, here is when the nerves were setting in because we had a conversation about how cold the water was earlier and how a person could probably only make it a few minutes in the cold. And would my mind remember all these instructions if I truly was in the freezing water? Ugh. Actually double ugh. I guess I should insert here that LJ and I have only kayaked together once, in the Caribbean on our honeymoon and it was truly the most stressful time in our marriage to date. We were in very shallow water in a sit-on-top kayak with rough water and razor sharp coral underneath us with the instructions that our legs would be shredded to pieces if we capsized... so it's quite possible some of these memories were resurfacing as I got in the front of the kayak and was pushed out into the water for LJ to get in behind me.
Now these kayaks were more stable but still did the weeble wobble as we went into the water and started getting our bearings about us. It was nice that the other couple had also only kayaked once before and with such a small group it was a bit more comforting. So off we went, skirts wrapped and paddles in hand.
Soon we found ourselves maneuvering around the ice, seeing the harbor seals, and also the glacier in the distance. It was magnificent.
LJ was responsible for navigating through the ice with the foot pedals and I was responsible for setting the pace, he was supposed to follow my paddle stroke, which meant I couldn't really do it wrong - haha.
After about and hour and a half we beached at the glacier for lunch. We had turkey wraps, Pringles, fresh pineapple and fresh baked cookies. And our view, Aialik Glacier.
We had a couple harbor seals who came up in the shallow water off shore to check us out and make sure we were okay people, I guess we passed.
It calved several times while we were there and it was breathtaking to sit and watch and see. What a view! Then it was time to get back in the kayaks and head back to our starting point, which would be another hour or so of kayaking.
We did the trip in about an hour less than normal because we had to make the train at 6 PM, everyone else was very kind about not having the long trip. We left the beach at 3:30 (reminder, 2 hour taxi ride back to the beach - thus meaning, Beverly getting very nervous at this point). So the water taxi driver said he should be able to make up some time with speed and the direction we would be traveling. He then asked, what if there is another whale breach - stop or keep going? I said we'd have to stop but .... to please not find one so I wouldn't be faced with the decision and consequences!
I also asked about the fact that our train tickets said to arrive an hour beforehand, they just sort of shrugged it off and said that was probably only a suggested time, not required... (note: Beverly more nervous). Now before any comments about me worrying about it - I know we were on vacation and could get another train the next day, it was just that it would cost us $800-$1000 with the non-refundable tickets and hotel, as well as purchasing a new set of tickets and a hotel in Seward. I can think of a lot of better ways to spend that money!
We pulled into the landing at the beach 30 minutes ahead of time, (5 PM, Beverly's mood cautiously optimistic). Pam picked us up at the launch and took us back to their place and said she wasn't able to get the taxi because no one answered (Beverly a bit scared) but then said she was just going to take us (Beverly relieved). We loaded down her car (seriously, LOADED it down) and didn't take the time to change anything besides our shoes - goodbye wonderful boots!
Time check: 5:25 PM. We arrived at the train station at 5:40 PM and they were still accepting luggage to be checked (Beverly ecstatic!) and we took our many carry-on bags and picked up our boarding passes, and here we were - on the Alaska Railroad!
We purchased tickets for the cars that have the glass tops all the way around which were very cool and since it wouldn't be getting dark until well after midnight, we would enjoy scenery all the way from Seward to Anchorage.
There wasn't as much foot room on this train as compared to the Amtrak from Seattle to Vancouver but it was still good, and of course, no overhead storage because of the view but that was worth forgoing. We got our change of clothes and headed to the bathrooms to change. What a world of difference to get out of our layered gear and back into human clothes.
We decided to go ahead and get some dinner and made our way to the dining car. We had the Engineer's special which was a slow roasted pot roast, mashed potatoes and green beans, along with a caesar salad. For dessert, LJ had cheesecake and I had the chocolate torte which looked like and Egyptian Pyramid with a hard chocolate outside. It was a bit of work to get into it with my plasticware, but I persevered and was rewarded with a delicious dessert! Off we went back upstairs to enjoy the view.
LJ went back and forth from our seats in the front of the car to the outdoor viewing area in the rear of the car but I stayed up in our seats, videotaping and enjoying the view. I also had a chance to visit with some of the people sitting around us.
We saw two moose and a porcupine. I didn't really count the moose because it was much too quick of a viewing. We also saw two more glaciers and some beautiful waterfalls, mountains and valleys.
The end of the trip was Turnagin (spelling?) Arm, off of Cook Inlet. The interesting thing was that high tide comes in here at a speed four times faster than a human can run. We came though as it was starting and it was really amazing how the water flooded in, like someone had just opened the 'high tide' faucet.
The train was a bit delayed and arrived late into Anchorage, then we had to wait about 25-30 minutes for our luggage to be offloaded. It was now after 11 and we were supposed to be there at 10:15 PM. We were tired. After claiming our luggage and competing for a taxi, we were off to the airport to pick up our rental car. The nice lady at Avis upgraded our rental to a SUV and even brought it down to the level we were on from the garage - I guess our weary faces gave away our exhaustion.
Then we headed to our accommodations for the night, the Caribou Inn, Bed & Breakfast. Um... well... it wasn't good. I told LJ in the parking lot that I might tell him once we got in that I wanted to leave and find something else, of course, by this point it was 12:30 AM and we were completely beat. We went in and up some steps, down steps and to the office. Yes, she was a sweet lady but I may be spoiled now... it was not good. But we were tired and LJ thought it would be fine so we stayed. Did I say it was not good? It looked like it was stuck in the 70's and I think probably the couch was that old in the room. But the bed did look clean and the bathroom was okay. It kind of became comical in our fatigue. We fell into bed. To be continued...
Morning came too early today but we were off to the races, going to the Windjammer for breakfast and then back to the room to put the final items into our suitcase and load ourselves down for the journey off the ship. We were able to catch an empty elevator going up so we could claim space and then just added four other people on the trek back down. I will say it was a journey.