Road trip through Kenai Peninsula, the wonder of Alaska
The Kenai Peninsula is the gateway to Alaska. Its beauty is breathtaking! Beautiful snow-capped mountains loom in the background. It's amazing to see how all of Alaska's roads are so scenic. We leave Valdez behind and the Richardson Highway to start on the Glennallen Highway. We are glad to return to undo part of the way, since the vision from the opposite side is different.
At first we had many doubts about whether to return by road to Anchorage, or take the ferry and appear in Whittier. It was a complicated decision, but we wanted to go through the Matanuska glacier and experience what an ice climber feels. Since we had already seen part of Prince William's strait, we decided to return by road.
The image from the rear-view mirror of a very white volcano with a reddish sky in the background in the middle of the road look as if it were a postcard. It was time to look for accommodation. At the end we sleep in a very peculiar campsite a few kilometers from the crossroads. It was a kind of antique museum.
The price was a little more expensive than other campsites, but the place where we set up the store also deserved it. It was a green field surrounded by pine trees in front of a beautiful stream. The only downside, of course, were the mosquitoes.
The day awaited us with new adventures. A moose crossed us on the road when the sun's rays tried to cross the thin clouds of the sky. The road, once again, was with beautiful scenic stretches. This time it was the turn of the Matanuska glacier, the longest in the United States accessible by car. Our idea was to do a little trekking on the glacier and learn to climb on ice. The blue-white color of the ice was beautiful.
The Matanuska glacier was a beautiful place to practice ice climbing. The weather had cleared completely and the white ice of the ice contrasted with the intense blue of the sky. We did not know yet, but this would be the last day we would have such a perfect time.
We resumed our tour of the Glenn Highway until we approached Anchorage. The road ran parallel to the winding course of the Matanuska River in the Mat-Su valley. It is guarded by the Chugach Mountains to the south and the Talkeetna Mountains to the north.
As we approached Anchorage, we began to see dark clouds coming from the coast. Bad omen, we went straight to them. It was the beginning of the Seward Highway when the sun stopped shining.
We left Anchorage a few kilometers ago and entered the Turnagain Arm. On the left we were escorted by the Chugach Mountains, while on the right we had the Cook inlet, an arm of the sea in which there abound very white beluga whales. The road was very scenic, but the summits of the mountains were covered by a remarkable cloud layer. We look for a campsite where we can stay with the hope that the clouds will dissipate the next day. The temperature was still pleasant, at about 20 degrees.
So far we had not needed an alarm to get up in the morning. The jetlag, the excitement of the trip, the desire to want to see more and the 24 hours of light made us wake up very early. Today was no exception, although the light was dimmer than in previous days. The clouds remained in the same place.
On the way to Whittier, we stopped at a kind of animal orphanage. We thought that it could be an excellent way to see the typical Alaskan fauna and wait for the sun to begin to appear. One of the most beautiful moments was when we saw how they fed bison pups. Soon a small trickle of water fell. We took shelter in the souvenir shop and as soon as it got dry we decided to take a ferry to see the famous marine glaciers.
Although it did not rain again, the clouds were still very low, almost at sea level! Whittier is a strange looking town. Possibly it has to do with its military origin. During World War II, as a distraction maneuver to hide its true objective, Midway Atoll, the Japanese bombed Unalaska and occupied two other small islands at the Aleutian end, Attu and Kiska. Then the United States seemed to realize that its northern refrigerator was more strategic than it seemed at first.
Thus, several military bases were founded throughout Alaska and a highway was constructed in nine months. It united the territories of the north to the rest of the United States crossing Canada, popularly known as Alcan or the Alaska Canada Highway, of more than two thousand kilometers in length. One of those bases was Whittier, a natural harbor that had the advantage that its waters did not freeze during the long winter.
The military base no longer exists but in the village there have remained as a legacy, converted into houses, several ugly concrete towers that do not exactly do justice to the environment. We took the ferry in Whittier, and the only road access to it is through the Anton Anderson Memorial tunnel. It is a very interesting tunnel, one way and when the train does not pass, then the cars pass, first the one way and then the other.
In the worst case, you will have to wait a quarter of an hour for the light to turn green and you can start the march. I was lucky, because I had the free passage when I got near and I did not have to wait a minute. Since the kayak in Valdez had not gone well, I was thinking about making up for a day of fishing. I booked a passage for a long day of sailing and fishing for the halibut along the coast of Alaska.
At first the clouds were so low we could barely see anything from the boat. That gave us a lot of anger, especially when we knew that the landscape was spectacular. As we got closer to the glaciers we began to distinguish part of the mountains. The truth is that even with such melancholy weather, the glaciers seemed impressive. The waters of the fjord on whose bottom was the port of Seward were like a raft of oil.
We also saw sea otters resting on small blocks of ice, seals, golden eagles, and different types of birds. Late in the afternoon we headed towards Seward. The Seward Highway is one of the most spectacular, but honestly to me all the roads I was looking. The mountains are closer and on the sides we can see several lakes with water lilies. The truth is that I was dying to spend a day in a sea usually as hectic as Bering.
Several hours after sailing we stopped in the middle of the sea and were adrift. I imagine that the sonar would signal the presence of a fish bank and that it turned that place into one as good as any other to throw the hooks in the water. The bait, pieces of herring. I do not know if with a sonar it is possible to distinguish a halibut bank from one of sardines or of a whale.
The reality is that all the fishermen started to take small sharks of the size of my arm out of the water that quickly realized the baits that both the skipper and his assistant were placing on our hooks. After returning to the sea a good amount of sharks (I took three), all alive and with their fins intact, of course.
The boss decided to continue the march for a while and find a better place to fish what we all wanted, a couple of tasty halibut. Of course, I cannot deny that fishing time was as fun as the next one because the sharks they threw enough of the condemned. We set off again to the port. The girl who came as a crew member on the boat spent a good part of the trip back cleaning and preparing the fish.
Most fishermen chose to send their catches, conveniently packaged, home. Since in my case that was not possible I opted to stay with a beautiful ration for dinner that night and donate the rest for charity. In summary, I think it is the most expensive fish ration I have eaten in my life but it was worth it. I had fun.
We started mid-afternoon to Seward. The truth is that it was very beautiful, but we could not see it as well as others because of the weather. However, it should be noted that this road is much busier than others and of course you can not stop at the time you want, unlike the Denali Highway.
Tonight, our idea was to sleep in Seward. We were walking around the coastal town, the day was cloudy and the mountains were not visible in the background. We went to dinner at a restaurant with the intention of trying again to try typical Alaskan dishes. The truth is that the dinner was very good based on fish, although we also paid for it.
There was a campground in the center of Seward. On a clear day the views had to be impressive, although it is true that it gave a bit of a shabby feel. The motorhomes were in the front line, then the stores, but there was no kind of fence with trees and everything was very much in sight. The campground was complete and we had to find another place to spend the night.
As the next day we wanted to climb the Harding icefield, we went straight to that area. Right next to the Exit glacier where the route starts there is a small campsite, with very spacious and intimate plots and quite wild. It was not allowed to leave absolutely no food, creams, neither in the car nor in the store. There was a room specifically for it, and in one of the doors at the height of the handlebar we saw a bear print! It gave a lot of respect, really. Especially since we were practically alone!
Today we got up with much desire to do the trekking. I did not have too much breakfast and of course I took very little liquid, just a tea to avoid the morning headache that crushes me whenever my breakfast does not include a coffee or, failing that, tea.
It was practically our last day, the next one was already undoing the road to go back to Anchorage and catch our plane. The trek was amazing! I do not remember very well the duration. It took about 7 hours round trip, but for me was one of the most beautiful excursions I have ever done. We climb up the slope of the Exit glacier, leaving behind the entire Seward valley until we reach the end of an immense Ice field.
From there the road was covered with snow, but the climb was less hard. When you reach the end of the itinerary, the landscape that is seen above Harding is amazing, the view does not reach the end of the ice field! Of course if you are only going to do a trek in Alaska, I would choose this one without hesitation. It is essential if you like the mountain.
It is not a technical trek, but you have to be prepared to climb through snow and be able to cross with bears. But the views that are obtained at the end are impressive. The road that borders the Kenai Peninsula ends in Homer, several hundred kilometers from where I was and that was my destiny at the end. On the way lakes, rivers, forests in the autumn and a few small towns, some of whose small buildings betrayed their Russian origin.
As it was a good day at the end I opted to get to Homer, at the end of the Sterling Highway. Of all the people I met during my three weeks touring Alaska I think Homer was the one I liked the most. Located on the side of a beautiful bay, a tongue of land goes eight kilometers into the sea, forming a barrier that turns that bay into a huge natural harbor.
At the end of the same restaurants, shops, some art gallery and companies that offered all kinds of excursions and activities around a small lighthouse gave the place an aspect certainly picturesque. That night I stayed in a hostel in Homer. The next day I had to get to Anchorage, the largest city in Alaska but not its capital, where my trip to the 49th State of the USA would come to an end. But that is another chapter.
It is impossible to forget how small you feel in front of such a spectacular horizon! It was a great time to immortalize and finish off our Alaska vacation. With these beautiful images and with immense desire to return, we say goodbye to Alaska.