Great Alaska Adventure #1-Seward Highway
Great Alaska Travel Adventure #1-Anchorage to Seward Our first adventure will be a trip to Seward. Even though the view in Anchorage is beautiful, the trip to Seward can be described as magnificent. Within 10 to 15 minutes from the beginning of your trip, this adventure begins. The Seward Highway officially starts at mile 127, at the corner of Gambell Street and 10th Ave. in Anchorage. During this trip will notice milepost will be counting backwards until it reaches zero in Seward. So, we are on our way. Our first stop will be at milepost 117.4, Potter Marsh. Officially known as the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge. This is a very popular spot for birdwatching. From the parking lot, an extensive boardwalk crosses Potter Marsh, a refuge and nesting area for waterfowl. The marsh was created during the construction of the Alaska Railroad when an embankment was created to support the railroad tracks, creating a freshwater marsh fed by creeks. The 564 acre marsh is visited by Arctic Terns, Canada geese, trumpeter swans, and many species of ducks and other waterfowl. Be sure to bring your binoculars and camera. Beware, some of these birds will actually attack protecting their young, especially the Arctic terns. The video below was actually shot at mile 116 at the pulloff on the left. As you proceed through this adventure, you will notice along the way, there will be many places to stop and take photos. Keep in mind, if you intend to take the Kenai Fjords boat tour, which I highly recommend, you will need to be in Seward no later than 10:30 AM. If you drive to Seward non-stop, it will take about 2 1/2 hours. The tour I recommend actually departs Seward at 11:45 AM. Obviously, an early morning start is recommended. Other options include casually driving to Seward, stopping along the way for scenery and photos, spending the night in Seward, and then taking the tour boat in the morning. Our next stop will be at the McHugh Creek picnic area at milepost 111.9. The creek itself cascades down the mountainside into a small pool by the highway and parking lot. This is a beautiful area, and there is a trailhead that goes up the side of the mountain. There is also a picnic area that requires a fee to park in the upper parking lots. Because of the beauty of this area people even hold weddings here. The video below, was shot here with my grandsons. At milepost 110.3, we will stop at Beluga Point. The reason it is called Beluga Point is that during incoming and outgoing tides Beluga whales can actually be seen following the salmon to their spawning grounds. This is also a good place to observe bore tides. There are telescopes and interpretive signs on orcas, bore tides, Mountain goats, etc. The body of water you are looking at is called Turnagain Arm. It is known for having one of the worlds remarkably high tides, with a range of more than 33 feet. A bore tide is an abrupt rise of tidal water just after low tide, moving rapidly landward, formed by a flood tides surging into a constricted inlet such as Turnagain Arm . This foaming wall of water may reach a height of 6 feet and is very dangerous to small craft. To see a bore tide, check the Anchorage area tide tables for low tide, then add approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes to the Anchorage low tide for the bore tide to reach points between 32 miles and 37 miles south of Anchorage on the Seward Highway. While not rare, bore tides are really not that common, so don’t be disappointed if you do not get to see one. Bore tides can occur and be seen from any area between Beluga Point and Girdwood. Between milepost 107 and 106, there is a good chance to spot Mountain goats and Dall sheep on the mountainside. Only park at turnout areas and walk to an area where the sheep or goats are spotted. Always have your camera ready. A neat little grotto is located at about Mile 104.9 on left. You’ll have to watch for it. Watch video below. At milepost 103.9 there is a small road that leads up to the Forget-Me-Not Nursery and Indian Valley Meats. Indian Valley Meats is a good place to buy Alaska meats including reindeer sausage, which is fantastic, and smoked salmon. The area between Indian and Bird Creek, mile 103 to mile 101, is very historic and they’re a lot of places to view and things to see including Bird point and historic gold mining areas. During the right time of the year, salmon can be caught in Bird Creek. The Bird Creek Campground, at mile 101.2, is a great place to camp and/or have a picnic. During the off-season it is one of my favorite spots to come and simply sit and meditate. Bird Point, at mile 96.5, is where I actually shot my Featured Intro Video. There is a paved parking lot and boardwalk to a fantastic viewing area. Bald eagles have been seen in this area so keep you eyes peeled. Also a good place to watch for Beluga whales. Remember your camera! Starting at mile 96 to mile 92 is a large community of Bald Eagles. When I first came to Alaska in the late 60’s there were no eagles in this area. In the early 70’s a pair mated here and now there is several pairs and their young that can be seen on the tidal flats hunting for food on a regular basis. Check out the video below. The Alyeska Hwy to Girdwood starts at Mile 90. However we are going to continue our Adventure down the Seward Hwy and will cover Alyeska and Girdwood area on a separate adventure. You will probably want to spend an afternoon and dinner here. As you are driving this stretch of road, always be watching for bald eagles and beluga whales on incoming tides. At mile 82 you will have a great view of Spencer Glavier. The Kenai Peninsula Visitor Center is located at mile 80.2. You will see a deteriorating building and rusting truck on the right side of the highway at mile 80.1. This is all that remains of the old town of Portage, once a flagstop on the Alaska Eailroad. 50 to 100 residents were forced to move after the 1964 earthquake caused the land to drop 6 t0 12 feet along the Turnagain Arm. High tides have since flooded the area with salt water.
The turnoff for the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center is at Mile 79 on right. It is well worth your time to stop here where you can see bears, moose, caribou, elk, bison, musk-ox, eagles, and other Alaska wildlife. It is dedicated to taking in orphaned and injured animals. The turnoff for Whittier and Portage Glacier is at Mile 78.9 and will be covered in a separate Adventure. The next 4 miles crosses several creeks and rivers and has some fantastic views especially on clear days. Wildlife abounds in this area. Always have your camera ready. After you cross Ingram Creek you start your climb up to the summit of Turnagain Pass. There are several passing lanes so if you get behind a slow moving vehicle, be patient, you will be able to pass.
At Mile 68.5 you will get to the Turnagain Pass Recreation Area with a large parking area and restrooms on right. In the winter the snow gets to a depth of 12 feet or more. This is a popular area for snow-mobilers on the west side and skiers on the east side. Check out Dean Fergusons videos for some extreme snow-mobile stunts. The last 2/3 of this video is right here in Tunagain Pass. From here you will be going through some beautiful mountain valleys and Johnson Pass. There are many creeks, pulloffs, and views. Enjoy the ride. Always have your camera ready. Every turn of the wheel brings another view. There is not a good pulloff but at mile 61.4 there is a trail on the right that leads to a bridge over Six Mile Creek which is a rafting/kayaking area for only the pros. Take you camera.
There are some excellent view rest areas at mile 56.7 to 56.3 which is the Hope Highway intersection. Hope is a historic gold mining area where you can actually pan for gold on your own. This area will be covered in a separate Great Alaska Adventure series.
Mile 53.5 is where you will find Gold Rush Centennial signs about gold mining in this area. There are still some active mines here so if you plan on some hiking, be sure to observe No Trespassing signs, as some of these miners do not like intruders on their claims for obvious reasons.
Mile 47.2 is the start of the Upper and Lower Summit Lakes which has some great spring and fall fishing for landlocked Dolly Varden (goldenfins) and rainbow trout. You will find camp grounds in this area. In the winter this can be a heavy avalanche area.
Devils Creek Trail starts at mile 39.5 which ties in with the Resurrection Pass Trail. This is a fantastically beautiful trail system. I will be sharing my personal experiences in a future post.
Jerome Lake is at mile 38.3. Great scenery and fishing for rainbow trout and dolly varden to 22 inches. This lake has been stocked so there are plenty of fish. Hint: Use salmon egg clusters and still fish.
The Sterling Highway turn to the Kenai Penninsula and Homer is at mile 37.7 and will be covered in a separate Adventure.
There is a separate turn-off at mile 37 which passes Tern Lake, a nesting area for the Arctic Tern. It’s a great place to have lunch and take in the exquisite scenery and watch the Terns perform their aerobatics. Mountain goats, Dall sheep, moose and bear have been spotted in this area along the surrounding mountainsides.
Crater Lake trailhead is at mile33.1. This is only a 2 mile trail but is fairly difficult as it starts at 500 foot elevations and climbs to 986 foot elevation. Great snowmobiling area, as if you cared.
You will find the Trail Lake fish hatchery at mile 32.4 and Upper Trail Lake.
Turnout at mile 29.7 with recreation map of area.
Moose Pass, a small community, is at mile 29.5. You will find some interesting history here if you have the time.
Starting at mile 22.7 and continuing to mile 17.7 you will have some beautiful views of this end of Kenai Lake and the surrounding mountains. When the lake is calm, which is not very often, you will have the oppotunity for some post card photos of mountain and lake reflection scenes.
Lily Pad Lake is at mile 14.7. Watch for moose in the lake. Have your camera ready!
Mile 13.2 is the trailhead for Grayling Lake. 1.6 mile hike taking about an hour each way. Good grayling fishing. Flys work real well.
From here to mile 3.7 which is the turnoff to Exit glacier you will see many creeks, camp grounds, and scenic views. It is 8.4 miles to Exit Glacier which is easily accessable for most people. You can get real close to this glacier but please be careful. Observe all warning signs. This is a melting glacier and some time very large pieces break off and it would be a real downer if a piece fell on you.