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DAY 11... I'm sitting at the laptop at midnight of day eleven...I know I usually start at the morning and work my way through the day in these journals, but one of the neatest things I've ever seen just happened - Anyway - its still light out - about what you would know as a half hour before dark ...Kim and I had just gotten out of the hottub - was pretty damned hot so we left it to sit on the log swing on the balcony overlooking resurrection bay. Kim spotted it first, soaring over the bay but headed in our direction. At one point she said, "It's coming closer!", and we sat there watching as an adult Bald Eagle flew directly at us from below our eye level (we're up pretty high on this cliff) and climbed steadily aimed right for us, until it swooshed overhead and lighted in the tree that grows out of the middle of our back porch. We were about 5 feet from the tree and couldn't see it through the branches. We went to the corner of the deck to see it better and watched as he shat out a good-sized load, landing what would be directly in my lap if I hadn't moved! Now...up to that point I was taking it as a good omen - didn't know how to interpret that last performance though, still - the eagle still sits on it's perch 30 feet above our porch and seemed to cap off what turned out to be an absolutely amazing day - get some coffee - this is gonna be good.
The phone rang at 5am...now there's something we haven't heard in a while. The wake up call nearly shook the empty to-go boxes off the desk, it was so loud. Even though I had warned the kids this'd be an early morning - it was still tough to get 'em motivated. Funny how Dad jumping on the bed, rolling around, tickling and bumping them off onto the floor can stir them up a bit. No time for yelling and screaming like at home...had a feeling this was gonna be a good day.
We managed to slam the last car door shut at 6am, driving down the Homer Spit amidst equally as busy traffic as the day before - all the morning fishermen were jockeying for good parking spots and seeing as how it has been daylight since 3am, it didn't seem so early to us. Kelsey is the first to spot the Bald Eagle sitting atop an upturned driftwood tree, planted next to a tent on the spit. A quick stop at BK for sausage, egg and cheese croissandwiches, coffee and the ever-present coke, and we're on the way, backtracking up the west side of the Kenai Penninsula. (It is actually about 7am the next morning in Seward as I write this and I just had to jump up at the now familiar cry of the Bald Eagle just to make sure he wasn't aiming in my direction as he flew overhead!)
About 20 miles up the road, we make a 5 mile detour in Anchor Point just to say we drove to the furthest westernmorst point on the North American continent that you can drive to without shipping or flying your car in to some of the more western settlements here in Alaska. Just long enough to snap off a few pics and back in the car - kids are still sleeping in the car anyway...something that will hold true for the next 2 hours.
Pics #5-7 are just a very few of the Kodak moments we ran across on the way from Homer to Seward. On the way through Cooper Landing, I pulled into the Kenai Lake Cabins and Tackle Shop to grab a cup of coffee and talk to Sandy about how the fishing has been...worried the Salmon run will be over when we get back. We might just be doing some fishing practice it seems...once the Reds complete their run - expected any day now - the river is near empty of them. I expect we'll try it anyway. Just as we're approaching Seward the clouds thicken and descend on the mountaintops - still plenty of snow capped mountains all around us. Sewardis another combination thriving seaport and tourist town... something that takes a minute to get used to with all the derricks and cranes and stockpiles of supplies haphazardly strewn about among the hotels and shops and, at least here in Seward, cruise ship berths and marinas. Pic #8 is the view from the main road of our cabin for the night - just can't check in until after our Resurrection Bay Wildlife Cruise today.
After getting our boarding passes an hour early, we pop in to a local coffee shop and get - well - coffee. An apple turnover or two and some cookies for the trip as well. Parked in the shuttle parking lot - boarded the free shuttle back to the Kenai Fjords Cruise Company and settled into a window seat for the 6 hour cruise. The weather started getting rough, the tiny ship was tossed, and if wasn't for the courage of the fearless crew....... uhhh.... sorry - I got a little off the story there. Resurrection Bay is the large body of water on the eastern side of the Kenai Penninsula, and one of the richest maritime wildlife areas in America. Before we're even past the breakwater, we're all leaning over the rail on the port side (OK, so the captain DID tell us which side was Port and Starboard, but growing up in Fort Lauderdale around boats, I DID know it already!) snapping pictures of the Sea Lion as it escorted us out of port. Further out we are lead by several Dall Porpoises - did you know that a porpoise and a dolphin are different in that the porpoise is a arctic dweller while dolphin are tropical? - and the bird population is enormous here.
On the way to the Holgate Glacier, we spot Orcas, a sleeping Humpback Whale, another sea lion sleeping on the rocks - all of which were so non-photogenic because of the way they were laying or the brief glimpse we got. Our trek to Holgate was cold as hell, with Kelsey and I up on the bow, (thats the pointy end), noses into the brisk wind. This thing is tremendous in size. Most of these pictures are from a quarter-mile away. It was constantly calving huge chunks of ice from its face - the size of a house. We'd see the fall, the splash and then hear a huge thunderclap of sound as the slower sound waves reached us. Above us in the rocks was a Mountain Goat and her babies. The cracking of the ice was everywhere - every couple of minutes someone would spot a fall of ice, you could hear dozens of camera shutters going off and a cascade of high pitched beeps as digitals and electronic cameras would capture the moment. If you waited for the sound to turn around to find it - it was too late. Then about a minute later the waves would hit us - never too bad, but awesome in the thought that a couple thousand tons just fell into the sea, and it does this all day long. The near-bay was full of little iceberg-ettes crunching into the sides of the ship. This little side trip was worth it just for this sight!
Heading back, we stop off at "Three-Hole Rock" to give everyone a couple shots of the strange rock formation, and swing around to sea to go do some birding - the Captain asked for a collective vote on whether or not we wanted to see birds or not and there were quite a few who did, so off we went. I got to admit it was a great deal of fun. Cruising through what they call "bait-balls" - where large numbers congregate on the surface searching below them for schools of fish. The dense variety of birds here were tremendous, many species of Gulls, Puffins, Cormorants, Murres, oh, hell, I'm not gonna remember their names, but they were all over. Several of these species, puffins included don't swim in the water, they fly underneath it using their wings like Penguins.
We visited several nesting sites and rookeries, listening to the Captain who obviously knows a lot about the wildlife in this area. He strolled around the ship using a wireless microphone so I know he wasn't reading a text scripted by the cruise lines.
Next was the den of a large band of Stellar Sea lions, on the endangers species list, sunning themselves on the rocks. All of a sudden on the other side of the boat, while we were all looking towards the rocks, a huge Humpback Whale breached , blew out a lungfull and dove under again...we aren't allowed to maneuver at all when one of these guys are close by, so we drifted for 20 minutes as we watched it surface, eyeball us, dive and repeat this many times. At one point it was surfacing repeatedly at 20 yard intervals directly at the boat - a maneuver the captain said might result in a good fluke wave as he makes a final dive under the boat, and true to his word, it did just that. (Poor bastard standing next to me, with his thousands of dollars worth of photographic gear, let out a groan just prior to that as he ran out of film using his auto-winder too much I suppose).
Stopped to look at another sleeping Humpback on our bay back to port, and pulled behind the seawall jetties after a little more than 6 hours at sea. An amazing experience. This last shot is of Captain Chris as he walks through the ship answering questions with really good, long answers. If you ever get this way I heartily recommend it - Kenai Fjords Tours...we took the 6 Hour Kenai Fjords National Park tour (www.kenaifjords.com).
Back on shore, we stop off at the Pizza Place to pick up a to-go menu and check into the cabin.....the Cabin...damn! I think I am not even gonna tease ya with the cabin pictures here... I'll put the cabin shots on their own page...CLICK HERE. So after a little dinner of Pizza and microwave popcorn, hottubbing, eagle watching and watching TV by the woodstove, I'd have to say this has been a good day!
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