Friday, 7 September 2012

SCHOLARSHIP DAY 8: From Girdwood to Seward- Black Bear, Moose and Eagle sighting!

Today saw the earliest start for me; 6:45am- can you believe it? I did, however, have a very good reason. My shuttle to the train station was scheduled for 7:20am; my 3 hour train journey to Seward would leave from Girdwood at 8:05am. Despite the early start, I welcomed it as today- after seven days in Alaska- would be the very first sunny day. I found myself taking quite a few photos from the Girdwood Train station, as the sun illuminated a mountain flank or two.


I can't express how great the train journey was from Girdwood to Seward. The train journey takes the lucky passenger through some of the finest scenery of Alaska, and for the geographers, makes the landforms and processes from the textbook come alive. Certainly the history of Alaska is very much present on the journey with remnants from the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake very visible. Tree stumps can be spotted and even a small hut that sunk during liquefaction all those years ago.

Glaciology is very much the highlight of the journey. Spencer Glacier is characteristically blue and very easily noticeable from the train. What wasn't so easy to see was the medial moraine in a later glacier. For those who don't want to keep checking the internet, a medial moraine is a glacial landform created when debris from two ice streams join. Throughout the journey were quite a few lakes that were obviously fed by glacial streams, but despite the murky colour of the water, I managed to get some superb reflections of the mountain ranges.


To top the whole experience off were the wildlife sightings. It's now pretty clear that some animals have become habituated to the noises of the train, whilst other haven't. Firstly, from a distance, a moose; this would be the second moose I've seen in seven days, but this time the moose was much further away and getting an accurate photo proved difficult. Later on in the ride a Bald Eagle became the subject of quite a few photos; in fact, three eagles were perched on boulders in a nearby shallow lake, but the one that I captured the best photos from was the one in a tree.

 
 
And then there it was! My first bear sighting! Isn't it always the case that the best parts of the journey you don't get a photo of? It was a black bear, quite small, and was making its way into some trees, but when I focused it on my camera, it was too late.

With the excitement of seeing bears, eagles and a moose, time flew as it usually does and soon I was in Seward. Such a bright and sunny day, and suprisingly quite warm. It wasn't long before I had to remove my coat! From the train station, I took advantage of a free shuttle bus that makes its way through Seward all day, every day. What a fantastic idea? I have to say I've been very impressed with the transport system in all three locations my scholarship has taken me to, so far. What did make me chuckle was the fact that next to this FREE shuttle was a man offering $9 taxi's to anywhere in town, which later was desperately reduced to $5!

The hostel I am staying at in Seward is lovely; everything you could dream a hostel as being! Comfy, spacious, and there's lovely people from all over the world; Hong Kong, New Zealand, Paris...and the list goes on! Not wanting to miss out on all the sun, I made my way to Downtown. Seward is a harbour town; a town that generates money mostly it seems from tourism but one that is also structured for local fishermen. I almost immediately found an icecream shop and treated myself to a Brownie Sundae; sitting outside, I generated quite a crowd of people asking about why I was in Alaska, my scholarship and further congratulating the success of the London Olympics. One such couple were originally from England (Leeds and High Wycombe) but have lived in Seward for 40 years.

The rest of my day I devoted to doing a town walking tour that I got from the Seward Chamber of Commerce. Most of the highlights came from the first section of the tour; the Small Boat Harbour being the first. I couldn't count how many boats there were but I did see a Chub Salmon swimming in shallow water.

The only other very interesting section of the tour came from walking along the coast. I still couldn't believe how hot it was, although there was a cool northerly breeze. The coastal trail boasts a 'teco' (a friendship lantern from Japan), a wildlfower mural, and a rather attractive view of the mountains. The water you see is Resurrection Bay; it is tidal (the second most tidal in Alaska after Cook Inlet) and tsunami warnings are scattered around...just in case!
Seward is extremely different to Girdwood, and it would be lovely if the weather remained just as good today for my short stay here. We'll see. Time for Bed!

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