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The entire Kenai Peninsula is absolutely gorgeous, and one of our major stops to explore the area was Seward Alaska. Seward is a port town and is bordered on one side by the Kenai Fjords National Park. There are tons of places to visit in the area and lots of little fishing coves to find. Seward is a really neat area of Alaska, although not our favorite of the whole Alaska tour.
Hiking to Exit Glacier
As we mentioned, the Kenai Fjords National Park is just outside of Seward, so while we were there we wanted to check it out. Another National Park to visit! Well, just as Denali National Park was different than any other National Park we had visited, Kenai Fjords National Park was different in its own way. We stopped in at the Visitor’s Center for the Kenai Fjords National Park, which is located in downtown Seward. That in itself was odd to us, as usually the Visitor’s Centers are at the park entrance. Well, we soon found out that the reason it’s in Seward is because there really is no entrance to Kenai Fjords National Park.
Wait, what? That’s right, there is only one hike in the Kenai Fjords National Park that can be accessed by land. All other ways to experience the national park are via air or water (read: expensive tours). I suppose we could’ve kayaked out to some of the fjords, but it was a paddle that required a lot of planning. So, we decided to take the one and only hike in the park, Exit Glacier.
There are a few routes to hike to Exit Glacier, one being a short hike on pretty easy terrain. The elevation gain is only about 500 feet over 2 miles, so it’s not a strenuous hike by any means. Just take your time and enjoy the beautiful views along the way and most hikers will have no problem. The other main route is a longer 8-mile hike that is rated as strenuous. We opted for the shorter, easier hike since we had Nate’s Mom with us and didn’t want to subject her to our hiking regimen!
After two miles of gorgeous scenery, we were able to get to the viewpoint for Exit Glacier. I’ll be honest here; we weren’t too impressed. Maybe it was because we had read that you can get right up to the edge of the glacier and actually touch it, and when we got there you couldn’t get closer than about 100 yards. Maybe it was because it was not very scenic around the glacier. Maybe it was because it was so windy that day. Or maybe it was because we had been so awe-inspired by Portage Glacier. For whatever reason, we weren’t really all that amazed. Our lack of pictures of it shows how eager we were to be there!
We hiked around a bit and found our way to the river that washes out at the bottom of Exit Glacier. That river was colder than any water I’ve ever felt (although I feel like I’ve said that before)! There were tiny icebergs in the river as well, which was pretty neat to see. After snapping a few pictures of the not-so-picturesque landscape, we decided to call it a day and head back.
As we all know, the glaciers of most of the world have been receding due to climate change. Exit Glacier has receded so much over the last 40 years that where the parking lot to the hike is now, the glacier was just 40 years ago! Remember, this was a 2-mile hike to get to the glacier from the parking area, so Exit Glacier has receded around 2 miles over that timeframe. In just one year in 2013, Exit Glacier receded around 180 feet! Although glaciers have been receding for the last about 150 years, they seem to have been receding at an accelerated rate over the last 40 years. If you are interested in seeing these amazing land forms, we suggest you do it soon, before they retreat to non-existence.
Biting Flies and Saying Goodbyes
We would’ve loved to take more photos of our campsite in Seward, but we had one major issue while we were there: biting flies! The campsite was beautiful and right on a river. There was even plenty of firewood! But, there was no enjoying any of that due to the biting flies that attacked as soon as you walked outside. No amount of bug spray deterred them, either. The poor dogs didn’t even want to go outside while we were there. That severely limited our stay in Seward, as it was not fun to be back at the campsite.
When we were in Fairbanks, we picked up this scraggly hitchhiker named Terri. She’s Nate’s mom! Well, she stayed with us for pretty much our entire tour through Alaska, but it was time for goodbyes at this point. While we were in Seward, we booked her flights home out of Anchorage and started preparing for our long journey back across Canada and to the Lower 48. Our time in Alaska was coming to a close, and although we were sad to say goodbye to Terri and to Alaska, we were so excited to head to our next destination: The Pacific Northwest!
New Friends: Be Alive!
As we headed back to Anchorage and prepared to depart, we had to have one last little stop for our last hoorah in Alaska. Back when we were visiting the gorgeous gem of Whittier Alaska, we had and chance meeting with some amazing people. Casey from Be Alive actually ran up the trail to meet us and give us her info to hopefully connect. Casey has an amazing story of being a fighter, surviving cancer, and turning her life into an inspiration to others to get out and truly live. We really love her message as well as her story, and we were fortunate to get to go out to dinner with them and chat with them more. We have new friends for life now because of Casey’s motivation to run up that little trail in Whittier! Be sure to check out her page and learn more about her story and her ongoing inspiration HERE.
After our wonderful dinner, we took Terri to the airport and said our goodbyes to her. Then we headed back to Backpack, packed up our stuff, and prepared for the journey across Canada that we would start the very next morning. Goodbye Alaska! We will be back!
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