Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The SeaLife Center

Today we visited the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward. Our tour was the behind the scenes one so we learned much more about the center and animals than we could have on our own. The center does a lot of rescue and rehab of orphaned sea mammals and, depending on the age and condition of the animal, will try to release it back to the wild. They do have a small group of harbor seals and sea lions on site which we were able to see. One of the harbor seals was very playful and would follow someone on the other side of the glass- it was entertaining to watch both the seal and person leading her. There were also lots of fish and birds to see around the area.
Seward doesn't have much going on after dinner but hopefully we will find a productive and fun way to spend our last night in Alaska. In a little over 24 hours we will be boarding our flight home, something not everyone wants to do at this point!

Picture: Michael and Emily playing with the seal

Monday, May 21, 2012

Kenai Fjord Tour

Today we arrived in Seward and right away got ready for our 6 hour tour of the fjords. We were in Resurrection Bay as well as the North Pacific. There was a lot of stuff going on despite the overcast day. We were able to see mountain goats, black bear, tons of birds, porpoises, sea lions, humpback whales, and orca whales. The orca whales were awesome to see as they were busy eating and very active. We saw them surface multiple times and watch as one swam right under the front of our boat. We also went out to the Holgate glacier and watched that for a while. Coming into the glacier we plowed through some small chunks of ice in the water that had broken off of the glacier recently. While at the glacier we were able to see pieces fall off and crash into the water-- It was very cool to see. On the way back we saw more birds and a couple more humpbacks but nothing like on the way out. It seemed to be a pretty successful day for most of the group.

Pictures: Holgate glacier

Port of Seward

Sea lions out in the bay

Russian River Hike

Sunday we made our way out to the Russian River campground for a hike. We met up with Marilyn Gravenhorst, a Wartburg alum living in the area who took us around the trails. The hike was about 5 miles total and had some great views. At the halfway point we saw the Russian River falls where the salmon will return each year to lay eggs.
After the hike we were invited back to the Gravenhorst's for dinner and enjoyed the home cooking and stories. The rest of the night was pretty relaxed as we started to get ready to head out for Seward and the Kenai Fjords tour Monday.

Pictures: our group on the Russian River trail

Russian River falls

Sunday, May 20, 2012

A True Russian Experience

We had to leave the beautiful views of Homer Saturday but got on our way to Soldatna. We had two stops along the way: the first at a boat launch into the ocean and the second at a small Russian village. We had hoped to see a commercial fishing boat be launched or pulled up but no such luck.
The second stop took us to Nikolaevsk, a small village of Russian heritage. We tried to stop in and see the Russian orthodox church in town but could only see the onion domes from the outside as it was closed. After that we found the only cafe in town and stopped for lunch. At first we didn't think we would get in but the lady who owned the place, Nina, came driving up and opened it up for us. She was the nicest lady but had a thick Russian accent and dressed in traditional clothes. We got in and she made us a traditional lunch of borscht, dumplings, pierogies, tea, and cream puff dessert. While she was cooking we could look around the gift shop and if we bought something she would let us take pictures in traditional Russian outfits, so a few members of the group got to do so. The food was decent (not many of us had experienced Russian food before) and the experience was one to remember!

Pictures: Lida, Sarah, and Nina

Susan and Cameron

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Off to Kenai

Sorry it's been a while since there's been an update but we've been keeping busy! On Thursday we packed up and left Anchorage to travel down the Kenai Peninsula. Along the way we stopped at a wildlife conservation center and got to see some bears! Although we haven't been able to see any wild ones, these were awesome to see.
After the wildlife center we settled in for a 3 hour drive to Homer, a small town right at the end of the road. It's surrounded by the ocean and mountains and we had a great view of both from our hotel rooms. We also got some fresh fish for dinner and everyone enjoyed that.
Friday we were able to go sea kayaking in the Peterson Bay just off the coast from Homer. The weather was perfect for being on the water and we got to see some great views and wildlife. Along with the multitudes of birds around we saw a sea otter and a couple porpoises. By the time we were done everyone was cold but had a great time. The rest of the afternoon we spent at a museum commemorating the history of the area and had the rest of the night to enjoy the view or catch up on sleep!

Pictures: View from the hotel at low tide

Brown bears!

Sea kayaking

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Out on the Ranch

The ranch

Monday morning the last group headed out to the ranch so here is a taste of what we all got to experience out there. Upon arrival we met Frank, an awesome guy that is the definition of a mountain man. He briefly introduced us to the area and then put us to work. The last group at the ranch worked on cleaning up the yard from the winter by picking up pieces of wood and metal posts. It was easy work and a nice day to do it. After cleaning up and grabbing a bite to eat, Frank took us to the mountains to the old lucky strike mine area. There was still so much snow out there-enough to be taller than our vans at some points! We did a little sledding and then had a snowball fight, mainly us against Frank. He's awesome though, took it well, and gave it right back to us. We had some beautiful views of the mountains while up there.
Back at the ranch, we had some downtime during which some of us went 4 wheeling, created the massive bonfire, or helped with making our moose spaghetti dinner. The rest of the night was spent around the bonfire and enjoying the midnight sun-I don't think it ever got completely dark while we were there!
The second day at the ranch was spent cleaning some more and having ample time for target practice at the shooting range. The rest of the night was very relaxed around the campfire again and smoking salmon in the smokehouse. While we were there we saw and heard a moose, were alerted to a possible bear out in the woods (the dogs chased it out though) as well as all the animals on the farm including horses, goats, yaks, geese, and turkeys. Everyone had a great time while at the ranch and would probably have spent the entire trip out there if possible!
The groups not at the ranch were able to continue working at the discovery center and consumer apartments doing some spring cleaning and helping to prepare activities. Today was our last official day with Hope so we had a short goodbye gathering and will be getting ready to head south to the Kenai Peninsula tomorrow.

Pictures: midnight at the ranch

Monica, Sydney, Emily, Michael, JuTone, Keita, and Cameron in the mountains

Monday, May 14, 2012

Adventure Times Four

Sunday was full of things to do. The group at the ranch decided to stay another night and was able to experience more of the rural Alaskan life. They were up there for the pig butchering, among other things, and really enjoyed their break from the city.

Back in Anchorage, we made a trip to the Alaska Native Heritage Center, the Living History Farms of Alaskan culture. While there, we were able to see housing types for the different cultural groups, artifacts and animal skins each would use, and learn more about the people from each region. After touring around the "villages" we watched ceremonial song and dance by native Alaskans. The whole experience was really neat and everyone enjoyed it.

In the afternoon, the Anchorage group found a couple more adventures. We went for a hike at Thunderbird Falls. The hike wasn't too intense (after the initial hill!) and had some awesome views of the waterfall and surrounding mountains. There was a trail that went right up to the base of the falls that we took which ended up being so cool!

After our hike we thought we would go find a local ice cream place to try. However, google maps failed us in this endeavor as the first two places we tried didn't exist and the third took us to an ice cream distribution center. Giving up on a local place, we found the cold stone in town. Instead of going straight for the ice cream though we took a detour to a pizza place across the street. It was kind of sketchy so hopefully the cook knew what he was doing! Finally we got our ice cream and went back to the hotel ready to fall in bed.

Pictures: mountain view on the hike

Totem pole at the heritage center

Thunderbird falls