April 11th
Seward, Alaska

I did not set an alarm since I hadn’t booked a tour or made any early plans. I did wake up at 9 when Capt. Glenn made his morning announcement.  It was mostly cloudy & 34*.  All I could see from my verandah was concrete, stacked with shipping containers & cranes.  But there was a beautiful snow capped mountain range off in the distance. The Capt’s thought for the day was....”Try & fail; but don’t fail to try.” 

The bed felt so good & warm; I didn’t want to get out of it.  I stayed put, knowing that I would be awakened at 10 when they sounded the alarm for crew lifeboat drill.  Shortly afterward, I went down to the laundry room to see if it was busy; it was not.  So, I put 2 loads in.  I made a sandwich for breakfast from my leftover tenderloin & a roll & stood on the verandah watching the crew assemble on the deck below me.  There were lots of faces I didn’t know; but I did spot Melanie, Christine, Bruno, Augusto & Jacque Brown.  I ran into Celeste & Bill as they were leaving their cabin, heading ashore.

I finished my laundry & left the ship at 12:50; catching the 1pm shuttle into town.  Some of the tours offered today included whale watching, snow skiing & even a bus transfer (3 hr) into Anchorage.  Seeing Anchorage was tempting; but my days of 10-12 hr days of touring are over for this vacation. I was quite content to just ramble the streets of Seward & enjoy the snow.

St. Peter's Episcopal Church

Seward (located at the foot of Mount Marathon on the Kenai Peninsula) is the smallest of all the Alaskan towns we have visited (just under 3,000 residents); but I found it to be the most ‘normal’ looking.  Normal in the respect that it looks like thousands of other small towns in the U.S. “Town” consists of a neat grid pattern of streets; with names like 1st, 2nd, A St., B St., & streets named after Presidents.  They are lined with darling one & two story storefronts & restaurants with quaint names like: ‘Once in a Blue Moose’, ‘Sweet Darlings’, ‘The Train Wreck’, ‘Nettie’s Roadhouse’, & ‘The Ranting Raven’.

Another surprise was the more than a dozen lovely murals that were painted on the sides of buildings, sometimes hidden on side streets & in alleys. Seward is truly a beautiful little town, home to some of the nicest people you’d ever want to meet.

I got off the shuttle at the first stop, which was at the top of the hill on the corner of Adams & 4th (Main St.).  On that corner sat tiny Kawabe Park, piled high with old snow.  A huge botanical mural (entitled 'Wildflower Garden') covered the entire side of a building next door.  It was created by a group of artists in 2006; sponsored by Holland America Line & various merchants around town. This is the first of many I would discover.

Notice the mural between the blue bldg. & the Ranting Raven
entitled 'Postcards from our Past'

'A Tribute to Commercial Fishing' mural

As I walked down Main. St. I noticed many interesting little things; statues of orca whales & salmon & a beautiful wooden door carved with a whale fluke. Things that would have gone unseen if I wasn’t on foot. The sun started to break through the clouds; & it felt much warmer than the mid 40’s.  During my walk, I came upon lots of crewmembers.  I ran into Lizzie, Peggy, Elaine & Chuck outside the aquarium.

My destination was at the bottom of the hill, the Alaska SeaLife Center; a research facility, rehab center & public aquarium that was built with funds donated after the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989.  Admission was $20.

They had quite a few tanks of marine life on display. What came next was a lifelong see a puffin.

Starfish, Anemones & Octopus

There is an outdoor aviary & pool with plenty of rock cliff walls for roosting. You are allowed to walk into this enclosure & walk right up next to the pool (which is about chest high).  There were several species of waterfowl; but I only had eyes for the puffins.  I find everything about them intriguing.  Their beaks change colors; from drab gray in the winter to the bright colors you see here (which helps to attract a mate).  They’re smaller than I expected, between 10-12” tall; & they usually choose their mate for life.  I like their ‘pigtails’.

Next door was the grotto for the steller sea lions.  The young ones have the saddest eyes.  Some of these guys were massive, up to 9-10’ long! Although they are not on the endangered species list, they were excessively killed for food & their skins; & are now considered threatened.  My timing was good; feeding time.  That meant that the older sea lions would hop up on the rock heads & do a few tricks for food.  Unfortunately the side with the best view had the dirtiest windows.

Next door there were smaller harbor seals.  There weren’t many of them; & they were all in or under the water.  All you could see were those huge brown eyes with ‘paw print’ shaped eyebrows & v-shaped noses just above the surface.  They told us that they can grow up to 6’ long; & that the females usually outlive the males by about 10 years.

There was an observation deck on the back of the building that looked out over Resurrection Bay & the mountains.  It had turned cloudy again; & very cold with the wind off the water.  But it was beautifully serene.

Back inside & working my way down one level towards the exit, I came upon a large room with benches where one could sit & watch the underwater antics of the seals.  There were children with their noses pressed up against the glass.  I sat for a while; watching them glide through the water had a very calming effect.

Across the street from the SeaLife Center was a large mural of humpback whales painted by noted marine artist, Wyland.

I walked over to the Iditarod Trailhead Park at the end of the peninsula to see the Founder’s Monument.  It honors John Ballaine who founded Seward in 1917.

As I was walking back up the street, I heard someone call my name. There was Kris across the street; he & Betty were having coffee at Sweet Darlings. I went over; & chatted for a while as we sat at a table by the window watching the street traffic.  Pax & crew would come in occasionally to pick up a warm beverage.  We decided to head back toward the ship around 5, riding on the same shuttle.

Kris was looking for something specific that he’d been unable to find; & the driver suggested he stop at one of the big stores closer to the docks. He dropped them off about a block away; & I arrived back to the ship at 5:15.  I went straight to the Bistro, where I found Celeste & Pat.  It was nice to see Pat out & about, although she was still feeling a little punk. Celeste said they visited the SeaLife Center as well; & that she loved Seward as much as I did.

I already knew I didn’t want to order from the dining room menu tonight; so I hurried up to the Trident Grill before it closed at 6.  I ordered a cheeseburger & hot dog with all the fixings, but without buns. I guess it is time to back off a little on the carbs.  Withdrawal is going to be a bitch!

I went out on the aft deck to take some more photos.  The clouds had given way to a perfectly blue sky; & the late afternoon sun was so beautiful on the snow.  Sunset wasn’t for another 3 hours; but it was about to dip behind Mount Marathon.  It was getting dark in the valley.

I went in to warm up about 7:30; & ate dinner.  Sorry, no food photos today. Leftovers & a naked burger & dog are not a good representation of Crystal’s otherwise excellent cuisine.  I’ve become oversaturated with photos; I couldn’t look at any more even if somebody paid me.

I showered & slathered on more Benadryl spray on my legs.  It’s not the most pleasant of topics; & that’s why I don’t bring it up every day.  But the itch is about to drive me INSANE; & it has now spread up to just above both knees.  The friends that I show it to, still think it’s a simple allergic reaction to something; & that I will NOT die from it.  Since I have no control of my scratching while I’m asleep, I’m taking clippers & cutting my nails down to stubs.  I don’t know what else I can do....wear gloves to bed?

We set sail at 9pm; & I got in bed shortly afterward.  Read awhile; but was drifting off.  So it was lights out at 10:45.

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