Ramble through Alaska – Exit Glacier

At Exit Glacier, not far from the top of the world as the puffin flies, we stayed at a historic hotel and stayed clear of bears
We were drained from the previous day’s drive to the Arctic that ended only at 3 AM on Day 3 of our trip at Seward, Alaska. Seward is a tiny town in the southern part of Alaska in the Kenai Peninsula, named after William H Seward who negotiated the purchase of Alaska. The town offers access to the Kenai Fjords National Park and the Exit Glacier, which were in our itinerary for the next two days. We had stayed at the Hotel Van Gilder — a historic hotel in Seward.
Exit Glacier
Built in the early 20th century, Hotel Van Gilder has seen the metamorphosis from an office building, hotel, women’s dormitory to its final use as a historic hotel. We were impressed with its interiors and furnishings, which gave us the feeling that we were indeed staying at a place of historic significance. The interiors, with their Italian feel, reminded me of another place where I had stayed at Miami Beach.
Hotel Van Gilder, Seward, Alaska
We had a three-hour nap as we had to get to the Harding Ice Field Trail to begin our hike. The weather was not benign and there was a continuous drizzle. A rather gloomy day compared to the heaps of sunlight we had received the day before. When we got to the visitor’s center for the Exit Glacier we could hear a lot of talk about bears in the area, and we made the necessary enquiries on how to evade bears, which included making a lot of noise and trying to look larger than the bear by spreading out the limbs high, or using a pepper spray (which we didn’t have). We then proceeded with caution. We passed a few hikers on the way back and some warned us about bears in the area. After about 30 minutes into the hike Raghavan and I decided we didn’t want to be hugged by any bears. I was reminded of a lesson my high school English text book about a hiker who was attacked by a bear that took out his scalp with one blow. Rajarshi was nonchalant about the bear threat and decided to continue all alone.
A cruise ship at Resurrection Bay
We hung around for short hikes at the base of the glacier and were pained to read about how it had receded over the past years. Back at Seward Raghavan and I ate and headed out to explore the town’s streets, a journey that took us to Resurrection Bay. Back at the hotel we were joined by Rajarshi who related his hike experience, the friends he had made, and a black bear he had spotted along the glacier.
Colorful mural on the wall of a restaurant
We ended the day with a visit to a local watering hole where we caught up with the friends Rajarshi had made during the trek — two from the Czech Republic and one from Japan — and we exchanged notes on our travels and headed back hoping we could catch glimpses of puffins, sea lions and whales during our cruise at the Kenai Fjords National Park.
Text and photos: Anand Yegnaswami
Lead Photo: Public DomainRead previous posts in the Alaska series
Andy

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