Thursday 17th July 1:00 p.m Anchorage, Alaska
What a great household! Jillian, Stacey, Anna, Ben, and Andy all work at the resort, and are housed in town as part of their remuneration. With Anna's sister visiting, and me sleeping on the floor, that made seven of us in the apartment. Surprisingly, everyone seems to get along, and although the place looks obviously 'lived in', it's unusually clean and tidy. I was feeling a bit off colour in the morning, and hadn't slept real well because of an upset stomach, but I was determined not to let it spoil my short time in Seward. Jillian had the day off, and seemed happy to drive me out to Exit Glacier, about ten miles out of town. Exit Glacier is probably one of the most easily accessible and highly visited glaciers in the area. I could see why; it's beautiful, and what's remarkable is that it is just one of several glaciers that flow from the massive Harding Ice Fields, a frozen alpine 'sea' stretching over 1500 square miles. I read that Exit Glacier was so named because it provided early explorers with a safe exit from the ice fields above.
After a short hike around the face of the glacier, Jillian and I dropped in to the resort where she works. I was able to check my emails there, while Jillian chatted to her workmates, who were all sitting around doing nothing! Somehow, we emerged from the resort in the possession of a couple of free passes to the Seward Sealife Centre. I've been to aquariums before, but this was a little different. It was the first time I had experienced 'touch tanks' where you can have a hands on experience with so many types of starfish, urchins, anenomes and other assorted slimy sea creatures. But that wasn't the highlight. I saw a puffin. My first puffin. I had Jillian take a silly photo of me driving a little kids fishing boat, then my camera batteries died just as I lined up a great shot of a tufted puffin! That'll teach me.
But wait, there's more! Jillian said she'd like to shout me to lunch at a new waterfront restaurant she'd seen. Luckily for her, I was still feeling pretty fragile- digestively speaking- so the two of us split a halibut sandwich and headed home. Stacey was there, whistling a happy tune and bouncing around the apartment like she just swallowed a can of Mexican jumping beans. It was a far cry from the Stacey I'd met here the previous night. I guess she'd recovered from whatever was ailing her. She was busy preparing dinner, and baking a couple of loaves of banana bread. With only a couple of hours left before I had to board the train back to Anchorage, I chatted to the girls while they prepared dinner and drank Rosemount Shiraz- an Australian wine. *didn't Stacey say last night that she was never going to drink again*
Thanks Alaska Railroad! Alaska Railroad shouted me a train ride back to Anchorage, but this was no ordinary train ride. The scenic ride from Seward to anchorage is rated in the top train rides of the world. It's only 120 miles, but it takes four and a half hours by the time the train slows or even stops, at particular vantage points. I spent most of the time in the space between two carriages, with the wind blowing through my thinning hair, jostling for the best viewing position with an American girl and two Japanese men. It was probably a blessing in disguise when my camera batteries went flat. That meant I could just sit back and enjoy the view, without cursing every time a tree got in the way of a good shot. There was an occasional commentary as well, with information about the surrounding landscape, and several very helpful staff on board to answer questions. There were also a couple of 'observation cars' with domed glass roofs, but I prefered the cool Alaskan air.
Being such a slow ride, the train doesn't reach Anchorage until 10:30 p.m. and I was concerned that this might be inconvenient for my host Jeff. "No problem" said Jeff, "I'll meet you at the train station." Sure enough Jeff and his son Brenn were there to meet the train, and they quickly recognized me. Jeff lives just two miles from the station and directly beside the railway line, so they didn't even leave their house until they heard the train pass by...and they still got to the station before me!