Alaska: Denali to Seward

The first thing on my mind when I woke up this morning was, “Thank GOD I get to sleep in a warm, comfy bed tonight!”  Last night was another restless, cold night.  I even wore K’s big, fuzzy fleece to sleep and still work up cold a few times.  I guess I wasn’t really cut out for cold weather…

I also woke up at one point last night to find K out of the sleeping bag, scrambling around, fumbling for the zipper, trying his darndest to get out of the tent.  Why?  Because he swore he heard a bear trying to get into the lockers nearby and was going out with bear spray to chase it off.  I finally convinced his crazy ass that staying in the tent and ignoring it was a much better idea than going out and provoking a hungry bear, praying the bear spray would save him.  (Hello, logic.)

The best part of last night?  We finally had an entire night with no rain (Hooray!) so our tent and gear were finally dry when it was time to pack up this morning.  It’s amazing how something so trivial could have such a positive impact on our moods.

We packed up the campsite around 9:00 and wandered toward the Visitor’s Center.  We spent a bit of time leisurely looking around, then had a quick bite to eat at the foodcourt right outside the Visitor’s Center.  We had chicken fingers and fries – overly expensive, but not overly tasty – and then headed to the train station.  On our way, we got our last couple of looks at the expansive beauty of Denali.

DenaliLastView1

DenaliLastView2

DenaliLastView3

We pulled away from the Denali train station just before 12:30, under a dark, cloudy sky still threatening rain.  Not far out of the station, the sky let loose.  (Seriously, what gives around here?!)  The trip was a slow and steady 8 hours back.  This time we spent the majority of the ride silently gazing out the rain-streaked window until our eyes glazed over, then grew heavy and eventually closed.

DenaliTrainRain

We arrived back in Anchorage around 8:15, and it was STILL raining steadily under a dark sky.  We quickly grabbed our packs, hopped in a cab and sped off toward the airport to pick up our rental car.  By 8:45, we were in our shiny, gray Corolla, headed toward Seward – me driving and K navigating.

Dusk was fading to dark over Turnagain Arm as we eased onto the Seward Highway headed south.  (And since I was driving there are no photos.)  We could faintly make out the huge mountains looming to the east and the water just on the other side of the road to the west.  I was a little disappointed to be driving down in the dark and missing the view, but hopefully we’ll have a nice day and nice views on the way back.

As we drove on through Chugach State Park, I had a death grip on the steering wheel and tunnel vision so badly I was starting to feel delirious.  I stared intently down the center of the blinding lines on the road until I swear they were seared into my brain.  The lines were so bright it felt as if we were speeding down an airport runway, lit up with lights instead of paint.  There were no lights, other than my highbeams, to illuminate anything; no ambient light to dampen the burning of the painted lines onto the backs of my retinas.  It was so dark in my periphery I may as well have been driving in a tunnel.  I couldn’t see a damn thing more than about 6 inches off the shoulder of the road, and I was terrified that a moose or bear would cross our path at any second.  Fortunately, we had no wildlife encounters.  I was ecstatic and relieved as we pulled into Seward and I could finally see things in my periphery again.

We pulled into Seward a little after 11:00, and the sleepy town was pretty dead.  The town is really small and not commercial – nearly all of the businesses were small-town businesses.  There were some chains like Safeway and gas stations, but the vast majority were local places.

We pulled up in front of the Van Gilder Hotel (another of our 2-for-1 deals with our Alaska Tour Saver) to find a small, Victorian style building on a quiet street.  Such a quiet street, in fact, we were able to pull our car up and parallel park on the street just steps from the front door.  Not exactly what I was expecting.  We approached the front door to find that we needed a key to unlock it and the reception desk was dark.  Again, not what I expected.  We just booked this place last night on a whim, and I hadn’t researched it, so I wasn’t aware it was so small.  I was expecting a hotel like every other place I’ve ever been with 24/7 reception, etc.

VanGilderHotel

So… I cringed as we dialed the emergency number posted on the door.  (And by “we” I mean K because I felt awful calling so late and pressured him into doing it.)  Luckily, the owners answered and were very friendly as they came to open the door and got us all checked in.  I still felt like a complete a-hole and apologized profusely the entire time we stood there.

With our key in hand, we shuffled down the dim, photo-lined hallway and up the wide, carpeted stairway to our room.  The decor was very Victorian inspired with old-style wooden fixtures, bright patterned carpets and historical black-and-white photos in large frames adorning the walls.  As we walked down the hallway, I had an eerie feeling that this is the type of place where we very well could encounter a ghost.  (And I found out after we were home that it is, in fact, rumored to be haunted.  Perhaps it was my sixth sense that told me that night?)

We walked into our room to find shabby looking, old furnishings.  As I examined the bed, I shuddered a little bit.  The bedspread was worn and discolored with age.  Though the room didn’t appear to be dirty, it was very basic and scantily appointed with a hodgepodge of different pieces.  I guess maybe it just felt it should be dirty because of the obvious age of the furniture and decor.  As I stood there, considering sleeping in the car, I pulled back the bedspread to find that the linens underneath were actually pristine and super comfy.  With that and a cushy, cozy mattress, my qualms were assuaged.  Despite my initial reaction to the age of the place, it was actually really clean and comfortable.  (And ghost-free.  In our room, at least.)  The olden decor and furnishings is part of the era-appropriate charm of the place.

VanGilderRoom

We had originally planned to stop somewhere on the way to Seward to eat, but there really was nothing between Anchorage and Seward.  So there we were, nearly midnight, and starving with nothing in Seward open.  So we drove back up to the Safeway and bought pizza rolls, Reese’s cups and a couple of sodas.  We brought everything back and cooked up our nutritious feast in the shared kitchenette downstairs.  We scarfed our food.  Then, to continue the healthy binge, immediately came upstairs and laid down to watch TV and crash.

Tomorrow morning, bright and early, is our Kenai Fjords catamaran tour.  Time for some beauty sleep.

One thought on “Alaska: Denali to Seward

  1. Dulcie Morgen

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