Le Chic En Rose

Diaries of an independent traveller

Following on from last week’s post (see here), we had arrived early evening in the little settlement of Creekside, just on the edge of the wild and rugged Denali National Park .

We had booked a day excursion to the national park through our accommodation hosts at McKinley Creek Cottages. The assembly point for the trip was at a nearby hotel and we drove to the meeting point around 6am when it was still dark. There were a few hitches though before we could head off into the national park. First there was some confusion over picking people up from the various meeting places and then owing to a misunderstanding between the tour operators and bus driver/tour guide (nothing to do with us!) we found ourselves on the wrong bus before having to pile out again. Finally we boarded the correct bus – it turned out to be an old converted school bus, which did not have the greatest suspension!

It was a very long day out (14 hours in total) and the weather was as dreary and misty as the previous few days had been. Despite the misty weather, we still managed to take many photos and learnt so much about the park, its wildlife and history.

The park and preservation area covers 6 million acres of wilderness land in the heart of Alaska’s interior. The land comprises woodland and forests at the lower levels, followed by tundra and high plateaus before rising to the glaciers and snow-topped mountains of the high alpine areas. The centrepiece (on a clear day) is the 20,310 feet (6,190 metres) high Denali, North America’s highest peak (formerly known as Mount McKinley). Unfortunately visibility was much too poor on our day trip to have any chance of seeing the mountain at all let alone the summit.

There is only one rather narrow road that runs through the park area and you need a permit to enter (all formalities were organised by our tour leader and guide, the bus driver). Private cars are not allowed – you have to take one of the park buses or do a private tour like we did. The roads are not for the fainthearted – at various points it is best to look away if you don’t like heights!

The park is home to wildlife including grizzly bears, wolves, moose, caribou and Dall sheep. During the warmer months popular activities include biking, hiking, walking and, for the more intrepid, mountaineering.

Our main focus was trying to spot wildlife from the bus.To give everyone the best chance to capture photos, if you spotted anything you had to quickly shout out port (left side) or starboard (right side) and the clock position for example 10am or 2pm. The bus would then come to a halt for photos and we would hopefully all be looking in the right direction. However, apart from a few Dall sheep, which looked like tiny specks up the mountain-side, the first part of the day was not conducive to seeing any of the local wildlife. No doubt they were sensibly seeking shelter from the elements! At last, however, came the highlight of the morning when someone spotted a mother grizzly bear and her cub in the bushes near the road.

It was very hard to take photos and I’ve just got a few of the mum – the driver reckoned her cub (or cubs) were very close by. We were of course safely on the bus at this point! At this time of year (late summer) the bears are busy eating as much as possible to stock up for the winter. These bushes would have had a plentiful supply of berries, which are apparently a bear treat. Mother Bear munched her way along the clearing for some time, apparently unfazed by our presence nearby, then sauntered off up the hillside.

There are a couple of official stopping-off points along the way including the Eielson Visitor Centre, (which I’ll cover more in the next post). These are a few of the photos I took on the outbound journey in the morning – clearly it was not a great day for photography but it does capture the atmosphere and the feeling of isolation you get in this part of the world.

We reached the midway point of our trip just in time for lunch – a very welcome break after a few hours bobbing along in the school bus!

The Denali Backcountry Lodge, the end of the Denali Park Road, is situated in the tiny settlement of Kantishna and offers a wilderness escape with private cabins, warm hospitality and the chance to get out into nature during the day (you can read more here). For anyone arriving on the Alaska Rail Road they organise a shuttle bus to and from the station at the settlement of Denali Park.

We weren’t staying overnight of course but had full use of the communal facilities. The lodge provided us with a hearty buffet lunch – very welcome as breakfast seemed a long time ago!

The settlement of Kantishna was originally an old gold-panning outpost and the lodge is adjacent to the rushing waters of Moose Creek, once a spot where prospectors searched for the coveted metal in the icy waters. We had the chance to pan for gold ourselves as it was one of the optional activities organised by the tour. However we decided instead to go for a stroll over the rather rickety-looking wooden bridge and head towards the lookout point on the opposite bank of the creek.

There was a word of warning beforehand though. We thought we just had to be worried about the possible presence of bears but apparently a couple of weeks earlier a young child (a 7 year old boy from memory) was crossing the bridge with his parents. Suddenly a local ranger noticed something behind the boy (not his mum or dad) and to her horror realised it was a lynx (see here for more information on lynxes from the Denali Visitor Centre)! It was a very rare sighting – the ranger could hardly remember seeing one in the park especially so close to the lodge. Fortunately by some miracle they managed to signal to the boy to stop dead still so the lynx would be less likely to pounce and after a short time the lynx turned around and strolled off in the opposite direction. Phew! It must have been an extremely unsettling experience to say the least.

We set off feeling a bit like the Billy Goats Gruff trying to cross the bridge without disturbing the troll – somewhat hesitantly! Fortunately we made it across the bridge without any lynx sightings, which was a good start.

It probably took fifteen minutes or so to get to the lookout point though I wasn’t really counting. In fact most of the way we were looking at the ground trying to detect any recent animal footprints (which was the advice we had been given). By the time we arrived the rain had set in again but despite the slight worry of being watched by a hungry lynx (or bear for that matter) it was lovely being out in the pure fresh air and listening to the waters of the creek gushing below us.

On this occasion we were very glad to return safely to the lodge without any wildlife sightings. We repaired to the warmth of the lounge to enjoy some refreshments in front of the roaring log fire before it was time to set off back home along the Denali Park Road, (Part 2 to follow).

I’m linking this post to Restless Jo’s Monday Walk – she’s tirelessly curated this series of walks round the world for several years now (certainly since I started this blog in 2014). She’s talking about taking a well-earned break soon – hopefully there will be more walks to come but in the meantime many thanks to Jo for her wonderful contribution and blogosphere camaraderie!

Mother Grizzly
Bear – Denali National Park

Copyright © 2021 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

After our couple of days sojourn in Anchorage (see here) we continued northwards on our Alaskan trip by road, having picked up a large station wagon from a car hire firm in downtown Anchorage.

We could, however, have taken the rail option with the Alaska Railroad, which runs services up as far north as Fairbanks (our final destination in Alaska). The evening train ride we had done from Seward to Anchorage, after disembarking our cruise ship, had introduced us to the impressive trains with their distinctive blue and yellow livery (see here).

The Alaska Railroad is still running services throughout the northern summer albeit with reduced capacity to comply with Covid social distancing requirements.

Further details are available on the website here – the basic summer service appears to follow the traditional route (as far as I can tell) from the information the company provides:

2021 Modified Service Update: The Denali Star Train will operate a modified schedule summer 2021: in addition to the train’s standard stops, the Denali Star will also provide flagstop service between Talkeetna and Hurricane

Having seen a few travel documentaries recently, which follow the course of the railroad (both in winter as well as summer) it looks a fantastic journey. If I ever went to Alaska again I would love to do the whole journey from Seward to Fairbanks or back the other way.The road route intersects with the railway along many parts of the route but some scenic spots such as the spectacular Hurricane Gulch Bridge are accessible only by rail.

However our mode of transport wouldn’t have made much difference on the day we set off north from Anchorage – it was pelting with rain and visibility was extremely poor.

These are some of the photos I took! The middle one with the Target sign was taken passing by the town of Wasilla, which intrigued us as it is the home of the former US presidential candidate and one time state governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin. We didn’t hang around here too long though!

Further along the highway we came to the pretty little town of Talkeetna, a popular stopping-off point for Alaska Railroad patrons as well as road travellers such as ourselves. It was reputed to be the basis for the fictional town of Cicely in the TV series Northern Exposure (which I’ve not actually watched) though this claim has never been verified by the production company.

Whatever the truth of the story, the town has thrived and become a bustling little place humming with tourists (alas this may have changed since Covid came along). The historical main street was packed with a myriad of shops selling arts and crafts, trinkets, souvenirs, hiking and fishing gear plus a number of cafes. Most importantly for Monsieur there was an ice creamery!

The weather remained inclement to say the least – it was certainly very chilly for an August day. We did brave the showers to have a wander round town and down to the river, which was practically overflowing. It was also fun to catch up with the Alaska Railroad train again in the small station – the bright colours stood out against the dreary greys and mist.

Our friends had sensibly stayed in the car and by now everyone was getting hungry. We read about a small bakery and cafe situated just out of town near Talkeetna and decided to give it a try for lunch. The Flying Squirrel nestles in a clearing off the main road surrounded by woodlands. Inside it was warm and homely with the feel of a rustic farmhouse. The food was delicious using fresh local produce and their home-made bread was especially tasty – just what we needed to warm us up.

Fortified with hot drinks as well as the food we set off on the road north to find our accommodation for the night. We had booked some cabins at a little settlement called Creekside just outside the boundary of Denali National Park. As their name suggests, McKinley Creekside Cabins and Cafe are situated at the edge of Carlo Creek surrounded by trees against a backdrop of mountains. Unfortunately the mountains were nowhere in sight on this particular day but the setting was still beautiful and pristine.

Although it remained grey and misty for most of our stay, the fresh air was invigorating and the cosy cabins were perfectly situated next to the fast flowing creek. The Creekside Cafe and Bakery was just down the way from our cabin so there was no need to go off site in search of food and refreshments. However there was an adjacent pizza place and a very nice restaurant, about a kilometer up the hill, where we went for a drink one evening.

We needed to be in bed early the first night though as we were being picked up early the following morning to take us into the nearby Denali National Park for the day.

More to follow!

Copyright © 2021 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

I just have a few posts to finish off my Alaska series (see here for all previous posts).

It does seem strange to to be writing this over two years later when travel seems somewhat of a distant memory. In the best of times the tourist season in Alaska was relatively short from May to August and as far as I know the cruise season was cancelled completely in 2020 after the Covid pandemic hit.

Given that the revenue generated by tourism was a major component of the Alaska economy, I wondered what would be happening in 2021. I came across a recent article here, which as I thought confirmed most of the major cruise lines have already cancelled any sailings for this northern summer. A couple including Holland America (which was the line we went on) haven’t ruled out some late sailings from July onwards.

Owing to Covid regulations, large cruise ships sailing up from the USA are banned completely in Canadian waters. There are however some loopholes regarding smaller boat tours with reduced passenger capacity, which means some tours may still go ahead this year.

Back to Anchorage our next stop!

We arrived in the largest Alaskan city, Anchorage, (note Juneau is in fact the capital) late evening on a rather damp cold August day. We had booked into the Lakefront Hotel Anchorage for a couple of nights, which bills itself as “A wilderness lodge in the heart of the city”. Certainly it felt very rustic with wooden panelling and a cosy homely atmosphere slightly spoiled for me by the decorative features on the walls of a plethora of stuffed animals unfortunate enough to have got in the way of the local hunters.

It turned out it that we had arrived in the midst of the short 6 week hunting season and the place was full of enthusiastic hunters who seemed to carry their guns around in the way I would a handbag. We made our way to the restaurant for dinner slightly bemused by a number of patrons nonchalantly strolling around with ‘violin cases’ dangling from their shoulders or in their hands.

Locals use seaplanes like cars and the lake in front of our hotel was always a hive of activity with light planes coming in to land and taking off.

It was certainly an eye opener into Alaska – a place we found of large contradictions. Blessed with wonderful scenery of outstanding beauty and pristine wilderness conservation areas juxtaposed with hunters, oil pipelines that cross the peninsula from north to south and US military bases.

The next day dawned even greyer and wetter than the previous one. Indoor activities were the only sensible option so Monsieur and I headed to the museum to discover more. It happened to be his birthday and turned into one of the more memorable ones.

The Anchorage Museum is a fascinating exploration of the many facets of history, daily life and the rich cultural history of the First Nations People that have helped to shape this part of the world. There are art collections, interactive exhibits and the exploration of themes such as the environment and the effects of climate change. We lost ourselves there for a few hours – below is a visual tour, which is the best way to illustrate a small selection of the available exhibits. Please excuse the poor quality of some photos – the challenges of being indoors with tricky lighting!

As I said earlier I have now collated all my Alaska series of posts into their own category which you can find here.

The following day having collected a car we set off by road to head further north into the Alaska heartland.

Artwork in Anchorage Museum

Copyright © 2021 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

Last weekend seems a long time ago – we’re back in lockdown this weekend due to an outbreak from a quarantine hotel in the city that has leaked into the community.

The pictures below were taken at a music festival called In the Pines held in the beautiful setting of Somerville Auditorium (in the University of Western Australia’s grounds).

Mlle’s workplace, RTRFM, were the organisers so we went along for a couple of hours over lunchtime to check it out and support Mlle (see here for the RTR Family Day outing we had a few weeks ago). In the afternoon we headed off to our younger granddaughter’s 6th birthday party in a local park. Such gatherings alas will now be off the agenda for some time to come.

Leaving Somerville we strolled back to our car along the pathway by the Swan River – it was such a lovely autumn day, still warm and the river was shimmering in the sunshine. Families were picnicing on the river banks enjoying the gorgeous weather. Cyclists and walkers were out aplenty – it’s bit surreal now as everywhere is eerily quiet. We are allowed out for an hour a day in groups of no more than four for exercise as long as we are masked up. We can of course also leave home for shopping for food and medical supplies or for essential work that can’t be done from home. Masks must be worn at all times outside the home.

We have had a very privileged lifestyle over the past few months and really this is a small sacrifice to pay to stamp this latest outbreak out. It is getting harder and harder though to keep the virus out of Australia especially with the newer variants and increased number of returning citizens.

We are hoping for a return to some normality reasonably soon but suspect we’ll be living with restrictions for several weeks at least.

In the meantime here are photos from last Sunday that seem another world away at present! Can you spot the cheeky kookaburra who had pinched a sandwich?

Copyright © 2021 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

A few weeks ago we took the opportunity of a milder late summer’s day (technically early Autumn as it was in March) to head out to the Perth Hills to a popular recreational spot called Lake Leschenaultia in the Shire of Mundaring.

It’s actually a man-made lake, originally an old railway dam, and now a pleasant spot for hiking, picnicking and camping. Midweek there was hardly anyone around but at weekends and in the summer months it can get very crowded.

It is another place near our Western Australian home that we had never visited before. Having had it recommended to us by friends, who had spent a few days camping in the area earlier this year, we decided to go and explore more for ourselves. It was about an hour’s drive from our coastal home and reminded us how close to nature we actually are even in the city.

Only a few weeks before the area had been threatened by the terrible bushfires that swept through bushland and settlements in the north east of Perth. Fortunately the Lake Leschenaultia area and nearby Chidlow were spared the devastation of land a little further away.

The name Leschenaultia, which I thought sounded French, actually comes from the colour of the lake which resembles the Blue Leschenaultia flower (or Lechenaultia biloba to give it its scientific name).

We decided to do the lakeside trail that is about 3 kilometres – a very pleasant undulating path through the bushland with plenty of sightings of the local wildlife (fortunately we didn’t see any snakes though!).

At the end of the trail, which took us about an hour with photo stops, we came to the beach by the picnic zone and found some more information about the lake and the resident flora and fauna.

By this stage we had worked up an appetite and the nearby Chidlow Tavern, serving good old fashioned pub food, was just what we needed. We sat in the garden and had the place to ourselves!

I realise that we have been so lucky here in Western Australia with our daily lives rolling along more or less normally.

Wishing everyone all the best this Easter holiday and hope that life will get back to at least a “new normal” soon!

Copyright © 2021 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

The other weekend we went along to a Family Fun Day organised by the local Perth community radio station, RTRfm. Our daughter, Mlle, is now working for them as a development and marketing manager so we were supporting her and taking the opportunity for a day out with the family.

The event was held in Hyde Park (not the London one!). Situated only a couple of kilometres north east of the inner city area, it is a tranquil spot, which seems far removed from the bustle of the city centre so close by.

With canopies of trees, ducks swimming along the lake and the green space surrounded by Edwardian-style terraced homes and cottages it was the perfect venue. Our granddaughters had a ball with the organised activities and the grown-ups could relax on the grass and sample some of the food and beverages whilst listening to live music.

Having not not been to Hyde Park before, despite calling Perth home for over 30 years (apart from a 7 years hiatus in Melbourne), I duly did some research about its origins. The environment was a swampy area that comprised a series of wetlands stretching north of the river. The local Noongar people called this area ” Boodjamooling” but after the establishment of the Swan River Colony in 1829, the recently-arrived settlers gave it the unfortunate name of Third Swamp. When it was made a public park in 1897, it received the new name of Hyde Park. The other wetlands stretched from what is now Claisebrook Cove near East Perth up to Herdsman Lake and Lake Monger further north. Only a small portion of the original wetlands remains. However walking along beside the lake in Hyde Park watching the ducks wandering happily in the reeds and grasslands by the water, you get a feel for the original wetland area.

I think people often think of Perth as being in the middle of the desert and indeed we are separated from the eastern states by the endless dry flat plain of the Nullarbor Desert. The Nullarbor (Latin for ‘no trees’) is a limestone plain, which is over 1000 kms long and spans Western Australia and South Australia. The Western Australian section starts in Norseman, which is a two hour drive south of Kalgoorlie in the Eastern Goldfields. It takes nearly 8 hours to drive from Norseman up to Perth (it’s over 700 kms away) so we are in fact quite a distance from the actual desert! If you ever feel like making the long drive (which for many is a rite of passage) you can find more information here. Our elder daughter crossed the Nullarbor with friends over 10 years ago when they drove from Perth to Melbourne and back. I didn’t sleep much for the 10 days or so they were away!

The photos of Hyde Park below give a glimpse into another aspect of Perth life – we do have a considerable amount of of green space and vegetation, which provides some welcome respite from the summer sun along of course with our pristine beaches!

Copyright © 2021 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

This week I’m mixing it up by switching from my Alaska series back to Western Australia and sharing another post from our younger daughter, Mlle.

She spent a few days over the New Year staying with friends down south in the pretty town of Denmark – not the European country I might add! It took me quite a while after we first moved here, 30 years ago, to realise people weren’t jetting off overseas when they said they had been to Denmark for a weekend break!

Denmark is situated a few hours’ drive south from Perth on the coast in the Great Southern Region of WA – the terrain is a striking contrast of thickly forested hills and vegetation leading down to pristine beaches and coastal inlets. Monsieur and I visited Denmark nearly 20 years ago when we spent a couple of days with our family staying at the nearby town of Albany. I can remember how green the landscape was and how refreshing it was, even in summer, with the strong breezes coming in off the Southern Ocean cooling the temperatures down.

You can read more about the history of the settlement here – the inlet and river was first sighted by Europeans in the 17th century. When many years later the first Europeans set foot on the lands in the region of present day Denmark, the area was inhabited by the Noongar the traditional indigenous people and custodians of the land. They called the river and the inlet Kwoorabup, which means “place of the black wallaby” (kwoor).

I was interested to hear Mlle’s perspective as she has already made a couple of trips to Denmark since her return to Perth last year. Denmark has become a popular alternative to the more touristy Margaret River area with a climate that also supports vine growing – wineries, restaurants serving local produce and a thriving arts and crafts scene are some of its attractions.

Here’s Mlle’s perspective:

Walks and Hiking – a myriad of opportunities.

She did a portion of the Bibbulmun Track – the leg of the trail she and her friends did is called Poison Point Walking Trail Castle Rock. It’s about a 1.5 hour round hike though allow longer if you want to take it at a really leisurely pace. There are amazing views at the top! The final part of the trail is optional where you climb through a ladder. If you look at Mlle’s photos you may be able to spot the dugite sunning himself on the rock. Mlle is scared of heights (like her dad!) and opted out of the top ladder climb, which is where her “friend” was hiding out. No one was hurt or injured fortunately!

The earlier part of the trail went through some dense forest where Mlle noticed some amazing houses. She thinks you might be able to rent some of them – it would appeal to you if you wanted to get away from it all, indeed Mlle thinks they might be completely off grid.

Beaches

Oceans Beach – great spot for beginner surfers apparently (I’m not a surfer but Mlle has done some surfing holidays in Europe as well as enjoying getting in the water back here in WA). She says there were clean easy breaks to ride!

Greens Pool and Elephants Rocks – beautiful coastline, rocks to climb and you can walk between the two.

The photo gallery below is a compilation of the walking trail, the grounds near their house and the beaches.

Finally a few thoughts on the town itself:

Mrs Jones Cafe – Mlle says it’s “THE BEST BREAKFAST/BRUNCH” and they literally went there every day! The photos on the website (link here) give you a feel for the charming ambiance – it would be right up my street too!

Next door is a gallery with beautiful art, prints, woodwork and other small gift ideas/cards etc.

Other shops and attractions:

Denmark Arts Market – Mlle and her friends went on the Saturday of their trip. They were lucky as the markets are only held 4 times a year (see here for details). Held in the lovely setting of Berridge Park down by the river in town, the market has live bands playing and food trucks plus plenty of arts and crafts stalls to browse round.

Sasden for clothes – a great range of labels!

Sacred Tree for crystals and gifts.

Tiny Treasures games shop – to stock up on some activities for evenings by the fire.

Talking of fires, as I said earlier on, it’s considerably cooler down in Denmark than Perth would be at the same time of year. In late December and early January we had maximums in the high 30s here in the metro area, whereas it was only low to mid 30s down in Denmark. They were even wearing jumpers in the evenings!

Always pack warmer clothing for trips down to the south and south west of WA at any time of year. I got caught out once years ago in the autumn when it was still quite hot in Perth and wet and cold down south. I had to wear the same pair of old exercise tights for several days in a row just to keep warm!

Unfortunately I don’t have any digital photos of our trip to Denmark from the early noughties. It does sound though as if Denmark has managed to retain its charm and appeal, despite ever more visitors and city dwellers seeking a sea change who are drawn there by its many attractions.

Castle Rock Trail Denmark

Copyright © 2021 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

Having spent the day exploring the little port of Seward (see here), it was time to return to the railway station by the harbour and board the evening train heading up north to our next stop of Anchorage.

Many of our fellow cruise ship passengers now joined up with tour groups to explore the main part of Alaska but we were travelling onwards independently with our friends. The Alaska Railroad train was pretty much full when we departed on time around 6pm – we had pre-booked our tickets with Alaskan trains before we left Australia. Although the line stays open all year round, the high season is from May to September, which naturally coincides with the cruise season. I would highly recommend advance booking (when we can travel again!).

The 470 mile railway line from Seward goes as far as Fairbanks just south of the Arctic Circle, connecting many small and otherwise isolated communities along the way.

We took the twilight train up to Anchorage, a journey of just over 4 hours. It’s a fabulous way to admire the landscape either from the comfort of your seat or a special viewing deck at the back of each carriage.

The blue and yellow train wends its way through breathtaking wilderness scenery all offset with the stunning hues of the setting sun on the horizon.

We chugged up mountain passes with spectacular views of the snow-capped Kenai Mountains, over bridges with gushing streams and marshy swampland. On one occasion we passed a moose grazing in one of the meadows but it dashed back into the bushland before I could capture a good photo. Much of the area once you leave Seward is part of the Chugach National Forest, which is the farthest north and west of all American state forests and is 30% covered in ice (you can read up more background information here).

A substantial dinner was served in the dining car – the luxury of the warmth and comforts of the train interior are a marked contrast to the wild terrain and landscape outdoors (wrap up warmly if you head out onto the viewing deck!).

About an hour or so before Anchorage we came alongside the inlet known as the Turnagain Arm, a mix of water and endless mudflats. Beluga whales and bald eagles amongst other wildlife are known to inhabit this area although we didn’t have any sightings. By this stage the sun was dipping in and out behind the clouds in the distance and we followed this surreal scene all the way to Anchorage Station arriving just as night was falling.

It was truly a memorable ride and a unique way to experience the amazing wilderness scenery of Alaska.

Copyright © 2021 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

A few photos taken out and about on our local walks recently. We are able to go out today for the first time in a couple of weeks without wearing masks, a very welcome change. We are very thankful that the recent short sharp lockdown appears to have been effective and we are now back to so-called “Covid normal” (restricted venue capacities and mandatory signing in at all public places such as gyms and shopping centres).

In the meantime “Happy Valentines Day” from Perth!

Copyright © 2021 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

We had arrived in Seward Alaska on a grey and misty morning at the end of our week-long cruise from Vancouver (see here)

Our train up to Anchorage was not due to board till early evening so, having secured our luggage at the station, we headed into town to see what was on offer.

Seward is a port city in southern Alaska, set in an inlet on the Kenai Peninsula. The Kenai Fjords National Park is situated to the west of the town, though unfortunately we didn’t have a chance to explore it. It sounds as spectacular as the Glacier Bay National Park we had visited on our cruise a couple of days earlier (see here). The national park is a place where glaciers flow from the Harding Icefield into coastal fjords surrounded by mountains and pristine wilderness.

There were similarities to the south-east peninsula of Alaska where we had spent the past week. Misty grey skies and pretty wooden buildings, including a couple of churches, were reminiscent of Scotland or Scandinavia. The shops were just opening up. Predictably there were quite a few souvenir places designed to attract the tourists coming off the boats and train but also authentic looking bars and eateries too. It was a quaint mixture but you did have a feeling you were in a very remote part of the world.

We had seen the Alaska SeaLife Centre advertised and since it was on the far edge of town decided to head there first to avoid disappointment in case we ran out of time later on. We spent the next couple of hours or so there and it was a memorable experience. We learnt so much about the local wildlife and the delicate ecosystem in Alaska during our visit. Whales and porpoises live in the waters of the fjords and the SeaLife Centre rehabilitates many injured and ill animals, especially seals and puffins.

We loved the interactive displays and the chance to see cute animals, such as the sea otters, on the road to recovery. Some of the photos are a little blurry, which makes the antics of the seals a little hard to see, but hopefully the photos create an impression of what our experience was like. The puffins were a particular favourite of mine too.

Unfortunately with the onset of the Covid 19 pandemic and the ceasing of cruises up to Alaska, the SeaLife Centre ran into severe financial difficulties and was facing permanent closure. A major fundraising campaign has meant it has been able to stay open during the northern winter (see here for an article I found in the Anchorage Daily News). However there are still concerns over its viability going forward in the summer unless tourism can resume.

By the time we had finished our tour round the SeaLife Centre it was nearly lunchtime and we rejoined our friends in the Seward Brewing Company for a hearty Alaskan meal. Salmon featured heavily on the menu! It happens to be one of my favourite foods and was simply delicious. Since it was pouring with rain we were somewhat restricted in the activities we could do – really staying indoors was the best option. Having made our way back into the town centre, courtesy of a lift from some locals, we ended up at one of the bars along the main street. We enjoyed a late afternoon aperitif (if that’s the right word?) before heading back to the harbour to retrieve our luggage and check in for our train journey up to Anchorage, which I’ll cover in the next post.

I had intended to publish this post last Sunday but hadn’t quite finished it before we headed out to our elder granddaughter’s birthday party at lunchtime. Whilst there we got the news that Perth and the South West of Western Australia were going into a snap hard lockdown at 6pm that evening for 5 days. A security guard in one of our quarantine hotels had tested positive to Covid (the new more infectious UK strain) and had been out and about in the community for several days. Hence we had to run round and get a few supplies after the party and I delayed finishing my post.

We have been so lucky here and have been able to lead a relatively normal life for the past few months so it came as quite a shock. Fortunately all close and casual contacts have been quickly identified and isolated. To date no further cases have emerged despite extensive testing. We have come out of lockdown this evening though some restrictions are in place in Perth for another week or so, such as mandatory mask wearing when we are out in public (both indoors and outdoors). We also have reduced capacities at venues such as cafes and restaurants and must check in using a QR code wherever we go. We do appreciate how lucky we’ve been and can really empathise with people facing extended lockdowns, which must be so hard. Take care everyone and stay safe X

Copyright © 2021 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

%d bloggers like this: