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Don't Rock the Boat


Sumiki

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-----It was get-up-and-go from our hotel to the departure point for our tour boat around Kenai Fjords National Park. We had to be there at 7:00 for boarding at 7:30 for an eventual departure at 8:00. Our tour took us through the waters around Seward, and the wildlife we saw was impeccable: a dozen-odd sea otters (one of which had napped all the way to much deeper waters), several pods of orcas who crested early and often around and under the ship, several humpback whales who displayed their tails for us as they dove deep, a score of sea lions, and a few seals. Our captain stopped for a great while during these sightings, and after a few minutes without running engines, the boat really started to rock. This wasn't much fun, but no one suffered ill effects, as getting the boat moving at its maximum speed of roughly 22 knots mitigated the impossible-to-walk-on-straight tilting.

 

-----The coolest (pun intended) part of the journey was Holgate Glacier, whose massive ice face flows six feet per day off the Harding Icefield. While many of the glaciers have receded in recent decades due to the effects of a gradually warming climate, it doesn't diminish their awesome power. The captain rolled up perhaps a mile away, and yet the deep creaking and crackling of the glacier made it as if a scene from an alien world. Seeing what appeared to be small chunks of ice calve off and fall to the sea, only to hear an epic and thunderous thud moments later, gave a sense of scale to the place. The frigid wind sweeping off of the glacier blew in our faces, but yet we persevered in order to catch a glimpse of the next big calve.

 

-----Because of the unusual abundance of wildlife, we got back to Seward closer to 3:00 than our expected arrival time of 2:00, but we had no other place to be than up to Girdwood—specifically, the Double Musky Inn. My dad has been talking about the Double Musky since I can remember, and from the well-worn 30-year-old cookbook at home came the recipe for shrimp étouffée, which he was obsessed with ordering since we first started planning this Alaska journey in earnest. We got to Girdwood at 4:30, a half-hour before the Double Musky opened, so we decided to check into our hotel before doubling back in the small community. (Interestingly, Girdwood isn't even a town, but rather is incorporated within Anchorage despite being nearly an hour's drive further south.)

 

-----Enter the tour buses. We'd seen our fair share of these around Alaska, but it's past Memorial Day and into June and so there were several parked in front, blocking vehicles from entering. The lines to check in at the short-staffed front desk grew massive, and when we finally reached our room, we walked past a team of housekeepers who—at 5:00—were just now getting to third-floor rooms. It's nice in as far as accommodations are concerned, but the manner in which things are run leaves something to be desired.

 

-----We showered for the first time in several days and were able to drive back down to the Double Musky at around 6:00. The small eclectic interior is adorned with tiny signs and tchotchkes from turn-of-the-century soda advertisements to coasters advertising German beers to—of course—all manner of cajun paraphernalia. It's tightly packed and they were running as if short-staffed due to the number of people they cram in, but hey—at least we got in ahead of influx of the tour buses.

 

-----My dad ordered his beloved étouffée, and said that it was spicy but excellent. My mom got an appetizer of crab cakes (which were very spicy) and myself perhaps the blandest (and worst) thing on the menu in the beef tip appetizer. I'd not eaten solid food in about 48 hours save for a few granola bars on the ship, and I was loathe to introduce anything remotely spicy to my system. I ate about half of it, but mainly just enjoyed the look on my dad's face as he savored his étouffée, which he reported as being the same as my mom's recreation save for the fact that it was laced with hot sauce and thus significantly spicier. (Thank goodness for Zantac.) Dessert—of which I partook a single bite—was "cajun delight," and it was basically cream-flavored air.

-----Tomorrow: we return to Tok, as the journey back to the Yukon begins.

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