Thursday, May 13, 2010

Seward Pub Crawl

The day looked grim, just like the day before. Cold, dank, miserable. But I have a little house, and the four of us were stuffed inside with a huge pile of mountain climbing gear piled several feet high covering the living room floor. We had to get out. Looking south, the clouds seemed to be lifting, so I asked the guys if they would like to go to Seward, the tiny sea port 130 miles SE of Anchorage.

A quick detour up to Flattop to check out the panorama of the Alaska Range: Denali and Foraker in the north; and the start of the Ring of Fire down the Alaska Peninsula: the giant volcanoes Mt. Spurr, Redoubt, and Iliamna in the west. Still a lot of snow!

Chad One phones Gina; Mike is all grins

My guests were two disabled veterans and an out-of-work photojournalist, in Anchorage for a few days before flying into the Ruth Glacier to climb the dreaded Moose's Tooth, a massive granite monolith in the foreground of Mount McKinley. Chad One had lost his leg after an IED explosion in Iraq; Chad Two, had lost his leg in a car accident. Mike was a bundle of energy photographing everything his eyes landed on.

Ralph, Chad One, Chad Two, Mike
Girdwood, Alaska

The drive south along Turnagain Arm is one of the most awe-inspiring journeys in Alaska. The massive tide was emptying the basin, so the crew wanted to stop and watch it flow past. Above us thirty Dall sheep sat lazily on the mountainside in the sun. Six eyes rubber-necked on the endless mountains as I kept my eyes on the road and rocketed south in the little Subaru. We stopped for lunch in Girdwood, where our Russian waiter, an amateur photographer, bonded instantly with Mike who had him take a photo of us with his huge Nikon professional camera.

Seward, a little jewel at the head of Resurrection Bay. Steep cliffs line the bay as far as the eye can see. Nary a tourist in sight. A stiff cool breeze blew across the water, but we drove to the end of the road, hopped out of the car and the crew boulder-hopped down to the water's edge while the gulls screeched and swarmed overhead, trying to steal a loon's catch.

A brew sounded good, so we walked the street and found the Seward Alehouse where, joy of joys, they had Moose's Tooth IPA on tap. The bartender's thick Welsh brogue got us talking, and soon we were a close happy bunch.

Mike, Chad & Chad with the Welshman

However they didn't serve dinner, so we wandered out and checked the menus of the restaurants on the block. Holy Shit!! They were all way overpriced; I couldn't believe someone could charge $28 for halibut fish and chips. I had often eaten at Christo's Palace, also overpriced, but likely the best pizza in town, so I took the group there.

Christo's Palace, Seward, Alaska

Walking in from the dead cold spring to the warmth of At the back of the restaurant, a full-width bar built in 1890's and brought up from San Francisco in the 1980's covers the back of the restaurant. Made of mahogany and cherry, it was originally painted with black lacquer.
Unfortunately, or fortunately, the restaurant was destroyed by fire ten years ago, but the bar was saved. It now sits restored with new mirrors and original wood finish. Complementing the scene was Amber, a local woman with the perfect personality for our embarrassing quartet.

Amber at the bar

I noticed the wine bottles in the rack were covered in dust. Either it is only for looks, or no one in Seward drinks wine, just beer and whiskey. Likely the latter.

The cherry lion's head keystone in the bar

Carved wooden salmon adorn the south wall

Chad, Chad, and Mike enjoying a brew

I was the designated driver and took the time to take a number of photos. No tourists at this time of year, and business was slow, so we got to know Amber, the joy of the evening.

Mike is in love; Amber is a good sport!

The clam chowder, calamari, and shrimp covered Ceasar salad were excellent and within budget for the mountain climbers. We wandered onto the street in desperate need of exercise. Mike raced around town photographing Chad Two along the beach, in the street, by storefronts...

Mikes snaps Chad snapping Resurrection Bay

Seward is the start of the Iditarod Trail, where the serum run of 1924 began. A dogsled marks the spot on the south beach. Mountains rise in the distance and I dream of skiing them.

Mile 0 of the Iditarod trail

Finally I realize we need to head home. A two and a half hour ride to go, and it's 9:00pm already. As we pass Portage, a cow moose leads her calf into the swamp in search of something green
A cow moose leads her calf to safety

A serious sunset caused us to stop constantly along Turnagain Arm. Mike must have taken a thousand shots. Even I, the driver, nearly filled my SD card with sunsets.

The brilliant sunset at 11:00 pm
Turnagain Arm of Cook Inlet

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