A Local's Guide to Seward
Paul Paquette arrived in Alaska in May 1971 looking to fight forest fires. Instead, a cannery job in Seward kept him occupied for three years, during which time he started and began raising a family. His three children still live in Alaska, and his family has grown to include a number of grandchildren. In the late 1980s, Paul began practicing a crude form of shingle art. It took an art director from Fairbanks, a house in need of siding, and the sight of a mother and baby humpback whale breaching just off shore for inspiration to take hold. Since then, Paul's abilities have flourished and his shingle art can be seen throughout Alaska, Canada and the Lower 48.
Seward is similar to many Alaska coastal towns, in that it is located at the end of the highway system. In this case, it's the Seward Highway, one of two federally designated All-American Roads in Alaska.
About 120 miles south of Anchorage, visitors can rent a car to enjoy the drive south or take the Alaska Railroad's daily service in the summer. There are also bus lines with daily service and a small local airport for private charters.
A must for everyone coming to Seward is a visit to Exit Glacier. A part of Kenai Fjords National Park, the glacier is the only section of the park accessible by road. Located 12 miles west of the Seward Highway, the paved road is open seasonally, from about May through September each year. Park entrance and parking are free, and the hike to the face of the glacier is easy. The approximately 7-mile Harding Icefield Trail is for the adventurous and hardy. It's usually snow free by mid-July, so plan on gaiters (to cover your boots and lower legs) and snowshoes earlier in the season or at higher elevations. The trail provides a 2,200-foot rise for some spectacular views of the valley, mountains, and icefield. Guided tours onto the icefield of flightseeing tours can be arranged.
Seward Small Boat Harbor
The Seward Small Boat Harbor is filled with charter boats, large and small, to take you fishing or sightseeing into Kenai Fjords National Park. Calving glaciers, whales breaching, sea lions, rookeries, and puffins are just a few of the things you will see. Or just stroll the docks; you'll be amazed at the variety of sailboats and fishing boats. The harbor is lined with restaurants and businesses that are designed to meet your every desire.
Downtown Seward is filled with local history and a variety of businesses, some new, and some, like the former Brown & Hawkins building (204 4th Ave.), more than 100 years old. For a great cup of coffee, fresh baked scones, croissants, cookies, cinnamon rolls, and more fancy goodies, the Ranting Raven Bakery & Gifts is my choice. Sit down to enjoy coffee or a light lunch, or browse the gift shop for arts and crafts from Alaskan artists. The storefront displays the legend of how Raven stole water and gave us rain, lakes and streams, in my shingle art. Downtown is also home to the Alaska SeaLife Center, a marine research and education facility open to the public.
Seward is at the end of the highway system, but not quite the end of the road. Lowell Point, a small peninsula poking out into Resurrection Bay two miles south of Seward, is truly the end of the road and where I have called home for more than 30 years. Lowell Point offers visitors an up-close-and-personal Alaska experience, and includes the Lowell Point State Recreational Area. My wife's business, Angels Rest on Angel's Rest on Resurrection Bay provides some of the most special lodging anywhere. The views from these cabins and rooms are spectacular, and the marine wildlife is abundant, including otters, whales, seals, sea lions, and waterfowl too numerous to list. All of Angels Rest's buildings and numerous other businesses and homes around Lowell Point are adorned with my shingle art. If you go sea kayaking (there are a number of kayak guides here), you will most likely depart from South Beach on Lowell Point.
Hiking trails around Seward
If you like to step off the road and into the wilderness, the hiking trails around Seward are numerous and diverse. Tonsina Creek Trail, accessed via Lowell Point, is an easy two-mile hike to salmon-spawning streams with ample opportunity for bear viewing. Continuing on along Resurrection Bay from Tonsina Creek, the coastal trail to Caines Head State Recreation Area is passable only at low tide. Be sure to check the tide book and with locals before attempting this hike, or arrange for a water taxi to avoid this tricky section. The old Army road will take you back in time to a piece of World War II history, Fort McGilvray. The cement bunkers, where guns protected Seward's ice-free port during the war, are open to visitors who wish to explore them (be sure to take a flashlight with you!).
The intense trail up Mount Marathon scales upward 3,400 feet from downtown and provides a spectacular view of Seward all the way to the Gulf of Alaska. Athletes from around the world and locals, myself included, have trained hard to run to the top of the mountain and back down in less than an hour, to be crowned king or queen of the mountain in the Mount Marathon Race. Over the years, it's developed into a world-famous race, held on the 4th of July.
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