Day 2 – September 2 (Anchorage to Seward)
Another EARLY start. We needed to be at the Anchorage Railroad Depot at 5:45 a.m. As our bodies were still on Eastern time, this wasn’t as hard as it sounds (there’s a 4-hour time difference). The depot, though, really isn’t set up for the onslaught of humanity that come to board the Alaskan Railroad trains. There are very few seats in the depot and there were hundreds of passengers (mostly older). That said, we were given our “GoldStar” pins (again, we splurged for top-of-the-line travel in the GoldStar Dome) and sent to the front of the train to find our car.
After climbing a very tight, spiral staircase, we found our seats in a beautiful train car with huge, picture windows. The perks of riding in the top-of-the-line compartment is that you get a meal and two “adult beverages,” as well as unlimited coffee, tea and soft drinks. As a heads-up, the bartenders on Alaska Railroad make a mean Bloody Mary!
The weather was still not cooperating as far as being sunny or clear and there were still a number of large wild fires in the area. I must say, however, that the scenery is matchless! The entire trip was one beautiful vista after another. I saw my first moose from the train just as we were leaving Anchorage. It was walking down a residential street in a subdivision. As the train move on toward Seward, we were hoping to see more birds and animals in the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge, but the tide was out in the Turnagain Arm (a body of water with the world’s second highest tides at over 30 feet) so no Beluga whales or much wildlife.
We went past Spencer Glacier, Bartlett Glacier and through Grandview Pass. Jim took a great shot as the train headed through the Pass. There was an area in the very back of the train car which was open and it afforded some very good shots of glaciers as we passed. It was a little to “breezy” for me, but Jim loved it. Of course, you put Jim on a train and he’s completely happy.
As soon as we were pulling into the Seward depot, I could see the shuttles for the Seward Windsong Lodge. One was, obviously, a baggage truck and the other our passenger shuttle. From the time we left our bags at the depot in Anchorage, we didn’t see them again until they were delivered to our door at the Windsong Lodge. The efficiency of the tourist programs in Alaska is without reproach! I cannot commend Alaska Tour and Travel highly enough. Throughout the entire trip, our rooms were ready, our excursions had us booked properly, and we didn’t have to worry about transfers or anything. Definitely, the way to go!
Check-in time at the Seward Windsong Lodge (3 p.m.) is strictly adhered to at the Lodge and, since we had arrived before noon, we had several hours to kill.
We had passes to Alaska SeaLife Center which is down on the Seward Harbor, so we hopped on the shuttle. The shuttle made a stop right outside the SeaLife Center. If you ever get to Seward, this is a great attraction. You can spend a few minutes – or a few hours. The cost of admission helps their mission. From their website: “The Alaska SeaLife Center is the only facility in Alaska that combines a public aquarium with marine research, education, and wildlife response.
While primarily dedicated to marine research and education, the nonprofit Center is the only permanent marine mammal rescue and rehabilitation facility in the state.”
We were really looking forward to seeing the sea birds. We got our first-ever looks at Harlequin Ducks, Common Murres, King Eiders, Pigeon Guillemots, endangered Spectacled Eider, and (of course) the stars of the show, the puffins (Horned and Tufted)! I could have watched these amazing creatures for hours as they flew through the water. They can dive to amazing depths and hold their breath for an astoundingly long time.
After a couple of hours, we returned to the Windsong Lodge to get checked in. The property reminded me of the wonderful lodges in the Smoky Mountains or even Switzerland. There were several buildings with roughly 8 rooms (4 up and 4 down) in each nestled into great woods. We opened the window to the sounds of red squirrels, birds, water from a recent rain dripping from the leaves and needles, and wind.
The Resurrection Roadhouse (on the Resurrection River) is located on the grounds of the Windsong Lodge. It consists of a restaurant area and a lounge. The lounge didn’t open until 5, so we opted for a late lunch/early dinner. Again, while the food was filling it wasn’t a stand out. I was a bit disappointed in the crab cakes because I figured (being Alaska) there would be mostly crab. Figured wrong. I WILL say, however, that the Bourbon Mule (a cross between a julep and a mule – mint and ginger beer) was outstanding. I might be beginning to see a theme here.