Our Vie Adventures consists of Cees, Madison, Vladimir the Kitten, and a 1989 Toyota Motorhome named Vie. Cees and Madison are on the road, living the dream of every outdoor-minded couple by visiting each national park in the country over the course of the year. In celebration of our National Parks Centennial, we’ve partnered with Cees and Madison to bring you stories and photos of their yearlong quest (and of course, plenty of #vladimirkitten along the way).
Keep scrolling to see Cees, Madison, and Vladimir’s visit to Kenai Fjords National Park, AK. Stay tuned to Downstream for updates on their adventures and follow them on Instagram (@ourvieadventures) for more frequent updates from the road.
Kenai Fjords is accessed in Seward, Alaska. When we rolled in, it was a cloudy, rainy city. We had high hopes that the weather would clear and we would have a nice open day in the park. That day never came. I guess we used up our good weather card in Denali!
Our campsite for the few days that we were in Kenai was awesome. We were down by the river on a gravel bed. We were able to just have our own little spot close to the park. The fog would come in and out making the whole scene that much more mystical. It was a neat spot.
Our first morning there, when we first opened the door, the cat decided to bolt! He ran straight out headed for the woods. He was about halfway there when he realized that it was POURING rain and decided his escape plan was a bad idea. He stopped, did a 180, and sprinted as fast (or even faster) back to the dryness of the RV! Oh kitty, maybe one day you will break away from your crazy humans.
Our first day in the park, we wanted to see Exit Glacier. It wasn’t too crazy of a hike out to the edge of the glacier, so we threw on our rain jackets and just went for it.
The whole hike up, there were signs marking the edge of the glacier through the years. It is crazy how much it has retreated! I mean, we are talking about miles and miles.
The glacial ice is super blue. Apparently it is caused by the years of compression from every subsequent year of snowfall. When each year brings around 400 inches of snowfall, that pressure builds quickly.
The next day we jumped on a Major Marine all day tour of the fjords. It was unbelievable. It was such a cool way to get up close and personal with the fjords and the glaciers. When we showed up in the morning, we were nervous that visibility was going to be terrible. The fog was thick and the weather looked quite foreboding!
The fog definitely limited what we could see, but when we got close to the cliffs, we could see all of the wildlife, no problem.
When I was little, my dad had a sign on his office door of a bird with a cigarette in his mouth. The bird had a weird-colored beak and underneath it read “No Puffin”. From then on, I always thought that puffins were cool. So it was one of my goals when we came to the Alaska coast to see a puffin! And we did! There were puffins everywhere on our tour! It was a huge bucket list check for me.
Along with the puffins, there were bald eagles, seals, sea lions, and whales. There were all kinds of wildlife to see.
You can see that as we got further from shore, our visibility went way down. It was hard to see much when we were making the longer stretches on the tour.
For me, the highlight of the whole boat tour was witnessing the tidewater glaciers. It was absolutely breathtaking. We watched chunks of ice fall into the water for about 30 minutes. It was pretty cold, but the chance to see literally tons of ice fall into the water kept us glued to the glacier. We were so captivated!
It was raining pretty hard when we were out there too – so most of our photos got ruined by the rain drops on the lens. It was really hard to get a clear one – selfies were particularly difficult! We eventually just gave up and just enjoyed the show for ourselves.
This photo happened right as the ice was falling. The calving of a glacier is actually pretty loud! The big booms of the ice falling were exciting, but for me the more subtle signs of movement were more interesting. You could hear the ice shift and creak as it moved its way down the mountain. Because of all these intimate sounds and creeks, the non-living glacier seems to breathe. It was quite the experience.
We saw some sea otters just hanging out on some floating ice. These little guys don’t seem to mind that they are laying on frozen water. I guess you can handle those kinds of temperatures when you have the coat to handle it. It’s all about having the right gear, right?!
I swear I only ever see seals and sea lions laying around. They seem to have the most mellow life (next to cows). But cows have to cope with the stress of knowing they will be turned into hamburgers some day – these guys just lay around on rocks their whole lives! Zero cares.
So, I know that I said I was most looking forward to seeing some puffins earlier, but when we found out that there was an all-you-can-eat salmon buffet on board, I completely forgot about the orange-beaked birds. The salmon was so good! Alaskan salmon is such a treat. Seriously, if I could choose a meal to have every day of my life it would be Alaskan salmon. It was a tasty addition to the tour for sure.
And of course, every good meal if followed by good dessert. They served brownies and cheesecake. Madison was beyond stoked–these are her two favorite things ever.
The way back to shore was quite pleasant. Our bellies were full, and we were nice and warm in the cabin (after standing in front of a glacier in the pouring rain, we were so happy to be warm and dry inside!). In fact, I had a hard time keeping my eyes open as the boat tried to gently rock me to sleep! If it weren’t for the stunning scenery and a whale chase, I probably would have gone into a premature hibernation!
All in all, we had a BLAST on the tour. It was the day before our anniversary, and I couldn’t think of a better way to spend an anniversary eve than on a boat with my beautiful wife in such a beautiful place. We definitely recommend Major Marine Tours as a must-do when planning a trip to Kenai Fjords National Park.
The next day proved to be the rainiest of all the days. Despite the rain, we set off on the eight mile Harding Ice Field hike. We were determined to get to the top, and optimistic that the fog would clear for us once we got there.
It was a wet and sweaty hike. The trail is steep! We went hard all the way to “the meadows” which is about halfway up the mountain. There was a ranger at the meadows that informed us that there was zero visibility at the the top. We debated on weather on not we should just go anyways, but we finally ruled that it would have to be saved for another day. We headed back defeated. We figure we have to save a few of the epic views for a return trip! So, Harding Ice Field, you haven’t seen the last of us; we will be back!
It is funny to me that our last day in Kenai Fjords the rain and clouds finally started to clear. I guess that sometimes life is like that. You hope for something that doesn’t come until you stop hoping for it. It’s peculiar how it works like that, isn’t it? We took it as an invitation, or maybe a dare, to come back another day and try our luck again.