Flying happens to be my favorite way to see the beautiful country that surrounds our lovely little town by the sea. My grandpa was a pilot and I was up flying in his Cessna 180 taildragger before I had even started walking.
My first introduction to Alaska was in that same plane, at the age of eight. When we moved to Alaska, my work involved flying out to remote villages off of the coast of Homer and out in Prince William Sound for five years.
Seward, Alaska sits at the head of Resurrection Bay on the Kenai Peninsula and was given the name of President Lincoln’s Secretary of State (William H. Seward), who negotiated the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867. In the Dena’ina language, Kenai means “flatland,” but we’re pretty sure they were referencing the other side of the Peninsula when they came up with that name.
Seward also serves as the gateway to Kenai Fjords National Park. The park is named for the magnificent fjords created by the glaciers and now partially submerged due to shifts in the tectonic plates and rising sea levels, 600-1000 feet of the fjords are often below the water.
With 38 glaciers, this park covers 669,984 acres; 51 % of which is covered in glacial ice. It might seem like an impossible feat to get any sense of this massive area of land, especially when only one of the 38 glaciers are accessible by road (Exit Glacier). Next to exploring the Fjords by boat, flightseeing offers one of my favorite perspectives.
When we had the opportunity to hop in a plane with Jim Craig at AA Seward Air Tours and fly over one of the most beautiful places on earth, we couldn’t pass it up. He offers scenic and wildlife tours along with custom trips, we took his Aialik Bay tour. Not only will you have the opportunity to take in the beauty, but Jim is knowledgeable about the area and offers the perfect balance of information and fun wrapped into a package that makes for a great trip!
We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day to fly. We’d had a week of warm weather, sunshine, clear blue skies and no wind, which is pretty unusual for May in Seward.
Jim did his pre-flight check and we climbed into the plane. We taxied down to the south end of the runway and took off towards Resurrection Canyon.
Jim turned the plane and we passed over Seward and then south along Resurrection Bay. The view of Fox, Hive and Rugged Islands came into view on our left as Jim pointed out Caines Head on our right and flew over the top to allow us to see the gun placements at its peak.
Then we headed west to Bear Glacier (the largest in Kenai Fjords National Park) where we saw folks surfing the moraine beach and jet skiers weaving their way around the glacial lake. As we climbed over Calisto Head leading into the bay, Jim pointed out a herd of mountain goats.
As we flew over the glacier, the moraines looked so perfectly aligned that one might think they are man-made.
Aialik Bay was the next “stop” on our trip. Rounding the peaks and coming in to the bay provided the best view of the day in my opinion, but I’m biased as Aialik Bay has always been my favorite since Ben and I spent a weekend boating there in 2009.
In the distance, at the head of the bay Aialik and Pedersen Glaciers were visible. We flew over one of the public use cabins available to rent in Kenai Fjords National Park. It sits right on the beach with a most picturesque view of the glaciers, the bay and the mountains.
As if on cue, a huge chunk of ice calved into the ocean below as we flew over Aialik Glacier and harbor seals lay on the ice sunning themselves and caring for their newborn pups while we headed towards Pedersen Lagoon.
Pedersen Glacier collapsed on itself this past decade and now the ice fills the lagoon, it almost looks like the glacier is still intact at certain angles, but looking straight down onto the lagoon, you can see the water between the chunks of blue ice. The lodge at the lagoon has been built to blend in with the surrounding environment, but from the air has an inviting look with the boardwalks between buildings and the kayaks lined up on the shore.
We flew back around and started to gain elevation as we climbed over Pedersen glacier to the 23,000 year old Harding Ice Field. The idea of Harding Ice Field is almost as cool as how it looks.
Think about it, the ice is up to 1,000 feet deep, the little bits of rock and land that you see are actually mountain tops peeking out from the ice. The way the ice shimmers in the sun is like nothing you’ve seen before.
As our flightseeing trip comes to an end, we descend over the aptly named Exit Glacier, so called in honor of the explorers who first traversed Harding Ice Field in 1968. The shack at the top of the icefield trail comes into site and we can see the footprints of hikers who have made the trek to the top.
We’ve come full circle as the green scape of Resurrection Canyon spreads out below us. We line up with the runway and all too soon, we touch down and our beautiful trip is over.
Flying in small aircraft is part of the heritage of this great state and if you really want a true Alaskan experience, a morning spent at elevation is almost a requirement. We thoroughly enjoyed our flightseeing trip.
Having not flown for fun in quite some time, it brought back the sheer thrill of taking off, of seeing the world from a bird’s-eye view and the peacefulness of watching the world silently pass by beneath you.
Ben’s favorite part of the trip was playing with our new camera. We are really excited to bring you a higher level of video footage in the future.
If you find yourself in Seward and have time to go flying with Jim, jump on the opportunity. Then let us know what the highlight of your trip was and what kind of wildlife you saw.
Although the fee for this trip was waived, our opinions are genuine and not for sale.