Friday, July 4, 2008

Patriots To The Top!

Although most of the world knows the Iditarod as a sled-dog race from Anchorage to Nome, the legendary trail actually begins in Seward. We are camped near the historic "0" mile marker in Hoben Park right in the heart of downtown.

The city, founded in 1903, looks out on Resurrection Bay, a deep glacial fjord surrounded by rugged snow-caped mountain peaks.

Like many other Southeast Alaskan coastal cities, the economy is based on fishing and the marine industry, supplemented by tourism.

The Alaskan SeaLife Center on the shore of Resurrection Bay combines research on saving marine species and aiding recovery from industrial damage with the rehabilitation of maimed or stranded birds and mammals. It was funded in part by the Exxon oil spill settlement and opened in 1998. It's the only cold-water marine science facility in the Western Hemisphere.

                                                                  King Eider

                                                                Harbor Seal

                                                                    Tufted Puffin

                                                            Horned Puffin

                                                               Common Murre

                                                          Harlequin Duck

                                                             Long-tailed Duck

The fourth of July celebration in Seward is unlike any other. Although it's activities are similar to any Independence Day celebration from across the country ---

                                      --It's still light at 12:01 am this far North

                                            --Air Force Band Of The Pacific

---Seward sets itself apart by hosting one of the oldest cross-country races in the country, and one of the most grueling for the 800 or so runners who compete by scrambling up and down Mt. Marathon, a 3,022 foot high mountain with 50 degree slopes and snow on some parts of the trail. The race, three miles up and three miles down, draws runners from all over the world.

The weather was cloudy this year, giving us a hazy view of the Western sky and the string of racers, like colored Christmas lights, making their way up the course and looping back down again.

Cedar Bourgeois, above, winning her 5th straight in 52 minutes, 11 seconds.
Many runners wear gloves and place tape over their ankles and shoes to protect themselves from the sharp shale which causes many minor injuries.

Fred Moore, age 67, running his 39th consecutive race up the mountain. Pink shorts help his wife see him as he goes to the top. His time of 1:05:21 is only two minutes longer than his first time 39 years ago.  Trond Flagstad, below, finishing first in the men's race after finishing second in the last two years. Time is 44 minutes, 03 seconds.

                                    The town is known for it's murals---

                                 ---and for the painting in St. Peter's Episcopal Church.

Painted in 1925 by Jan van Emple, a Dutch artist living in seward, it shows the people of Alaska instead of the Apostles.

In the right foreground are the Alaska natives, and to the left of the empty tomb are the prospector, trapper, and the homesteader. The background of the picture is Resurrection Bay.

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