Obama Does Seward

President Obama, with a National Park Service interpreter, on Resurrection Bay. Photo: Liz Ruskin
President Obama, with a National Park Service interpreter, on Resurrection Bay. Photo: Liz Ruskin

President Obama is flying to Dillingham and Kotzebue today , the final day of his Alaska trip. The White House says he’ll announce a new role for the Denali Commission in helping Alaska communities respond to climate-change impacts. Yesterday, Obama indulged his sweet tooth in southcentral Alaska, and Mother Nature indulged him with stunning fall weather in Seward.

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His morning began at Snow City Café, in downtown Anchorage, where he bought cinnamon rolls. Then he flew by helicopter to Seward. As the temperature rose to above 60 degrees, he walked the path to Exit Glacier,

“You guys have been seeing these signs as we’ve walked that mark where the glacier used to be — 1917, 1951,” he said at a wide spot on the trail overlooking the toe of the ice field, where a herd of journalists had stationed themselves. “This glacier has lost about a mile and a half over the last couple hundred years.  But the pace of the reductions of the glacier are accelerating rapidly each and every year.”

While the reporters were sent back to the trailhead and the press vans, Obama went on to film an episode of a reality TV show, “Running Wild with Bear Grylls.”

In the afternoon, the president stopped in at a gelato shop in downtown Seward called Sweet

Obama thanks Coast Guard medivac team on duty for his boat tour. Photo: Liz Ruskin
Obama thanks Coast Guard medivac team on duty for his boat tour. Photo: Liz Ruskin

Darlings. Obama bought frozen treats for reporters and members of his entourage. The president took orders — “Chocolate? Cone or a cup?” –and then asked the shop staff to ring up the total. It’s not every day the president of the United States buys you ice cream, one reporter said.

Throughout the day, Obama’s motorcade passed crowds of well-wishers. Some held signs thanking him for restoring the name Denali to Alaska’s highest peak. A few protesters waved “Shell No” signs, but one large banner praised his decision to let Shell drill in the Chukchi Sea. It’s a policy green groups complain undercuts the main theme of the trip — Obama’s call to cut carbon emissions.

On the street outside the ice cream shop, if there were critics in the crowd, they kept quiet. Obama reached across the security line to shake hands and greet children.

“Hey, you still have ice cream on you!” he told one boy.

“It’s not ice cream,” the boy said.  “It’s hot chocolate.”

At the Seward harbor, with sunlight shimmering on the water, Obama boarded a tour boat, the Viewfinder, to see Resurrection Bay and Bear Glacier.

Journalists followed in another vessel, and the two boat captains circled each other to line up the perfect shot for the cameras: Obama, on the bow, gesturing toward the river of blue ice. He shouted over to the press boat that the ice bergs in the water were as large as a Costco store.

Around 7:30 p.m., with the sun low and the mountaintops turning gold, the president’s motorcade to him back to the Seward airport. Before he boarded Marine 1 to head back to Anchorage and the Hotel Captain Cook for the night, Obama walked down the tarmac to thank two firefighters standing by in the cab of a  Bear Creek Volunteer Fire Department truck. He also shook hands with five orange-suited Coasties, the medivac team on hand while the president was on the bay.