Day 27

Day 27, 6/25/15, Thursday

Weather: Partially sunny through the smoke that still permeates the air.  The smoke dissipated a bit as evening came.  The temperatures were in the mid to upper 80s.

Well morning came and we took our time getting ready to decide on what was important enough to do today.  Because of where we were located, Paul walked over to Lowes and then Home Depot to try and locate Teflon lubricant.  The two hydraulic stabilizing legs needed to be lubricated because of the amount of road dust that was kicked-up when we had to travel the dirt and gravel roads primarily in Yukon Territory.  This was successfully accomplished.

We drove back to the Pioneer Park so Gail could purchase some sourdough starter that she missed yesterday.  While there, we did more exploring of the park and actually found more interesting sites that we had missed before. The people we meet have such interesting stories on how they wound up here in Alaska.  Today we met a woman who grew up in Beaumont, TX.  She wonders if her childhood home is still there.   We will ask Kevin if he will go to the old house and take a few pics for her.  Another woman sews for American Doll dolls.  Gail has a pattern for a native Alaskan costume that she will send her.

The Visitors Center was on the agenda to get an update on the fires that might impact on our trip to Anchorage.  Each day brings a revision in the status.  Roads heading towards Anchorage have had many fire and construction delays.   We will head towards Glenellen when we leave Fairbanks.  We still enjoy being here.

We arrived back at the camping grounds where we had a leisurely dinner and a relaxing evening.

G & P

Another Play Ground
Another Play Ground
Dog House Pioneer Style
Dog House Pioneer Style
Paul At The Helm Of A Stern Wheeler
Paul At The Helm Of A Stern Wheeler
Playground Pioneer Park
Playground Pioneer Park

Day 28

Day 28, 6/26/15, Friday

Weather:  The day was overcast with a strong presence of smoke.  The temperature was in the low 80s and humid.

Essentially, we did nothing today.  We are planning on leaving very early tomorrow morning on our way down to Anchorage.  We did do some food shopping and received a Skype from Logan who had wanted to say hello to Grannie and Pop.

There is something that we thought very unusual when we first arrived in Fairbanks.  The public parking lots have metal posts about four feet high with two enclosed electric recepticals attached.  It wasn’t until we noticed that cars with Alaska license plates had an electric plug extending from the front grill.  It gets so cold, that if cars are parked for too long their engines would freeze.  Thus drivers were able to plug their cars in to generate engine heating.

We spent the rest of the day relaxing.

G & P

Electric Power Connection
Electric Power Connection
Parking Area Electrical Supply
Parking Area Electrical Supply
The Prospector
The Prospector

Day 29

Day 29, 6/27/15, Saturday

Weather:  Rain until approximately 2 pm and then cloudy for the remainder of the day.  Temperature was 56 in the morning, going up to the high 60s.

By 8 am we were on the road and heading in the direction of Anchorage.  However, we first needed to top off the fuel because we knew there would be no services for over 200 miles. Also, we needed to take care of ourselves with a good breakfast.  We went to a Fairbanks restaurant called “The Cookie Jar”.  This was recommended to us as one of the local restaurants featured on “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives”. Thought of Paul Andrew, as we know he is a fan. The recommendation was right on.

We returned to Hwy. 4 (Richardson Hwy.) which was the one we had taken when originally coming to Fairbanks.   Now, we were heading south toward Glennallen, five and one half hours away.

As we passed through the North Pole we stopped at the visitors’ center to see what points of interest there were besides Santa Claus.  There is an area of town that is particularly noted for original settlers’ log cabins with sod roofs.  The residents welcomed travelers.  This was a most interesting area and an excellent photo opportunity.

We never did reach Glennallen mainly because of the rain, road construction, and many stops to ogle at the beautiful views, now that we are out of the smoke and rain. We had about seven mile of unpaved highway again-ugh!  The views of the mountains are breath-taking.  We took many pictures of the beautiful snow-capped mountains and glaciers of the Alaska, Wrangell and Chugach Mountain ranges.  An interesting stop was at a stream/river overlook where we could see salmon going upstream to spawn.

We also were followed along the highway by the Alaska Pipeline, an engineering marvel.  It was visible for miles as we continued southward.

By 6 pm, we decided to stop at a BLM (Bureau of Land Management) campground near Sourdough Creek (N 62.52404° W -145.52093°, elevation 1,889 ft.) in Sourdough Creek, AK.

An interesting fact, for future discussion, if anyone asks about the amount of daylight there was per day is that yesterday (Friday) the sun set at 12:44 am today and rose at 3:04 this morning.  This was a total of 21 hours and 48 minutes of daylight.

Tomorrow we will move on to Glennallen

G & P

Gail Helps The Elves North Pole
Gail Helps The Elves North Pole
North Pole, Alaska
North Pole, Alaska
Pipeline
Pipeline
The Day Is Clearing!
The Day Is Clearing!
Unique Formation
Unique Formation

 

Day 30

Day 30, 6/28/15, Sunday

Weather:  Fair for the most of the day.  Scattered sprinkles in late afternoon.  The temperature was in the low-sixties.

The Sourdough Camp Grounds provided a very quiet night for sleeping.  However, in the morning as we prepared the camper for the day’s travel, the amount of large flies and mosquitos was heavy.  Gail had warned us before we left.  She had experienced these pesky critters when she visited Alaska two years ago.

We headed off with the intention of going to Glennallen and staying there for a couple of days.  However, when we arrived there it was not at all what we expected so our plans changed and we made Valdez our new destination.  This drive was about 120 miles and was going to take about three hours. Valdez is located on the west coast and is the ocean port where the Alaska pipeline terminates.  This is also the port that had the terrible oil spill when the oil tanker, Exxon Valdez, ran aground and caused an oil spill that polluted the natural surroundings, marine, and animal life. They experienced more recently a severe flood from a tsunami.

Throughout the drive, we stopped at many of the overlooks to view the beautiful mountains and glaciers The closer we came to Valdez the prettier the mountains became.  The mountain tops were covered with snow and many glaciers were seen.  One of the noticeable differences with this range of mountains was how they gently flowed down to actually meet the road.  The mountain vegetation did not have the usual tree growth because of the altitude but the mountain sides were aglow with many shades of green.  Paul commented that the appearance of the lower part of the mountains reminded him of the mountains in the west of Ireland.

We arrived in town late in the afternoon and registered at the Bayside RV Park which is located in the port area (N 61.1301° W-146.343637°, elevation 0).  Around the campfire tonight Gail got many suggestions regarding the “must see” sights here in Valdez.  Tomorrow we will relax and probably walk through town to see what it has to offer.  Paul is interested in checking on the status of the salmon run to see if it is a good time for him to take his rods out and try his luck.

G & P

Glacier From A Distance
Glacier From A Distance
Not Clouds, But Glacier
Not Clouds, But Glacier
Large Glacier As Seen From RV
Large Glacier As Seen From RV
Glacier Seeking Its Path
Glacier Seeking Its Path
Gail Below The Glacier Line
Gail Below The Glacier Line
Bridal Veil Falls
Bridal Veil Falls

Day 31

Day 31, 6/29/15, Monday

Weather:  Overcast in the morning, rain in the afternoon and evening.  The temperatures today were in the high 50’s to low 60’s.

Today was a full day in Valdez. The town is surrounded by some of the world’s tallest coastal mountains with a few glaciers to add to the beauty. There is an overlook that is over 120 steps above town, giving a beautiful overview of the harbor and mountains.  We made the best of our time visiting the town shops, supporting the local economy, and the Visitor Center.

Valdez is not a large community (4,500) and apparently has been hurt with the reduced number of visitors in recent years.  One store proprietor explained that fewer people have visited the town by land because of the cost of fuel. Valdez is at the end of a 120 mile downhill, essentially empty road.  The return journey is on the same 120 mile road only uphill this time.   The road is vacant except for the beautiful mountains, glaciers, etc. before any other journey can start.  We feel coming here was a great choice.

The town also has been hurt by sea because cruise ships have ceased stopping here.  Obviously, the oil industry is big (it is the terminus of the Alaska pipeline) as well as commercial fishing and processing. Salmon is EVERYWHERE-fishing charters, pack and freeze shops that will send fish home, salmon jerky, smoked salmon, etc. and half the items on a restaurant menu.

As we stopped into the shops, the people were welcoming and were interested to know where we were from.  Most of these people have their own roots that go back to a state in the lower forty-eight.  All of them share their enjoyment with living in Valdez.

One of the last stops of the day was when Gail went down to the state ferry office to inquire about routes and schedules for the waterway system that connects the communities along the coast.  Since some of the communities along the coast like Sitka, Juneau, Ketchikan, etc. are not reachable by road, we might consider using the ferry service to reach them.  There are also some communities that we would like to visit in the Aleutian chain of islands that can only be reached by ferry or float plane.

At the end of the afternoon, we decided to have dinner in one of the local restaurants, “The Totem”.  The dinner, atmosphere, and service were very good.  Now we are back “home” and turned on the heat.  It is 56° at 8 pm and we want to be toasty.  And we brought shorts.

G & P

Commercial Fishing Docks
Commercial Fishing Docks
Downtown Valdez
Downtown Valdez
Alaska Oil Terminal
Alaska Oil Terminal
Outer Bay
Outer Bay
U.S. Coast Guard Harbor Security
U.S. Coast Guard Harbor Security
Couldn't Stay Our Of Trouble
Couldn’t Stay Our Of Trouble

Day 32

Day 32, 6/30/15, Tuesday

Weather:  Misty in the morning.  Clearing in the afternoon as we drove inland.  Temperatures were in the 60s.

Today we are one month into our trip- after a month it’s really more than a vacation!

We left our camping area about 10 am and drove to the general store where we purchased a few items before departing Valdez.  There was something that made it a little hard to leave this town.  Possibly it was the beauty of the mountains that surrounded us on all sides, the friendliness of the people who we met each day, or because this was the first time in weeks that we were back to sea and the salt air since leaving Brielle.

Since there is only one way into the town and through the mountains, we were back on the Richardson Highway travelling in the direction of Glennallen, 120 miles again following the pipeline.  It is at Glennallen where we will take the Glenn Highway west and head for Anchorage.

We stopped briefly in Copper Center to mail some cards.  This area looks mostly rundown and abandoned.  Sometimes it’s hard to tell which. We then continued on until we reached the visitor center for the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve.  Gail especially wanted to stop here and it was an excellent decision.  This is the largest national park in all of the 50 states.  It is similar to the size of Switzerland and one of its thousands of glaciers is the size of Rhode Island!  Access to the interior of the park is by gravel, dirt road about 90 miles long in order to get to camping spots. That was NOT for us!  It is made up of the Wrangell and the western part of the St. Elias mountain ranges.  The eastern part of this range extends into Canada.  We could not pass up taking a mile long hike on a trail through the dense woods down to the Copper River.  It was our hope to meet up with a moose or possible see a bear.  However, they must have been on vacation because all we found was a continuous swarm of mosquitos.

The Rangers told us of a special presentation that one of them would be doing at 7:30 pm at the Copper River Princess Lodge. We went to the Lodge which was only a two mile drive away.  The Ranger’s presentation was excellent.  He went into the development of the park from its birth resulting from volcanic and plate action to what we see today.  The park has four active volcanos that have not erupted for thousands of years, although Mt. Wrangell can be seen steaming in colder weather.  The movement of the Atlantic and western plates continue to take place daily and is the cause of the earthquakes that take place on a regular basis.  In fact, Alaska is known to have approximately four thousand quakes per year.  The plate activity is caused by the same plate that goes through California.

The Ranger’s presentation concluded at 8:30 and we proceeded to leave the Lodge.  However, we encountered a nightly activity that caused us to stop.  The Lodge staff was holding a flag lowering ceremony being held on the front lawn (they don’t wait for sunset closer to 11:00 pm but do it at 8:30).  To the sound of appropriate music, the flag of the fiftieth anniversary of Alaska statehood was lowered followed by the Alaskan State flag and finally the Stars and Stripes.  This was a very moving and unexpected ceremony.  At the conclusion all current or veteran members of the military in the assembled crowd were recognized and presented with a small flag that was 100% made in the U.S.A.  This was a perfect end of the day and great to see such patriotism in action.

By 9:30 pm we were still on the road and eventually joined four other campers who were set for the night in a rest area on the Glenn Highway (N 62.10723°  W-145.51589°, elevation 1550/ft.).

G & P

Pathway In The Park
Pathway In The Park
Preparing For The Hike
Preparing For The Hike
Wrangell's Mt. Drum
Wrangell’s Mt. Drum

 

 

Day 33

Day 33, 7/1/15, Wednesday

Weather:  Partially cloudy all day.  Temperatures ranged from the high 50s to the low 60s.

We were back on the road by 10 am and continued west.  Most of our driving since we turned north in Montana has been through mountains and possibly one third has been on relatively level roads.  Although the mountains present beautiful scenery they also present some challenging and tedious driving.  Because of this we take the opportunity to stop at scenic overlooks and pullovers.  The count of photos that have been taken are several thousand.  Thank goodness for digital cameras.

At one point in the travel today, we came upon Nelchina Glacier in the Chugach Mountains.  It winds downward through a cleft in the mountains.  This was the first of its kind that we have seen.  We did food shopping in Palmer and then stopped at Mirror Lake Park for dinner.

We ended our day’s travel at a camping area in Eagle River on the outskirts of Anchorage (N 61° 18’ 36”  W 149° 32’ 02”, elevation 548 ft.).  Tomorrow we will venture into Anchorage to find the visitor center and acquaint ourselves with the locations of the points of interest.

G & P

Downhill S Curves
Downhill S Curves
Nelchina Glacier
Nelchina Glacier

 

Day 34

Day 34, 7/2/15, Thursday

Weather:  Partly cloudy all day.  Temperatures in the 60s

We departed Eagle River at about 10 am and drove forty-five minutes into Anchorage.  The road was now a divided six lane highway as you would have going into a major city in the lower forty-eight.  The traffic was moderately heavy and fast moving.  No longer did we have that rural feeling.

Anchorage is actually a small city with a defined down-town area.  Parking whether on the streets or in defined lots is subject to meters or pay booths.  It became very obvious that RVs were not to be accommodated anywhere within the downtown area due to the fact that these parking spaces were designed for car lengths only.  Parking in a lot about 2 blocks off the main drag was $10 for up to 2 hours; max charge $40 for 24 hours.  In Manhattan the max we’ve paid is $36/24 hours.

Our intended first stop was at one of the two information centers indicated in the travel brochures.  Actually, the two had become one.  The original center was a small log cabin.  A new but slightly larger building was added in more recent time directly behind the original.  No parking accommodations were available.  This was very poor planning considering that much of the visitor transportation was by some form of RV.  We did find a metered parking spot at the corner of one of the blocks and managed to occupy it even though we overhung beyond the allotted size.

After obtaining the information that we needed in the center, we drove to the edge of the city and found a place to park in a church lot within walking distance of downtown.  Public transportation is not readily available.  As we walked through the streets we found familiar stores such as Penney’s, Nordstrom, etc., along with the small shops and impressive hotels.  There are many eateries to satisfy various cultural cuisines.

One of Paul’s reactions to Anchorage was a little dismay in that it was surprising to find such a completely different developing upscale community so different from the character of the rest of the state.  As we were leaving the city, we stopped to visit a lakeside park/walking trail that was recommended to us.  While there, Gail stopped to speak with some teenagers who were using skate boards as well as walking poles.  It turned out to be “roller skis”, one on each foot, and the kids were students from U of Alaska Anchorage  practicing Nordic skiing

We located a camping area outside the city where we will be spending the evening (N 61° 11’ 35” W 149° 52’ 56” , elevation 42 ft.).  Tomorrow we plan on spending time locating the places of interest that we would like to visit.  We are also at the beginning of the Kenai Peninsula areas that are noted for salmon fishing.

G & P

Lakeside Community, Anchorage
Lakeside Community, Anchorage
Lake View
Lake View
Roller Skiing
Roller Skiing

 

 

Day 35

Day 35, 7/3/15, Friday

Weather:  Partially sunny.  Temperatures were in the high 60s to low 70s.

Since we were in a camping area that did not have wifi, our first task of the day was to find a location that had the service.  The nearby MacDonald’s provided this for the customers so we went there for breakfast.  We did not have availability to wifi for the past three days and this backed us up in our daily updating of the blog as well as checking our email.

We are now out of the area of glaciers and permafrost so the mountains are more what we expect near home.  There are lots of black pine, not stunted by the permafrost, and quaking aspen (thinking of Paul Andrew).

With this being the eve of the Fourth of July, we checked the information that we received the other day at the visitor center to see if there were any festivities taking place locally today.  There was a local community festival being held at the Lions Club Park in Eagle River.  This included entertainment, sky divers, games, concessions, and fireworks.  Since we had been in this community the other day, we decided to drive the twenty minutes back and enjoy the festivities.  Unfortunately, when we arrived in Eagle River, at about 2 pm, we found someone who told us it was not due to begin until 7 pm.  Apparently, with sunset so late, fireworks cannot be done until midnight!  And with the fire danger so extreme, there would be no fireworks this year.

At this point we decided to return to Anchorage to find a campground and relax there for the day.  We checked into the Centennial Campground, run by the city of Anchorage.  To our happy surprise, we discovered that this campground has black bear families and moose that come through frequently.  The talk in the campground was that there already was a bear in the park and it was up in one of the tall evergreen trees.  Apparently, one of the campers left food uncovered and this was all the bear needed to feel welcomed.  We interrupted our afternoon and evening’s relaxation by periodically going over and checking the bear’s status.  This is the first bear encounter on the entire trip so far.  As we are getting ready for bed, the black haired visitor is still with us.

Tomorrow we expect to go into downtown Anchorage for their holiday celebration.  We do have confirmation that these celebrations will take place between 8 am and 6 pm.

G & P

Finally Sun On The Mountain
Finally Sun On The Mountain
Campground Visitor
Campground Visitor

Day 36

Day 36, 7/4/15, Saturday

Weather:  Intermittent light showers during the day.  Temperatures were in the 60s.

The 4th of July, and the skies did not make for a pleasant parade morning.  During the night, the black bear visitor that had been up the tree yesterday had quietly come down and left the area.  The manager of the park said to us that she had seen a mother bear and her cub pass by the office this morning.  I guess the family of bears got together and decided it was time to vacate the grounds for a while. The “peanut butter lady” told Paul that she intentionally set out the peanut butter because she wanted to see a bear.  Tonight she lit a campfire and was reported by another camper. Despite the damp weather, the forest fire risk is extremely high, and open fires (and fireworks) have been banned.  Some people are a challenge.

After breakfast, we drove to downtown Anchorage and had no problem finding parking.  The parking restrictions were discontinued for the holiday and without the business traffic, on-street parking for RVs was very accessible.

We spent most of the day attending the large market and festival which consisted of many booths of hand-made crafts from the native, Russian, and modern Alaskan cultures.  Music was continuously provided in various locations throughout the festival grounds.  An extensive area was also provided for food vendors and tables. Gail had a salmon and reindeer sausage quesadilla- delicious!   Gail again tested her skill at manipulating the Eskimo yoyo which she had learned back in her Girl Scout days.  Naturally, we added a yoyo to our collection of purchases.

The weather continued to be misty and there was no sign of sun making an appearance.  When we exhausted our checking out all the vendors, sampled the food, and listened to the entertainers, we walked a couple of blocks back to the RV and returned to the campgrounds.

Gail went up to the campgrounds main building where wifi is available.  She wanted to spend some time on the computer checking available information on some of the communities we plan on visiting the coming week.  The rest of the evening was spent watching the RV’s TV and the one channel that was available. It was too wet to be outside.

Tomorrow we will be leaving Anchorage and driving about 130 miles south to Seward on the Kenai Peninsula. We are excited heading there where surprises await.

G & P

Anchorage Festival
Anchorage Festival
Hilton Hotel
Hilton Hotel
One Of The Few Moose We Have Seen
One Of The Few Moose We Have Seen
Which Way Do We Go
Which Way Do We Go

Day 37

Day 37, 7/5/15, Sunday

Weather:  Sunny changing to light rain arriving by dinner.  Temperatures were in the 70s.

Everything was quiet in the campground last evening with no nearby fireworks to end the 4th.  Although, in speaking with the manager of the park she said that she had heard gun shots.  Party animals that we are, we slept through the night.

As planned, we left the campgrounds in Anchorage and headed wsw to Seward.  This was about a four hour drive on the Seward Highway that runs along the shore line of Cook Inlet for the first hour or so of the trip.  There are beluga whale in the area but none visible today. Again, we were surrounded by beautiful mountains, some with small ice fields.

Seward is famous for being the home of the flag of Alaska as well as being the starting point for the Iditarod race, 938 miles from here to Nome.   We did not have to traverse any mountains to speak of today because the highway follows the shore.

When we arrived in Seward, our first stop as usual was at the visitor center.  Not only were we looking for information of the local campgrounds but we were also interested in the location of the nearest glacier field and how close we could get to it.  We stopped at the National Park Ranger building to do some inquiries on programs offered here at the Kenai Fjords National Park.

The campground that we selected as our destination is a municipal camp located on the banks of the Seward harbor (N 60° 06’ 38”  W 149° 26’ 09”, elevation 19 ft.).  We can hear the music from the Holland America cruise ship across the harbor.  Our campsite is approximately twenty-five feet from the shore.  With any luck, I will be able to grab some time tomorrow to attempt some fishing.

This afternoon was the finals of the Women’s World Cup, USA vs Japan.  We went to a local pub and watched the last 20 minutes of game.  Great win for the U.S. and rousing cheers throughout the pub!

G & P

View Of Cook Inlet
View Of Cook Inlet
Second View Of Cook Inlet
Second View Of Cook Inlet
Dall Sheep Grazing On The Mountain
Dall Sheep Grazing On The Mountain
Camping By The Water's Edge
Camping By The Water’s Edge
Holland American Ship Leaving Seward
Holland American Ship Leaving Seward

 

 

Day 38

Day 38, 7/6/15, Monday

Weather:  Foggy in the morning, partially sunny in the afternoon, and light rain in the evening.  Temperatures were in the70s.

We had brought enough clothing with us to last eight days and today was a laundry day.  The first thing then on the agenda was to spend time doing the wash.  With the completion of this chore we moved on to the nearest gas station to top off our tank.  We had arrived yesterday with about eight gallons left in the tank and wanted to fill it up while we were still out this morning.

The family who was in the RV next to us came over to talk.  They are a family who had moved to Anchorage thirty-five years ago from Korea.  They have two children who moved to the lower forth-eight to attend college and decided to remain living there, one in Boston and one in Chicago.  We had a good time talking with them.

Later in the afternoon, we walked to the National Park Ranger office to check on ferry schedules to Kodiak and to use the wifi to update the blog and check email.  A man saw Paul wearing the University of Scranton sweat shirt and this led to a long conversation with him and his wife.  They had been from Pennsylvania but eventually relocated to a town near Tampa, Florida.  Once again we talked for quite a while and had a good time talking with them.

We did manage to get the ferry information and complete the tasks that we needed to accomplish on the computer.  A short walk back to the campgrounds, dinner, and a night of relaxation completed our day.

Tomorrow we plan on driving a couple of hours to Soldotna and Homer which are also located on the Kenai Peninsula.

G & P

Waterfall Near The Campground
Waterfall Near The Campground
View From The RV Bedroom Window
View From The RV Bedroom Window

Day 39

Day 39, 7/7/15, Tuesday

Weather:  Partly cloudy in the morning with sun in the afternoon.  Temperatures were in the 60-70s.

Sometime early this morning a cruise ship sailed in and tied up at the dock.  By the time we ate breakfast and walked into the town the ship’s passengers were already leaving on the tour buses, and the glacier sightseeing boats were on their way.  We went into town briefly to use the available wifi and get last minute information on the Kenai Fjord National Park.  There is a glacier, Exit Glacier, within the Park that is part of the Harding Icefield and can be reached by a short but somewhat challenging hike.

We left Seward and proceeded north on the Seward Highway.  Within ten miles we reached the entrance to the National Park.  We visited the Ranger Station to hear the particulars about the glacier and Gail took the opportunity to take the hike and see the glacier first hand.

We returned to the highway and continued northward until we reached Rt. 1 (Sterling Highway).  This road took us due west along the northern part of the Kenai Peninsula.  We made frequent stops to enjoy the views and time got a little ahead of us as has happened before.

With it now being about 6 pm we decided to stop for the night in a camping area in the city of Soldotna (N 60° 29’ 26”  W 151° 02’ 51”, elevation 140 ft.).  We had a great dinner at the St Ellias Brewery, named after the St Ellias mountains where we were at a week or two ago.

We will continue on to Homer in the morning.

G & P

Gail at Exit Gacier, Seward, AK
Gail at Exit Gacier, Seward, AK
Cormorants From Our RV, Seward. AK
Cormorants From Our RV, Seward. AK
Along The Sterling Hwy.
Along The Sterling Hwy.
Along The Sterling Highway
Along The Sterling Highway

 

Day 40

Day 40, 7/8/15, Wednesday

Weather:  Sun with some clouds and temperatures in the 70s.

We left Soldotna this morning and proceeded on to Homer.  In viewing a map of the Kenai Peninsula, Homer is at the very end of the Kenai and the Sterling Highway.  It is also the port from which the state ferry leaves to begin the trip out to Kodiak Island and the Aleutian Islands chain.

On our way, we stopped to visit the city of Kenai.  Although some of these communities in Alaska have the title of city, they do not have the population or physical size of what we are familiar with from our home localities.  Kenai is a lovely community.  As it turned out, Kenai was the first European settlement on mainland Alaska when it was colonized by Russian fur traders.  There was a section of the city that had some of the early buildings of that time still standing.  One of the buildings was the original Russian Orthodox St. Nicholas chapel built 150 years ago, during the fur trading period.  The church is still in use today for two dozen parishioners.

We moved on from Kenai and passed through Kasilof, Clam Gulch, Ninilchik, Anchor Point, and finally Homer, “where the land ends and the sea begins”.  Of course, stop one was the visitors center run by the Chamber of Commerce.  Paul was anxious to get particular information about the salmon fishing since this was the most famous fishing area of the peninsula.  It was also necessary to find out what the current government regulations were for fishing.  The rules in Alaska are far more limiting that those back home. They stipulate types of hook, lures, type of casting and all this changes by date.   From here, we drove through town and out onto the Homer Spit, the longest spit in the world, which is a narrow peninsula of the peninsula.  Everybody is famous for something.

This area did not at all match what we had expected.  It turned out to be a typical summer get-away spot that was wall-to-wall people and campers.  Although the thought was to turn around and head back to Kenai or Soldotna we did decide to hang in and give it a try.  We selected a site in the Homer Spit Campground.  After having dinner, we walked to the boardwalk area and checked out the area. The businesses were primarily tours, fishing of different types, bear sighting, preparing fish to be shipped home, etc.

It actually looked dusky, approaching dark about 1-2 am! Tomorrow we plan on checking the ferry schedule to get information on traveling to a part of the Aleutians.

G & P

Interesting House, Kenai
Interesting House, Kenai
Ingenious Business, Kenai
Ingenious Business, Kenai
Holy Assumption Russian Orthodox Church, Kenai
Holy Assumption Russian Orthodox Church, Kenai
Russian Orthodox Memorial Chapel, Old Kenai
Russian Orthodox Memorial Chapel, Old Kenai
Start Of The Aleutian Chain Off Homer
Start Of The Aleutian Chain Off Homer

 

Day 41

Day 41, 7/9/15, Thursday

Weather:  Sunny all day, temperatures were in the low 70s.

Early this morning, Paul decided to go down to the beach to see how many surf fishermen would be there bringing in the catch.  To his surprise no one was fishing.  What a big difference from back home.  Gail’s early morning walk on the beach would find fishermen nine days out of ten surf fishing.

Before leaving the camp site, Paul decided it was time to do some service on the motorhome.  Just before we left home for this vacation, he had checked all six tires to be sure they had the recommended air pressure.  We had brought a portable compressor as part of the maintenance supplies.  When this was completed, the slide-out mechanism was lubricated to be sure it continued to work smoothly.

With the above completed, we drove to the Alaska ferry terminal that was near the campgrounds.  We met with the agent and made arrangements for our trip back to “the lower 48” in September.  We will take a ferry out of Skagway to Prince Rupert, along the southeast panhandle of Alaska.   With stops, this will take a week. These areas are only accessible by boat, so we are booked to follow a route similar to cruise ships but on a smaller boat.  This boat will follow the coast more closely and we will get to see places such as Sitka, Juneau, and Ketchikan. If there is a cancelation we will take the ferry from Whittier, which is where Beth, Billy and Ryan cruised from on their Alaska trip. We also checked the information and schedule for a multi-day ferry trip out the Aleutian Islands to Dutch Harbor, the western terminus of the Marine Highway (aka state ferry).  On checking the reservation, we noticed that one segment, being the departure from Juneau, was missing so when the office reopened we returned and they fixed it.  Being stranded in Juneau with a 25’ RV would not have been pretty!

From the ferry terminal we drove back on the Homer Spit to a new campground that was better situated for surf fishing (N 59° 36’ 31”  W 151° 26’ 09”, elevation 52 ft.).  We decided to walk to the fishing supply store to purchase the necessary bait and lures as well as the state required fishing license.  Salmon fishing will be the order of the day tomorrow.   Later in the afternoon, Paul rigged the fishing rods for tomorrow’s use.

G & P

Fish Cleaning Station At The Campsite
Fish Cleaning Station At The Campsite
Main St. On Homer Spit
Main St. On Homer Spit
One Of Many Float Planes On This Lake
One Of Many Float Planes On This Lake
Selection Of Old Time Possessions
Selection Of Old Time Possessions

Day 42

Day 42, 7/10/15, Friday

Weather:  Sunny all day with the temperatures in the 60s.

The day began at about 6:30 when Paul rose and prepared for a day of fishing.  A quick breakfast and we were both ready to start the day.

It was very convenient that our campground is located in the middle of three fishing areas.  The actual fishing began at 8 am due to the assigned time on the state fishing license.  The day’s plan was successful met when Paul caught a silver (Coho) salmon.  Dinner of this salmon this evening and it was delicious.

Gail took some time to walk the beach the length of the spit.  The beach is almost totally rock covered, which makes walking a chore.  Close to the water it is easy to sink into the mushy and wet sand.  There are small amounts of seaweed and no shells.  Beaches are not Homer’s strong suit. The water has visible silt, giving it a grey color.

We are deciding whether to stay another day since we are having so much fun here.  With tomorrow being Saturday, more people will descend to this general area.  In addition, this weekend is designated as the official dip-netting period on the Kenai Peninsula.  For us, we were unaware of what dip-netting was since we never heard of this at home.  What will actually happen is that Alaskan residents will have very large diameter nets similar to our fishing net.  With a net in hand, they will enter the water and attempt to catch whatever fish are swimming there. Fishing is for sustenance here in Alaska, much more than sport.  We have met people from the Fairbanks area, over 600 miles away, who come down with their boats and a 5-cubic feet freezer.

They put the freezer in the boat for the trip down here.  We have encountered a campground where an additional $5 a day is charged for a freezer, so we’re thinking that this is common.

Tomorrow morning will tell the tail as to what we decide to do for the weekend.

G & P

High Tide Marks Can Go To Twenty Feet
High Tide Marks Can Go To Twenty Feet
Kayakers At Eight Thirty PM
Kayakers At Eight Thirty PM
Silver Salmon Catch
Silver Salmon Catch
Small Inlet From The Bay
Small Inlet From The Bay
Tide Is Out
Tide Is Out

 

 

Day 43

Day 43, 7/11/15, Saturday

Weather:  Sunny with temperatures in the high 60s.

Following a delicious New Jersey style pork roll, egg, and cheese breakfast we drove into Homer to a pharmacy.  Paul’s medication had run out and we needed to have it refilled.

We discovered earlier this morning that we were low on propane.  Since the stove, refrigerator, heater (we use the heater every night), and generator require this gas, we were lucky to find a convenient location on the way into Homer and got the tank filled.

Well, as we pulled into the pharmacy parking lot, Paul confidently took out his wallet to retrieve his prescription card and found that he did not have it or his health insurance card.  This turned out to be very shocking because he had everything else that he carries along with these cards.  Did he misplace them in the RV, did he loose them somewhere during the vacation, or did he leave them at home?  After going through everything in the RV it was evident that they were not with us.  Fortunately, Beth was going to be at our house later today and she was able to quickly find the cards.  Obviously, this was a big relief for Paul and a sincere thank you to Beth. The pharmacist in the TrueValue (yes they actually have a pharmacy in the hardware store, a Hallmark Gold Crown store and a quilt shop too!) was able to contact the insurance directly and fill the prescription.

On the way back to the campground, we did some brief food shopping.  Then we stopped at a farmers’ market for fruits and veggies.  A number of the booths have local made jewelry and other handcrafts and some local vegetables. Gail was hoping to find potatoes and salad stuff.  These products were a little different.  White fan mushrooms, squash blossoms, some different looking scallion type veggie, etc.  Rhubarb is popular (not with us!), no other fruits.  Also we looked for honey again and still none.  A vendor told us that Alaska does not have bees.  She said mosquitoes pollinate the plants?

The remainder of the day was spent taking things easy.  Because we are enjoying this campground and the Homer Spit so much, we will probably stay here another day.

G & P

Float Plane On The Nearby Lake
Float Plane On The Nearby Lake
Additional Planes On The Same Lake
Additional Planes On The Same Lake
Sailboat Off Camping Area With Mts. In Background
Sailboat Off Camping Area With Mts. In Background

Day 44

Day 44, 7/12/15, Sunday

Weather:  Rain all day with clearing in the evening.  The temperatures were in the high 50s to low 60s.

This morning began with intermittent heavy rain.  We left the campgrounds and attended Mass at the delightful parish church of St. John the Baptist in Homer.  It was a small building with a country feel.  The church was filled with attentive parishioners who provided a family friendly atmosphere.

We planned breakfast out so we could use the free wifi that is generally available at the  MacDonalds.  Since some campgrounds do not have wifi we often have to find a location with this service.

This morning we detected that we had depleted the batteries more than we ordinarily do so we needed to drive the RV for a short run to do a complete recharge.  We took the opportunity to also stop at the service station to top off with fuel.

Our last stop was at the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge Islands and Ocean Visitor Center also located in Homer.  The information presented in this center explained quite thoroughly the research being done by private and state organizations in the Alaskan and Arctic areas.  Their work is dealing with the preservation of the environmental assets of this region of the globe and, the information that is found that will have wider effects throughout our world.  We were very impressed with the in-depth and beautifully presented information that was available.  The staff gave us the location a close by eagle’s nest. Now that we’ve seen their style of nest building we will be able to pick out others that we encounter.  Prior to this trip the only nests we had seen were on eagle webcams.

When we returned to the campgrounds we again set the level condition of the RV and the stabilizing legs that maintained stability of movement when parked.  The rest of the late afternoon and evening was spent relaxing.

Depending on tomorrow’s weather forecast we may decide to leave Homer and head northeast towards the Anchorage area…or not?

G & P

Bald Eagle Walking The Beach
Bald Eagle Walking The Beach

 

Day 45

Day 45, 7//13/15, Monday

Weather:  Rain with a high in the 50s.

Today will be a day of travel.  With the weather report today calling for rain, we decided to finally leave Homer Spit and begin heading back north.

Before we actually left the city of Homer, we stopped once again at the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge Islands and Ocean Visitor Center to purchase some interesting books.  We also stopped for breakfast at a small restaurant called Two Sisters Bakery.  This was featured in the local magazine as well as being highly recommended to us by people from home.  The menu consisted of assorted rolls, Danish, and muffins.  This was a good start to the day.

We continued on to the city of Soldotna with a few interesting sight-seeing stops along the way.

We first stopped at the community of Nikolaevsk, a settlement of “Russian Old Believers”.  This consists of three communities of Russian Orthodox, Russian Old Believers (Old Right Believers) and some non-Russians living a lifestyle where they hunt, fish, and garden for their food. We had seen some of their people at the farmers’ market and shopping in the stores.  Russian is their first language.  The baptismal font (submersion) is outside of the church.  Paul found the gravel roads in the community a challenge!

Next we stopped at another historic Russian Orthodox Church in Ninilchik which is one of “the most famous tourist attractions in the area” we are told.  As we drove up the long dirt road leading to the church, Gail uttered a determined alert, “Moose!”  To our immediate right amongst the tall grass was a moose about thirty feet in from the road.  We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to make this a photo session and, the moose was fully cooperative by ignoring us.

Next we stopped at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge in Soldotna.  Gail took a 5-6 mile hike on a BEAUTIFUL loop of the trail.  She came upon fresh bear “scat”, a polite term for poop!  Fortunately that was the only sign of bear.  She did have her “bear spray” handy.

On again to Soldotna where we arrived late in the afternoon and selected the same camping area as we used on the trip down (N 60.490551°  W 151.047435°).

G & P

Moose!
Moose!
Transfiguration Of Our Lord Russian Orthodox Church And Cemetery
Transfiguration Of Our Lord Russian Orthodox Church And Cemetery
Baptismal Font At The Russian Church
Baptismal Font At The Russian Church
Kenai National Wildlife Refuge
Kenai National Wildlife Refuge
Clean Your Shoes Before Entering The Trail, And Watch For Bear!
Clean Your Shoes Before Entering The Trail, And Watch For Bear!

Day 46

Day 46, 7/14/15, Tuesday

Weather:  Clear in the morning, raining in the afternoon, and clear skies in the evening.    Temperature was in the 60s.

We received steady rain last night but by early morning the sun was shining beautifully.  There were two tasks that we had to take care of before too much time passed.  A call was placed to the ABC RV dealer to make an appointment to bring our RV in for some warranty work.  ABC was selected because they sold Forest River products and thus was authorized to perform warranty service on any of their motorhomes.   We registered in the Alaska Canoe Campground (N 60° 32’ 16”  W 150° 48’ 10”, elevation 247 ft.).

This was planned to be a working day for us.  It was time again to do laundry.  We took time in the afternoon to unload the main storage compartment, check all of the supplies to be sure everything was successfully surviving the trip so far, and do some rearrangement of the content.  In addition, Paul did an overall check of the RV.

By late afternoon, the rain had returned. The skies are starting to show darkness and by 10:30 pm the sky is no longer bright.  Daylight is decreasing by about 4 minutes each day.

Quiet day, no pictures.

G & P