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

Day 47

Day 47, 7/15/15, Wednesday

Weather:  Sunny in the morning giving way to rain showers in the afternoon and clearing by early evening.  Temperature was in the 60-70s all day.

We had a leisurely beginning to the morning as we prepared to leave the campgrounds and return to Soldotna.  Paul spent some time checking the email and sending out a few messages.  One of the messages was to a high school classmate letting him know that we might not be back home in time to attend the scheduled class reunion.

Our drive into Soldotna was not long but as we approached the town we noticed the traffic was very heavy.  Our first stop was to the visitor center were we found out that today was the usual beginning of the salmon run up the rivers to spawn.  As it turns out, no one told the salmon because the run had not begun.  By the official count that was being taken, only ten salmon an hour were swimming up the Kenai River.  If the actual salmon run had begun, the count would have been approximately one thousand per hour.  Maybe we should have something like this back home when the anticipated Striped Bass season is due to begins.

One of the important pieces of information that we received from the hostess was the printed location of all of the fishing spots along the Kenai River.  There was a boardwalk-like path constructed from the rear of the visitor center down to the river bank.  Once down there we were able to watch the fishermen using their casting rods.  Fishing the rivers here is not at all like fishing at home.  The river currents are unbelievably fast moving carrying the fishing lure downstream so fast it pulls the line back to the river bank quickly.  It doesn’t take long before the bank is wall-to-wall fishermen.

Everyday seems to bring something new.  Tomorrow will change the fishing scene for a brief time because it is the opening of the dip-netting period.  Dip-netting consists of Alaskan resident using an aluminum long-handled fishing net.  The fishing net would be similar in appearance to our crab net at home but the diameter of the net’s opening is about four feet wide.  The fisherman simply steps into the river with his waders and scoops up fish as they swim by.  To us, this takes the sport out of fishing.

Following this experience at the visitor center, Paul dropped Gail off at the Wednesday market.  Because of the amount of traffic in town due to the expected salmon run, parking was limited and almost impossible for our twenty-five foot RV.  It was left that Gail would telephone Paul when she was ready to leave and he would come back and pick her up.

At this point in the afternoon, we realized that with the volume of traffic in town, it was best to go to a local camping area (N 60° 29’ 27”  W 151° 02’ 54”, elevation 147 ft.) and enjoy some down time.  The area was mobbed with campers of all descriptions, from a car towing an open trailer with a freezer in it to 40+ foot RV’s with towed cars.

G & P

Fish Counter For The Kenai River
Fish Counter For The Kenai River
Look At The Size Of Those Fish Nets
Look At The Size Of Those Fish Nets
Salmon Fishing In The Kenai River
Salmon Fishing In The Kenai River
Who Is Going To Blink First?
Who Is Going To Blink First?

Day 48

Day 48, 7/16/15, Thursday

Weather: Intermittent rain. Temperatures in the high 50s to low 60s.

At 8 am this morning we brought the RV in to have the brakes inspected. The brakes were acting fine but Paul was concerned that he may have used them too much on the severe downgrades in the mountains even though he was primarily using lower gears. He remembers the time we were driving our previous RV through northern California and competing with the large lumber trucks using the same road.   By the time we had reached Crescent City, Ca., the brakes had to be replaced. This morning the verdict by the mechanic was that they still look brand new.

While we were waiting for the brake inspection, we stopped into the Buckets Sports Grill for breakfast. The food was good and the waitress very interesting to talk with.

Soldotna was again crowded with fishermen who were here for the opening of the dip-netting salmon run. And the salmon still were not in and the streets were clogged with fishermen.  We decided to continue our journey back toward Anchorage.

The drive back on the Sterling Highway began uneventfully but within an hour a weather front began to expand and the winds on the now mountain roads were reaching gusts of twenty to thirty miles per hour. The winds made the driving somewhat nerve wracking with the swaying of the RV.  By the time we reached the community of Cooper Landing we had decided to pull into a campground run by the US Forestry Service (N 60° 28’57”    W 149° 53’ 00”, elevation 482 ft.). What a beautiful campsite, truly in a forest! We were lucky to find a spot available because the campground had many campers already there and other sites reserved for arrivals due tomorrow.

During the early evening, the park campground host came to alert us that a bear had been injured nearby and could be somewhere in this area with two of her cubs. She had originally climbed a tree but then came down. We are 0.1 mile from the occurrence. If we see the bear, we are to call the Troopers or him. And yes, we have cell service.

The weather front is expected to pass during the night and we will continue our drive in the morning.

G & P

Bench At Visitor Center, Soldotna
Bench At Visitor Center, Soldotna
Fishing On The Opposite Bank Of The Kenai River
Fishing On The Opposite Bank Of The Kenai River

 

Day 49

Day 49, 7/17/15, Friday

Weather: Gray and rainy all day. Temperature was in the high 50s to low 60s.

Upon leaving the campground this morning we headed north again toward Anchorage. We wanted to stop at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center at mile 79 on the Seward Highway. This center takes care of injured and orphaned animals. We had read and heard about its existence and the work they do in providing a habitat for the animals and, if possible, returning them to the wild.

When we drove into the center, it was more expansive in size than we imagined. The animals that were being housed there included brown and black bear, moose, bison, musk ox, lynx, elk, Sitka deer, fox, caribou, owl, and eagles. What was very impressive was the extensive amount of space provided for each animal species. A center-owned bus provided a shuttle through the entire area. Finally, they had a well-stocked gift center with much nicer items than in the typical gift shops. Because the weather was rainy and cold, we did not venture too far along the paths. We do plan on returning with grandchildren SOON!

We wanted to see the port town of Whittier that was not too far from the Wildlife Center. This turned out to be an unexpectedly interesting trip. Whittier is located on the coast but it is completely surrounded by mountains except for the protected port. To reach the town, you have to travel a one lane, 2 ½ mile tunnel through a mountain. Yes, a one lane tunnel through which vehicles travels in both directions as well as the one train track, also in the single lane of the tunnel. When you arrive at the tunnel entrance there are six lanes designated for cars, trucks, RVs. Every hour on the hour the vehicles leaving the town pass through the tunnel. Then every hour on the half hour those entering the town pass through. Depending on the timetable for the train the tunnel is closed to vehicle traffic to let the train pass. It was a very interesting experience travelling through, maintaining a specified distance between vehicles and at a speed of twenty-five miles per hour. The town of Whittier did have some small tourist type shops but it was primarily an old port area. With parking being extremely limited and essentially nothing of interest we did not stay long.

On returning to the civilization side of the mountain, we stopped briefly at the information center for the U.S. Forestry Service. They have a display highlighting that the Christmas tree for the US Capitol this December will be provided by the Chugach National Forest. They are selling all sorts of mementos to capitalize on this event.

By this time it was now late in the afternoon and we opted to spend the night in the Portage Creek Campgrounds in Girdwood (N 60° 48’ 12”       W 148° 56’ 06”, elevation 52 ft.). Again, a gravel area for RV’s as we have found throughout the state. This one had a campfire area in a pavilion. It also had charcoal and propane grills for tenters and those staying in the small cabins (a few cabins are a frequent site here). Many campers gathered to cook dinner or marshmallows for several hours. Good conversation- and interesting too. We stayed til around 10:30 before calling it a night.

G & P

Bear
Bear
Elk
Elk
Entrance To The One-Lane Tunnel
Entrance To The One-Lane Tunnel
Interior Of The Tunnel
Interior Of The Tunnel

Day 50

Day 50, 7/18/15, Saturday

Weather: Sunny with the temperatures in the 70s. J

This morning, we found water leaking from the RV. In doing a check of the interior it was clear that there was no problem with the piping. We called the dealer, Wilkins RV service from which we purchased the motorhome. After explaining the circumstances of the leak it is believed to be a pressure valve that is malfunctioning. This can be managed until a repair can be made.

We left the campgrounds and drove back to the Forest Service information center. We did not have the opportunity yesterday to view the video presentation “Voices from the Ice”. This video traces the emergence of the glacial lands and the history of their ever changing evolution. Very interesting!

Following that, we took one of the trails up to the nearby glacier. This was a two mile hike rated as moderate over a gravel covered trail. The climb was spectacular not only for being so close to the glacier but also for the varied colored flowers along the path. By looking closely at the underbrush as we walked, we were able to discern specific areas where animals crossed the path to reach the swift flowing river. The bear spray was in the backpack at the ready! When we arrived at the area of the glacier, Gail decided to hike the remaining distance over rocks and boulders to get even closer. Since it was a good day there were many other hikers who were here as well.  Throughout the trip, Paul has opted to avoid hiking the very rocky trails.

Needless to say, we had spent quite some time hiking the glacier trail as well as viewing the presentation. By now it was late afternoon and we decided to drive on to the Alyeska Resort also located at the foot of a mountain in Girdwood. The interest in going on a tram was that it goes up the mountain. In the winter this location is a ski resort. The summit elevation is 3,990 ft., the top tram terminal 2,300 ft., There are two restaurants at the top of the tram as well as a bar overlooking the valleys below. Unfortunately, the restaurant that we wanted to eat in was closed so we just stopped at the bar for some spiritual uplift.

By the time we arrived back on the ground, it was about 7:30. However, located near the Lodge was a small chapel.   We wanted to visit this chapel since our parish church in Blue Point was also named Our Lady of the Snows. The church rents space to the Mormons and also hosts community events and weddings of any denomination. Still needing to eat, we chose a restaurant in the town of Girdwood. The restaurant was “Chair 5”, so named because when the place opened there were already 4 chairlifts on the mountain, so this was Chair 5. Although the dinner was very good, the service was slower than Friendly’s and we still had an eighty mile ride ahead of us to reach Anchorage. We reached the Anchorage campground at approximately 10 pm and called it a great day.

G & P

Arrived Back Down
Arrived Back Down
A Lower Part Of The Larger Glacier
A Lower Part Of The Larger Glacier
View From The Top Tram Stop
View From The Top Tram Stop
Our Lady Of The Snow Chapel
Our Lady Of The Snow Chapel
Inside The Chapel
Inside The Chapel

 

Day 51

Day 51, 7/20/15, Monday

Weather: Sunny with temperatures in the 70s.

This morning we drove into downtown Anchorage to the National Forestry Office. Gail wanted to pick up National Forests / National Parks passports for our visiting grandchildren. The impetus for this is that as they travel to these national sites they can have their passport stamped by the Rangers. In some instances they can earn a Junior Ranger patch if the program being offered is completed. Hopefully each will enjoy collecting the stamps and visit many National Parks in the future. Our first encounter with such passports was many years ago when we traveled around Canada. Beth, Paul, Kevin, and Tim each had their own Canadian Parks passport. At some U.S. Parks, some of the children completed the Junior Ranger programs while at Yellowstone and Yosemite.

From downtown we drove out to the Alaska Botanical Gardens just outside Anchorage. Gail enjoys flowers and admires such gardens and since we were moseying today this was one of the planned stops. Paul remained in the RV to relax while awaiting an important call and also to make some calls of his own.

Costco was a later stop where we needed to pick up a few supplies. Gail enjoys the “grazing” that is offered there-nothing good today though. On the way back to the campgrounds we passed one of Paul’s favorite restaurants, Golden Coral. This was our dinner location for the late afternoon.

G & P

Alaska Botanical Garden
Alaska Botanical Garden
Gail
Gail
Lupine 5-6' Tall            (Wonders Of 20 Hours Of Sun)
Lupine 5-6′ Tall (Wonders Of 20 Hours Of Sun)

 

Masterwort cum Bee
Masterwort cum Bee
Spotted Bellflower
Spotted Bellflower

Day 52

 

Day 51, 7/21/15, Tuesday

Weather: Sunny all day with temperatures in the 70’s.

This morning we were delayed getting started while waiting for a telephone call from a local RV service center. We had detected a leak in the water system outside the camper but no water in the interior. However, we later realized that this situation had stopped as mysteriously as it had begun. This led to the conclusion that it was directly related to the action of the pressure valves. When we are traveling, we use water that we have stored on board in a special water tank. When we are in the campgrounds we are hooked up to their water system through a hose. At times the pressure valves within the RV do not completely respond properly to the change of water pressure.

When we finally left the camping area, we went to get our propane tank topped off. This afternoon Paul, Jen, and the children will be flying in to join us. Tomorrow, our first stop will be Denali National Park about a four hour drive north of Anchorage. The federal parks do not provide hookups for camping so we wanted to be sure to have a full capability of this fuel. We use the propane for the stove, oven, heater, water heater, and fueling the generator.

Next we went to a Cosco that was located near our campground to place an order for pizza that would be ready when we arrived back from the airport. By noon we registered in the Golden Nugget campground (N 61° 12’ 28” W 149° 48’ 07”, elevation 168 ft.) and proceeded to do the supply of laundry.

By 5 pm we were on the road to the airport. The plan was for us to wait in the cell phone parking area until we received word that the plane had landed. We arrived there in plenty of time and found that the river area adjacent to the international airport was the location of the largest float plane airport in the state of Alaska. We witnessed all types of float planes from new to vintage craft flying in and out. When you looked out to view the bank of the river the familiar scene of tie down pilings were clearly visible. However, instead of boats tied up there were airplanes in each of their slip areas. It was amazing to see how many small aircraft assembled in one concentrated area.

At 6:15 pm the plane landed carrying Paul and the family. They had been travelling since about 10 this morning.

Back to the campground where we had an enjoyable dinner and, shortly after to bed for the tired visitors.

G & P

Largest Float Plane Airport In Alaska
Largest Float Plane Airport In Alaska
Float Planes At Their Tie Down Slips
Float Planes At Their Tie Down Slips
Coming In For A Landing
Coming In For A Landing
Katie Is Here
Katie Is Here
Sean Is Here
Sean Is Here

 

 

Day 53

Day 53, 7/22/15, Wednesday

Weather: Cloudy in the morning turning to rain in late afternoon and evening. Temperatures were in the high 60s to low 70s.

After breakfast this morning, we left the campgrounds and headed for the nearest Fred Meyer Supermarket. The shopping needed to be done for the next three days that we will be spending at Denali National Park.

Now on to the Seward Highway, north bound, to Denali two hundred thirty seven miles. We fueled up at a station about twenty miles before the Park. This was the last available fuel station before entering the Denali and we wanted to be sure we had a comfortable amount for the return trip. The travel was fairly leisurely with no mountain climbing until we were one hour prior to entering the park. At this point, we did have the typical climb up to the Reilly Camp area.

Of course, along the trip we did make a few stops to see items of interest. One of the towns that we passed through was Willow. It had suffered a severe wild fire a month ago and many of the homes were destroyed. The rebuilding was already in progress. We stopped in the town of Talkeetna. This was listed as a place to visit while on the drive to Denali. When leaving Talkeetna, we visited the Flying Squirrel Donut Café and had our share of the delicacies.

As we entered the park area, we were happily surprised to see a large Bull Moose grazing just off the road. Of course, we had to stop to take the required pictures. The last miles into the park was in heavy rain making the drive a mess on the RV. We set up at our camp site at 8 pm and proceeded to have dinner and an early evening.

G & P

On The Road To Denali
On The Road To Denali
Bull Moose At The Entrance To Denali
Bull Moose At The Entrance To Denali
Katie & Sean At The Campground Main Bldg.
Katie & Sean At The Campground Main Bldg.
Grannie & Pop Upon The Bear
Grannie & Pop Upon The Bear

 

 

 

 

Day 54

Day 54, 7/23/15, Thursday

Weather: Sunny giving way to light rain showers in late afternoon and evening. Temperatures in the low 70s.

The first item on the agenda on this the beginning of the first full day in Denali was a leisurely breakfast followed by a bus ride to the campground center. Here at the center we viewed the displays that they had showing the history of Denali including the history of the park’s evolution since its official establishment.

We attended a presentation by one of the National Park Rangers who discussed the wolf, its place in the park, and the misleading beliefs that have been held about wolves. There are only 50 wolves in the park. As always the Ranger presentation was very informative. In his talk about the wolves he also included the lifestyles of the other park predators and where they all place in the overall balance in Denali.

A quick lunch and we were now off for a three mile hike to the sled dog training habitat. The hike was led by another Ranger. We did not realize that although the hike was listed as moderate challenge, there was considerable climbing involved. With the uneven pitch of the path, Paul was having a challenge with the length of the climb. However, when we reached the area where the dogs were kept it was worth it. We visited the dogs; some were classified as “Please pet me” while others were kept in concreate-floored areas because they are rock eaters. Thirty minutes following the completion of the hike, the Rangers provided a demonstration of the dog sledding by having a team of five dogs pull a sled around a track through the woods. When time came close and the dogs saw the rangers bring out the sled they all started yelping and getting excited at the prospect of “working” with the sled. All of the dogs that were housed there were available for everyone to see including eight puppies that were born this spring.

We returned to the RV where Gail and Jen prepared dinner. The meal was being eaten under the canopy as the rain began to fall. After dinner showers were taken followed by Katie and Sean going to bed tired after a long day. Gail, Jen, Paul, and Paul ended the evening with a game of Cribbage. Gail and Jen won.

Tomorrow the plan is to take a bus tour of the park with a Ranger narrating information as we go. We hope to have the opportunity to encounter some bear, moose, and any other wild life that is in the area. So far we’ve seen squirrel- and they yelled at us!

G & P

Katie And Sean With A Sled Dog
Katie And Sean With A Sled Dog
Sled Dogs Getting Ready
Sled Dogs Getting Ready
The Only Friendly Bear In Denali
The Only Friendly Bear In Denali

Day 55

Day 55, 7/24/15, Friday

Weather: Sunny all day with a few light sprinkled of rain and temperatures in the 70s.

We had an early but leisurely beginning to the day. Early except for Katie and Sean who were tired and slept a little later in the morning.

Once everyone was up and had breakfast, there was a trip to the Murie Science Center as the last requirement of Katie and Sean’s Junior Ranger Certificate program. Then to find a ranger to sign off on their books and both Katie and Sean were sworn in as Junior Rangers.

By 2 pm we were at the Wilderness Access Center ready for the bus and the Tundra Wilderness Tour, a 7-8 hour tour going about 60-65 miles into the park. The bus was driven and directed by a naturalist, Tom Richards, provided by Aramark, a company contracted to run these tours. It is understood that once you begin the trip there is no guarantee how much wild life you may actually see. However, in our case today we were very fortunate to have multiple sightings of grizzly bear, moose, caribou, snowshoe hare, gyrfalcons, magpies, Dall sheep, and ptarmigan. Even the naturalist was pleased and somewhat surprised with the numbers that were seen. Unfortunately, we were not able to get a clear view of Mt. McKinley. Only a portion of the northern snow covered side of the mountain was visible through the thick cloud cover.

The views of the mountains and valleys were breathtaking. The realization that most of the six million acres of the park have such limited incursion of civilization is amazing and the vastness is difficult to grasp as it unfolded before us. Roads were narrow and unpaved. In some distant portions they were only wide enough for 1½ vehicles to pass with periodic pull-offs for one bus give way to the passing buses.

Before we left for the trip, Gail and Jen made sandwiches that we would have while on the tour. Although we were being given a light snack by the company, it was and excellent idea to have brought our own. The trip ended when we finally returned to the park at 10:45 pm. and walked back home, arriving by 11:15pm.  A wonderfully full day!

Tomorrow we plan on leaving Denali and heading south toward Seward.

G & P

Bear Feasting On Berries
Bear Feasting On Berries
Doll Sheep Grazing In The Mountains
Doll Sheep Grazing In The Mountains
Don't Mind Me I Am Just Passing Through
Don’t Mind Me I Am Just Passing Through
Moose In The Pond
Moose In The Pond
Ptarmigan-The State Bird
Ptarmigan-The State Bird
The Evening Mountains And The Glacial Rivers
The Evening Mountains And The Glacial Rivers

Day 56

Day 56, 7/25/15, Saturday

Weather: Sunny all day with temperatures in the 70s

As a matter of interest, the temperature in the course of the day fluctuates quite a bit. This morning at 7:30 the temperature was 40°, by late morning/afternoon it was in the 70s, and now at 11 PM it is 57°.

Everyone rose relatively early this morning. When breakfast was over a hike was taken on the McKinley trail to the visitor center. Sean and Katie returned their Park backpacks that were issued to them with the project materials needed to get their Junior Ranger status yesterday. Everyone then returned to the RV for the final packing and departure from the campground. On the way toward the Park exit the children asked to make one more stop at the sled dog kennels to see the dogs once more.

We reached the Parks Highway on leaving the Park and took it south. As we approached the vicinity of Talkeetna we began to pass participants in a hand bicycle marathon. Each participant was followed closely by a safety car. Because of the slowness of the participants and the ever inherent danger when trying to pass, it posed a poorly thought out program to be conducted on the only major highway heading south to Anchorage.

Our total travel distance for today was approximately three hundred miles. By dinner time we entered the Fox Run Campgrounds in Palmer, AK. (N 61° 33’ 07” W 149° 13’ 45”, elevation 129 ft.).

Tomorrow, our plans are to continue to the town of Seward.

Because of the fact that there were so many pictures that we took of Denali, we are going to include additional ones as a part of this blog.

G & P

Getting Ready For A Trail Hike
Getting Ready For A Trail Hike
Katie & Sean Being Sworn In As Junior Rangers
Katie & Sean Being Sworn In As Junior Rangers
Denali Views 1
Denali Views 1
Denali Views 2
Denali Views 2
Denali Views 3
Denali Views 3

Day 57

Day 57, 7/26/15, Sunday

Weather: Rain all during the night and into late this afternoon. Temperatures were in the 60s.

We departed the camp grounds at about 9:45, a little later than we had wished. However we were back on the Park Highway within the hour and on our way to Seward. A brief stop as we passed through Anchorage at the Golden Donut store for a late morning snack.

Since it was raining, the travelling could have been difficult but for the fact that much of the traffic was going in the opposite direction. Our drive was taking us toward the fishing and boating areas while others were heading back north earlier than usual because of the weather.

We stopped at the Chugach National Park for the family to view their information on glaciers and also to take the hike to the glacier. All hands enjoyed the presentation and the ability of seeing a glacier up close. It is one thing to read about a glacier but another to actually see one up close.

We were on the road again for another hour and one half to finally reach Seward at 5:30 pm. Jen and Paul went to the tour office to book a sightseeing trip tomorrow. Their trip will be through the Resolution Bay to see the ocean’s wildlife in its entire splendor. We setup the RV in the campground and then took a short walk into town.

Tomorrow, we anticipate spending the entire day and evening in Seward with a departure back to Anchorage on Tuesday.

As a point of interest, our speedometer crossed ten thousand miles today.

G & P

At The Glacier
At The Glacier
Glacial Ice Near Portage
Glacial Ice Near Portage
Glacial Ice
Glacial Ice
Standing On The Ice
Standing On The Ice
Sea Otter Floating Past Our Campsite.
Sea Otter Floating Past Our Campsite.

 

 

Day 58

Day 58, 7/27/15, Monday

Weather: Partly sunny with some light afternoon sprinkles. Temperatures were in the low 70s.

There was a leisurely beginning to the day today. Jen, Paul, and the children were scheduled to take a sightseeing cruise through Resurrection Bay into the Alaska Sound. By 11 am they left the RV and walked the short distance to the docks and boarded the boat.

While they were gone we took the motorhome and drove to the fresh water station to add water to the holding tank. We wanted to keep half tank only because our task tomorrow includes driving back to Anchorage where the family will board an 8:50 pm flight back to the lower forth-eight. The amount of water in the tank will directly affect the weight of the vehicle. We drove to the Safeway at the other end of town to pick up a few supplies for tomorrow’s lunch and then went back to the campground.

About 5 pm, Paul called to let us know that the boat was about fifteen minutes out and they should be docking soon.   All of the returning troops were enthused about the trip and didn’t hesitate to tell us all about the sea life that they had spotted. What a great opportunity for the children to experience this adventure.

It was decided that this night would be a good time to go out to dinner. We walked to one of the local restaurants . We naturally knew that the main feature on the menu would be fish, and so it was. The view out of the restaurant window was the fishing, party, and private pleasure boats tied up in their slips. Beyond this was a Coast Guard Cutter and the “ Norwegian of the Sea” cruise ship.

The evening drew to a close back at the RV where the packing of the travelling bags was done. Paul checked in to their flight and Katie and Sean got into their bunk. To bed quickly to be ready for an early departure from Seward.

The photos attached were taken by Paul and Jen.

It is hard to believe how quickly this week absolutely flew by and how much enjoyment we had.

G & P

Bald Eagle With A Salmon
Bald Eagle With A Salmon
Humpback Whale Tail
Humpback Whale Tail
Puffin
Puffin
Sea Lions
Sea Lions
Sea Otters
Sea Otters

 

 

Day 59

Day 59, 7/28/15, Tuesday

Weather: Rain in the morning changing to partly cloudy in the afternoon. The temperature was primarily in the high 60s.

As planned, everyone awoke early and by 8 am we were on the road. This was the last day of Paul, Jen, and the children’s visit. Our target was to be back at the Golden Nugget campground by 4 pm so there was time for showers, packing, and dinner.

After leaving Seward, we drove to the Forrest Ranger Office in Portage so the children could complete the requirements for another Junior Ranger status at that location. Unfortunately, after arriving there we were told that this location did not participate in that activity. The plan was now made to go to the Ranger station when we arrive in Anchorage.

While we were in the Portage area we stopped at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center so the children could see the wild animals that were being cared for due to injury or abandonment. Katie and Sean enjoyed this visit even though it was raining lightly and the bears were nowhere to be found.

Back on the road again and this time we did not stop until we reached Anchorage at 2 pm. We located the Federal Ranger station and the children successfully completed the challenge activity and earned the Junior rating. This is the third such recognition that they received while in Alaska. Similar programs are offered at every National Park and as the children travel in future years they can continue in the challenges.

Unfortunately, the time came when we had to leave for the airport. This was a fifteen minute ride and went all too quickly as did the whole week.

After saying our good byes, Gail and I left the airport. We weren’t more than ten minutes from the airport when Paul called us to see if we felt the earthquake. We did not feel it because we were in the vehicle driving. However, a 6.3 earthquake had hit the area of Redoubt Volcano and was unmistakably felt in Anchorage. Paul indicated that this was the last memorable thing that was left to experience for them in Alaska.

Gail and I returned to the campground and began our preparations for a week’s visit from Beth, Bill, Meghan, Emily, and Ryan.

There are no pictures attached with today’s log because most of the time was spent in driving all day.

G & P