Wednesday, July 21, 2010

HOMER, ALASKA ---- ON THE HOMER SPIT!!






After all the rain we had in Kenai and the weather forecast we were overjoyed by the time we had our “briefing” with the wagon master for our next drive at 9AM on July 21st.  The rain had stopped and the sun was trying to peak out….we were all like a bunch of kids who were just given a present.  And we had…God blessed us with a beautiful day.  The sun shone brighter every mile we drove. 





video

We packed up, pulled out and headed for the gas station before leaving Kenai.  As we were pulling out of the gas station we ended up going through a residential area and there stood this moose, right in the middle of the road.  She just stood there for a few minutes (as I was struggling to find the camera --- yes, we still get excited when we see one unexpectedly) she seemed a little confused and then took off into the trees.  No picture this time.  Bill did accidentally get a video of the moose crossing the road!






We stopped to take a few pictures at a Wetlands area, a good stop to do some bird watching, look for moose and other smaller animals.  The mountains in the background are always spectacular.

The “Milepost” indicated that “Clam Gultch State Recreation Area” would make a good stop.  Great views.  So we pulled into the dirt road and weren’t sure where to go next, everything looked so narrow and we couldn’t see far enough to tell what lay ahead.  We didn’t want to take the motor home somewhere and not be able to turn it around, so Bill pulled off into the first area he could fit, not sure whether there was a way out there either.  We decided to leave the RV there and head down the road on foot.  We had to walk about 2 miles downhill to the beach.  It was worth it (of course I still had to walk that far uphill back to the RV). Absolutely gorgeous.  There were only about a dozen people on the whole beach on Cook Inlet, which leads into the Pacific Ocean.  The panoramic view of Mount Redoubt, Mount Iliamna and Mount Spur across Cook Inlet and the expanse of beach are well worth the trip.  These mountains (Chigmit Mountains of the Aleutian Chain) had volcanic eruptions a year or so ago.  On this day you could see the “steam plumes” from the mountains as they continue to smolder within.  Hopefully you can see that in the pictures.   We rested, took pictures and absorbed the scene around us before attempting the return hike to the RV.  At which point, Bill had to unhook the tow car to turn the motor home around and then re-hook it before we could continue our trip.  One of our favorite stops of all.



















We pulled over a few more pictures and took a break for lunch in the motor home and Bill needed a quick nap.  Our last stop was on a bluff overlooking Kachemak Bay with 180 degree views of Kachemak Bay, Homer Spit, glaciers and mountains.  Beautiful!


















































It took us several hours to make that little 88 mile trip but it was very enjoyable.  As we drove to the campsite, we realized we were actually camping on the “Spit” with the mountains and Katchemak Bay directly in front of us.  Our motor home actually faced this view…we did not close the curtain on the front window the whole time we were parked there.  Unbelievable.  If you aren’t familiar with the “Spit” it is a long, narrow bar of gravel that juts out 4.3 miles from the Homer shore.  A very neat place to camp and visit.













WE HAD A BEAUTIFUL VIEW FROM OUR CAMPSITE RIGHT OUTSIDE THE FRONT WINDOW.



















AND LOOK AT THESE CUTE LITTLE HOOKUPS -- REMINDED ME OF WHEN WE WENT TO KINGS ISLAND FOR THE FIRST TIME AND THEY HAD "CHARACTER" TRASH CANS.  FUN!












 





The caravan had a planned dinner at “Land’s End”, a nice restaurant that is on the very end of the “Spit”.  We had our choice of Halibut or Prime Rib – you guessed it I had the “outer” circle of the Prime Rib (too rare for me in the middle).  This way Bill gets the best of both worlds.  LOL. 






We had given a couple ladies a ride to the restaurant.  They had been asking us to play scrabble with them for a while so they came in for a couple hours.  They actually have the official 4th edition of the Scrabble Dictionary.  Now, there are some very unusual and strange words in there.  Did you know that a cat’s meow can be spelled M-I-A-O-U??  Well remember it for the next time you play SCRABBLE. 

I had bemoaned that we had not taken advantage of the good weather to walk along the Homer Spit the night we arrived.  By the time “Scrabble” time was over we were ready to hunker down for a warm quiet evening.  The weather forecast had looked dim with 10 days in a row of rain so I felt that this “one” day of sunshine and 63 degrees was too much to ask for again the next day.  

I slept in (it was my birthday --- Bill humored me all day!!) and I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was not raining!  Although I can’t say temperatures ever passed 53 and the sun never really shone, it didn’t rain --- another blessing.  Bill prepared pecan pancakes, (my favorite) bacon, juice and coffee.  He would not let me lift one finger to prepare the meal, set the table or clean up the kitchen.  It was MY day and I had to make all the choices for the day’s events.  That was fun, although those of you that know me best know that I really don’t like to make decisions --- that was a little bit stressful!!  LOL.  The wagon master had tied a few balloons to the front of the motorhome while I was sleeping, they popped so he came back a tied a few more on – they popped also but we did rescue one pitiful one.  They also presented me with a “Tracks to Adventure” Coffee cup with some goodies and the group sang “Happy Birthday”.  Two of the ladies came by with birthday wishes and baked goods.  Celebrating my birthday in Alaska! That’s a good present.  LOL

We checked out the different excursions and attractions and decided to take a boat sightseeing trip with “Bay Excursions”.  It was a small boat with a driver and another young man pointing out wildlife and things of interest, relaying information about the things we were seeing.  There were only 3 other passengers on the boat with us.  Two women from France and one from Switzerland who had met on previous travels and are now traveling together.  They were very interesting, only one who spoke English, (which she did very well).  It was very cold on the boat especially as it was a lot more fun outside (not looking through windows).  We saw beautiful scenery all around us with surprisingly very few other watercraft in the area.  We also saw a number of sea otters just floating on their backs, washing their faces, some eating and some with their young on their stomachs.  We missed it but the Captain saw one with an octopus on his belly, which he was eating, one tentacle at a time.  We covered the waters in Kachemak Bay around Gull Island and back, which took over 2 hours.  They estimate there are approximately 17,000 birds, with 15,000 being two species of gulls along with tufted and horned puffins, bald eagles, common murres, kittiwakes and cormorants along with many types of ducks.  It was a very fun trip.   Exhilarating!!



























 ONE OF THE MANY OTTERS JUST FLOATING AROUND IN KACHEMAK BAY















 BIRDS ON A ROCK

















 GULL ISLAND




















We headed to a local restaurant for lunch and spent a couple hours walking along Homer Spit ducking in and out of shops.  We did buy a sea otter for our “we’ve seen these animals” collection.  That was our only purchase.  After touring the “Spit” we drove into Homer and visited the “Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center”.  We only had a little over an hour before it closed but watched a couple films and walked around the exhibits.  It was a good stop.































We picked up a few things at Safeway and went back to the motorhome.  We were deciding what to do about dinner when Joan came by with cupcakes and we decided to do dinner with them at a restaurant on the “Spit”.  She talked to the waitress on the side and we all shared a coffee tiramisu cheesecake.  Too many desserts flying around this trip. 

I was asked what was my favorite birthday, even as a child?  I have to say I have always been blessed with family and friends that have made my day very special.   Can’t say one was better than another --- all special in it’s own way, but celebrating a birthday in Alaska is a blessing for sure.  Thanks to all who called, texted, face-booked, e-mailed, sent cards --- it means a lot to me that you took the time to think of me and reach out with your wishes.  Elaine (our wonderful neighbor who takes care of our mail and watches over our place while we are gone) sent word that she figured it was my birthday as the cards kept sliding off the pile of mail.  LOL   We are a long way from home and it is wonderful to know we haven’t been forgotten!  We miss everyone of you!  God truly has blessed us in so many ways! He’s amazing!






THIS IS THE SUNRISE FROM THE FRONT OF OUR MOTORHOME THE MORNING WE LEFT.  BILL GRABBED THE CAMERA AND RAN OUT TO GET THESE GREAT SHOTS.













Next morning briefing at 8:45 and then we drive 168 miles to Seward, Alaska.  We are looking forward to the new adventures that await us there.  The Tracks Tour has planned some exciting excursions for this town on Resurrection Bay, on the east coast of the Kenai Peninsula.  More fun to come!


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

KENAI, ALASKA


We started a new routine.  Bill, bless his heart, gets up early, has his coffee and makes no noise whatsoever as he checks the internet, gets caught up on the news in the world and enjoys his quiet time.  He does not want to wake me up so our day doesn’t really start until I “rise and shine”.  Then we are off!  Our last night in Anchorage I suggested that he take his shower before I get up and he can start his outside jobs, washing the windshield and unhooking the water, sewer and electricity. (all that stuff he has to do)  After his shower I would hop in and we would have everything ready to roll in record time.  It worked like a charm so it may become our “new” way of getting up and going.  We were on the road shortly after the wagon master who is always to lead the group.

So because of this new routine we were on the road early, I had the “Milepost” ready to make the most of anything worthwhile up ahead.  Oh yes, did I mention, it’s still raining??  Still the scenery is magnificent!!  Mountains, Mountains, Mountains, and now rivers and inlets into the Pacific Ocean.  Kenai is a peninsula so there is water everywhere to add to the other beauty.  We are told to stop at Beluga Point, a great photo op and a chance to see Beluga Whale.  Do Beluga Whale hibernate?  I’m thinking they might because there weren’t any out there and I was so cold I left Bill holding the camera and ran back into the motor home.  So we made that stop.  Chalk one up for us.





















We always eat breakfast before we take off or have a granola bar with our coffee on the road.  Bill thought it would be nice to stop out for breakfast, something most of the group does each day, but we had not on this trip.  We did find a nice diner enroute that served a good breakfast.  Bill ordered a three berry pancake (just one mind you).  The pancake is supposed to cover a dinner plate, he was sure one would be enough.  I was going to share my omelet with him as they are always too big.  The waitress came out to tell us there was good news or bad depending on how you felt about it.  But…..the pancake ended up bigger than the plate.  Bill said that would be fine, just fold it over, no problem.  They had to fold it in fourths to get it on the plate.  He ate ½ for breakfast and the other half for a late lunch.  Good breakfast stop.































































The next stop was at the Kenai Peninsula Visitor Information Center.  Picked up literature on the next few towns we would be entering and a brochure on the “Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center.  I was anxious to stop there for a look.  Well, while I was looking at the “Milepost” I missed the sign and so did Bill.  So, cross that one off the list!!  After that there were several “gravel turnouts” for viewing and a few little shops or café’s but nothing noteworthy to stop for.  So, off to the Campground at Beluga Lookout RV Park.  We are really confusing the wagon masters by showing up so early to set up.  LOL




THE FLOWERS HERE GROW VERY BIG.  HANGING BASKETS ON THE RV OFFICE AND A LOT OF THE SHOPS ARE HUGE!  BEAUTIFUL!








We walked around the park and down to the beach where there were people everywhere camping in tents and fishing in the Cook Inlet for salmon. Bill was especially amazed by this sight.  We talked to some of the fisherman who explained that this is only for the Native Alaskans.  It is a way for them to “subsidence” fish.  As the salmon are swimming up river to spawn, the Natives are allowed to purchase a permit this one time a year to scoop them up in a huge net.  


He said they had to purchase the permit at least a year in advance to reserve a spot, camping on the beach or driving onto it were extra fees.   They stand side by side in the Kenai River with their nets and scoop them up.  Many of them cut off their heads and gut them right on the beach.  The man we took this picture of had caught 7 that day, from 8AM to 3:30PM.  There was an area in our RV Park where some of them were cleaning and filleting the Salmon. It was quite a sight to see.  




















I did not want to stay out too long as again I was freezing!  Back to the motor home for a quiet evening of cards, dinner, skype with the kids/grandkids, blogging, Band of Brothers and making plans for the next day in Kenai!







The next morning we had a full day on our own of sightseeing.  Well, almost a full day….it had rained hard all night and was still raining as I woke up…so I went back to sleep.  Finally I crawled out from under the warm covers (and heated mattress pad) to face the world.  Finally around noon the rain had pretty much stopped so we rushed out to do a few errands and see what Kenai had to offer.









After a stop at Home Depot (who did not have what we were looking for) and the Lowes, we went to the Kenai Visitor Center to look around and take a “walking tour” of their old town.  







Upside --- it had stopped raining, still cloudy and cool, but no rain.  Downside --- it was the most pitiful tour I have ever taken.  There were some old buildings (about 6) that were not open so we couldn’t go inside and some were actually privately owned and occupied.  Good news, we had a nice walk outside.  On to lunch.  We were looking for a nice local pizza place, Ms Garmin (Bill calls her “Naggy”) directed us to 3 places which were no longer open for business or were carry outs only….we ended up at “Pizza Hut”, which was okay because we both like their pizza. 


















We needed to pick up something to share with the group for a “Snack” fellowship back at the camp.  By this time it is absolutely pouring again.  We headed to the closed in tent they had reserved, ate a little, visited a little and headed back to the RV….we decided we had seen all of Kenai we were going to see for the night.

Dinner in, some cards, and an episode of “Into the West”.  Even though we had planned to do some hiking and stopping at areas where they “boasted” wildlife, we were happy to be safe, dry and warm in our “Home Away from Home”!



















Next morning, only 88 miles to drive to Homer, Alaska.  Here’s praying for the rain to abide for a while if only during the daylight hours.  LOL. We may be expecting too much, I checked weather.com and it is showing rain for the next 10 days of our route.  Oh well…..it is still amazing to be in Alaska!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

ANCHORAGE, ALASKA



We left Denali and it was still raining.  As mentioned in the last post we had 263 miles to traverse to Anchorage – in the motorhome without any stops that amounts to about 6 hrs, so unusual for us but we got an earlier start.  On the way out of Denali we took pictures of the Nenana River, the one we had “white water rafted” on.  It was neat to see the river wind around amongst the mountain & cliff sides, knowing we had ridden those waters.










THE NENANA RIVER WE RAFTED 













We passed through some amazingly beautiful areas, in fact the Broad Pass area is one of the most picturesque areas on the Parks Highway we were traveling.  We continued to try and get a glimpse of Mt. McKinley.  They say that only 25% of tourists ever get to see Mt. McKinley, it has to be a very clear day.  Needless to say we were not part of the 25%.  I wasn’t able to see the “Golden Gate Bridge” when I visited San Francisco a few years ago either.  Maybe it’s the clouds following me??!












































































































































The wagon master had mentioned a good stopping point along the way was at Talkeetna .  The “Milepost” promoted it as a good side road.  It would take us 14 miles down a different road and we would have to travel back that same 14 miles to get back on our route to Anchorage.  I read the blurbs in the book to Bill and we decided to go ahead and stop.  As we were driving into the town we saw several rigs from our group in parking areas a couple miles before town.  We figured something was up but continued into the town --- and of course there was no place to park a rig our size and a tow car.  So we turned around and went back to a parking place one of our “caravans” had stopped.  Bill was going to unhook the tow car and take it into town (he thought it was too far for me to be walking) but the area wasn’t level enough to do that.  So, back into the rig we went and back down the road --- we never found a place to park, let alone turn around, and ended up back where we started.  I felt Bill was getting frustrated and so I said it was too far to go all the way back, we might as well go on.  Now I really wanted to go back and Bill really wanted to go back, but as I was trying to take him off the hook, he thought I didn’t want to go.  So, my lesson today is COMMUNICATION!!  Speak up…say what you mean and mean what you say…usually we can’t read each other’s minds.  So lack of communication and we lost out on the opportunity of a pleasant respite in an interesting area.  Now on the other hand….we were not the last ones in camp that night!!  LOL

Since we didn’t make many stops we had camp set up fairly early. We were in Anchorage, a very large city.  In fact of the 600,000 people who live in the whole state of Alaska, over ½ of them live in Anchorage.  Now, that is a lot of people, but when you have been in these little towns/villages and on roads where you don’t see any vehicles behind you or in front of you for miles, being in Anchorage was a bit overwhelming.  I was getting claustrophobic with all the traffic and people.  Crazy how just a few weeks changes you!  

Bill was beginning to think I must be “Beef Deprived” with all the salmon, cod and halibut (which I don’t like) that was being served at our meals.  So he took me to a TGIF’s for a steak.  Said he thought I needed it.  I do love steak.  (Okay, Rob, I know I don’t eat it rare, but I still love it with sautéed mushrooms!)  We had a nice dinner and drove around with the Garmin to find the local churches as we would be here on Sunday.  The first time in a few weeks that we would be able to attend a service (besides our own in the RV).  It was a nice evening and Bill got a little feel for the city.

The bus picked us up Saturday at 8:30AM and took us all to the Alaska Native Heritage Center.  The Center featured young native people who shared their culture through talks and demonstrations of Native games and dances.  There was a museum area and a theater showing different aspects of the Alaskan native culture and the wildlife.  Outside they had a walking tour of many of the different types of homes and dwellings, with displays of the different tools, artifacts, animal skins, etc.  They also had a full skeleton of a huge whale.  The Natives were also displaying and selling their self-made crafts and jewelry.  Interesting and since this was the clearest, nicest day for a while it was really pleasant to walk around outside and check things out.







The tour bus took us around the city of Anchorage pointing out many of the historical sights and places of interest.  He took us by the Alaskan Railroad Depot and we stopped at a bridge to see the salmon making their way back to the place they were born.  There was one huge salmon and one smaller…that’s all we saw there.  


He also drove us by the airport and the area where all the float planes are.  We stopped to watch a few take off.  



















WILDFLOWERS AROUND THE FLOAT PLANES DOCKING



He continued to relay historic information as we headed for the “Sourdough Mining Company”.  This was a dinner I enjoyed!  They served family style BBQ ribs and chicken, waffle fries, coleslaw and the most wonderful corn fritters.  Mandy, you will not believe this, but there was ice cream for dessert but I turned it down for another corn fritter!  







Then across the street there was a shop, “Wildberry Patch” which had a huge chocolate waterfall.  It was pretty neat – I had to buy a couple pieces of chocolate covered pecans and cashews.  Pretty good!





















































After lunch we headed to the Alaska Museum for a tour.  Bill decided he did not need a tour guide for that so we pulled away from the group and looked around by ourselves.  We left the museum and walked around their Weekend Market & Festival.  Rather like a town festival and craft show.  A lot of Alaskan culture was on display for sale along with the normal junk fair food.  It was cold down by the river but bright and sunny.  It was a nice day and we were glad to get back to camp after 9+ hours sightseeing.  

FLOWERS OUTSIDE THE MUSUEM

The next morning was Sunday and we had planned to attend an early service so we would have the rest of the day to explore on our own.  I could not get out of bed, so Plan B, late service.  After church we went to the “Sea Galley” restaurant for some shrimp (for me) and Cajun cod (for Bill).  It was a very nice place, I enjoyed my shrimp but Bill needed a lot of ice water to go with his dish.  By the time we made it to Walmart to stock up on a few things and got back to camp it was 4:30.  Still cold and rainy so we skipped any other sightseeing and hunkered down for a warm dry pleasantly quiet evening.  Almost finished the “Band of Brothers” DVD’s.

The next morning, 156 miles to Kenai, Alaska.  No group outings planned there so we need to do some research and make a plan…..weather forecast still 50’s and rain.
Bill opted not to sign up for the “Salmon Fishing” which some of the men in the group did.  Sleep and then off to Kenai!!