Monday, July 27, 2015

On to Fairbanks!

After our night in Talkeetna, we made a stop at a wayside park along the Parks Highway. East Fork of the Chulitna River Wayside offers a rest area for those who only want an eight hour or less break and campsites away from the highway for those who wish to overnight. Larry and Connie arrived first and picked out the perfect site where both rigs would fit. It was a good thing we arrived early because the spot we got was the only one that would have fit our rigs. 

The weather was less than perfect, but Bob and I thought we could go back to some other pull-outs along the highway and pick up a few geocaches. After a little rest, that is what we did.

Since we hadn't been doing a lot of walking, we did quite a few laps around the campground. The weather held off long enough for us to get over 10,000 steps.

Connie and I went looking at different wildflowers and saw red salmon trying to swim up the river. They would make it to the rapids, then come back to the still pools for a rest before they attempted the swim again.

We only spent one night at East Fork Wayside, then it was on to Fairbanks. The ride was less than pleasing as there was a lot of road construction from just beyond our campground all the way past the entrance for Denali National Park. And I also need to add that is was raining! Larry and Connie left about five minutes before us, but we caught up with them at the first stop for road construction.
 One of the next stops, the road was a little drier and there was just enough sun on the mountain to show the different colors.
 Bob and I stopped at the pull-out with the commemorative plaque for George Parks for whom the road is named. Unfortunately, the plaque has graffiti all over it. There was a good view of the valley from the overlook.
 I also took a panoramic photo of the same area.
Before we left that morning, it was decided we would stop at Sam's Club in Fairbanks for the night. The next day we would explore and find a place to camp until   time for us to return to Denali National Park.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Anchorage and Beyond!

Since we had already seen everything we wanted to see in Anchorage, we didn't want to stay long. We had to chores to attend to and then it would be time to move farther north.  Our campground of choice was the Sam's Club parking lot near JBER (joint base Elmendorf-Richardson). That would give us easy access to everything we needed to do. Since we knew there were other Boomers in the area, Connie put out the word on Facebook that there was going to be a Boomerang. After a bit of discussion, it was decided that we would all meet at Longhorn Steakhouse--about 100 yards from where we were parked! The time was set for Tuesday evening. Larry, Connie, Bob and I needed to get our 'chores' done before then.

Monday afternoon, Bob and I checked out some items in Sam's so we could compare prices in the commissary. Then, I went and got my hair cut really short because it would be easier to wash and dry in the RV. Tuesday morning was laundry time. After our laundry was done and put away, we went to the commissary. We bought most of our groceries at the commissary and then went back to Sam's to get milk, eggs, and peanuts because there was quite a difference in price on those items.

Tuesday evening, we met the other Boomers at Longhorn. We had a good time, but due to the size of our crowd and the way the tables were set up, four of us had to sit separately from the other eight. It was a fun night of sharing stories and learning more about things that happen in Alaska in the winter as four of the Boomers summer in Alaska.

Wednesday, it was time to move on toward Fairbanks which is 358 miles north. That is much to far for us to drive in a day!  Our first stop was Wasilla to see the Iditarod Headquarters.
 I had to get my picture with the statue of Balto, the dog who saved Nome.
 Originally, the dogs ran the Iditarod without foot protection. The race has come a long way. The dogs now wear booties to keep them from having foot problems during the race. This tree shows some of the booties used in the Iditarod.
 Connie wanted to ride behind the dogs. It is amazing to see how excited the dogs get when they know they are going to run. One dog that wasn't running, kept pacing around his doghouse and barking to let everyone know he wanted some of the action.
 From Wasilla, we continued on to the small town of Talkeetna which has become a bus/train stop for cruise sea and land adventures. Of course, we were there while some of the cruise buses were in town.

 After walking around the town and visiting the Talkeetna Denali National Park Ranger Station (where Mt. McKinley climbers check-in), we drove back to Denali Brewing Company and sampled some of their craft beers. Since it is a brewery, not licensed as a restaurant, they can only serve 36 ounces of beer a day to a single customer. We each had 12 ounces and then returned to our pull-out boondocking site closer to Talkeetna.
 Bob almost forgot to get a picture of our site. Larry and Connie had already left and we were about to hook-up the car when he got the picture.
We were still quite a way from Fairbanks and would spend one more night on the road before arriving in Fairbanks.

Friday, July 17, 2015

On the Way to Anchorage

From Homer to Anchorage is 226 miles, much to far for us to travel in one day! Because of our trip to Homer we knew there was a lot of road construction with delays on the way back to Anchorage. We decided to take our time and spend a day or two or four in Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Bob and I wanted to stop at Hidden Lake Campground where we stayed in 2010. The campground was nice, but the 3.6 mile gravel  road to get to the campground was quite the washboard. We made it before Larry and Connie so we unhooked our car to try to get them to detour to Petersen Lake about 11 miles south of the turn-off for Hidden Lake. We finally got in touch with them--cell phones were iffy--and they were able to get to Petersen Lake. It turns out two other Boomer couples were also camped there for the night. After they got settled, we went back to Hidden Lake.

That afternoon, Bob and I hiked around the campground, then drove Skilak Lake Road looking for wildlife. We didn't see any, but we did find Engineer Lake and the trail head for Seven Lakes Trail. It looked like a great trail so we planned to do it one way the next day--a little over 4 miles. The end of the trail was at Petersen Lake and we would have Larry and Connie drive us back to our campground.

The next morning, we drove to Engineer Lake and began our hike. The lake waters were still and the sky was cloudy.
 The trail follows the lake for the first mile, then it splits.
 One part of the trail goes to a cabin about a quarter of a mile away and the main trail continues to the other lakes.
 At about the time that the trail split, it was time to model the new and every protective green mosquito net head coverings. The mosquitoes were terrible even though we were wearing plenty of  'eau de deet.'
 This grouse shooed her chicks to the other side of the trail and proceeded to walk ahead of us.
 Once she thought we were far enough away from her chicks, she scooted off to the opposite side from her chicks. She stood and watched to make sure we weren't coming her way or following her chicks. She was the only animal we saw on the trail. We did see evidence of a bear in the area, but we never saw a bear.
 When we neared Kelly Lake, we found this cabin. It was complete with bunk beds, picnic table, outhouse, woodshed and boat. It is one of the cabins that can be rented from the wildlife refuge.
 At Kelly Lake, we spotted the sign about the trail and the cabin. We were almost to Petersen Lake....we hoped Larry and Connie would be there!
 Whew, they were there and they took us to our rig at Hidden Lake so we could pack up and move to Petersen Lake. It was a nice area to spend a few days.

Each morning when we woke up, we watched this moose eating lily pads in the lake.
 The next day we all went hiking at Russian River Falls. It was a beautiful day for a hike. Connie and I are on the bridge over the Russian River where the trail splits and goes to another of those cabins and to some other lakes.
 We continued on the falls trail and finally arrived. There were salmon at the bottom of the falls trying to make their way up the falls!
 One or two would try to jump up a level, but would get tired and rest in the pool at the bottom of the falls.
 We all enjoyed watching the salmon from the observation deck.
 The next day we took a drive to Captain Cook Recreation Area on Cook Inlet. We saw quite a few oil rigs in Cook Inlet.
 Since the sky was clear, we also had a good view of Mt. Spurr, one of the volcanoes across the inlet.
 At Nikiski, we saw Spann Dock which is built on World War II Liberty ships.
 From Nikiski, we went back to Kenai and toured the visitor center. This log with fishing tackle attached was pulled from the inlet by two fishermen. When it was wet, it weighed over 600 pounds! The colorful items in the case are floats and lures. And yes, there was an entire fishing rod attached, too!
 From the visitor center we toured the historic old town of Kenai. This church is still in use today.
 This is one of the original homesteader's cabins. It was interesting to see all the items that were used when Kenai was settled. The cabins were small and most had sleeping lofts.
 Then we had to take a look at the Kenai River. Dipnetting season opened the day before we arrived. Somehow standing in the water waiting for a fish to swim into your net is not very sportsman like. It seemed to me that the way these fishermen were lined up that the first one in line would be the only one to catch something. We stood and watched for quite a while, but we never saw anyone catch a salmon....or anything else for that matter.
 Sunday, Bob and I went for another hike, this time we hiked Hidden Creek Trail. The trail led from Skilak Lake Road to Skilak Lake, following Hidden Creek.

It was a cloudy day, but we didn't get any rain. We enjoyed the hike, but were concerned by the amount of fresh bear scat on the trail. To keep safe, we sang songs, talked, and clicked our sticks together. We never saw any animals, but we did see several other hikers. This is a view of Skilak Lake.
Once back at the RV, Connie and Larry wanted to know if we got wet. It had poured at the campground while we were out hiking!  That afternoon, it was time to think about moving to our next stop, Anchorage. We wanted to stock the pantry, do laundry, and get haircuts. Monday would be a moving day.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Two Weeks in Homer--Part Three

Saturday, July 4th dawned as a cool, cloudy day with rain forecast for the entire day. The plan was for all the Boomers in the Homer area to get together for a 4th of July potluck. The gathering place was Larry and Connie's rig. As with any Boomer get together (often called a Boomerang), there was plenty to eat and drink. The rain arrived and we all stayed in Larry and Connie's rig talking about our adventures in Alaska and other places. The weather cleared in the evening and Larry got us all outside for a dronie picture.

 Larry also took an aerial photo of Mariner Campground with all the rigs staying for 4th of July. The campground cleared out on Monday and very few of the rigs were left.
Sunday we took a drive to the end of Kachemak Bay.  There was a steep dirt road at the end of the bay that we drove down to get to the beach. No, we weren't in the Honda, we were in Larry's jeep. We had a fantastic view of  Grewlingk Glacier and the bay when it was low tide.
As you can tell, it was a cloudy day and threatened rain for most of the day. We returned to Homer, did some last minute shopping at Safeway, then went back to the rigs.

Monday, we all drove to Ninilchik to check out the Russian church and do some sightseeing. These boats belong to a Cooper River fishing company. They can only get out of the marina at high tide. Notice how they are all tied together--no one can come or go as they please!
As we drove the road near the beach, we saw a lot of eagles. This is one of the young bald eagles we saw.
Then it was on to the Russian Orthodox church. Connie's dad told her she needed to visit it to see the grave with all the fish hooks that is behind the church.
 Well, the cemetery is overgrown and has a few very narrow walking paths, but we couldn't find the grave with the fish hooks.
 The church is in the process of being painted and the windows were covered to protect them from paint.
We stopped at the visitor center and the gentlemen running it recommended we stop at a nearby fish weir where the salmon are counted and the eggs are harvested. We found the fish weir, but there were no people or salmon anywhere near so we returned to Homer.

Tuesday would be our last day in Homer. Bob and I wanted to get in one more hike so we chose to hike Homestead Trail. The trail was nice and had a lot of boardwalks to get across areas of spongy ground.
 As far as we could tell, this was the homestead gave the trail its name. There was no way to get to the dilapidated house.
 At the top of the trail there was a bench dedicated to Homer's 'Walker,' Reuben Call.
The sign beyond the bench gives directions to one of the local roads.

 The bench also gave us an opportunity for a picture together. That is Kachemak Bay in the background.
 In the winter when there is enough snow, the boardwalk trails are snowshoe trails.
 Wednesday was a travel day. Time to head back toward Anchorage to continue our trip north to Fairbanks and Denali!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Two Weeks in Homer---Part Two

EARLY Wednesday morning, Bob and Larry made sure Connie and I made it to our boat on time---6:00a.m.!  It was tough to get up and get going, but we made it. Unfortunately, a couple on the boat forgot to get their fishing licenses and had to run to get them before the boat could leave. It was a good thing Connie and I had our coffee.
 The vessel we went out on was a 51 foot Delta Marine--Sundy. We had a great time fishing. The weather was beautiful and the seas were calm.
 Connie and I both caught our limit. We don't know whose fish was whose--we think the first mate kept the same fish out for all the pictures. The limit on halibut is one fish over 29 inches and one under 29 inches. Once you catch the two you want to keep, you are done for the day. Alas, I was one of the first to catch my limit.
 Bob and Larry as well as other Boomer friends were at the dock to meet us when we returned. We took our fish to a processing plant (the first mate filleted them as before we got to shore) where they were vacuumed packed and frozen over night.
 Then we all went to the Salty Dawg Saloon for a celebratory beer and to trade fishing stories.
Thursday we were invited to Tony and Madeleine's cottage for a fish fry and 'world class croquet.'  Tony and Madeleine spend summers in Homer and winters in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. Madeleine's granddaughter Paula helped get the fire going in the fire pit.
 Tony has a traditional cache in his yard. We all climbed up to see what he kept inside.
 And before the evening was over, Tony ended up in the 'doghouse.'
 As you can see, this is no ordinary game of croquet! You'd think it would be easy to get the ball through those wickets with no problem, but it is not!
 We may have started the game on the same wicket, but we didn't stay together long. We were spread out all over the yard.
Later, as we sat around the fire pit, the eagle that nests near Tony's came for a visit. As you can tell from this picture, Tony and Madeleine have a million dollar view from the front of their house.
Paula went in and got two salmon heads for the eagle. She threw them in the air and they landed on the middle of the croquet court. The eagle circled the court and called its mate. They both swooped down and grabbed a salmon head to take to their nest.
 We thoroughly enjoyed our evening in Homer. I know, I keep saying evening, but it doesn't get dark in Alaska until after midnight. We watched the eagles about 9:00  p.m. and it was still as bright as in the middle of the day!

Friday, Bob and I took the ferry to Seldovia, a small fishing village at the end of Kachemak Bay on the opposite side from Homer.
The ferry stopped about halfway so we could watch a humpback whale spout. To get a picture of a whale, you have to have the camera ready and predict when and where the whale will surface. There were too many people trying to look out the same window for us to even try to get a picture. The rest of the trip, I perused the map trying to decide which trail would be the best one to hike in the allotted time.
 Once we arrived in Seldovia, we saw that it also had a lot of wood carvings around town. The main street is the only one that is paved, the others are packed gravel.
 This man was carving as we walked down Main Street. The banner announces the chainsaw carving contest on Labor Day.
 As we moved around him, we saw the carver was prepared with a truckload of fresh logs.
 After walking around Main Street and picking up a few geocaches, we decided to have lunch before heading out to the trail. We ate at a restaurant overlooking the cove. Then it was on to OtterBahn Trail. The trail was planned and blazed by junior/senior high school students in 1989-1990. It winds from behind the school through the woodlands, a bog, and a marsh to Inner Beach on Kachemak Bay.
There were informative signs along the trail showing the indigenous plants.
This is the only place I have seen bog orchids.
Near the end of the trail was a long boardwalk across the marsh.
Not far from the end of the boardwalk was Inner Beach. Unlike Florida beaches, it is covered in rocks.
We turned around and retraced our footsteps to get back to the school and the end of the trail.
 There was plenty of time left for Bob and I to enjoy a beer while sitting along the waterfront.
 Of course, I decided to try the panoramic setting on my phone once again.
 Hmmm....this post is rather long so I think this is going to be a three part blog about our time in Homer.