Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Wending our way around the Kenai

Wending our slow way around the Kenai.
6/25 After leaving Deep Creek BeachCampground on Cook Inlet we drove into Ninilchik just to see what was there. Not much. The Russian Orthodox church was up on the hill and I captured an eagle perched on what was either a tree house or an elevated food storage cache.

We took the long cut north on Kalifornsky Rd. The road was named after a native chief in 1821 who had gotten as far south as Fort Ross in California and was called a Kalifornsky.
It was time for electricity and showers in Kenai, so we camped in Beluga Lookout RV Park. It would have been lovely, if it had not been raining. We walked around anyway even in the rain. No Beluga whales to spot.

6/26 We had brunch the next morning at the historic and well reviewed, Veronica's. Soups are a specialty.
From the window of Veronica's you can see the Russian Orthodox church.

Back on the Sterling Highway we had thought to camp at the Watson Lake Campground where our friend Milli had camped right before we stayed with her in Homer. But the three sites were full so we went a few miles down the road to Kelly LakeCampground.
After setting up we went for a hike down one side of the lake. About ½ mile in we came to a Kenai National Wildlife Cabin. The family renting it lived in Ninilchik. They had hiked and canoed in with their three dogs and three kids. We walked on until the trail turned away from the lake then retraced our steps. Part of the trail was a single hewn log laid over wet spots and small creeks rushing into the lake.
My red bog shoes were very good on these wet logs, no slipping even though it was raining.
The rain had stopped by the time we got back to camp. We spent some time visiting with a family camping next to us in this small 4 spot campground. They were from Nikiski which is mostly Russian Orthodox. The mother and 2 daughters wore long skirts and very long hair. The two girls were the youngest of 10. Carol, the mom, said she had 25 grandchildren so far. One of the reasons they had come out camping was that she and the 2 girls were often asked to babysit and with most of the grandchildren being young it was a lot of work. One daughter had 7 under 7 and was working on number 8. We just talked kids. Although Carol did tell me a story about some Russian college students who had gotten stranded here that they helped out. The students were recruited in the Ukraine to work in a local cannery that then could not provide them with enough work. Carol's family helped them get to Anchorage to get a plane back home. They kept in touch to see that they made it home.
Bill talked to the husband. He hunted and fished a lot to provide meat for everyone.

We had a cozy campfire here. Some of our wood was courtesy of local beaver.

Today the 27th we had planned to go to the K'beq Interpretive site. Archeologic relics and sign boards show what the area was like before the present day. But it is run by local native people who decided to take the day off. Closed.
We were going to have lunch at Gwin's Lodge. It was too early for lunch, so we thought to stop for a piece of pie and to say hello to the girls William helped in Homer. But the remodel to the Roadhouse is still ongoing.

 We said hi to the girls who were working on the remodeling crew instead of waitressing.
We are camping tonight at Quartz CreekCampground. There were quite a few spots available since Kenai Lake is closed for salmon right now. After July first it will be another story, if the salmon show up.

6/28 A quick jaunt to Anchorage to finish Bill's dental work. With a gold tooth now he is really worth some money. I got a change in my eye glass prescription. Discovered that the retinal detachment changed the vision in my right eye from far sighted to near sighted 20/200. The new prescription gave me better vision in the right eye, but the double vision from the surgery is a bit more noticeable.
We just drove back down the Turnagain Arm to Seward. No electric sites available on the beach, so we are dry tonight. Bill says a lot of people are leaving on Sunday, so we will probably have power by Sunday. We are staying here through the 4th of July.

6/29 We changed sites two times today and have an electric site with a nice view of Resurrection Bay.
The crowds are building up for the fourth of July. The city employees are busy with the bogus “site reserved” notices people put up for their friends and the people who just don't pay or don't leave by 4PM checkout. A vehicle across from us got a pink eviction notice tied to their door. Their response was to just cross out their leaving date from the 29th to the 30th. Don't know how that worked, since the tag and the pay envelopes are numbered.
We walked to the harbor and William calculated how long it would take to walk to the boat for his fishing trip. Lunch was very pleasant at The Smoke Shack.
Later in the day William spotted a pod of orcas, killer whales, chasing maybe a school of herring near our side of the bay.

6/30 William was up bright and early and the first at the fishing boat. He relaxed, ate his breakfast sandwich and drank his coffee. The boat finally took off at 7AM. No Silver Salmon to be found. William caught some rock fish, a pink salmon and a small halibut. Not enough fish to send any home. He had 2/3 frozen and brought 1/3 back. We will pick up the frozen fish on our way out of town on the fifth.
I woke up at 8. Since I didn't feel like cooking for myself, I went out to a coffee shop, The Sea Bean. On the way there I spotted a lot of rabbits running around just like in Valdez. 

Orange, brown, spotted and white. The story I was told was that someone was raising rabbits in town and when the city said no rabbits, he just let them loose. Apparently there used to be a lot more, but the coyotes got them. I didn't see any coyotes, just rabbits.
I stopped at the Grazing Moose to check on the Summer Market and was told the vegetables were mostly on Thursdays, but she had a few. I got a few white turnips, some cat choy and a tiny bunch of rhubarb. She will bring me a bigger bunch of rhubarb tomorrow.
In the store I spotted a stuffed moose doll that my cousin Patty Whitlock would love as the face is made like a sock monkey.

Happy July: We drove around a bit today. We went out to Millers Landing to the end of the road. There are a lot of interesting houses, a few nice ones. The commercial area is heavily devoted to kayaking. We then investigated the other side of the bay. There is a prison over there, tucked under the lip of a glacier. The bare bones RV parks over on that side have a lot of spots and a good view of the midnight fireworks. I hear they have good fishing, when there are fish. The fishing for salmon is done by snagging. They throw out a hook and try to snag it on a fish. The salmon are not eating right now, so bait does not work. But there are just not enough fish for people to snag one.
View of Seward from the other side of Resurrection Bay

Here the 4th of July begins with fireworks at about 12:01, since it does not get dark enough during the evening of the 4th. After a lunch back in town we walked around in and out of the stores for a while. Hobo Jim is going to be playing at the Yukon Bar, but not until 9PM. This sounds too late for us. William says we should take a hike to the top of Mt Marathon. There is a road/trail that goes most of the way up. That is not the way the racers go. They have a trail that goes straight up. We shall see. Tomorrow we will be on a glacier cruise. So any hiking would have to be on the 3rd. I don't want to be in the way of any people training for the big race on the 4th.
We decided to go to see Hobo Jim at the Yukon Bar. It was at this historic bar that the bar bet happened that was the beginning of the Mt Marathon race. Two guys bet each other that they could race up and down the mountain in less than an hour. They didn't make it in less than an hour but the one that took more time had to buy drinks for the bar. Now the fastest time is 43 minutes 21 seconds.
We did not stay for the end of the Hobo Jim show as we did have to get up semi early, 8 AM, to make check in for our boat trip. Lots of locals there including the owner of the Grazing Moose.

7/2 We walked fast over to the harbor and checked in for the Kenai Fjords tour. We chose the National Park tour with a stop for dinner at Fox island. We were very lucky to see a great variety of wildlife and the captain was a clear and knowledgeable narrator of facts about all the animals we saw. We got a brochure with places to check off everything we saw. I marked mine so I would remember. We saw cormorants, thousands of black legged kittiwakes, horned and tufted puffins, rhinocerous auklets, common murres and a few eagles.
The murres are a very interesting bird. They look like small penguins, but they can fly. They are deep divers, over 600 feet deep, and dive by flapping their wings underwater. They lay their pear shaped eggs on bare rock. Then they keep the eggs warm by huddling in dense packs that warm the air and the rock crevices where they nest. When the chicks can walk around they wander to the edge of the ledge and flap their wings. They think they can fly, so they jump off and tumble down the cliff to splash in the ocean. They spend the next five years diving for food until they are old enough to breed. They live a long time.
We saw a pod of orcas, killer whales. This was a pod of transient orcas who were fairly social for this type. They put on a show for us by breaching about six times and showing us many flips of their flukes.
We also found a group of four humpback whales and were treated to many flipping flukes and one full breach. Fabulous. Lots of steller sea lions were laying around on a small pullout. Sea lions are really in decline. One species that has made a good come back is sea otters. We saw a number of small groups of cute otters.
We saw three shy harbor seals. One minute they are on a rock and the next minute two were gone and the other is headed for the water.

Three hole rock now has only 2 ½ holes as part of one hole broke off four years ago.

We spent a lot of time fairly close to Aialik Glacier. Very cold. We heard a lot of ice cracking and saw a bit of ice fall.

At noon we had a nice basket lunch on board and at 4:30 we landed on Fox Island for a buffet dinner of salmon, prime rib and crab legs. Delicious. I may eat again sometime next week. Ha.

We arrive back at Seward about 6:30 and take a Kenai Fjords shuttle bus back to camp. We certainly recommend this trip.

July 3
We walked to the Resurrect Art Coffee House for breakfast and to take advantage of their internet. On the way we saw someone putting up the beam on their new Alaska house.

Eating again so soon. But just a toasted bagel and coffee.
I like all the art on the walls here. Especially the paintings on cardboard, but they are mostly sold.

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