Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Soldotna, Kenai,Eagle River,Palmer, Hatcher Pass and Wasilla

When we left Homer we stopped at the Alaska Island & Ocean Visitor Center. They have many nature programs, wildlife watching spots and rangers leading hikes.

We arrived in Soldotna, no RV spaces available so Fred Meyers was our only choice for the night. After parking we took off to Kenai City to watch Dip Net fishing. This is subsistence fishing for Alaskans only. The head of the household can keep 25 fish and plus 10 fish for each member of the family. The water is filled with fisherman standing pretty close to each other holding their huge nets (5 foot round) on edge waiting for the fish to swim into the nets. The fishermen clean the fish on the beach, and throw the skeletons etc into the water, the only problem is the high tide washes them onto shore, this is not a nice situation. There are 1000's of heads and skeletons on the beach.

We visited the Soldotna Historical Society Museum. Our guide was very informative when she found out we were from Pa., she said someday she wants to go to Bucks County in Pa.(this is about 30 miles from our hometown). She said some of her family settled there, and she wants to visit them. She was a daughter of one of the Homesteaders that settled Soldatna. Most of the Homesteaders in this area where veterans from WW2. They were given 40 acres and had to clear several acres and build a house and live there 5 months a year. She told us of life in the 50's and 60's with no electric, indoor plumbing and hitching a ride 8 miles along a dirt road to get into town to get a school bus to Kenai about 15 miles away. Just think of what life was like for us in the 50's & 60's. She did say many of the kids where home schooled.

When we got back to the RV we decided to head toward Anchorage. We decided we’d stop for the night at a large pull out near Portage and we did exactly that. A beautiful spot by the mountains and water. On the way a brown bear ran in front of our truck, he was so fast and close we didn’t get a good picture, but we did get one. Three other rv's joined us for the night.

In the morning we headed to Eagle River State Park, it is 10 miles outside of Anchorage. We were backed up to a ledge overlooking the Eagle River. Every night we could watch the rafters and kayak’s float down the river.

We decided it was time for new tires so of course now our truck has 6 new tires . We visited the Alaska Native Heritage Center. We got to see some native dancers and some of the sports they compete in. They also demonstrated some of the crafts from the different cultures and regions of Alaska. They had an authentic Native Village set up outside around a lake.

We also visited the Anchorage Museum at Rosmuson Center in the downtown. There were many art galleries,a discover center and a resource center. They also had a history gallery of Alaska starting 10,000 years ago to present. There was a traveling Gold exhibit on display. There must have been several million dollars in gold items on display. The exhibit is there only till the first of August. We where glad we got to see it.

We stayed at Eagle River for 4 days ( limit 4 days only) and then headed to Palmer and the Homestead RV Park. This was a long trip, a whole 26 miles. We set out for the Visitor Center to see what we shouldn't miss. We watched a movie, checked out the beautiful Agriculture Showcase Garden. You can,t believe the flowers and the size of the cabbages. They do have a farm trail to see all the vegetables that everyone looks forward to at the weekend farmers markets .

We then headed to the Musk Ox Farm. The oldest Must Ox is 14 years old and weighs about 1,000 lbs. The youngest is about 4 months old. A native co-op uses the fine wool (qiviut) to knit beautiful scarfs and hats. The Must Ox has make an amazing come by from near extinction.

We still had a few hours of daylight left so we headed to the Reindeer Farm. What fun(even for adults.) We were given food for the reindeer and boy do they know you have it. They run right up to you and get very anxious to eat. When you run out we were told to put the container under our arms and show you empty hands and say no more, they really knew what that meant, they’d go off to someone else. They also had a herd of Rocky Mountain Elk. There was a male and his Hiram, you could feed him grass and touch his nose but his girls were very nasty.

Today we took a ride on the Hatcher Pass and visited the Independence Mine State Historical Park. We took a tour and walked on our own also. This was a great trip and well worth it. We stopped at the Hatcher Pass Lodge and had delicious blueberry and strawberry pie then headed to the Hatcher Pass Summit (the highest point of the road) it is 3,886”. It was a gravel road but we’ve been on worse.

Next stop the city of Wasilla. We found out where Sara Palin lives but didn’t stop in, we don’t like to stop by unexpected. We didn't see Russia either. We visited the Dorothy Page Museum and Visitor Center and the Historical Townsite. We passed the 1917 Alaska Railroad Depot but didn’t stop , we were heading to the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Headquarters, Knik museum and the Sled Dog Musher Hall of Fame. Saw a great film about the race and preparing for it. They had many trophies etc . from past races. You could take a ride on a 4 wheeler pulled by the dogs but it was time for the dogs to go back to the kennel. Linda did get to hold two puppies, she wanted to take a little gray and white puppy home but no such luck(at least she has a picture). We had a very full past couple of days. Tomorrow we plan on leaving for Valdez and who knows how long that will take. We have about 250 miles to go to get there.

We will get pictures out soon we just need a good signal and have to go thru all the photos and pick them out. Enjoy your summer. Keep in touch.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Cooper Landing, Homer, Anchor Point and Nikolaevsk AK

7/22/09 We stayed an extra day in Cooper Landing to catch up on laundry etc.. Then we headed to Homer, which is on Kachemak Bay. We Stayed on the Spit, where there was the Pier One Playhouse. We had a great site looking out over the Cook Inlet. We met up with Escapees friends Penni and Dave and spent some time exploring Homer with them. The four of us went to the playhouse and saw “First Friday” what a funny play. The author of the play was in the theater and sat at the end of our row. Our cheeks hurt from laughter.

We took a cruise to Seldovia, and it rained the whole trip. It is a fishing town. We had a 2 hr. lunch, (that is how long it took to get our food and eat) which didn’t leave us to much time to check the town out. We had our lunch at the Mad Fish Restaurant., thank goodness the food was good. We did get to see some wood carvings that they have a contest for every May. We also visited a historic Boardwalk, that was built in 1931. There are still 3 of the original building there and are occupied. It was time by now to get back for our cruise back to Homer. We saw many Sea Otters just swimming, diving and putting on a show. We also saw a whale which was a surprise to the captain, he said this very seldom happens. There were so many varieties of birds that we can’t even remember the names. We need to get our bird book out. It was a very nice 6 ½ hr. cruise considering the rain.

Sunday a quiet day, Penni and Linda wanted to visit the Bead store. We also went to the Homer Pratt Museum. It had a beautiful Botanical garden (raining again). They had artifacts from the first natives. They have 2 live web cams one was broadcasting from Gull Island, which is about 8 miles, showing puffins,cormorants and many more Sea Birds. The second was at McNeil River State Game Sanctuary that is across Cook Inlet. This cam showed the Bears waiting for food in the river. There was Mama and her two cubs trying their best. There must have been about a dozen walking around the water. We did get to see two of the bear catch a fish. This cam is very popular with everyone. We even went to a Mexican Restaurant and had great Pizza.

Monday We went to Anchor Point This is another fishing town, aren’t they all? They have a beautiful art gallery and an old homestead. The artist is Norman Lowell and he is fantastic. We got to meet him and talk to him a little before a tour got there. His art is something that belongs in an art museum in New York. His personal home and beautiful garden is behind the beautiful gallery as is his old homestead. We could walk the around the homestead and the beautiful gardens, but not his personal home.

While at the visitor center the young lady suggested we visit Nikolaevsk a little Russian Village. She told us about TheSamovar Café. She did warn us we would not get away without having something to eat, drink and buy something. As soon as we entered she had the menu in front of us and she was telling us what we were going to eat. Next if we wanted to take photos we had to buy 2 beautiful wooden spoons to eat our soup with, and if we did that we could take free pictures, otherwise it would cost $20. to take photos (the spoons cost $27.) next she pulled out all kinds of clothing and started dressing us for the photos. She took about 8 photos of us. Next we sat down to eat we had Borscht, Piroshki, Pel mini, dessert and Russian tea.

Still in costume we ate our dinner, Bob didn’t like the Borscht, the Piroshki ok and the Pel mini we took home because she talked us into dessert and tea. She is a great salesperson. We were snookered into everything. What an experience. Her name was Nina and she told us all about how she came to Alaska and about her heritage. She taught Russian at the local school. The girl at the visitor center sure was right. We also visited an old Russian Church with a Blue Onion Dome that was in the village. It is a settlement of "old believers".

On our way to the last stop of the day, in Anchor Point, we saw A Mama Moose and two little calf's, (they weren’t so little). This was on our way to the most Westerly Point on the North American Continent accessible by continues road system. It was raining and very foggy so we couldn't see much, had it been a clear day we could have seen three volcanoes(guess you can’t see everything). Keep in touch, we will send photo's soon.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Kenai area of AK

Before heading to Cooper Landing we made a trip to Hope AK. It is about 87 miles by road from Anchorage, but as the bird flies it is only 12 miles. It was discovered in 1

896 .A very small town, but very cute. We took a walking tour, our guide Gold Rush Peck, who was featured on the travel channel. A Very interesting fellow. He told us the history of the town, named all the flowers we passed and plugged the panning for gold that you could do there. He owned the panning at one time. There were many original log buildings that were moved here after the earthquake to preserve them. Their library is great for such a small town. They have a beautiful art gallery, we met one of the resident artists. The town has a Wagon trail Run over the 4th of July. It is a 5K FUN run, plus a pancake breakfast, a bazaar and a cake walk that is held in the social hall that was built in 1902. This is a nice day trip.

Next day we ‘re off to the Kenai Princess Lodge and RV park at Cooper Landing. This will be our home for about 10 days. Cyril and Dawn will be staying at the lodge. The lodge is beautiful, we can use everything at the lodge, e.g.,spa, restaurant, and bar.

On Friday we went to Seward to pick the kids up. They cruised the inside passage so they had a lot to tell us about. We did some sightseeing while we were in Seward. There were many gift shops ,fishing charters and restaurants. It is a very busy place. On the 4th they also have a Mountain Marathon. Many people participate. It is said to be the second oldest footrace in America. We visited the Sea Life Center, a great hands on place (not just for kids. We also hiked the trail to Exit Glacier, it is a 1.5 mile nature trail. The Glacier is 3 miles long, and descends 2500 feet from the Hardening ice field. Then back to the lodge to get settled in

Saturday we headed to Homer, a very busy town. We had to stop at the Salty Dog Saloon and have a photo taken. We drove thru all the RV parks on the Spit. Actually they weren’t all that crowed like we thought they would be. We walked thru the shop’s, had lunch, and checked everything out before we left. Found a great place that had 24 flavors of soft ice cream. We will go back to Homer for a few days after the kids leave.

Sunday the first fishing charter day, fishing for Halibit. Cyril caught a 56 lb fish and Bob caught 2 , 1 was 20 lbs, the other about 30 lbs. Dawn and Linda just relaxed, had lunch at the lodge and sat in the sun.

Monday was a family time day. We hiked two trails here at the Lodge, had lunch on the beautiful deck overlooking the river. Even Blazer went on the hike(boy was he a happy camper). After lunch we spent time in the spa and just enjoyed their company.

Tuesday was another fishing day, this time for King Salmon. Forgot to mention they had to drive about 3 hrs to get to place where the charter was. They were both very long days.\, especially the second day, it was 12 hrs. of fishing. Cyril caught the biggest fish of the day a 26 lb. King Salmon on the Kenai River. Guess what is for dinner. There isn’t even room for ice cubes in either of our freezers. This is what they were looking forward to, so they were happy.

Wednesday it is time to say good-bye. We left for Anchorage, had lunch and dropped them off at the airport. Their flight left at 5 pm and they’d get home about 6 am , a long 12 hour flight. They were anxious to get home, 2 weeks is a long time to be away . Thank goodness the weather was so perfect. The temperatures broke record highs. Dawn was so afraid of the cold Alaska weather.

One more thing , then I’ll stop for now. In the RV park there is a women who used to own and train dogs for the Iditarod, now she trains puppies and does a presentation at the lodge on the life and training of the huskies. When we first got here she had 6 puppies about 8-10 weeks old, this past Sunday they were switched out and now she has 8-4 week old puppies and their mama to. They are so cute. And by the way we now have a new grand puppy. Her name is Sadie, she is 7 mo. old and is a lab boxer mix and is black in Color. Her mom and dad are our middle son and daughter-in-law Mark and Tracey. We really are a dog loving family.

That is it for now. We do get a little winded sometimes. Take care enjoy your summer. See photo's below, or in list on the right in the archives.

Seward AK

the harbor

The Kids arrive

At the Salty dawg Saloon in Homer. Their happy faces to see us.Their ship. At exit glacier. On the deck of the Priness Lodge.

Denali Park

Mommy and 2 cubs, grizzely bears

Road trip

MT McKinelly at Denali. A lilly pond in AK. Snow plow on train. Mountain goat looking down at 20 people looking up at him, wondering what are you guys looking at.

Hope AK

Main street in Hope AK

King Salmon

26 pounds, Cy got the biggest of the day

Halibut catch

The large fish behind Cy is his, 56 pounds, The 2 smaller ones behind Bob are his. Others are from other group.

Launching the boats for halibut fishing

Portage Glacier

Walking on a glacier. Big ice crack.

Homer AK

Homer port and visiting eagle in town.

Glacier tour out of Whitter AK

The glacier "calfing", breaking off. It was cool. See the white spects, thats 1000's of birds on the rock

Alyeska Lodge, snow and 70 degrees

Yes we where there, Alyeska Lodge, Gridwall AK

Bob and Gold Pan Peck at Hope AK

Monday, July 6, 2009

Denali to Portage AK

After Denali we headed toward Anchorage. We stayed at Bird Creek State Park, it was on the Turnagain Arm. We did all our touring of Anchorage from there. It is a very busy city. We visited the ULU factory, Earthquake Park and Hood Lake to watch all the sea planes take off. Parking was difficult at the visitor center, no parking lot at the center.

Cute story, On one of our trips on the turnagain arm we saw a crowd of people parked and looking up on the mountain side, when you see a crowd ,you know something is there. High up on a cliff looking down at the crowd that was looking up was a Dall sheep, just as proud as can be, saying to himself what are all those people looking at me for. We left that campground early because of bear activity. We also saw a Moose and her calf on that same trip.

We are now in Portage AK. Staying at the Chugach National Forest. What a beautiful site. We look out our window and see snow capped mountains and beautiful blue ice glaciers. We are at the Williwaw Campground.

We walked the Trail of the Blue Ice and walked on a glacier. Some people had snow boards. Glacier ice is formed from countless snowfalls, it squeezes out the air-leaving dense compact ice. Sunlight, or white light is made up of all the colors of the spectrum- with each color having a different amt. of energy. In ice cubes air bubbles scatter the light-creating white. When sunlight strikes glacier ice the lower energy colors are absorbed by the ice and only the blue which has the most energy is reflected back to the eye. The Byron glacier has danger of an avalanche from winter thru spring. This is the one we hiked to and walked on. It was 0.8 miles one way and a nice trail.

We visited Hotel Alyeska and took the Aerial Tramway. The tram stops at the 2,300’ level of Mt. Alyeska ( the summit is 3,939)There were views of surrounding glaciers, Turnagain Arm and the Chugah Mts. There were hand gliders all over. You could go for a ride if you wanted to. Can’t imagine that place in the winter.

The camera is really clicking, all you hear while driving is the click and look how beautiful, look at that, WOW! what a picture. Sorry to say Deb but you’ll have to do a lot of picture taking to catch up to Linda. Maybe you did at the wedding. The flowers are just amazing, they have such brilliant colors and so big. Guess they like 20 hrs of daylight. We are still not accustom to all the daylight.

Next adventure we headed to Whittier. We had to go thru the Antom Anderson Memorial Tunnel. It is 2.6 miles long tunnel with one lane, cars and trains take turn traveling thru it. It is open daily from 5:30 to 11:15PM, . It allows alternating directional use for vehicle traffic every 30 min., except for scheduled trains and maintenance. It is the longest tunnel in North America.

Whittier is at the head of Passage Canal on the Prince William Sound. Pop. about 117 in the winter and 600 in the summer. It is a very busy harbor. Most of the residents live in Condos. You can rent kayaks, take glacier tours (which we did), and fishing charters. Our glacier tour was fabulous. We saw many glaciers, sea otters and seals. We had a great lite lunch of Alaska King Crab cakes, rice with veg. a roll and great warm choc. Chip cookies. We could smell them as they were baking.

We met a young(20’s) youth pastor from Kansas on the boat. He had a group here for 2 weeks doing Habitat work at a church in Anchorage. He asked where we were from, if we were on a cruise and we told him about our adventure. He was so interested, he told the group about us , they all had many questions about our life style. They all got off the boat before us and when he saw us leaving, he ran from the van to say good-bye and wished us a safe journey and could he please have his picture taken with us and our truck showing our PA. License. He gave us a big hug and ran to the van. Off they all went shouting good-bye and have a safe trip. What a great group of kids..

We hope every one had a Happy 4th and are enjoying their summer. We spent our 4th visiting the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. It is 140 acre area. You could walk or drive, guess what we did? We did get out of the car a lot.There were bear and cubs, caribou, moose,musk ox, bison, elk plus many other animals. The bear put on a cute show,knowing treats would follow their little tricks. In 2005 the 1st birth of a wood bison in Alaska in more than 100 yrs. took place here. The Center is dedicated to the rehabilitation of orphaned and injured animals. The animals will spend the rest of their life here. The Center is about 45 miles from Anchorage.

After the Wildlife Center we headed to Girdwood-pop.1,935. It was the 34th Girdwood Forest Festival. It was held in a forest. It lasted all weekend, there were crafts, food and entertainment (great belly dancers). There are a lot of artists in the little town. We were told to go to a certain bakery, they had fabulous soups and the flowers were unbelievable The plants sure love all the sunshine. Today Sunday was a grocery day so went about 50 miles to Anchorage for them. Lot’s of traffic on the road. The rest of the day is going to be a relaxing day, just enjoy the beauty that surrounds us. Sorry if this a little lengthy , we just want to share it with you all.

Cyril and Dawn left PA on Friday for a cruise up the inside passage of AK. We will be meeting them in Seward. They will be spending about a week with us. We will take them to Anchorage to get a plane home. We have 2 fishing trips planned. We are looking forward to seeing them.