Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Homer Spit ~ Homer, Alaska

A visit to Homer Spit on this warm summer day.

Homer, AK is at the end of the Sterling Highway on the Kenai Peninsula with a population of over 5000 people that enjoy the beautiful scenery and the fun activities available here. 

Homer Spit, Alaska
The Homer Spit is the hub of the summer activity.  This 7.2 km (4.5 mile) strip of land that juts out from Homer into the Kachemak Bay is lined with shops, campgrounds, pubs and restaurants.

Marina on Kachemak Bay
There are also sightseeing and charter fishing businesses that line Homer’s small boat harbour and port facilities.  Commercial fishing is an important part of the local economy.  The marina shows there are all sizes and kinds of boats which are used to enjoy the waters here.  We were told, unofficially, that most fish caught in past years were much bigger than what is being caught these days.  There is one big halibut shown in the next photo with others that are much smaller.

Halibut catch in Homer, AK
Homer is known as the “Halibut Fishing Capital of the World” because it lands more halibut than any other port in the world.  This photo shows a catch of the day from one of the charters.  They are hung for the photos being taken by passers-by and the fishermen.  The fish will be cleaned and packaged before being given back to those who caught them and we watched some of that being done.

Salty Dawg Saloon of Homer Spit, AK
The original cabin was built in 1897 and has quite a history.  It was once the post office, a railway station, a grocery store and even a schoolhouse before it was a home for a family of 14 before it became the saloon!  The lighthouse was later built onto the Salty Dawg Saloon to cover a water tank and is a landmark on the Homer Spit.  The walls and ceiling of the cabin are lined with thousands of dollar bills that are signed by visitors in the saloon.  The Salty Dawg Saloon, opened in 1957, made for a great stop for us on this hot summer day (20.5 C) and yes, we left our signed dollar bill, too.

Seafarer's Memorial at Homer, AK
The Seafarer’s Memorial was created as “A tribute to the living and the lost”.  There are more than 70 names of fishermen and the dates they died engraved on plaques inside the memorial.  They date back to 1934 and also commemorate the loss of lives at sea that did not involve commercial fishing.  It is an ongoing project and continues to expand.

RV park in Homer, AK
This is one of the RV parks available with incredible views but once we learned the price of $73 US per night, we moved onto another one about a kilometer away and with a better view, that was much more reasonable and served the purpose.  Although we did not for Homer, we did book ahead for some locations and for the busy summer season in this area, that might be best but we always managed to find a place for our overnight stays.

Our morning view on Homer Spit, AK
Our first night, we were parked back against the highway but a shoreline spot came open so this was our view on our second day in Homer and what a view!  This was taken at a quiet time in the morning but we later saw much more activity, including horseback riding along the shore.

Kite-surfing on Kachemak Bay
We’d spent the day wandering and enjoying the sights on Homer Spit then moved our chairs down onto the beach to watch our own kite-surfing show, a common sight on these beaches.  There were several of them out there having a great time. This time of our day is usually spent relaxing, talking about the sights we'd seen and enjoying the view and that is what we did while the young-uns did the kite-surfing.

Kenai Mountains of Alaska
This was our amazing view from the beach in front of our RV.  Homer is on the southeast side of the Kenai Peninsula and these are the Kenai Mountains.  It is not hard to believe what draws the tourism in with all the sights and activities available.   Homer is the hometown of the singer Jewel and for those fans of reality television, this is also the home of her family, the Kilcher’s of Alaska: The Last Frontier.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Kenai Peninsula ~ Ring of Fire ~ Alaska

We followed the Sterling Hwy and saw the volcanoes in the Ring of Fire 

We left Hope, AK on a nice summer morning after a short tour of the village and headed back out to Highway 1 to Sterling Highway Junction at Hwy 9.  We will continue to follow #1 to take us across the Peninsula on the Sterling Hwy down to Homer for our next stop.

Highway 1 on the Kenai Peninsula
We are now on the Kenai (kee-nye) Peninsula where most tourists will visit when they head to Alaska.  There has been some great scenery we got to enjoy on our travels this summer and the Kenai Peninsula has definitely got some more of that.

Kenai Peninsula scenery
The lush green mountains on this drive continue all morning of our day.  The summer blooms are out and the Fireweed lines the roads, adding more to the beauty of the area.  

Fishermen line the shores of the Russian River
We are here during the peak fishing season so have been seeing many fishermen in the rivers as we pass by.  Boatloads of them plus shorelines with dozens of fishermen lined up to catch some salmon. 

Sterling Highway
There is over 23,000 square kilometres (9,000 sq mi) on the Peninsula all filled with glaciers, the Kenai Mountains, rivers, lakes and great seasonal fishing. There are several towns and we pass through some of those today on our travels following Hwy 1 and so many lodges that accommodate the hunters and fishermen and those here for adventures like the white water rafting .

Kenai River
This peninsula is known as “Alaska’s Playground” and tourism is a major industry.  Alaska does  not have areas called a county as in the other states, but is called a borough, instead.  There are over 58,000 people living in the Kenai Peninsula Borough, which is quite a lot compared to other boroughs in the sparsely populated state of Alaska.  The cities of Fairbanks and Anchorage are the only more populated boroughs.

Mt. Redoubt
The glacier covered Mt. Redoubt is part of the Aleutian Range and has erupted several times over the years.  This is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, which encircles the Pacific Ocean.  It covers 40,000 kilometres (25,000 miles) in a horseshoe shape.  There are a total of 452 volcanoes on the Ring of Fire, which is more than 75% of the worlds’ total number of volcanoes.  Thankful for a sunny day to be able to see these beauties.

Mt. Iliamna
We are now viewing Mt. Iliamna of the Pacific Ring of Fire.  It is actually 84 km (52 mi) away but with an elevation of over 3100 metres (10,197’) is a sight to see.  This mountain frequently spits out some steam but has no record of eruption.  Imagine living across this field of color looking at that beautiful mountain every day!

View of the Kenai Mountains
We are now approaching Homer which is graced with this view of these Kenai Mountains across the Kachemak Bay.  We are enjoying the sights from the Homer viewpoint which included flower and vegetable gardens grown and maintained by the Homer Garden Club.  The flowers may be expected at a viewpoint but surely not a vegetable garden.  Great idea! I looked for a sign to explain but none was found.  I wondered if the mature veggies were shared with whomever needed them.

Homer Spit, Alaska
We have arrived in Homer and are able to see the Homer Spit which we will follow to find ourselves an RV spot to camp in.  We had nothing booked but we do manage to find a spot, more on that next time.  The temperature is almost 21 C (69F), which is higher than the average, when we arrive so great weather to enjoy.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Turnagain Arm ~ Hope ~ Alaska

We follow the shores of the Turnagain Arm in Alaska

Anchorage is almost surrounded by water of the Prince William Sound on the east and Cook Inlet on the southwest.  The city sits on Turnagain Arm at the northern end of Cook Inlet.  We continued to follow Highway #1 to take us down the Kenai Peninsula.

Waters of Cook Inlet
The Cook Inlet is 290 km (180 mi) long and lies to the west of the Kenai Peninsula offering some great views on this sunny day.   James Cook was not the first explorer but he was looking for the Northwest Passage on his first attempt in 1778.  George Vancouver, who had served under Captain Cook named the inlet after him in 1794.

Portage Glacier
The Portage Glacier is included in Chugah National Forest.  It was named in 1898 because it was part of the portage route used between Prince William Sound and Turnagain Arm in those days.  The glacier filled the entire valley hundreds of years ago. Although all separated now, there were five other glaciers all connected to one another in those times, as well.

Placer River Overflow
We are following the Turnagain Arm on this part of Highway 1.  This was named by William Bligh of HMS Bounty fame.  He’d served on Cook’s third and final voyage seeking the Northwest Passage who once again learned that the river’s mouth would not take them where they needed to go so they had to ‘turn again’, therefore the name for the Turnagain River and Arm.  

Turnagain Pass
We were now on the Kenai Peninsula but turned off Highway 1 to find our way to the small hamlet of Hope, Alaska for our next overnight stay.  This drive was about 25 km (15 mi) along the southern side of the Turnagain Arm.

Cabins in Hope, Alaska
The small village of Hope has a population of under 200 now but at one time was a thriving community of 3000 people. Years before Anchorage was founded, news of the Six Mile Creek gold rush in 1895 brought thousands of people and it became one of Alaska’s first gold rushes.  In 1898, the word of Yukon’s Klondike Gold Rush caused most of them to leave, leaving only 23 people in Hope.  Some original buildings still remain today.

Seaview RV park
Welcome to the Seaview RV park at Hope, Alaska.  It is situated at the end of the road and we considered ourselves lucky there were empty spots with all the fishing we’d seen along the way.
The view was great, the price was right and they were right next door to the Seaview Café. 

Fishing on Resurrection Creek
Resurrection Creek is one of the tributaries of Turnagain Arm and the RV park at Hope sits at the mouth of this creek. We took our chairs and afternoon refreshments down there to watch the crowd.  There were families enjoying the water and fishermen there to fish some sockeye.  It took only moments for a fish to grab the hook, it looked so easy, it didn’t look like sport fishing as we know it. 

Seaview Cafe in Hope, Alaska
The café offers a pub and cafe where we sat out on the deck between the two for dinner.  We had the best halibut burger, ever!  The menu was a good one and prices were good, too.  We spent the rest of the evening sitting outside the RV enjoying the view till the sun went down.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Ulu Factory ~ Wild Berry Products ~ Turnagain Gallery ~ Anchorage, Alaska

Factories, galleries and gift shops of Anchorage, Alaska

Anchorage, Alaska, with a population of just over 300,000 was the largest city we visited on our Northern adventure.  We had an overnight stay at an RV park in the city and then visited some tourist attractions on the way out of town.

The Ulu Factory in Anchorage, Alaska
The Ulu Factory was an interesting visit.  The ulu tool is an all-purpose Inuit knife used for many different things.   The natives used it for skinning and cleaning animals but it was also used for trimming blocks of snow and ice used to build an igloo as well as for preparing food.  They were originally built with antlers handle and slate for the cutting edge.

Ulu Factory Tour Bus
Today’s ulu has changed and mainly made with wood and steel.  The most common use these days would be for cooking purposes and a must have for many kitchens.  The tour bus was outside after bringing several for a tour at the factory; it was a ride we didn’t take but shows the interest that is there for the Ulu Factory.

Alaska Wild Berry Products of Anchorage
Our next stop in Anchorage was the Alaska Wild Berry Products.  They have a large selection of hand-crafted jams and jellies, chocolates, smoked salmon and halibut and…… reindeer sausage.  Now, that is definitely something I am not wanting to eat, names like Rudolph and Bambi come to mind, but we did get some jams and chocolates and enjoyed them. 

Polar Bear
Rarely would we go into any tourist attraction on our trip without bumping into some kind of stuffed animals.  One could get up close and personal with this one, he was not behind a glass wall as many were and he was a very big guy, I wouldn't want to meet him any other way!

Turnagain Gallery on Seward Highway, Alaska
We continued following Hwy 1 south heading to our next destination of Hope, AK.  We made a stop to see some of the carvings at the Turnagain Gallery at Bird Creek on the Seward Highway.  We wandered around their gift store where they had several different kinds of wood carvings from furniture to wall hangings and animals that range from small to life size.

Carving of 2015
Our visit was just a couple of days after the 2nd annual Alaska Cup International Carving Competition had completed so we missed seeing some amazing work.   I have included a link to see what was done at the first annual Alaska Cup competition, click here and see the incredible work from 2014.

Second prize winner of 2015
I do not know who the artist was who crafted this but this second prize winner was one of eight professional carvers expected to compete in 2015.  They came from as far away as Germany and Japan and also included one of our own British Columbia artists, Rod Brown.  His work shown in 2014 video is beautiful.


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