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Author Topic: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013  (Read 26482 times)

Dean & Linda Stock

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Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #60 on: June 26, 2013, 04:23:59 PM »
We went out that way in our Jeep for 40 miles.  I'm sorry we didn't do it our first day in Denali so I could have warned you.  One thing I've found with RVing--those dreadful experiences do make great stories.  And, I have to say the part of the Old Denali Hwy. we were on (the 40 miles closest to Cantwell) is not even 50% as bad as the Top-of-the-World Highway.  Hard to imagine--but it could have been worse.

The Cedar Creek Bakery in Cantwell and the Pizza place also are highly recommended by several visitors we met on our Denali bus.  The bus is also bumpy, but the drivers know where the ruts are, and they know where the animals are.  We saw tons of animals, just a few really close up--everything but fox, lynx, and wolf.  Several people on our tour bus saw a fox right by Eielson Center on the bus trip, but we hadn't gotten off the bus.  There were quite a few mosquitoes, but if you keep the windows open, they don't like the wind, so they don't come in.
Dean and Linda Stock
and Sherlock (the cat)
Cypress, CA
2006 Airstream Motor Home
2006 Jeep Liberty (Towed)

SaltyAdventurer

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Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #61 on: June 27, 2013, 12:25:52 AM »
Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Good grief, I’m all confused. That means the vacation, i.e. our road trip of a lifetime, is successful, right? I’m in a state of limbo, f-l-o-a-t-i-n-g and not even registering the passage of time. I don’t even know what day it is. I bet I’ve asked Don 6 times today what day it is…

And I just posted my Daily Journal for Sunday June 23 that is all mixed up with what actually happened on June 24. So I’ll just jump right to today…

Last night (yes, Monday night…at Brushkana Creek Campground along the Old Denali Highway) was evil. Really. Evil. Somehow, mosquitoes snuck inside the Rollin Home. How and when we have no idea. Don tried his best to kill all of them before we bedded down after a very tiring day on the road-from-hell, the Old Denali Highway. We were hot. Sweaty. Skeeters whined in our ears and dive-bombed us. I must have slapped my face – HARD –trying to kill biting bugs, about 2 dozen times during the night. Don was up and down about 10 times during the night putting Repel on his hands and neck and ears, then putting Sting-Ease on the bites all over his hands and arms, then getting the flyswatter to try and kill more skeeters. I was semi-conscious, wearing my sleep mask (hey, the sun is still shining at midnight…you HAVE to wear a sleep mask in order to get to sleep!) but not sleeping, really. I’d scratch my hands where they were bitten, then pull the sheet over my head to block the skeeters from buzzing around my hair and ears…but it would get too hot and sweaty and I’d throw the sheet off and get bitten some more.

I had those on-the-surface-of-sleep dreams about tiny holes in the sides of the RV letting clouds of mosquitoes creep silently into the Rollin Home. Clouds of bugs were enveloping me. Nightmarish. I turned my book-light on for a while and read Michener’s Alaska. Tried to sleep again. Talked to Don for a bit…he got up to chase more bugs…Don the Dragon Slayer! He was doing all the heroic work! I was just trying to block out the buzzing, the biting. SLAP!

I finally gave up and crept gently out of bed at 4:45 after maybe 3-4 hours of sleep, total. Dressed silently, closed all the windows because it had gotten cold overnight (finally!), killed more skeeters and sat down to read, hoping Don could sleep in a bit and get some rest at last. But he woke up at 5:30. Let’s get the hell out of here, we both said at the same time. We had a quick breakfast and hit the road, our earliest departure yet, by far. Well, we coasted out onto it at a verrrrrrry slow pace, anyway. Maybe the moosies would be out for us! Maybe bears! Maybe elk or caribou! Maybe fox or wolves or just marmots! That might be the only compensation for my bad decision to put us ON this road in the first place!

Tundra. More tundra. Endless tundra. Hundreds of streams, creeks, lakes and kettles filled with glacial water. And tundra. Perfect moose country yet nary an animal to be seen anywhere. Not even ducks. We did see two big white trumpeter swans on a very distant lake this morning after about 15 miles had gone by, slowly oh so slowly. They were tiny pin dots of white in the distance. And lots of little birds flitted across the road in front of us swooping from a bush on the right to one across the road. That’s all, folks. Little birds.

I certainly know what sub-polar tundra looks like now…I see it in my sleep.

Milepost 124 on the Old Denali Highway is supposed to be “the view” of Denali, But suddenly at Milepost 110 or so we rounded a curve as we climbed a hill and THERE she was in all her splendor: DENALI! Pink and glowing in the early morning sun, that lovely pale peachy-yellow color with pale blue shadows, showing fully, no clouds enshrouding her at all!

Many people never get to see The Great One, because she is so often banked in clouds and weather of her own making. As we drove west and then south, our views got even better. We stopped at one place and hiked up to a high bluff overlooking the deep river valley in Denali National Park, and the view of The Great One was breathtaking. That is one enormous chunk of granite. Stupendous.

As we drove south on the Parks Highway from Cantwell, we stopped at a major Denali View pullout, and hiked up to a high rock overlook. Gorgeous view of the mountain. Met and talked with people there, took their pictures and they took ours…the Christmas card picture parade for 2013. The hike was perfect: Long enough and steep enough to make you puff but not enough to make you stop to rest. Probably a quarter mile straight up. Nice walk! Farther south along the highway there were a number of other fabulous views of Denali. We stopped, took pics, gazed. What was best was that there was virtually no traffic…at one point a guy stopped his car and stood in the middle of the highway and took pictures. No cars in sight.

Our conclusion: No need whatever – WHATEVER – to take the Old Denali Highway for great views of the 20,300-foot Denali. You can see it very very well, thank you, from pullouts along the Parks Highway that goes from Anchorage to Fairbanks. So we need not have suffered the torture machine of the Old Denali Highway to get “the best views.” Live and learn.

Pulled into Trapper Creek RV Park (between Denali NP and Talkeetna) by about noon, registered for an overnight spot, then drove into Talkeetna for lunch. Cute little town, and enough folks had told us to go there that we knew we’d like it. The cottonwoods along 3 different rivers have begun to throw their seeds (cotton) and it is a veritable blizzard, at times so thick you can’t see anything but cotton. I expected my eyes to start watering and itching uncontrollably any second. We kept the air conditioner going and drove directly to The Roadhouse, walked in quickly and joined a bunch of other folks at the long family-style tables.

We ordered two different things the Roadhouse is famous for – knowing we’d each eat half of our order, then we’d switch dishes. This is the way we do things…we each get to taste the best of the best that way. Don ordered a large bowl of their reindeer chili (mixed with a portion of their bean chili), topped with a big pile of chopped onions and cheddar cheese. I ordered a “half order” of the sourdough pancake, which is one enormous pancake that overflows its plate by a full inch or more all around. By far the best sourdough pancake I’ve ever eaten! Sarge was right when he wrote this on the rvforum.net site…it is out of this world!

After lunch we hunted around a bit to see if any of the air services take passengers into the Arctic Circle, which we were interested in doing. Nobody does those flights any more. Rats!

We avoided walking around the cute little town of Talkeetna because of the cotton blizzard and the hordes of cruise-ship passengers who had descended on the place. It was pretty crowded, pretty hot, and awfully cottony.

So we spent the afternoon catching up on various things back at the Rollin Home. Reading. Bills. The News. They have great WiFi here! It’s really great to be in a place with excellent connections to the Internet and strong phone signals. It feels as if we’ve gone months without decent phone and Internet service. Are we spoiled?

Grilled a steak for dinner. Finished off our fresh plums with some Greek yogurt for dessert.

To bed. NO mosquitoes to eat us alive. Cool air. It’s heaven.

Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

Henry Wishard

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Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #62 on: June 27, 2013, 12:57:40 AM »
    Hello from the Texans, We are staying in Cooper Landing for the next 4 nights and will be back in Anchorage to pick up Son and grand kids July 11th. Then off to Homer. Sorry we didn't get to meet you guys the other night but I feel like our paths will cross somewhere on this great adventure.
                                                                                                  Henry And Margaret
Henry & Margaret Wishard
12625 Lake Vista Dr
Willis, Texas 77318
2017 Tiffin Open Road

2012 Jeep Rubicon

SaltyAdventurer

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Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #63 on: June 27, 2013, 01:10:06 AM »
Wednesday, June 26, 2013

What a great night of sleep we both got last night. I can tell we’re just not made for dry-camping. Hving electricity is really a pleasure, and water etc. We like having air conditioning when it’s hot (or even just to have the fan on so the air is moving, and the fan masks the sounds of trucks on the highway nearby.)

Today, the first order of business was laundry. Two big loads. I also have to say we’re really spoiled by having very nice RV parks available with nice laundry rooms…I love having huge commercial washers available and super-large commercial dryers, too. I had a small-world experience while there…jabbered a long time with a super-friendly gal from Michigan who lives here in Trapper Creek. She attended Hope College in Holland, MI, and often visited many of the same places I did while growing up. We had such fun. She gave me some great pointers for the weeks ahead on our trip, too…

I reorganized my drawer containing all my silverware and kitchen utensils (and a million other things as well…scissors, string, superglue, tacky adhesive, museum gel, knives, tongs, mixing spoon, measuring cups, knife sharpeners, rubber bands, wine opener, can opener, and on and on.) You know the drawer…the one we all have with everything in it…the kitchen junk drawer…except that in an RV, that one drawer weighs a ton because it has so much stuff in it.

By 11 we were ready to take off for Talkeetna to eat at the Roadhouse again, and take a walk around town. We were thinking that maybe later in the day we’d go have wine and appetizers on the outdoor deck of The Alaska Lodge outside Talkeetna, where there is an unparalleled view of Denali from the deck. The first thing we noticed as we drove south, however, was that the haze was thick and Denali was barely visible. Although there were no clouds in the sky, it wasn’t a clear enough day for the mountain to be out. We really lucked out yesterday!

The cotton blizzard in Talkeetna had abated. Hooray! Brunch at the Roadhouse was great. The town was much emptier today…the tour buses with cruise passengers  had not yet arrived. It’s easy to see everything Talkeetna has to offer within, oh, maybe 25 minutes. And that’s generous. Most interesting place other than the Roadhouse is Nagley’s General Store, a real dive of a GS, where I picked up a couple bottles of vino at decent prices.

We spent the afternoon doing nothing. Back at the Rollin Home we just hung out. A very nice day, indeed. Capped it off by having an ice cream cone…real, “scooped” ice cream!

Don did a couple little RV maintenance things…added DEF to the diesel engine, and stuff like that. I shook out all the rugs, swept and double-washed the floors throughout the rig, wiped all the fine dust off every horizontal surface, and cleaned some squished mosquitoes off the insides of the windows. Normally I hate housecleaning chores (except for kitchen chores). But things are easier in an RV. Smaller, for sure. You can have ALL the cleaning done in about a half hour. Just right.

Tomorrow, we go to Palmer for a couple of nights. We’ll stop and do some hiking in Chugach State Park on our way, and visit the MuskOx Farm, among other things. Then do some food shopping at the big Fred Meyer grocery store in Palmer.

Oh, I forgot to include in yesterday’s diary that I made the ostensibly effective “Homemade Mosquito Trap”. Water, brown sugar, and yeast…chemical reaction gives off carbon dioxide, supposedly attracting every skeeter within a wide area, causing the blood-suckers to fly into the jar, get trapped, and die. Hah! I’ve had this thing on the dashboard, and then on the counter for a full day now…not a mosquito in the jar yet. And lord knows we’ve killed an entire army of mosquitoes today with our hands and the fly-swatter. No shortage of mosquitoes, I guarantee.

Today, interestingly, I came across a recipe for a homemade insect repellant you put on your skin…more effective than DEET, the little article claimed. I hate DEET and the repellants with DEET in them…it gets in my eyes and burns like crazy, and irritates my skin a lot. I think I’ll try making this homemade skeeter-beater…alcohol, whole cloves, and baby oil. Pretty simple to make. We’ll see. Do I seem awfully gullible because I’m so darn eager to try these new remedies?
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

Marsha/CA

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Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #64 on: June 27, 2013, 11:11:57 AM »
Susie you mentioned wanting to take a flight trip to the Arctic Circle and could not find one.  Not sure you are going to Fairbanks or have already been there; but there you can take a tour flight to the Arctic Circle.  However, I'm kinda remembering you don't like long car rides.  The tour consists of driving one way up the "Haul" road crossing the Arctic Circle then flying back home or vice-versa.  It was a very different trip for us and we really enjoyed it.  It's a long day.  We saw very few animals, but did get to put our feet into the Arctic Circle.  Lots of tundra which you have seen quite a bit of on the Old Denali Road and views of the Alaska Pipeline.  The Haul road is much better than the Old Denali road.

We also took a float plane from Anchorage out to Redoubt Bay, had lunch, took a boat ride to see bears then flew home.  On the flight back home, we flew over Beluga whales.  The pilot circled back around, flew low and we got a great view of them.

Marsha~
2017 Heartland Mallard IDM231 Travel Trailer....Small but mighty.

Derby6

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Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #65 on: June 27, 2013, 11:38:25 AM »
Salty,
  Fred Meyer is Wasilla is much bigger and has a better selection.  Not sure what all you need, just wanted to pass that along. ;)
2015 Ford Explorer (Wifes Ride)
2011 Ford F350 4x4 Lariat Crew Cab/Long Bed/SRW
2011 Honda Civic-- (Beater with a heater)
2007 28' Desert FOX Toy Hauler             
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01 Yamaha Kodiak 400
09 Yamaha Grizzly 550
12 Yamaha Grizzly 450
13 Yamaha Rhino 700 (Wifes Ride)
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SaltyAdventurer

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Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #66 on: June 27, 2013, 12:35:08 PM »
PS This morning for breakfast we heated up one of the "world famous" cinnamon buns from The Roadhouse in Talkeetna. The claim that they're "the world's best" is justly deserved!!! Surely one of the finest cinnamon buns we've ever eaten! We've passed at least a dozen cafes/bakeries and roadhouses since Calgary that claimed to have "world famous cinnamon buns" and "the world's best" buns...we've not succumbed to most of these claims, recognizing quickly that hyperbole is the name of the game up here in the northlands. We bought one bun down in Alberta or BC, took 2 bites and threw the rest away. Not great, not worth the carbs. But THIS one from The Roadhouse, ooooh la la! They really know how to bake!
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

SaltyAdventurer

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Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #67 on: June 27, 2013, 12:48:31 PM »
Thanks, Derby6, we'll stop at Wasilla's Fred Meyer to shop on our way today!

Also, thanks, Marsha, for the advice about the flight to the Arctic Circle. I went online last night and learned that we could only get one of those trips from Fairbanks...I guess that's off our bucket list for this trip. But the Redoubt Bay trip sounds pretty appealing...I'll check into that!

Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

SaltyAdventurer

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Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #68 on: June 28, 2013, 11:26:09 AM »
Thursday, June 27, 2013

The weather, the scenery, the quietude could not possibly be any better than tonight. It’s 9:25 pm and the sun is getting a bit lower in the sky, casting gorgeous shadows on the VERY high mountains very close to us. Out the side window of our Rollin Home we see a half-dozen huge, jagged peaks of solid granite rising sharply, covered in green tundra about two-thirds of the way to the top, then just pure rock from there skyward. Snow patches dot the crags and avalanche chutes.

We’re relaxing in Mountain View RV Park, just a bit east of Palmer, AK, about 2 miles off the Old Glenn Highway. We weren’t planning to stay in Palmer, but I decided we needed time here to see the reindeer farm just down the road a bit from this park, and most particularly the musk ox farm a bit more to the northeast.

The weather was much cooler today, and the sky a very hazy type of sunshine. Lots of moisture building in the air, but the breezes kept the heat down and the day was simply perfect. A few dark clouds rolled across the sky at one point, but they’ve disappeared and it really doesn’t seem like storms will appear overnight. We have all the windows open and Don has been sitting out at the picnic table reading the news.

Our only complaint about this place is that the Internet is horrible. What else is new, huh? Don says we’ll just have to go back to Starbuck’s in the morning to get on the Internet and do our things…we just love being “in civilization” again. Yes, there are stoplights and plenty of traffic as we get closer to Anchorage. But also shopping centers, real supermarkets, and Starbuck’s! I guess wildness is nice for a change, but the bugs and inconveniences make us appreciate city living all the more. So much for being “country kids.”

A sled dog center is located near the town of Willow, on the way south from Trapper Creek to Palmer. Vern Halter’s “Dream a Dream Dog Farm” sounded interesting from all the writeups, and close enough to the highway that we wouldn’t have to detour 20 miles to get there. Very nice place, but as we drove in and parked at about 12:30, a member of the staff came over and told us the tours were already done for the day, and walk-ins “aren’t what they do” at Dream A Dream. We would have to reserve in advance, at $69 a person, and take the full 2-hour tour, “because anything less doesn’t do justice to the dogs and help with your understanding of what they’re all about.” Oooooookay. So we have to come back another time? Yes, absolutely. Well, forget that, we’re not driving 75 miles back north from Palmer tomorrow or ever to go on a mandatory 2-hour tour of kennels, even if they do have 5 cute little husky pups it would be fun to see.

“Can’t we just see the dogs?” Don asked, courteously. No, Dream a Dream doesn’t allow people to just see the dogs. In other words, they wanna make money on every single person who comes there. Riiiiiight. We drove away.

We did a bit of food shopping in the famous town of Wasilla at a big Fred Meyer store, then went across the street to Colorado-based Sports Authority and found me some new hiking poles…one of mine has stopped working and can’t be tightened any more when it is lengthened from its collapsed state. I use my walking poles a lot…they help me distribute my weight evenly and not limp. Better than using a cane, by far.

Starbuck’s was calling to me…decaf mocha frappuccino, the sirens whispered. Ahhhh, civilization! Neither of us resisted, even momentarily.

After pulling in and hooking up for the night, I collected my 3 ingredients for the Homemade Insect Repellant that I read about online and had purchased at Fred Meyer. Don thinks I’m totally crazy. Took ages to get all the little whole cloves into the bottle of 70% isopropyl alcohol. Then when I re-read the recipe, I realized I should have bought 2 cans of whole cloves instead of just one. Oh well, Fred Meyer is right near Starbuck’s so I’ll go back for more in the morning. Then, 4 days of fermenting, and we’ll see.

We talked with a couple of people who live in Alaska and they said they can’t live without the battery-operated bug zappers that look like little tennis rackets. So we bought 2 of them today. I quickly fried a whole bunch of those dang skeeters that were hanging out with us as we drove toward the RV park. Oh, this is gonna be fun fun fun!

Tomorrow we’ll find a credit union and get some cash, and visit the reindeer farm and the musk ox farm.

Tonight we’re just mellowed out after dinner and several glasses of wine. Mmmmm. Took a good long walk around the park, hoping to see the moose that everyone says hangs out here, and usually appears around dusk. Now, early to bed.

Yikes, Don was just “making the bed” for the night (i.e., flipping down the kingsize memoryfoam mattress topper and transforming the twin bunks into our gigantic king size bed) and when he leaned over to close the window on my side, he royally jammed the wide pulldown screen at a cockeyed angle while trying to raise it. Those pulldown screens and pullup blackout shades are fairly fragile, fitted carefully into aluminum runners; they have to be moved quite gently and squarely in their frames or they jam easily. Oh, man, did Don do a job on this one! I hear a bunch of cussing from the back. I’m going to try my best to keep my mouth shut, for once. I guess tomorrow is also going to involve a visit to the local Winnebago dealer to see if we can get the screen fixed.



Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

SaltyAdventurer

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Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #69 on: June 28, 2013, 11:33:12 AM »
PS It's morning and all is well. I got the darn screen fixed last night before bedding down...you have to firmly but gently raise one side of the screen and hold the other side low, move the high (non-working) side out of its runner and fit the bent plastic slider back into place, then lower that side into place. Whew. It worked. So we had air, and darkness, and we are happy campers. No visit to the Winnebago repair shop in Anchorage today.
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

Dean & Linda Stock

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Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #70 on: June 28, 2013, 06:32:31 PM »
Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Today, interestingly, I came across a recipe for a homemade insect repellant you put on your skin…more effective than DEET, the little article claimed. I hate DEET and the repellants with DEET in them…it gets in my eyes and burns like crazy, and irritates my skin a lot. I think I’ll try making this homemade skeeter-beater…alcohol, whole cloves, and baby oil. Pretty simple to make. We’ll see. Do I seem awfully gullible because I’m so darn eager to try these new remedies?

If your recipe works, let me know.  Today, we breakfasted with an Anchoragite (?) or Anchoragorian who heads up an environmental agency here.  I asked her what she uses for mosquito repellant, expecting a great recipe.  #1 -- she avoids going outside when they're bad  #2 -- she avoids going to places that have a lot of them  #3 -- if she can't do the first two, she uses 100% Deet.

 By the way, we were having breakfast at a bakery that specializes in healthy foods, and she rode her bike there.  She practices what she preaches.  However......She says that Deet is the only thing she's found to be effective.  And I agree with you.  I hate to use it.
Dean and Linda Stock
and Sherlock (the cat)
Cypress, CA
2006 Airstream Motor Home
2006 Jeep Liberty (Towed)

SaltyAdventurer

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Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #71 on: June 29, 2013, 12:46:21 AM »
Friday, July 28, 2013

A whole day of just putzing around, seeing things, doing whatever the mood moved us to do, which wasn’t much. The sky was leaden gray today, with heavy misty-rain coming down, the kind your skin just loves. Temps in the low to mid 50s. Moist enough to wet the hair after a while, but cool and lovely to walk in. Just right for me, but you can’t see any mountains at all for all the heavy clouds hanging low.

As we drove toward Palmer on our first errand, we saw a sign for the Reindeer Farm that’s here, so we took a turn and went there first. Nice looking farm on the edge of town, with corrals full of riding horses –they are a riding stable, too – but it was hard to find the reindeer herd. We drove slowly by the place, and spotted about 50 reindeer lying down in the grass in a far corner of their pasture, huddled together for warmth. No one was moving. They sure weren’t going to come eat out of anyone’s hand on a day like this.

So we turned around, went back past the farm for one more look at the small forest of antlers, and set out for the Matanuska Valley Federal Credit Union in downtown Palmer – all of about 12 square blocks in size -- to cash a check for spending money. It was very easy to find. My advance research before we left home convinced me the easiest, least expensive and best way to have access to cash while gone for a long time was to join a credit union in Colorado that had extensive affiliations with other National Credit Union Assn. (NCUA) members in Alaska.

By going to one of those affiliates (some 300 of them in Alaska and the Northwest having reciprocal agreements with Bellco CU in Colorado) I’d be able to use many ATMs or go to CU branch offices and pay no fees at all to cash checks or get cash from a machine. Long story short, Bellco did an extremely poor job of providing customer service. After tying up a Matanuska Valley FCU senior teller, Christy (who was a saint!) for 45 minutes while I was put on looooooong holds with 3 different people in Colorado when I phoned to see why my account was blocked for any withdrawals, I finally got my money. But Bellco is going to hear from me, big time.

While I waited, Christy and I talked about lots of stuff. We had become good friends by the time the whole mystery of the account blocks was solved. She suggested we go a few blocks down the street to the historic Valley Hotel on Palmer’s main street to the “Open Café” for breakfast, saying it’s a terrific place and is her favorite. What a hoppin joint the Open Café is! It’s open 24/7 and is always busy, we learned. Great halibut fish & chips (the chips are homemade potato chips, sliced very thin and fried very crispy), and 4-egg omelets. I took half my omelet, with reindeer sausage, home in a container for tomorrow.

After eating, we walked 4 blocks to the Friday Farmers’ Market, at which there were only 2 vegetable stands (it’s early in the season yet), 2 flower/plant vendors, and a couple dozen jewelry and crafts vendors with white tents strung out in a line about a block long, by the old Palmer train depot (no longer in use). Fun and interesting. I bought a jar of local honey…the lady’s bees gather pollen from the fireweed, mostly, so it’s very herbal.

On the way back to our RV, I stopped in at the local bookstore and asked if by any chance they had the Wall Street Journal for sale. The bearded guy behind the cash register looked at me and just laughed. That was my answer.

Fred Meyer was next, for a couple of lemons and some more whole cloves to rev up the anti-mosquito dope. Quick trip.

Thinking the weather might possibly clear in a few hours, we drove to the local library to read the papers and some magazines, use our computers, etc. Within minutes, the lights blinked and we heard an announcement that the library would be closing in 15 minutes, at 2 pm. On a Friday? Strange. Aced out on that one.

The best-sounding attraction in Palmer is the Musk Ox Farm, which everyone we know who has come to Alaska recommended highly. We paid our money for a tour that would start in about 20 minutes, and went through all the displays and read all about the farm, the musk oxen, and the attempts to propagate and domesticate the species after it very nearly became extinct in the 1800s. Musk oxen are remnants of the Ice Age. Neither do they produce musk nor are they oxen -- they are definitely misnamed! The species is much more closely related to goats than to any other mammals.

The warm and very silky layer of inner fur that these animals grow for cold weather protection is the rarest fur on earth, even more than vicuna. This special hair, called quiviut (pronounced kee-vee-ute) is collected each spring, washed, carded and spun into yarns by Native Alaskans living in very remote villages in Alaska, who knit hats, scarves, stoles, tunics and other items for sale through the Oomingmak Cooperative of musk ox producers. The items are very pricey, as you’d suspect, but are so soft to the touch and so special that the temptation was great to buy something. Most items are a natural ash-brown color.

Forty-five minutes after we had paid, the tour still hadn’t been announced. I asked the attendant why things were so slow and was told that one of the musk ox calves had gotten loose and had to be caught. “We’re a working farm,” she said. “These things happen and we have to attend to them before we can allow anybody out into the pastures. We don’t know how long it will take to catch the little fellow.”

I’m a really suspicious (cynical???) person, I guess…her whole demeanor and her explanation seemed pretty phony to me. I think the REAL reason they were waiting so long was to get more people in the door and collect more money before taking anyone on the next tour. After nearly an hour, they still weren’t ready to go, but we were. We walked out, after telling them this was a waste of people’s time. I didn’t want my money back…I just didn’t like someone taking for granted that my time was worth nothing and that I would gladly wait for hours to meet Goliath, the dominant bull of the musk ox pack. Chalk it up as my donation to the farm and the good efforts of these folks to preserve the species and provide work to Alaskan Natives using traditional tribal skills.

Back in downtown Palmer, we went to the Vanguard Blues coffee shop 2 blocks from the Valley Hotel to sit and do computer stuff and read our books for the remainder of the afternoon. Also quite a hoppin little place! Moms and dads came in with their babies and little kids for coffee and bowls of soup. High schoolers came in and hung out for a while. Tourists arrived. Old friends used the place as a rendezvous for catch-up chats. Lots of happy voices could be heard all afternoon. At about 5 pm a couple of fellows who play guitar sat and riffed, whipping out some very competent jazz duets on their instruments. Nice background sounds.

Guess what? We walked back to the Valley Hotel’s “Open Café” for supper. Don ordered a small bowl of clam chowder, which he said was very good, and I had the halibut & chips this time (giving Don 2 of my 5 halibut fingers, the whole little container of coleslaw, and some crispy chips!). Their halibut is divine!

A very nice day of just hanging out. Put all of 6 miles on the Rollin Home today. We’re being very energy-efficient! If the weather is a bit nicer tomorrow, we’ll go to Chugach State Park nearby and hike several trails. We need a good long walk.
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

Dean & Linda Stock

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Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #72 on: June 30, 2013, 01:41:09 AM »
A fun read!  I didn't think about pre-planning to join a credit union.  Shoot, I could have even done that with one up here.  Good thinking!  So sorry it didn't work more smoothly, though.  Those good ideas should pay rewards.

I get really mad if I think someone is cheating or deceiving me.  You're a better person than I.  I would have asked for my money back, and if I really wanted to support them, later on I would have sent them the same amount as a donation.  I just hate to see wrong actions win.

It was such fun meeting you guys and chatting tonight.  What a nice surprise!  We're looking forward to seeing you for dinner of halibut cheeks on July 2.  I'll call Anchorage VC tomorrow and try to get more info on July 4th activities.
Dean and Linda Stock
and Sherlock (the cat)
Cypress, CA
2006 Airstream Motor Home
2006 Jeep Liberty (Towed)

SaltyAdventurer

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Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #73 on: June 30, 2013, 10:43:16 AM »
Saturday June 29, 2013

Another wet, heavy-cloud-cover morning. Off to Target in Wasilla to buy a couple of extension curtain rods that will keep our drawer shut while we travel, given that the stupid (cheap!) plastic latch has stopped working. The bungee cord I’m using right now isn’t doing a very good job.

As we leave the Mountain View RV Park to go to Wasilla, we turn left instead of right onto the Old Glenn Highway. Oops, before we know it, we’re in a little burg named Eklutna, far south of Wasilla. Oh, well, who wanted to go to Target anyway? We’ll find a WalMart or Target somewhere on the way to Anchorage where we can buy the curtain rods.

We decided to cut our stay in Palmer short by one day. We’ve seen everything there is to see, and the weather isn’t conducive to taking the several hikes I’d like to take. Nature Center is one. Bodenburg Butte is another. Darn. So we’re off to Anchorage. We’ll stay at the Golden Nugget RV Park one night, then move to the downtown park where I’ve reserved for 5 days, through July 4.

The Scottish clans in Alaska are holding their Highland Games in Eagle River today, and it’s on our way to Anchorage, so we got off the highway and drove into Eagle River thinking we’d stop and participate a bit. Drove past 3 auto parts places within a city block…O’Reillys, NAPA and AutoZone. Don suddenly remembered he wanted to buy some tubing to replace the broken tubes in our windshield wipers…we whipped around with a New York U-ee. NAPA didn’t have the right size tubing, but AutoZone did. Don fixed the first wiper right in the parking lot of the store to ensure the tubing he bought would work. Then he bought extra tubing for the other wiper, and for the future in case this happens again.

The Scottish Games and the WalMart store were in the same direction in Eagle River. It turned out that in fact the Scottish clans were celebrating at a big park right across the street from Eagle River’s WalMart, so the parking lot was overflowing; no one could get in or out. What a mess. We were foiled in our attempts to shop at WalMart and to attend the Scottish Highland Games in Alaska.

Continued on to Anchorage, got a spot in the RV park for the night, and went looking for the local WalMart nearby. A big Barnes & Noble was very close to WalMart, so Don was in heaven…while I got the curtain rods to hold the drawer closed, he bought the NY Times, which he’s happily reading right now. And we’ll go back to Barnes & Noble early tomorrow to get the Sunday NY Times.

It was getting late and we hadn’t eaten lunch, following a breakfast of only a protein shake and a banana. Stomachs were growling. We headed for the Snow City Café in downtown Anchorage, hoping that the odd hour would mean we could get in without a wait, having heard great things about the food but horrible things about the long lines of people waiting for seats. We found a parking spot only 20 yards from the door, a good sign…and free! No need to feed the meters on Saturday, thank goodness. Walked in and got excited that there were tables available…no wonder, the placed was closing for the day! It was just after 3 pm and the Snow City Café is open for breakfast and lunch only.

I quickly studied my notes about Anchorage, and the map. The Snow Goose Restaurant, a local brewpub that gets rave reviews, was very close by. We walked a few blocks and sat at a table overlooking the Knik Arm of the Cook Inlet, at low tide so the mud flats reached far out into the bay. Anchorage is a very busy commercial shipping center. The food and the wide range of prices at Snow Goose were excellent. Great menu. They have a Seafood Chowder that has no shellfish but has 3 types of fresh Alaskan fish – salmon, cod and halibut – so I had a bowl of that and an iceberg wedge salad. Don ordered the daily special, a beautiful piece of fresh wild King Salmon, grilled, with smashed potatoes and fresh sautéed vegetables. Expensive but well worth it ($26.95)

Both dishes were absolutely superb! The chowder was to die for! As good as I can make, which is saying something. And the king salmon was cooked perfectly and was delicious. The salad was huge, topped with loads of bleu cheese crumbles, sliced seedless red grapes and candied pecans. At $7.50 it was a terrific value and delicious too.

It was a bit too late in the day to head for the Anchorage Farmer’s Market a couple of blocks away. We’ll go there tomorrow.

Dean and Linda, with whom we’ve been communicating on RVForum.net about our trips to Alaska this summer, are staying in this RV park. We met them in person for the first time and had a wonderful evening gabbing about our RV adventures.

Don is hounding me to come to bed so we can get the NY Times before it sells out tomorrow. OK, I’m coming, honey. G’night all.
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

SaltyAdventurer

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Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #74 on: June 30, 2013, 10:16:25 PM »
Sunday June 30, 2013

Ah, we got good exercise today, and it feels just great! The only problem with trips, especially long ones, is they disrupt our normal routines and we don’t get as much regular daily exercise as we do when we’re home. At home we take long daily walks and bike rides, and often do several hours of strength training at the local health club as well.

Here, our routine is quite different, usually rising later, getting started later, and if the weather isn’t cooperating fully we don’t take the hikes we planned for or the 2-3 walks a day that we typically enjoy.

We rose early this morning, well rested and chipper. I took a shower at the RV park’s shower room, which was very clean and nice…the shower felt great. Despite the huge number of RVs and campers they jam into that park, close together, the place is quite nice. It is about 5 miles from downtown Anchorage, so you have to drive everywhere, but that’s okay. We pulled out at 8:45, headed for Barnes & Noble to get the Sunday NY Times, then go to breakfast somewhere. Just for the heck of it, I called the Snow City Café to see if there was any chance we could get in. No way. Already a 1-2 hour wait for walk-ins, and no reservations were being taken until after 12:30 pm.

So we went to Kay’s Family Restaurant, south of downtown on Spenard at 36th St. Good place. No wait! Good coffee! And a wonderful special: Corned beef Benedict. Yum. We set and drank coffee, read papers and tourist guides for Anchorage, and generally lollygagged for hours. Typical Sunday morning for us.

At the nearby REI store, we found Don a pair of hiking pants to replace his favorite old Orvis’s, which have developed big tears in the fronts of both legs. They’re probably just disintegrating from age. Also bought a couple of “bug bonnets” which consist of brimmed hats with large attached bug nets that hang down to your shoulders, to keep the swarms of mosquitoes off your face and out of your hair when outdoors.

We drove to the RV park where we’ll be for the next 5 days: Ship Creek RV Park in downtown Anchorage. It’s within walking distance of all the downtown activities of Anchorage, so we wanted to park and walk everywhere, particularly to the Weekend Market and Festival. Ship Creek RV Park is in quite an unusual location, a corner of the city that is semi-industrial, alongside the railroad tracks near the water – the Knik Arm of the Cook Inlet.

Upon checking in, we were warned not to leave any food outdoors because a medium-sized brown bear has been hanging around, rattling the garbage containers looking for food. That makes Don anxious. I promised not to make him go out for snacks in the middle of the night!

We took a strange, roundabout route to get to the downtown market from here, about a mile walk. Just right. Hung out at the market looking at all the craft stuff for a couple of hours, then walked down the hill again to the Ulu Factory before returning to the Rollin Home. Yes, I succumbed to the promotions and bought one of the unique Alaskan Ulu knives and a chopping bowl/board to go with it. I like them a lot and they seem practical. I think I’ll use it quite a bit. The only other thing I bought at the market was some smoked king salmon very nicely done by some local folks.

We were tired by the time we got back at 3:30, a bit over 2 miles round trip. The rain never did materialize, though the skies were quite dark all day. The rain probably never came because we had our rain jackets with us…always good insurance.

By 5 pm, the skies began to clear and overall things became brighter. I guess that’s what every day, practically, is like in Anchorage…mornings are rainy, damp, cold and very cloudy and by late day spots of sun shine through and the day brightens. It’s backwards! By the time we walked back to the RV park, we could even see some of the high mountains encircling the city that had been completely invisible earlier.

A bit ago, a strange red bus contraption pulled into this RV park. It’s extra long and the rear half is a kind of double-decker, with smallish 2-foot-square windows on one side but not on the other. Never saw anything like it before. After it had pulled into its spot here, all the passengers got out and went to work opening up one whole side of the bus, extending side panels to make a kind of stage platform, stringing a long curtain over the open side, putting steps in place for people to climb up to their “bunk slots” inside. Hmmmm. A big “camper-bus” is what it is, with sleeping compartments of a sort.

Don, ever the reporter (and detective type!), was out taking a walk and spoke with a German lady who is a passenger on the bus, one of 15 Germans on holiday out of Vancouver doing a 2-week camper-tour of Alaska. They drove up the Alaska Highway (the Alcan), and at the end of their trip, they fly out of Fairbanks to Frankfurt. The bus can take up to 22 passengers on such trips. Each night, the vacationers do all the setup of the bus for sleeping, and they put tables and chairs outside for dinner and socializing.

They’re apparently going to be here for several days. A few minutes before the German campers pulled in, another long bus hauling a big trailer pulled in and parked, too: A gospel singing group of young people from Wisconsin. Boy, they’ve sure had a long haul! These two groups should tie up the bathrooms and showers for days on end, I suspect.

And just now, 6 cars of college-age kids have pulled up alongside the Rollin Home…I see kayaks and paddles, duffel bags and tents being unloaded. “Oh, good,” Don says, “our bear protection has arrived! Could be an interesting night, and a noisy one!”

Oops…one of the kids just ran over to the others and read them the bear warning that’s posted on the office and bathroom doors, and we see all of them hurriedly toss all of their stuff back into the cars, slam all the doors, and drive off. Wow. Fast departure. Nope, they’re not really leaving; they’re just driving down to the far end of the park where there are a bunch of additional tenting sites. They were just parked and setting up in the wrong place.

64,000-dollar question: Are we relieved or disappointed that we won’t get to experience that old college hoopla of the holiday party during the week of July 4 in Anchorage?

Gotta get some dinner ready. Or we’ll munch ourselves to death on potato chips, Hershey bars, wine and other sinful stuff.

As Don says, this place is sure a lot more interesting and exciting than other quiet campgrounds we’ve been in!

« Last Edit: June 30, 2013, 10:18:20 PM by SaltyAdventurer »
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

SaltyAdventurer

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Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #75 on: July 02, 2013, 02:11:05 AM »
Monday, July 1, 2013      Day 34

Rain, rain. Heavy rain, then light rain, then heavy again. Nonstop. Makes you want to stay indoors all day. We awoke to a heavy downpour at about 6 am and felt sorry for all the folks in tents around us, and the group traveling together in the big bus-camper contraption – they’re going to have to get up early and get out in the rain to close up their shelters and get on the road. Yuck.

The German couple next to us have a really nice big rented truck-camper (the slide-in kind, where you enter from the rear) that they’ve traveled in for a month. They have to return it to the rental agency today in Anchorage, and were out scrubbing energetically to remove all the bugs, sticky-dust and mud from the thing so they get all their money back for turning in a clean unit. They fly back to Germany later today. Yes, the euro is strong against the dollar and there are many Europeans traveling in Alaska this year.

But overall, tourism is pretty slack this summer. Take, for example, the RV park we’re in right now. This is the holiday week, with July 4 on Wednesday, so the days before and the days after should be really busy for everybody in the tourist/travel business. Out of perhaps 100 RV & tent sites here, only about 30 are taken. Pretty poor business. Must be hard for any of these camp operators to make a living. And they tell us it’s been this way for 6 years or so. That’s why we’ve seen so many really run-down RV parks and restaurants along the way, with many of them closed, boarded-up and biodegrading.

Our plan is to visit the Alaska Native Heritage Center today, then hit the Anchorage Public Library for a few hours of reading and computer time. I’m trying to find out if the Center involves lots of outdoor exhibits, which we wouldn't’ be able to enjoy in heavy rain. If so, we’ll opt for the Anchorage Museum instead, which has the renowned Smithsonian Center for Arctic Research. Definitely an indoor activity.

We took off at an odd hour, 10:45, and I figured we just might get into Snow City Café for brunch/lunch if we were lucky. Don worried we wouldn’t find any kind of parking places on the street, since it’s a workday and downtown would be buzzing. Ha! Drove right into an open space a block from the café. What luck. Fed the meter for 2 hours and dashed to the café. There was a bit of a wait, but we put our names in and walked a block to Simon & Seafort’s to make a dinner reservation for tomorrow night, July 2, when we’re meeting our RVing friends Dean & Linda for dinner there…to have the world famous “halibut cheeks” of course. Then we walked 2 blocks north to Elderberry Park and the Resolution Point Overlook, which looks out on the harbor of the Knik Arm of Cook Inlet. It’s just a beautiful overlook…we’ve been there 3 times already.

Returning to the Snow City Café, we noticed there was a line of twirly-stools by a counter near the front. Can just anybody take the stools without waiting, if they’re available? we asked. Sure, said the host. Two people were leaving just then, so we grabbed the stools and eliminated the wait for a booth or table. We also had 2 coupons for freebies from our Northern Lights coupon book, which paid off. Don ordered a tuna melt sandwich with a cup of their tomato soup. I ordered Snow City’s stuffed French Toast (stuffed with mandarin orange cream cheese, and served with raspberry butter, along with REAL maple syrup! Yum!) We also both had large decaf mocha lattes. My breakfast was a freebie (coupon) and one coffee was free (coupon). Such a deal. Surely that was the best stuffed French toast I’ve ever had. Our meal was so inexpensive using the 2 coupons, we decided to finish off by sharing an extra-thick vanilla shake. And I bought 2 of their oatmeal-raisin cookies to take with us, for dessert tonight and Wednesday.

Off to the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, to visit the Smithsonian Center for Arctic Research and also the exhibit on Northern Art that is on right now. Both are spectacular. The Smithsonian Center, however, has so many items of great quality and interest that I rapidly felt OD’ed and was overwhelmed, because I tend to pay attention to every detail and read every word. I also watched all the movies about the Native Tribal Cultures…Inupiak, Gwitch’in, Aleut, etc., and their languages, their oral histories, their arts and dances and clothing and weaving and snowshoe making and what all else I can’t even remember. It was absolutely riveting.

Looking at the exhibits of artifacts and clothing on display was nothing less than mind-blowing. Such innovative methods of making clothing and boats and tools. Such gorgeous handiwork! The weaving and knotting of sinews for snowshoes is so intricate and beautiful. One ceremonial winter coat, for example, was made up of literally hundreds of perfect little feather hides from crested aurak birds, stitched together in slightly overlapping fashion in perfect straight lines, row upon row upon row. The feathers of slightly larger birds were used at the shoulders, as epaulets in effect. The cuffs, edges of the hood, and front opening were finished in light-colored fur from various animals – fox, wolf, caribou -- with wolverine fur closest to the face, since wolverine hair does not freeze or form ice at the ends in extremely cold weather. This long coat was absolutely magnificent. It must have taken some masterful woman a thousand hours or more to complete this garment. I could hardly take my eyes off of it.

Also incredibly wonderful were the lightweight, waterproof garments that fishermen and whale hunters and seal hunters would wear over all their other clothing during rainstorms and heavy snowstorms. These transparent “long tents with hoodies” that tie tight around the face are tissue-paper thin, made of the intestines of whales and seals and caribou. Processing the intestines involves many hundreds of hours to prepare them for making into garments…rinsing each body piece hundreds of times until the water ran clear, then curing, drying, bleaching, cutting, shaping, and sewing with special sinews and needles. Then putting ornamentation on each one. These were absolutely water-impervious, would never stretch or shrink, and would last many lifetimes. They could be folded tightly and stuffed into a small bag or compartment for easy transport by the hunter until needed. And we 21st century types think we are so dang smart with our man-made fibers…these people really knew how to make extremely advanced, useful items for survival. In some ways, they were way ahead of the rest of the Western world in their knowledge of how to make use of the resources that were available.

In a movie I watched, some Tlingit women spoke of making beautifully-designed ceremonial robes woven using mountain sheep wool. All of the wool from 5 Dall sheep would be needed to hand-roll on a woman’s leg enough yarn just for the warp strands of one section of the garment. And the weaving of the patterned sections is not done on a loom…it’s done with the fingers, so that the patterns are quite intricate. One lady said the made one robe “quite fast” in only 800 hours or so. Another Tlingit weaver said she spent more than a thousand hours making one robe.

The Art of the North exhibit was small, about 40-50 large paintings done between 1870 and 2010, and another 50 or so pencil and ink drawings, most done before 1950. It was outstanding. Most of the large paintings were traditional landscapes done by native and non-native artists living in Alaska. Several contemporary pieces however were quite noteworthy: A Cubist-style landscape done in recent years; a watercolor of a boat’s bow with water reflections and a dock; an oil painting of whale hunters in a traditional boat painted in the 1960s.

The Anchorage Museum was so excellent I could go back there 3 more times and enjoy it just as much as I did today. I have to take exhibits like that, however, in very small bites. The rain had stopped by the time we left the museum, but the weather has turned cold enough for 3 layers. Brisk and delightful. Still gray and cloudy, though.

Our return to the RV park in late afternoon was just in time for us to take naps. Lovely way to end a terrific day. After our delicious lunch at Snow City, a small salad for dinner was all we needed. And our “heart medicine” of red wine, naturally. I had arugula available, some Boston lettuce, cut up a few sugar snap peas for crunch, added chunks of cantaloupe, some sliced grape tomatoes, a few pieces of the outstanding smoked salmon I bought yesterday at the outdoor market, and a few crumbles of bleu cheese to top it all off. Then some fresh lemon juice & olive oil dressing. Perfect.

My list of things to do tomorrow the 2nd, Wednesday July 3 and Thursday July 4 is very long, and most of it involves walking and bicycling. I want to walk the Ship Creek Trail down here along the shoreline of the inlet, where lots of people fish for salmon. And I want to bike the Coastal Trail from downtown Anchorage out to Kincaid Park, also along the shore to the south of the city. Hope it doesn’t rain!
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

SaltyAdventurer

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Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #76 on: July 03, 2013, 04:53:01 PM »
Tuesday, July 2, 2013      Day 35

Up early. Heard hard rain again overnight, but none right now, thank goodness. I hear only train whistles in the distance as early morning tourist trains head out for Denali up north. Dozens of these trains go north each day, coming back late into the night. People told us we wouldn’t like this RV park in the center of Anchorage because of the trains, but they haven’t bothered us at all. In fact, the sound of trains is muted and very nice.

I’ll read a few pages of Michener over coffee this morning, then head out for a walk before we go to the Alaska Native Heritage Center.

Also, I’ve fermented my cloves in alcohol for enough days now, so it’s time to strain the cloves out and add some baby oil and see if my concoction works to repels mosquitoes. It smells wonderful, I must say. Much nicer than the repellants with all the DEET in them. Still a bit alcohol-y but very nice clove odor. Mosquitoes must hate cloves. Let’s hope!

We set out early for the Alaska Native Heritage Center, arriving just when it opened at 9. Don headed for all the displays and exhibits while I sat down and listened to presentations by natives: Explanation of native cultures, demonstration of native athletic prowess and “games”, drumming and dancing, and finally, storytelling. The narrator this morning was a young Yupik woman who grew up in Anchorage, attended college at the Univ of Anchorage, and is in the process of learning her native language from her grandmother and aunts, some of whom still live in Tetlin, the village of her ancestors, near the Canadian border.

I’m really fascinated by the varied tribes in this vast land, consisting of 11 distinct cultures speaking 21 different languages: The Native Heritage Center organizes these into 5 cultural groups: The Yup’ik and Cup’ik (pronounced choo-pick) in the central western coastal areas of Alaska; the Inupiaq & St. Lawrence Island Yupik in the far north of Alaska (where we in the south generally think of the Eskimos as living), who have always been and still are the renowned whale and seal hunters, using their magnificent invention, the kayak (spelled qayaq in their language); the Athabascans with their 5 or 6 different cultures and 11 completely different dialects, who occupy the enormous inland areas of central Alaska, live off the land as hunters and gatherers and are the ancestors of the Apache and Navajo tribes that migrated south; the Tlingit, Haida, Eyak and Tsimshian fisherpeople who occupy the southeastern islands and coastal areas of Alaska, and carve the well-known huge totem poles that tell great stories and are adorned with magnificent carved and painted designs; and the Unangax and Alutiiq (pronounced ahl-ee-yoo-teek --more commonly known as the Aleuts) who occupy the Kenai peninsula, Kodiak Island and the string of volcanic islands jutting far out into the Pacific ocean, known as the Ring of Fire, had no trees at all and depended entirely on whales, seals, fish and driftwood for food and life. The Unangax and Alutiiq, too, used kayaks, but theirs were distinguished by an advanced design feature called a split bow that aided in navigation.

Watching the Alaska Native Games demonstration was amazing. Different cultures have different athletics, depending on how the group obtains its food and traverses the land, the rivers, the oceans, or the mountains. Children are taught to play these games from infancy, and many old people also still play them, kicking their legs high into the air to kick a tiny ball on a string, for example. Four high school and college age youths, 2 girls and 2 guys, showed how the emphasis on power, strength, balance and focus enables people such as the Inupiaks or Cup’iks who live on the Bering Sea or the Arctic Ocean to jump with great agility from an outcropping of one ice chunk to another when the northern seas are frozen solid in winter while hunting seals, without falling into the ditch between the bergs and possibly drowning instantly in the freezing water, never to be seen again. The enthralling act of standing on one hand while holding one foot in the air and kicking high overhead with the other foot to touch the ball suspended 8 feet in the air is breathtaking – the skill and balance involved exceeds what I’ve witnessed in many Olympic sports. Very impressive!

Dancing by both men and women resembles closely Hawaiian dancing, in both hand and foot movements (on non-movements). Dancers use symbolic moves as well as storytelling moves, very graceful for the women, strong and aggressive for the men. Meanwhile, drummers and singers chant story-music that is hauntingly beautiful. Most songs are very short. The sauyaq (drum) is a long piece of bent wood over which is stretched an animal skin. Note how the word for drum – sauyaq – resembles qayaq, for the boat made of bent wood pieces laced together and covered by animal skins to make it float. These drums were about 28 inches in diameter, and were beaten with whale baleen sticks in the old days (bamboo sticks now). Very powerful sounds.

The Center has six representative villages constructed around a small lake to show how the various cultures lived. At least 6 of the cultural groups constructed shelters partly underground for insulation, and covered with earth or with sticks covered by animal hides, furs and skins. The Athabascans and the Eyak/Tlingit/Tsimshian/Haida groups often built wooden and log houses, since their areas of the land had many trees. One of the narrators at the earlier presentations had told us that all of the natives now live in modern houses, whether in cities or in their native villages. No igloos or hide-covered shelters used any more…they were all destroyed. Ridiculously, the Bureau of Indian Affairs came in during the 1940s-50s and required all native Alaskans to live in modern frame houses, usually built on stilts in their towns, but our narrator pointed out that these houses in native villages are almost always very drafty, poor at retaining heat, and not nearly so effectively insulated as were the earthen homes built partly underground. Makes little sense in a sub-arctic environment where temps drop to minus 70 degrees F pretty often.

We headed downtown and walked around a bit, visiting a few shops and feasting on a wonderful reindeer hot dog served up at an outdoor stand just outside the downtown Anchorage Visitor Center. M&As Reindeer Dogs has been written up, which is what sent us there, and rightly so. Deeeee-licious! They top their juicy reindeer dog with a heap of sautéed carmelized onions. (Their secret of carmelizing the onions is to add Coke to them!) Yum! We sat outside in the brief sunshine (though cold, blustery winds) eating our dogs, just as if we were in New York or Chicago. Fun city stuff.

Back at the ranch, we napped, read books, showered and changed, preparing to meet our friends Dean and Linda at 5:30 for dinner at the upscale Simon & Seafort’s to have their famous halibut cheeks. Probably will be the only time on this trip that we “eat fancy”…we are enjoying not doing anything fancy, in fact. A lifelong friend, Dave, told us we just had to have the halibut cheeks at Simon & Seafort’s in Anchorage…he just loves them. They are indeed, the actual cheeks of halibut…they come off the fish in long thick strands, more like the grain of a pork roast than the typically flaky meat of a fish. Quite tasty, fixed with a bread-crumb-and-cheese coating and sautéed til crispy. Fun to have had such a unique dish while in Alaska, but not sure I’d go back 6 more times.

Our waiter at Simon’s told us that when people come here and go halibut fishing on charters, they often have NO idea that they have to specify to the charter owner that they want to keep their halibut cheeks when the fish is processed for the customer, to ship home or to take along in a freezer. Hence, most charter operators are accustomed to keeping the halibut cheeks and selling them to restaurants like Simon & Seafort’s, with the person who caught the fish never knowing the difference.

Well, I can tell you that if I go fishing for halibut, I will definitely specify that I want to KEEP my halibut cheeks! Nice piece of information to have!

The winds had calmed and the sun was out by the time we left the restaurant at 8 pm. Typical day in Anchorage: morning rain/cold/clouds; afternoon more clouds and brisk winds, sometimes sun breaks through for brief moments; dinnertime, some blue sky, clouds break up, wind dies a bit, sun comes out more clearly, mountains are visible, temperatures quite nice for the first time all day. Interesting patterns.


Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

SaltyAdventurer

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Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #77 on: July 06, 2013, 02:19:57 AM »
Wednesday July 3, 2013       Day 36

Drove nowhere today. Read our books. Just hung out. Talked to other folks in the RV park. By late afternoon, of course, the rain had stopped and the skies were clearing. We walked quite a long way along the nearby Ship Creek Trail, which leads out to the mud flats along the Knik Arm of the Cook Inlet, just north of downtown Anchorage. This is where the cargo ships berth and unload their containers. We watched a big crane move shipping containers around for a while. Grilled fresh fresh fresh sockeye salmon for dinner, outdoors on our little propane grill. Just perfect.

Thursday July 4, 2013         Day 37

The plan: A nice breakfast at 8 in the Rollin Home. Go find parking within 20 blocks of Anchorage’s “Park Strip” just south of downtown at 9. Attend Anchorage Independence Day Parade at 10 am to honor servicemen and women serving abroad and who’ve returned home. Wander around the 50+ “festival” booths at the park after the parade. Then maybe rent bikes and ride the Coastal Trail out west to the end and back.

Foiled again. Rain, and lots of it. Cold. Leaden gray. Stayed in bed. Forget the dang parade, it would be miserable.

Succeeded with the nice breakfast: Melted a bit of butter in my little saucepan, put a layer of hash browns on top to get them really crispy, put a layer of eggs on top of that, some salt & pepper, then a layer of grated Havarti to top it off. Covered the pan, let it puff up and cook til done. Fried up a few frozen sausages to go with, and voila, a terrific feast for a gloomy day.

Some neighbors here in the park came back drenched from somewhere. We asked if they had gone to the parade, and they told us they couldn’t get within 2 miles of it, the traffic was so tangled. A hopeless situation. No parking available anywhere. People walking around in a lot of mud. So they gave up and returned.

Headed out to REI to use our ginormous $20 dividend that has an expiration date of July 15. Don went in to find something to use the dividend on while I researched coin-op laundromats in the area. Best thing to do on a rainy day like this is wash clothes. Indoor activity. Found one within a few blocks, nice and clean, with giant washers and dryers. Perfect. An hour later, everything is clean and ready to go to the Kenai Peninsula tomorrow.

We stopped at the Snow Goose Restaurant on the way home to have that delicious fish chowder again. Changed our minds once inside, however, and ordered the salmon & chips instead. Bad decision. We both got indigestion from dinner that lasted all night. A bummer.

Friday July 5, 2013      Day 38

The Seward Highway south from Anchorage lived up to its reputation as a gorgeous drive. High mountains on all sides, quite close to the road, covered most of the way to their tops in many hues of velvet green. A long part of the drive is along the shore of Turnagain Arm, which runs off the Cook Inlet. Quite the views.

I had read that Potters Marsh on the way south was a good place to stop and walk the boardwalks in this acclaimed bird-watching preserve. Don missed the turnoff, though, and the traffic was so heavy going north and south on this 2-lane highway there was no way we could turn around and go back. On toward Seward!

The turnoff to Girdwood and the Alyeska Resort (also the major ski area in Alaska) offered a café/bakery, an ice cream shop and a store named “Alaska’s Greatest Tourist Trap.” Such candor! The bakery had wonderful apple fritters and very good coffee.

While there, a very attractive young couple at the next table were looking anxiously out the window watching for something or someone, and the young woman began pacing back and forth. Piled near them were 4 suitcases, a small duffel bag and another soft-sided bag. The young woman was dressed in very non-Alaskan garb – a floor-length slinky knit skirt and matching top (very summery!), with a tiny little lightweight 1-button jacket in a cute print fabric, and – get this – open-toed beige patent platform-sandals with ankle straps and 4-inch skinny heels about the size of a kebob skewer. In contrast, other people in the shop had  layers of long-sleeved shirts, fleeces and rain jackets on, with jeans and hiking boots, or high rubber galoshes. It was 50 degrees outside, raining on and off, not exactly pleasant and certainly not summer weather.

I just couldn’t resist asking this young lady what she was doing there, dressed as she was. “Oh, we just got off the cruise ship!” she exclaimed. A shuttle had driven them from Seward where the ship docked to the Girdwood turnoff, dropped them off and drove away. Completely confused, they called Alyeska Resort, where they were to attend a friend’s wedding, and requested the Alyeska’s shuttle come for them. It came, drove through the parking lot rapidly without stopping, and headed back up the hill to the resort. So they called a second time, and were determined not to miss the shuttle a second time, and to run out and wave the driver down if they had to. From New Jersey. Right. Very clearly they weren’t from anywhere near Alaska!

A second stop along this road was supposed to be the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, a state and federal project to preserve and restore native species in Alaska. It is 500 acres of drive-through park and wild animal viewing in natural settings. The line of cars and RVs lined up in the driveway waiting to enter was enough to give us indigestion again, so we drove on. We saw as we passed, however, that the AWCC has a large herd of extremely scraggly, scrawny bison in a large pasture. They did not look healthy or well-fed like those in Yellowstone NP or Canada.

I have read The Milepost on this trip everywhere we’ve gone, and was hard at it again today. Oh, good, there’s a nice little grocery store at Moose Pass, Alaska, where I can pick up some butter, honey and tea…and see their water-wheel from 1909 in the process. The third generation of the Estes family runs the store now, and they’ve rebuilt the old water-wheel 3 times since it was first constructed by old Mr. Estes so he could mill his lumber for his cabin. The water-wheel now is used to provide power for a fine old grinding wheel. Two guys were there sharpening their axes when we arrived. Made for some interesting pictures.

The Estes Brothers Store at Moose Pass is long on character and history, short on inventory. Virtually nothing on the shelves. A few barrels of ice cream in the freezer is all. On to Seward!

Glad I made a reservation for the RV park near Seward. The place is jammed full, because of the holiday I guess. We drove into Seward and found our Colorado friends Marion and Tom in their coach parked at the municipal RV park, facing the shore of Resurrection Bay and the mountains beyond. They get to watch cruise ships go in and out, as well as fishing and tour boats of all kinds whizzing by. No water or electricity or sewers, but fabulous views. We took a quick walk together around downtown Seward, and returned to their coach for conversation and dinner just as the rain started pounding. Don and Tom grilled the fresh halibut, standing under an awning to keep dry, while Marion and I fixed corn on the cob and salads. Fun dinner and super-fun being with friends.
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

SaltyAdventurer

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Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #78 on: July 07, 2013, 12:39:01 PM »
Saturday July 6, 2013      Day 39

We went to sleep to the sound of hard rain pounding our roof. Nice noise to sleep by.

We awoke to the pitter-patter of light rain falling on our roof. Within minutes, it had turned to pounding hard rain. What else is new?

Our thick hiking socks have taken 1½ days to dry hanging on the shower rod after we did the washing, because it’s so damp. I can tell it would be difficult to NOT get moldy up here. What a dramatic change from the brittle dryness of Colorado. In Colorado, those socks would have been bone-dry after 3 hours. My skin likes this moisture. And we’re not constantly craving water here…we drink much less water during the day than when we’re home, where we are never without a full bottle of water in our hands, always sipping from it. I’d bet I gulp at least 70-80 oz. of water a day when in Colorado; yesterday I drank only 2/3 of a 24 oz. bottle here. Plus the usual cups of tea and glasses of wine, of course.

We are almost creeped-out at how jammed full this RV park is, after being in parks that were nearly empty from the time we left home. Because it’s a holiday weekend, and the Kenai Peninsula gets a lot of Anchorage crowds on weekends, it’s full here…about 85 RV sites and it’s packed.

Today’s plan: Visit the Sealife Center aquarium, walk around town (there are some nice shops and galleries here), go to Safeway for tea/butter/honey/lettuce, maybe sit and have coffee in a coffee shop. Cross our fingers that the weather clears for at least one day while we’re here so we can go on the Kenai Fjords National Park cruise.

10 pm and headed to bed. Didn’t do any of the things I planned for today. Hard rain all day. No letups. A few times the rain changed character and turned into thick sheets of falling mist, though. That’s when Don took walks and I left the Rollin Home to walk to the bathrooms, talk to people and get out of our teeny tiny apartment for a bit.

I am nearly finished with Michener’s Alaska, though. That’s a good thing. The book gets better and better, also a good thing. Otherwise, any sane reader would give up on it long before finishing. So I’ve been absolutely riveted to it during rainy days.

Oh, one final thing…at 8 pm our neighbors next door, 2 couples from Loveland, Colorado camping in a huge 5th-wheel trailer pulled by a big fancy pickup truck, returned from a long day of flyfishing on the Upper Kenai River. They had 2 gorgeous sockeye salmon, which they filleted and cooked for dinner, along with sweet corn. But I gotta say, that was one helluva long day of fishing for 2 fish! They left very early in the morning, maybe 7 am, and returned at 8 pm, had dinner at almost 9 pm sitting outside at a picnic table in the cold and heavy rain (though covered by a nice tent/canopy on stilts). Not my idea of heaven. They’ve been here 2 weeks already and are staying another 2 weeks, Don learned.
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

Dean & Linda Stock

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Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #79 on: July 07, 2013, 10:37:39 PM »
Saturday July 6, 2013      Day 39
We are almost creeped-out at how jammed full this RV park is, after being in parks that were nearly empty from the time we left home. Because it’s a holiday weekend, and the Kenai Peninsula gets a lot of Anchorage crowds on weekends, it’s full here…about 85 RV sites and it’s packed.
Today’s plan: Visit the Sealife Center aquarium, walk around town (there are some nice shops and galleries here), go to Safeway for tea/butter/honey/lettuce, maybe sit and have coffee in a coffee shop. Cross our fingers that the weather clears for at least one day while we’re here so we can go on the Kenai Fjords National Park cruise.
Same situation at our park in Homer--108 spaces, sold out--all spaces are $73/night!  But this evening, we see empty spaces.  The Sealife Center is fun, but not huge, so you didn't miss a big event.  But...the Kenai Fjords NP cruise--the marine life cruises are the #1 thing in my book about Alaska.  I know you're not doing Valdez, so unless you are going out of Whittier later on your itinerary, you might want to skip something else and do at least one marine cruise, especially since we should see the sun for the next couple days.  I'm not saying where to go, just try to put at least one marine cruise in. They make my heart sing.  We've discovered that we should have planned fewer days in Homer since I couldn't fish and they have a 32' change in height of pier with the changing tides, so the ramps are way too steep for me to even do the birding cruise.
Dean and Linda Stock
and Sherlock (the cat)
Cypress, CA
2006 Airstream Motor Home
2006 Jeep Liberty (Towed)

ArdraF

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Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #80 on: July 08, 2013, 12:28:38 AM »
We did a 26 glaciers cruise out of Whittier and one in Prince William Sound out of Valdez.  Both were wonderful!  The one from Valdez was the last of the day.  The captain had been talking with a shrimper and asked if anyone had to keep a schedule because we could go out to the shrimper and buy just-caught shrimp.  We all jumped at the chance and those were the best shrimp we've ever eaten.  They handed across one pound bags of shrimp in nets and we returned the nets with payment.  Our only problem was that we only bought one pound!  Makes my mouth water thinking about it.

We really liked Valdez.  It's in such a beautiful setting.  There's a campground right on the water and it was such fun to eat meals and watch the sea otters floating by on their backs and eating clams.  They're not only cute but clever little critters.

ArdraF
ArdraF
:D :D

SaltyAdventurer

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Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #81 on: July 08, 2013, 02:25:56 AM »
Sunday July 7, 2013      Day 40

Today is my best friend Emmy’s birthday. I hope she is having a great time back in Illinois. We’ve been friends since we were born, literally. Our moms were best friends for years. We grew up within 4 houses of each other, close to Grand Rapids, MI.

This is the first day in what seems like weeks that it hasn’t been raining HARD when we got up. (But it was raining HARD an hour earlier!) Our picnic table is almost dry, with only a few puddles on it! Yahoo!

Despite no rain right now, the clouds are hanging down very low over the mountains at either end of the park. Can’t see a thing behind the nearest row of spruce reaching tall into the sky. Lots of people have already pulled out of the RV park and headed for home at the end of the holiday weekend. The place is looking much emptier this morning.

Off we go to do things today!

Ah, it’s almost time for bed now, and we’ve had a wonderful day. The sun never popped through the heavy cloud cover, but it tried. So there was brightness at least, and little or no rain, until evening. Makes life seem good, and it was such fun to be out and about. The winds were brisk, though, and temps very cool, so it was a 3-layer day.

As we drove towards town, we saw that another big cruise ship is in the harbor. Not as big as the last one, so there won’t be quite the hordes of people as there were a few days ago. A different ship must arrive about every 36-40 hours. Despite the ship, the streets were far emptier than previous days, and parking was readily available everywhere. We stopped at Safeway and bought a few things we had run out of, such as teabags, honey, etc., along with some fresh apricots and more bananas.

The Alaska Sealife Center here in Seward is billed as Alaska’s premier aquarium. Welllllll…it was okay, mostly because it’s in Alaska. But the polar bear exhibit at Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo far outdoes almost anything at the Sealife Center. And Chicago’s Aquarium is vastly better than this center. But, okay, we did see a fantastic stellar seal swimming around in his tank. And the “Life of the Salmon” exhibit is terrific…from movies about the spawning process, to a view of fertilized eggs, and tanks showing salmon at every stage of life. Loved it. Especially since I just read the section of Michener’s Alaska about Nerka the salmon and his quest for survival. Good story, good exhibit.

One thing Alaska has that no place else has, though, is puffins, which are about the cutest critters on earth. And the Sealife Center has only a couple of puffins in its tanks….they need lots more puffins, for heaven’s sake! I heard people around me saying the same thing…where are the puffins?

Our friend Marion had told me about which of the town’s gift & souvenir shops were best, so we wandered up the street to visit a few. A local working in a shop told us the best fish place in town is Thorn’s Bar on 4th Street, so we headed there for lunch. It’s where all the locals go for fish, we were told. When was the last time we had lunch on a Sunday afternoon sitting in a dark, smoky bar watching the Chicago Cubs play the Pittsburg Pirates, if ever? Well, there we were. Don was immediately engrossed in the game, ordered a beer, and settled in. We ordered Thorn’s “special” which is a bowl of fresh halibut – about 12 2-inch-square sized chunks of fish – very lightly battered and flash fried for about a minute. Served without fries or anything, just lemon and tartar sauce. Good price. Delicious. Perfect!

There are a couple of shops here that have nice quality Alaskan-made stuff, at prices that don’t seem totally outrageous. But I quickly get bored with shopping and seeing the same stuff over and over, no matter how nice it is. I actually would like to have a nicely carved totem pole about a foot tall, maybe painted, maybe not…but it’s hard to know as yet what is good quality and decent value. Some of them are priced above $100 and seem to be a rip. I’m still in the decision-making mode on that purchase. I bought a nice memento of Seward though…a 2014 calendar for $10 full of terrific Alaska wildlife photographs. The one of the moose with his head in the water is better than I could ever see in reality. Next year it’ll remind me throughout the months of this wonderful adventure.

Don stayed at Thorn’s Bar until the game ended…the Cubbies lost, again…then joined me. We topped off our Seward adventure with a dish of very excellent gelato at the ice cream store that is part of Brown & Hawkins, Seward’s general store in business since 1900.

Cruising to the Kenai Fjords National Park seemed fruitless with the sky laden so heavily with thick clouds hanging low over all the mountains. We weren’t anxious to waste a ton of money seeing nothing but clouds, especially on a day that was so windy and cold. When I go on a cruise, I like to stand at the bow railing and have the wind blowing in my hair and the water spraying on me…today was not the kind of day for that exercise! Cruises will have to wait for another day.

Don decided we should take a drive out to Powell Point for the heck of it. Our neighbor in the RV park had told him about the place and said there is another RV park out at the end of the point, along the bay. The road goes along the shore, just above the water of the bay. On the land side, a steep mountain rises straight up inches from the side of your vehicle; on the bay side are large rocks and a steep dropoff into the bay. The road, if you can call it that, is gravel and narrow and filled with potholes, some small, some quite large and deep. This was quite the adventure! In several places, vehicles have to pull over and wait for an oncoming vehicle to pass, because the road is too narrow for two vehicles to be abreast. There are two one-lane bridges along this road, as well. Several times I wondered if there would even be a wide enough place for us to turn around farther out towards the point.

If I had suggested to Don that we do this drive, and had tkane our precious Rollin Home out there, he would have gone ballistic, and never forgiven me. But since this was HIS idea, he was quite determined to see it through! There were a few times when it was impossible to weave our way through the maze of potholes with enough agility, and at several places we were really rockin and rollin! People coming towards us who were waiting for us to pass were watching us with amazed looks on their faces – and laughing when we finally got by them.

Good grief, this was certainly as punishing as being on the Old Denali Highway! We reached Powell Point after about 5 miles of this. Can you believe, there’s an actual residential suburb (of sorts) of Seward way out there? I cannot believe in my wildest dreams that people living out there actually have to take that road twice a day (or even 4 or 6 times a day) in any season, much less in winter! The state recreational area and RV park are pretty interesting…lots of RVs and tent campers, probably because it’s very cheap! And windswept, for sure!

Upon our return to Seward, we parked the Rollin Home in the municipal day-use RV parking lot facing the shore of Resurrection Bay to watch boats going in and out, and people taking walks, and the activity of the town. Waves were lapping barely 4 feet from the front of our vehicle. The wind was high enough that they were decent sized waves too…the bay was covered in whitecaps all afternoon. The wind was whistling and buffeting our side, so we felt a bit like sailors out on the water. I saw perhaps 20-30 sailboats, large and small, out for the day. Brave souls, I must say. This is real cold-weather sailing, for stout hearts and well-bundled bodies.

As I sat looking out at the bay watching dozens of seagulls dipping and gliding in the winds, suddenly a very large bald eagle flew gracefully by our window, not even 4 feet away, down at my eye level! My first Alaska eagle, close up and personal! He landed nearby on a dock piling and sat there a while, then flew off. Made my day!

Don took a long walk while we were parked in Seward by the bayshore. I read my book and stared at the “big water” to get my water-fix. After returning to our park for the night, we took another walk around the park and along Stoney Creek, aptly named because it certainly is stony. The creek-bed is wide and looks as it a bulldozer created it….or maybe it was dredged for gold back in the day? We asked at the office and were told that the creek-bed is naturally that way, made so by a huge flood that swept through 3 years ago, which turned a little narrow stream into the big wide creek it is today. Apparently the creek has never been dredged for gold, but quite a few locals pan for gold regularly along this creek. No one divulged whether anyone who pans has found any gold specks or nuggets.

Tomorrow, we head for Kenai. Should be an interesting drive.
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

SaltyAdventurer

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Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #82 on: July 09, 2013, 12:03:28 PM »
Monday July 8, 2013      Day 41

What a day! Good, yucky, then better, then ugly, then fabulous!

Sunshine makes a world of difference, to be sure. Yes, it was a bit cloudy at first, and a bit drippy, but bright enough to see that at some point the sun would actually shine. Hooray!

I got up about 7; Don had a fitful night and slept in until about 8:30. We both felt rested and eager for the day, excited to be going, finally, to the real Kenai Peninsula where fishing is a big deal. We only had about 120 miles to drive today, and though it would be on 2-lane roads most of the way to Kenai from Seward, we assumed the traffic would be fairly light on a Monday. We buttoned up the buggy, and went to the central “dump station” at the RV park to empty our so-called black water and gray water tanks, and had a minor disaster…all my fault.

I am flexible enough that I can easily bend down and hook the sewer hose we use to empty the tanks onto the outlet. The hose has 3 little hooks that latch onto 3 little pegs sticking out of the fitting on the vehicle’s outlet pipe. Trouble is, my hands aren’t as strong as they need to be to get a good lock of the hose to the fitting. When I put it on, my hands encased in our handy-dandy nitrile gloves from Costco, of course, I always give it a tug to make sure I have it tight enough. I did that routine this morning, naturally, and it was secure. I thought. So I proceeded to pull the black handle to empty the black water tank (ie, toilet waste) and whoooooosh, the sewer hose detached from the outlet pipe and you can guess what happened. Oh shit. Literally. What a dreadful mess.

Enough said. I cleaned everything up, which took a while. Neither of us got hit with the cascade, fortunately. Finally we set off for Kenai, going north once again toward Moose Pass, beyond which we would find the turnoff for the Sterling Highway, aka Hwy 1, toward Soldotna and Homer. Along the way are supposed to be some really great walking trails and wildlife viewpoints. About a half-hour into the trip, the sun popped through and the day turned clearer. Terrific scenery. As we went west on the Sterling Highway toward Soldotna, we drove along the head of Kenai Lake, and got our first glimpses of the gorgeous, turquoise-colored Kenai River that everyone raves about. Wide, deep and fast-flowing with waves cresting in whitewater plumes as it passed over rocks, this jewel of a river looks every bit as splendid as its fishing reputation.

At one point, I spotted a golden eagle perched on a rock on a small island in the river and asked Don to slow down, and turn around, please. A pullout was just ahead; New York U-ee is easy. He kept on going. And speeded up to 60 mph from 55 mph, because he said he had a big Class A motorcoach on his tail. I said, So what? Ignore him. Turn around, please. I want to go back and see the eagles at the river. This is what we came to Alaska for. He kept on going, fast. Whizzing past trailheads, pullouts, parking spots, everything. You can guess what I was saying. Not very quietly or nicely, either.

Needless to say, I was furious. And Don knew it. He was being obstinate just to be obstinate and prove some idiotic point. Men. Such numbskulls at times.

At a bridge over the Kenai River, a big bunch of fishermen and guides were loading themselves and their gear into 4 or 5 rafts to float the river and fish along the way. Everyone was stopped to watch the goings-on. Not Don. Didn’t even slow down. Whizzed on by.

Finally at Soldotna, a good sized burg, he slowed down and turned into the lot at the big Fred Meyer store, to buy fresh bottles of water and a bag of ice that we needed. Oh, goody. I also wanted to buy a spray bottle of Clorox household cleaner with bleach, to clean off the soles of our shoes after the morning’s dump-station mishap. So we began speaking again. It’s hard for me to stay angry for very long. Thank goodness.

We also had a mission in Soldotna: Find the amazing BBQ guy that our friends Linda and Dean said makes the finest smoked ribs and pulled pork they’ve ever eaten, bar none. Black Jaxx BBQ. Located at about Mile 1 of the Kenai Spur Road, so it’s right on our way! We found it all right, but had to turn into a lot just past the place and retrace our route a bit to get back to this little joint. Well worth the effort!

I know we’re really here for the fish, but Black Jaxx has been smokin’ his meats up here every summer for 20-odd years, and man, is this stuff great! This Texas guy knows his stuff about doing Southern-smoked meats and very-southern baked beans full of chunky meat and bacon. Juicy pulled pork. Fall-off-the-bone ribs. And, of all things, smoked pure-beef BOLOGNA! Just had to try that…I have always adored bologna…especially fried bologna sandwiches as a kid in Michigan. And the baked beans…yum!  Bought some ribs for our lunch. Some pulled pork and a container of beans for dinner. And a bit of smoked bologna for me, for tomorrow sometime.

Beluga Lookout RV Park in Kenai sits on a bluff overlooking the beach and the mouth of the Kenai River, looing out to sea over the Cook Inlet. In the far distance are the huge volcanoes that herald the start of the Aleutian Islands chain…The Ring of Fire, as they’re known. This is a wonderful RV park…vehicles close together, but a great location. I was glad I had made my reservation ages ago and had assured us of a front-row seat. We face the water on the edge of the high bluff, wind blowing at us quite briskly and rocking the vehicle a bit. Somewhat like being on our sailboat back in the day. I like it! I’ll sleep well tonight.

We walked through the old town of Kenai, which is within a couple blocks of our location and is only a few blocks in size, but has some interesting historic buildings. The old Russian Orthodox church, a frame building with two onion-dome-shaped steeples in sky blue, is from the late 1800s. I’m planning to go back tomorrow to see the inside. Several historic houses are built in a style with squared logs and hand-hewn dovetail joints at the corners…quite the task back in the 1800s, I’m sure. But they lock together extremely well and are very solid structures that have stood the test of time admirably.

As we turned toward the RV park, we spotted the cliff path down to the beach. Of course we had to take it. The tide is rolling in fast and it was just so tempting to stroll the beach for a while toward the mouth of the river, maybe find a good stone and a nice piece of driftwood as mementoes. We met and talked with a nice couple from the Seattle area whose 10 year old son was digging a giant hole in the sand, took their family picture and they took one of us, then headed back up the hill. Great path over 2 nice humped bridges, and very good exercise.

Okay, gotta clean up the Rollin Home and disinfect the floors after our morning mishap. Roll up the dirty rugs, put em into big garbage bags to be washed later. Sweep the RH floor thoroughly, then wash the floors 3 times, with bleach and disinfectant. Don thinks we should just throw the rugs away and buy replacements at WalMart tomorrow. I’d go for that.  Then I sprayed and disinfected the soles of our hiking boots with Clorox cleaner & bleach. I should have remembered that bleach does awful things to my hands…when will I ever learn to wear gloves when I do bleach jobs? I now have a bunch of sore cracks on my palms that will need lots of lotion and maybe Neosporin repairs.

After all that housecleaning activity, I was hot and sweaty and headed to the showers to bathe. Wonderful clean showers here. Lovely. Oh it feels great to be squeaky clean!

Throughout the remainder of the evening, and through dinner, we sat in the driver & passenger seats of Rollin Home and looked out at the sea, watching literally hundreds of small and medium-sized commercial fishing boats coming in from their day at sea…hundreds of them kept appearing from out of the mist, endless strings of them!!! At first we thought maybe these were charter boats that took paying passengers out to fish for halibut and flounder, but we could see through the binoculars that there were no passengers on these boats, just captains and crew…only 2-3 people on each. A few boats had tall rigging for hauling in large nets…they must be shrimpers. Most others just had heavy-duty winches in their sterns with big cables…they must be halibut and flounder fishermen that haul fish up from the bottom in hundreds of feet of water. They kept coming, and coming, and coming. A never-ending stream of boats. Sometimes I could count 35 or 40 at a time.

As the tide flowed rapidly in and met the river’s outflow, some steep waves built at the channel entering the river, and the boats plunged their bows deeply into the troughs of waves, never slowing. Later in the evening as the tides receded once more, the waves lessened and the entrance was much calmer. My gosh, it’s now 11 pm and the sun is very low in the sky and fishing boats are still coming in, final stragglers in singles instead of big groups.

This is the most action we’ve had on the whole trip. Such fun to watch. The clouds in the far distance to the southwest periodically lift and we can see the huge volcanoes poke their heads out, pale yellow and pinkish in the evening light. The biggest of them, some 11,300 feet, is completely snow-covered.

We absolutely LOVE it here! I so wish I hadn’t decided to shorten our stay in Kenai to only 1 night, on the advice of a friend who said there’s very little to see or do in Kenai. That’s probably true…the town itself might not be much, but I adore all this harbor activity. I could stay here a week or more and love every minute! I’d walk that cliff path 2 or 3 times a day, and stroll the beach endlessly. Don too!

Oh my gosh it’s a few minutes after 11 now and a big golden eagle just flew gracefully and quite slowly past our windshield, with a bunch of screeching gulls hot on his tail. The eagle must have just caught a fish and the gulls want it! We continued watching attentively, and a couple of minutes later 2 golden eagles flew past, wing-tip to wing-tip. As they got just beyond us, they turned and headed south over the mouth of the river, so we could watch them for quite a while. Is this great or what?

It’s turning a bit darker now, 11:30 at night, and 4 more fishing boats are straggling in. The tide has swept out again, and a very large oval-shaped area below us has turned into a big mud flat. Hundreds of gulls are gliding in big circles up here at our eye level. We can see that a similar big mud flat to the south of us is covered with thousands of wading gulls milling around.

In 2 days, on July 10, the dip-net fishing for salmon starts as the 2nd salmon run of the year gets underway. Some eager-beaver dip-netters started staking out their beach spots below us tonight, one of them even pitching his tent near the dune on the beach, trying to “reserve” his spot. But some officials who look and act like cops come along and tell these folks they are breaking the rules, whatever the rules are, and people then leave. Not sure these officials are really cops…maybe BLM rangers. They even took the tent down and hauled it away. On Wednesday, we understand, the beach below us at the mouth of the river will be lined solid with hundreds of fishermen wielding giant dip-nets with long handles catching hundreds of salmon before they head up the Kenai River to spawn.

Alaskan Natives have dip-netted for salmon for thousands of years here at the mouth of the Kenai when the salmon run starts. They need hundreds of fish to dry and eat during the cold winter months. We’re not sure whether only Natives are allowed to dip-net for fish, or anybody can do it if they’re willing to purchase a license. Our RV park has a whole stack of huge dip-nets available for sale or for rent. I wish we were staying to watch this.

To bed now. Want to get up early and see if the fishing boats go out early in the morning. Will there be more eagles? Will I be able to see the volcanoes in the distance?
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

Dean & Linda Stock

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Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #83 on: July 10, 2013, 02:09:27 AM »
Monday July 8, 2013      Day 41
 Oh shit. Literally. What a dreadful mess.

Needless to say, I was furious. And Don knew it. He was being obstinate just to be obstinate and prove some idiotic point. Men. Such numbskulls at times.

I know we’re really here for the fish, but Black Jaxx has been smokin’ his meats up here every summer for 20-odd years, and man, is this stuff great!


Susan, don't feel too bad about your "dump" mistake.  Anyone who's been RVing for a while has probably had a similar story.  For us, it was when Dean had two hoses together and the joint failed.  You've now had your baptism by ____.

You're right on about men being numbskulls.  And, of course, they think we are, too!  That's part of RVing, too.  You get to love the things you love about your spouse even more--like Dean's tenacity in getting our satellite up.  Of course, a few minutes before he achieved success I was thinking, "How many hours are you going to continue to invest in this thing??? Your time has value, and I'm tired of hearing that grrrrrr sound going off over my head.  IT DOESN'T WORK! "  Until it did...

We came into Black Jaxx just a couple of hours after you.  We missed each other because you got to the Kenai turnoff before we did. They told us you'd been in and sampled their wares.   I've never had fried bologna, but it sounds sinful.  I didn't try their bologna, but if I'm back up here again, I will.  Dean and I reminisced about how we ground bologna with sweet pickles for his lunch when we were first married, but it's been at least 30 years since we ate any bologna. When we were growing up, our parents made two kinds of sandwiches--PB&J and bologna, and rarely tuna salad or egg salad.  Now, when we make sandwiches, it's  usually turkey because it's healthier.  It's interesting how we change without even realizing it.

While in Kenai, check out the Burger Bus (Dean loved it!) and if the Art Fair is going on at the Chamber of Commerce, I'd pay the money go to see it again.  They had some of the finest art we've seen in Alaska.  Also, when we were in Kenai, we were told not to photograph the Russian church, that the members found that offensive.  Visiting is fine, except during services, but pictures not so fine--in fact, there was a sign by the parking area. 

Happy trails and "eagling"!
« Last Edit: July 10, 2013, 02:19:05 AM by Dean & Linda Stock »
Dean and Linda Stock
and Sherlock (the cat)
Cypress, CA
2006 Airstream Motor Home
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Marsha/CA

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Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #84 on: July 10, 2013, 12:12:18 PM »
These logs are so fun to read!!!

Linda, I grew up on fried bologna (baloney) sandwiches and to this day it still makes my mouth water to think about them.  I loved them.  Did you know you are supposed to cut little slices around the ousides of the bologna so that it lays flat when you fry it and doesn't curl up.  Little trivia info for ya. 

SaltyAdventure, Ahhh, a "slapping my forehead" dumb move re the dump station event.  Welcome to RVing. 

We loved the Kenai Penisula. And tell Don he is lucky he's not married to me, he would not have gotten off so easy for not turning around so we could see the golden eagles.... :P   When we were in the Kenai last year, we hired a fishing guide, fly fished the Kenai River and saw a young grizzly eating salmon on the banks.  That is such a beautiful river.  BTW, eagles are very lazy, they steal the fish and anything eatable that every other bird catches.  When we were camped in Seward along the bay, some sea gulls had retrieved the insides of a fish that a fisherman had discarded.  Smart eagles just flew in...swiped the goodies and flew away.  Poor Sea Gulls.

Also, just for the record, Puffins are also in Newfoundland, not just Alaska.  When we saw them in NFL, it was on a very high bluff.  They would dive a 100 feet into the waters below, be under water for several seconds then pop up like "bobbers" on a fishing line.  Cute! 

Enjoy the rain....it rained almost continually the 2 months we were there.  We did everything in the rain.

Marsha~
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Derby6

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Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #85 on: July 10, 2013, 12:37:40 PM »
And Don knew it. He was being obstinate just to be obstinate and prove some idiotic point. Men. Such numbskulls at times.
Go Don Go….lol
My dad has made some long travels with me to and from AK and always wanted to stop.  I was driving and had a schedule…


At a bridge over the Kenai River, a big bunch of fishermen and guides were loading themselves and their gear into 4 or 5 rafts to float the river and fish along the way. Everyone was stopped to watch the goings-on. Not Don. Didn’t even slow down. Whizzed on by.
As you crossed that bridge you were at the mouth of the Kenai river.  On your left was Kenai Lake and on your right was Kenai River. Check it out on your return trip.  Where your camped now is the other mouth!
If Don is a Big game guy you can get him to stop there on the return. ;)  In the parking lot where you saw them launching boats there is a board walk with tele-scopes that you can use to see the sheep up in the mountain across the river! 


Alaskan Natives have dip-netted for salmon for thousands of years here at the mouth of the Kenai when the salmon run starts. They need hundreds of fish to dry and eat during the cold winter months. We’re not sure whether only Natives are allowed to dip-net for fish, or anybody can do it if they’re willing to purchase a license. Our RV park has a whole stack of huge dip-nets available for sale or for rent. I wish we were staying to watch this.
Only Alaska Residents can Dipnet.  Permits are free, but you must record/report what you catch.  Limits vary depending on the fishery, but that one in particular is 25 fish for the head of household and 10 more fish for each additional person/dependant. (Family of 3 limit is 45; Family of 4 limit is 55; etc..)
Limits are much different and higher for Natives in remote areas that truly use the fish to survive.  They even use ‘fish wheels’, which is a pretty neat process.  Come to think of it I believe some residents place fish wheels on the Chitna river; not just ‘Natives’.
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SaltyAdventurer

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Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #86 on: July 10, 2013, 06:08:18 PM »
Tuesday July 9, 2013      Day 42

A gorgeous, perfect, sunny day in Alaska. They do happen. Rarely, maybe. I can’t say. But it sure does perk me up and make me want to be outdoors all day!

I took my trusty little coupon for a 15% discount of all purchases from the Beluga Lookout gift shop and went shopping early today…I wanted a couple of gifts for very special people, and I had discovered yesterday that the Native Alaskan carved figures of whale bone, whale baleen, jade, caribou antlers, walrus tusks, etc. were far less expensive here than at the souvenir places along the streets of little Alaskan towns. And they’re nicer quality, too. Aha!

I found the absolute cutest little Inupiak tribe (Eskimo) “Billikin” carvings for these two people…little cherubic figures with round cheeks and round little bellies that are fetishes to bring good luck, especially when the holder rubs the little round belly of this billikin thing. It’s carved out of walrus tusk, and is only about 3 inches tall. Quite charming. And there’s a neat little poem…more like a jingle, really… that goes with it: “As a blues chaser, I’m a honey – To bring good luck just rub my tummy.”

Naturally I couldn’t resist buying a great little carving for myself, too. Kind of like Christmas shopping – One for you, one for me! The carving I bought is of whale bone, whale baleen and walrus tusk, depisting an Inupiak seal hunter of the far north in a kayak holding a harpoon above his head, with a ring of sealskin fur around his face and the “rope” attached to the harpoon made of whale sinew. This whole scene is perched on a big green soapstone rock base, at an angle that makes it look as if the seal hunter is riding a big wave. The kayak is about 10 inches long. It’s very artistic and nicely done. About a third of the price I saw for similar carvings in Anchorage, Seward and other places.

We walked down the cliff path to the beach again. We walked down the path with a local guy who was going fishing. He pointed out a number of interesting birds to me while we walked…a cute little yellow bellied “wobbler” as he called it. Warbler, maybe? Across the marsh he spotted a herrier (member of the falcon and eagle family) going after small critters. Don spotted the same bird later as we walked back up the path to the top of the bluff.

The tide was out, allowing me to walk far out on the flats looking closely for interesting rocks, pieces of driftwood, feathers, maybe even some sea glass. Oh how I love to do the beachcombing thing! I didn’t find any sea glass (darn it!) but I soon had a good pocketful of polished egg-shaped agates, a nice chunk of lava, some marble-sized stones full of copper in a burnished turquoise color. And an eagle feather!

Fine of the late stragglers among the commercial fishing vessels entering the harbor after a long day in Cook Inlet had become grounded in the channel at low tide late last night. They were running their engines, probably to keep the fish refrigerated in their holds. But it looked as if they would be sitting there til at least 2 in the afternoon today. Seems like a costly mistake because of extra fuel consumption.

We walked a couple of blocks to visit the old Russian Orthodox church. I wanted to see the original icons inside the church, which was built in 1840. Along the way, we happened upon Veronica’s Coffee Shop & Café, in a very old frame building of logs with dove-tailed joints, surrounded by absolutely gorgeous gardens. The globes of purple flowers topping the bunches of chives were huge; the brightly flowered stems of pink and yellow snapdragons planted in old barrels were about 16 inches tall! Soebody here really knows gardening! We ordered coffee and a goodie, and went to sit outdoors at a picnic table for our little snack.

Don’s 3-berry cobbler, freshly made this morning, was outstanding. I ordered something that looked somewhat croissant-like that turned out to be fluffy and incredible croissant bread pudding with dried cranberries in it that had puffed up like giant raisins…toped with drizzles of their homemade caramel sauce. OMG! Was this delicious or what? The place does quite a big lunch business, we could see.

Blessed Virgin Mary of the Assumption church proved to be quite fascinating, for me at least. Don could have cared less. It has been beautifully restored; the large icons (painted images) of Mathew, Mark, Luke and John are lovely paintings that have been cleaned and restored as well. There are at least a half-dozen other smaller icons of the Virgin Mary and events from the New testament. Father Thomas, the pastor, was there to tell visitors about his church. He is an extremely handsome man of 55, grey at the temples, who looks very Japanese. He is  Native Alaskan, of the Yu’pik tribe from the western part of Alaska, who attended Russian Orthodox seminary in Kodiak, Alaska. He is married and has 4 grown children, all of whom still live near Kenai and of whom he is very proud.

Father Thomas’s parish consists of only 12 people now, all of whom are older folks. The diocese he’s in has 99 parish churches in Alaska and northern Canada. Father Thomas has a wonderful, exuberant sense of humor and is so patient with all of us from The Lower 48, most of whom know absolutely nothing about the Russian Orthodox church or its role in the settling of Alaska, its doctrines, its priests or its traditions.

I know a lot about the Russian Church from my past reading and studies, its similarities and contrasts to the Roman Catholic Church, and having just read the excellent section of Michener’s Alaska about the Russian Orthodox Church in this vast country, I felt I could ask semi-intelligent questions at least. It was also fun reading some of the ornate Russian Syrillic documents in the church, several of which were protected in enclosed cases because they are hundreds of years old…Bible excerpts beautifully designed and painted by hand, probably by monks or priests, and done in hand-lettered script with old quill pens. Lots of red ink and gold leaf. Hanging above and in front of nearly all the icons in the church are highly ornamented gold censors used with lighted incense inside when in procession while blessing the church, the people, and during the Mass. Before leaving, I tossed $20 into the pot for the upkeep of the parish.

As we walked around the corner to go back to the Rollin Home, we met Father Michael Orlikovsky (very Russian, yes?!) being pushed by his young companion in a wheelchair. Father Michael, slim and ancient with white hair and a neatly trimmed white pointy beard, must be in his late 90s, has had strokes and can’t speak much. But his eyes twinkled when we greeted him warmly and remarked what a gorgeous day it is, prompting his companion to introduce him to us and tell us he was pastor of this church for many, many years. We thanked him for keeping the church up so beautifully, and restoring all the artwork. He shook his head as if to say, “It was my pleasure!” and we walked on.

The western coastal shoreline of the Kenai Peninsula has many towns with Russian names and picturesque Russian Orthodox churches perched high on hills overlooking Cook Inlet. One such town is Nikiski…we took the “less traveled path” along the river to “Old Nikiski”, down close to the shore. A few newer houses are visible, but the Old Nikiski is a picture-perfect jumble of flowing river, tall weeds, wildflowers, fallen-down buildings in weathered grays, junked rotted old fishing boats with blue and red paint peeling off, rusted old fishing gear along the road. And, amazingly, a parking lot with an RV park right down next to Cook Inlet at the end of the road that runs through Old Nikiski.

The highway runs very close to the Inlet most of the way south. There’s scattered population all the way down to Homer, nearly every residence with a travel trailer, rv or 5th wheel for camping parked in the yard. And almost every house has a boat parked in the yard, too…sometimes large, sometimes small, but always a boat for Inlet fishing.

Oddly, the quality of houses varies considerably. One house will be a small frame place about 30 years old with junk scattered around the yard and driveway. Next one will be a recently-sold parcel with a larger, fancier house on it…clearly the “new rich” of Alaska who stepped themselves up or who recently built a vacation home as a second home and who fly in for long holidays (my suspicion). Small space of treed area, then a double-wide mobile home that is poorly maintained, has probably been there 20 years or more, and maybe belongs to a subsistence hunter or fisherman or someone who moved to Alaska many years ago to get away from civilization. And now civilization is once more encroaching, isn’t it?

As we continued down the Sterling Highway towards Homer, I wanted to stop as a place called Timberline Creations that is written up in The Milepost. Michael Lettis and his wife make jewelry, carve antlers and tusks, and sell a zillion different kinds of artifacts out of a cute log cabin. They used to be located in Soldotna, but when the highway was widened it went right through the middle of their store, so they moved farther down the peninsula and have been there for 10 years now. Michael is a really great fella, grew up in Anchorage and has been in Alaska most of his life. Not a native, but close. Definitely a country guy – hunter, fisherman, boater.

Michael does his “harvesting” of caribou and moose antlers to carve every year when he goes hunting in the fall & winter, gathering up the racks that have been shed in the late fall by the animals as part of their seasonal renewal. He has stacks of huge antlers in the far corners of his store waiting to be cut and carved, or made into something.

I bought some pieces of woolly mammoth foot bones he had in a basket, that are between 12,000 and 40,000 years old ($20 each or 3 for $50). The Natives up here find them when ridges near rivers erode following winter thaws or rainstorms, causing the old preserved bones to fall out of the bluffs into the rivers and creeks; the Native Yup’iks and Dena’ina people who live here on the Kenai supply Michael with these things. (It’s all legal, by the way…I wouldn’t buy anything that’s illegal or that endangers any archeology or paleontology.)

I also found a fascinating big bone from an ancient steppe bison, an enormous beast about double or triple the size of today’s bison. Steppe bison are also a log-extinct species, and Michael think the bone is probably about 30,000 years old. Don’t know what I’ll do with these, but I like having them…like the jewelry I bought a while back that contains ancient walrus tusk pieces, it feels as if it ties me to our ancient past. Somehow a good reminder of where we came from, in case urbanization ever threatens to transform us into weak, shadowy images of what we once were, hearty souls who could survive in even the cruelest environments. Do you think we’ll ever need those skills again some day?

We passed the turnoff to The Russian Village of Nikolaevsk, which I want to visit, but I think we’ll go in there on our way back up the peninsula as we return north and head for Whittier on the 14th of July.

Michael carves a spectacular little caribou scene using teeny-tiny drills and knives into a slice of caribou antler that is 2-3 inches in diameter. The only ones he had in the case were marked NFS, though, and he said he is planning to do several more in the next few days if I would care to come back. His pendants typically are used as jewelry, but I can picture this lovely piece hanging in my kitchen window over the sink on a tiny chain or some copper wire, either in Silverthorne or in Greenwood Village…with sunshine coming through it. Each day it would remind me of this fabulous trip and the places we have loved… This is quite close to Homer, so I said I would most certainly be back! For $40, this is a great memento, and a wonderful piece of art.

In the course of our long conversation, I had mentioned to Michael that I was a watercolor artist and he told me of a very special place that I should definitely stop to see on our way south to Homer. A well-known Alaska artist named Norman Lowell homesteaded here in Alaska many, many years ago. He is now in his 80s and does beautiful paintings, Michael told us…the gallery is stupendous! Be sure to stop there! So we proceeded down the road, pulled in at Norman Lowell Road and met white-haired Mr. Lowell watering his spectacular gardens at 5:30 pm. The gallery and shop had just closed, but he was so gracious and said his staff had just left minutes ago. I said we’d come back the next day. Mr. Lowell started as a watercolor artist many years ago, and works in all mediums at different times. He said he “returned” to watercolors about 8 years ago for a period of time; he does mostly oils these days. I just can’t wait to see his work!

The drive into Homer is gorgeous, coming in on the high bluff. The first view of Homer down below on the shores of the Inlet and Kachemak Bay is breathtaking. Sterling Highway into town has turned into a bit of a “strip” however, loaded with inns, motels, souvenir shops and burger franchises. It’s discouraging that every town in America, whether up here or in The Lower 48, fails to retain its unique look – its character -- any more as burger franchises move in. I’m certainly NOT against commerce in all its forms, and I can understand every fast food place, bank and gas station wanting to be on “the strip” entering town, BUT….is there possibly a way to do the zoning and/or land-use regulations that would avoid the homogeneity that is so depressing? I guess not, really.

Nonetheless, as we drove out onto Homer Spit to our RV park, bordered on the southwest by Cook Inlet and on the northwest by Kachemak Bay, we could see that this is indeed unique! Lots of wind, quite cool and brisk as stiff breezes come off Cook Inlet, which is covered in whitecaps. The waves are probably 2-3 feet. We registered at Heritage RV Park about 1/3 of the way out the spit, positioned alongside to the north of what is famously known as “the fishing hole”, a little lake that forms every day at high tides and gets full of wonderful fish, then becomes landlocked as the tides recede and the fish can’t escape. We want to walk tomorrow to the hole and around it to inspect the fishing scene there.

Our spot #83 in the park, a pull-in on the shorefront, faces north towards Kachemak Bay and an enormous glacier…I think we’re looking at Grewingk Glacier straight ahead of us across Kachemak Bay. I can vaguely discern Glacier Spit down low to the water across the bay too. We can see two other big glaciers to the right of us across the bay – the Wosnesenski Glacier and the Doroshin Glacier. I think I can see Ismailof Island and the headland of Peterson Bay, which are the points of land behind which is well-known Halibut Cove. This RV park is worth every single penny of the high cost, $73 a night. We’re here for 5 nights. I’m in heaven!!

We drove toward the end of the Spit and parked easily in a free lot to walk around, find some halibut for dinner and finish the day off with a beer & wine at the Salty Dawg Saloon! Not very crowded right now, thank goodness. The tide is in, a few people are wandering around. Our park is only about 2/3 full. This is such a delight! Smells like ocean, feels like ocean air, looks like big water. Perfecto!

We had the famous cod fish & chips and halibut fish & chips at The Boardwalk café. Don’s cod fish & chips were substantially less expensive than my halibut. Both were good, but I have to say I’ve had better halibut! This was okay, very fresh, but battered a bit more than I prefer and a little bit dryer than I like…could have been more succulent and juicy considering the high price. Not worth the $18.95 they charge out here.

We spent dinner hour at an indoor table at The Boardwalk talking with a wonderful young man originally from Colorado who owns a private hunting & fishing lodge far north of here, west across the Cook Inlet and inland a ways north located at Lake Clark, adjacent to Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. Preston and his wife Stacie have been out here in Alaska for 13 years, and they’ve owned the lodge 10 years. They can handle up to 12 hunting and/or fishing guests who fly in and land on Lake Clark. Most of his guests stay for 2 weeks. Each year, Preston gets some of the very limited number of brown bear (grizzly) hunting permits that are granted in his area of Alaska. Preston flew down here from his lodge to pick up a newly-purchased 18-foot jetboat (shallow draft, no prop, fast) that was just trailered to Homer from Anchorage. He would cross the water with it to get it “home” to Lake Clark taking quite a complicated route, taking several days to get there, hoping the weather would remain clear and stable for his run. He was eating dinner, sitting with a sailor’s charting compass and an atlas, figuring out his course while waiting for the day’s winds straight out of the north to die down, followed by the settling down of the waves so he could start out for the north. We asked if we could join him at his table and he graciously said we could.

I forget how many miles Preston said his trip would be. In good weather and light winds (with correspondingly few waves) he could make the trip across Cook Inlet in about 3+ hours; if winds picked up unexpectedly and waves rose, the trip could take as long as 8 brutal hours. His trip would require heading straight west across Cook Inlet past Augustine Island to land at the foot of a bay where there’s a short stretch of road leading to Illiamna Lake, a large freshwater lake located between the Aleutian Range and the Taylor Mountains. The boat will require trailoring once again overland between Cook Inlet and Illiamna Lake, on the short stretch of road that the map shows is available there. Then Preston would take his new boat on water again across Illiamna and to the north again (on a map it looks like this might be another 20 miles or so), where there’s a long river he can take (maybe 10 miles?) that gets him up to Lake Clark. Lake Clark is a very long, narrow lake that looks to be more than 75 miles long, maybe 5 to 10 miles wide. His lodge is at the northwest end of Lake Clark, so his journey is far from finished once he reaches Lake Clark.

I can’t wait to tell my old friend Dave about Preston’s place…I know Dave would just love going there to hunt bears and caribou.

Following dinner we strolled toward the small boat harbor and watched people, fishing boats unloading their day’s catch, and the general activities of the Homer Spit. We went into the famous, grungy old Salty Dawg Saloon to have our beer & wine for the day’s finale. It’s a rough log cabin, grey with age and sea mist, with very low-slung doorways where guys bang their heads about every 5 minutes. Inside there are long heavy wooden tables carved with about 55 years’ worth of names and places, long log benches on either side for family-style groups. A big bar with old stools. And dollar bills pinned, mailed, and tacked to every rafter, stud and wall, some very old and yellowed, all with markered messages and names on them. Must be at least 5,000 bills papering every inch of the place.

Good people-watching in there too. It’s a hangout for locals…a bunch of 5 fishermen laughing up a storm with at least 25 empty beer bottles crowding their table. More locals wandering in as the evening progressed.

Happy and mellow, we headed for home. Next door, I was happy to see, is the Salty Girls gift shop, bookstore, etc. That’s me Salty Susie! Home and to bed we go. Nice day! Lots of walking and activity! We’re exhausted.
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

SaltyAdventurer

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Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #87 on: July 11, 2013, 02:42:53 AM »
Wednesday July 10, 2013      Day 43

Very late to rise today. Went back to bed for several hours after getting up to pee. It’s just one of those days (nights?!) that I need a ton of catch-up sleep. As I get older, I need one of these 10-hour jobs about every 2 weeks, it seems. I feel so rested, not groggy at all. Ready to tackle the world! Another beautiful day here, sunny but with cloud cover that makes the air feel silvery and sparkly rather than clear and bright.

When I opened the door I thought it would be warm. Oh no! Quite cold, though little wind. Fixed oatmeal, made our tea, cut some fresh apricots. And set to work finishing my daily diary from yesterday. Each time I thought I was nearing the end, I thought of one more thing, or more details to add to earlier anecdotes. In the meantime, Don was out walking and talking with all the neighbors, getting all the dope about where they’re from, how long they’re staying here, where all they’ve been in Alaska. I have all the doors and windows open, but the wind it making it pretty chilly in here. I think I’ll start closing up a bit.

Kept writing. This is surely going to be 10,000 words by the time I’m done. I’ll bore everybody to death. Oh well, I’m writing it because I love doing it…it’s for myself, I guess. I probably won’t bore myself to death.

My seat was turned toward the Kachemak Bay beach while I was writing. The tide was out so the beach extended far in front of me as mud flats. Gulls were everywhere, swooping and swerving in the sky. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a larger darker bird settle onto the beach directly in front of me at water’s edge. Grabbing the binoculars, I checked it out…yes! A golden eagle! Caught a fish and was pulling it to pieces. The gulls started getting aggressive…jockeying for position if/when the eagle took off and left the carcass for someone else to pick clean. We’ve read that eagles are lazy and quite often eat only the head of a fish and a few other fatty parts, leaving the fish almost whole for other birds to come in a finish off. This eagle stayed about 5 minutes and then took off…I got pictures of the feasting eagle and the flying eagle. Fun. Nature at its best.

Don came back at 3 pm. I heated up 4 of those gorgeous smoked ribs we got from Black Jaxx for lunch, put heated BBQ sauce on them, made some good slaw using the last of my shredded cabbage, put out the carton of cottage cheese to finish off. What a delicious feast. Each rib is full of meat. Tender and so juicy. As good as salmon or halibut any day! Might have to stop at Black Jaxx and get more of those as we go back through Soldotna next Sunday or Monday. But I have to remember not to have anything left in the freezer or refrigerator, because the Rollin Home will be without power for more than 24 hours on the ferry out of Whittier, and I want to be able turn the frig off and defrost the freezer while we are on the water.

Now we are both on our computers. At 4:30 we decided to bundle up and go out walking, north along the beach to the end of the RV park, then back this way and to the Fishing Hole to see if anyone’s catching fish today while the tide is in. Then to the small boat harbor to watch the fishing boats come in and talk to the fishermen while they clean their catch.

The tide lines along the beachfront are loaded with stones. Some kelp and seaweed but not much. I would think there would be interesting “stuff” to gather, but not so. Just a LOT of round black rocks. Can’t find any sea glass pieces at all. Lots of open and broken mussel shells today. Some bigger clam shells too. A few crabs, shells picked clean by gulls. And rarely, a perfect small 50-cent-sized cockle shell…I found 8 of them. And saved them, naturally.

Don, of course, thinks I’m totally crazy for even picking up anything from the “dirty” beach, much less shells of any kind since I’m allergic as heck to shellfish. He refused to be convinced by my arguments that these shells have been open and dead for a long long time, and have been washed by ocean water for weeks or months or even years before coming to rest on this beach. I’m sure they won’t trigger any allergic reaction, but he’s fearful to say the least. “My gosh, Don, I’m not going to put the thing in my mouth and suck on it, for heaven’s sake!” I declare. “I just don’t want to have to spend a whole night in a hospital with you again when you have an anaphylactic reaction,” he hollers.

At the Fishing Hole a bit farther south on the Spit, we spot 2 small harbor seals swimming happily around and “raiding” the fish, as an old-timer tells us. Those seals are having a feast! Naturally, the fishermen aren’t catching anything.

We walked past the Pier One Theater on our way to the small boat harbor. There’s a performance tonight, but it’s a musical performer, Johnny B on the piano, doing songs and stories and music in a revue called Rhythm of the North. Sounds pretty interesting. We met the founder and artistic director of the theater who started this up 41 years ago, Lance Peterson. He’s a former humanities professor at the Univ. of Alaska at Fairbanks. His performance venue has had a lasting impact on the life of Homer Spit. We decided right away to come back and buy tickets for the 7:30 show.

A few fishermen are hauling their fishing boats out of the water onto trailers after a day on the Inlet halibut fishing. A couple of the guys tell us the fishing today was pretty poor. They are both professional fishing guides, out fishing on their day off. They caught only 3 small halibut, and kept the largest of those, only about 15 lbs in size, letting the other 2 go. It got quite rough with both rollers and chop on the Inlet about 15 miles out where they were fishing, they said.

The municipal RV park (very cheap, no water or electric, just dry-camping) was on our way to the theater, and we shared comments with the folks staying in a travel trailer along the road we were strolling. Somehow I happened to mention Michigan in one of my smart-ass remarks as we threw one-liners back and forth…and the young woman says “Michigan? Are you from Michigan?” I say, Yeah I grew up there. She asks, Where? I say, in the country outside Grand Rapids. She says, Oh my gosh that’s where my Mom is from, and calls inside the trailer for her Mom to come out right away. Where in Grand Rapids exactly did you live? She asks. On the West side, in what was then Walker Township, I answer. Her Mom comes out and tells me that’s exactly where she is from…West side of GR, lived over close to Leonard Street, part of the big Polish Catholic population in GR, member of St. Adalbert’s parish where she attended elementary school, graduated from West Catholic high school. She’s quite a lot younger than I am, but I would put $50 on the fact that if we talked 10 minutes longer, we’d figure out that we know a bunch of the same people or are related somehow.

Another of these incredible small-world experiences! I love it when this happens! Norma’s daughter and son-in-law are both in the Army and are stationed in Alaska, which is how they happen to be here right now. As we left them to attend the show, she and I gave each other a big hug, as if we’d been friends forever.

Johnny B’s musical show was very fun…funny, clever, nicely put together and entertaining. He may not be the world’s finest musical composer but he’s a damn fine performer and can really play the piano! Johnny B, 60, has played the piano since he was a kid, and was a street performer in The Lower 48 for many years (darn hard way to make a living…he’s an ex-Hippie type, for sure). A native California, he’s been up here in “the country” since 1981. He has a grown son and some darling grandkids, who we saw in pictures he showed us s part of his computerized slide shows. Johnny B reminded me of John Denver, a kid in adult clothing and with some gray hair who never really grew up.

At 9:30 when we left the theater, the sun was still shining brightly. The sky was the clearest it had been all day. We stopped at the fish-cleaning table by the small boat harbor to watch 3 guys filleting their halibut catches. Turns out 2 of the guys are here from the Madison, Wisconsin area to go fishing this week; 3rd guy is a relative who lives in Anchorage, who was their “guide” and took them out in his boat for the day. They caught 6 small but nice halibut (15-30 lbs each), and about a dozen decent-sized “reds” (salmon). Only 1 of the halibut was even large enough to have “cheeks” worth cutting out. I was interested to see what halibut chees looked like. They ended up with large bags containing probably 15-20 lbs of really nice halibut fillets. Nice day’s work.
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

Dean & Linda Stock

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  • Posts: 1195
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #88 on: July 11, 2013, 03:16:22 PM »
Susan, if you are in Homer on Saturday, go to the Farmers Market.  They sell the halibut cheeks for $15/pound, and I bet there in Homer if you go to Coal Point Fish Market, across the street from Captain Patties Restaurant, you could see them there in his fish case.

I'm glad you're enjoying Homer and Black Jaxx ribs.

Happy trails!
Dean and Linda Stock
and Sherlock (the cat)
Cypress, CA
2006 Airstream Motor Home
2006 Jeep Liberty (Towed)

SaltyAdventurer

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  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #89 on: July 12, 2013, 05:24:46 PM »
Thursday July 11, 2013      Day 44

Rose early today, well rested and bushy-tailed. Good day to do the laundry…they have really great washers and dryers here, and don’t charge a fortune for them! The laundry room will be empty this morning. Then we’ll have clean sheets, clean clothes and clean us for coming days and weeks.

Beautiful day, the clearest yet of any we’ve been on this trip. No wind at all. People are down wandering the beach looking for heaven’s knows what, same as I do, walking with their heads down, picking up a stone or a seaweed scrap or a precious shell of some kind every now and then. Usually tossing it back on the ground and moving on. Sometimes bagging it or putting it in the “precious stuff” pocket of a jacket.

I head for the showers, taking the laundry soap along. Don will bring the sheets from the bed and the big heavy bag of laundry. One reason this RV park is so nice…and costs a pretty penny…is they have an attendant at the door of the laundry room and showers/bathrooms who makes sure outsiders don’t use their facilities, and who goes in every shower room and mops up the floor and cleans the shower stall after each person finishes. Such a nice service!

In so many RV parks, even the ones with clean, nice bathrooms and showers, you go into a shower room and get your clothes sopping wet getting undressed when the floor is full of water from the shower’s previous user, because the curtain wasn’t pulled all the way across or because they stepped out of the shower and dripped all over, then didn’t wipe up. Yuck! Very few people ever wipe up after themselves when they’re done with the shower. I actually carry a spare microfiber towel with me to put on the floor of the shower room…to keep my clothes dry and to step out onto when I’ve taken my shower.

Don and I learned early on in our RVing lives that we don’t like using the microfiber towels one bit for drying our bodies after we’ve showered…they seem to just move the water around rather than drying anything. So we carry regular terry bath sheets to use for ourselves. But I take all the microfiber towels along for other uses…floor mats, dishtowels, etc. They’re so lightweight, dry quickly, and take up very little space in the Rollin Home, or in the washer for that matter. Good for almost anything other than bathing.

This is a great day to sit outdoors in the sun and look at gorgeous glaciers in the distance, reading issues of Alaska magazine, while waiting for the washer to finish and the dryer to be done. I’m getting quite tan. Crows are cawing, gulls are squawking, it’s a perfectly splendid day.

The laundry/bathroom attendant, I found out, is teaching herself to draw and paint. We discussed art and watercolor painting and learning to draw for a quite a while, showing each other our paintings on Facebook. Frankie, blond and emergetic, was born and raised here in Homer, the granddaughter of a couple who emigrated from Switzerland to Homer in 1950. She looks very young, but has grown children who are married, and she gleefully shows me pictures of her adorable toe-headed grandchildren who have huge blue eyes. “Well, I started young,” she tells me.

She asks if we’ve been to see the Norman Lowell Gallery up the road a ways, and I say that we stopped there after it had just closed the other day and are planning to visit it today. She tells me a lot about Mr. Lowell, and says her father-in-law, an artist, actually taught Mr. Lowell how to use acrylic paints many years ago. Her father-in-law is now 93, still vigorous, but doesn’t paint or draw at all anymore. She has begged him many times to teach her things and show her how to use acrylic, but he just won’t go there. She doesn’t know why. She says we really DO have to go see the Lowell Gallery up the road, that it is amazing, as are Mr. Lowell’s paintings of Alaska.

By noon, we’re all done with laundry, we have some lunch, and head out to the store for more paper plates and to visit Norman Lowell’s gallery on Sterling Highway. Highway repairs are creating long long long lines of waiting traffic on the 2-lane road. Yuck. We hook a NY-u-ee and go back to Safeway to do our shopping. Maybe things will start moving by the time I’ve gotten paper plates. I also couldn’t resist our first yellow-and-red Rainier cherries of the year.

When we’re done at Safeway, traffic is indeed moving somewhat better so we decide to risk heading north to the gallery. We notice at the other end of the backup, the north end, that the line of cars and RVs is miles long, stopped dead, waiting for the pilot car to lead them through the one-lane section. This may have been a bad idea, after all. Oh, well, we’re committed now.

Norman Lowell’s gallery isn’t advertised anywhere. There’s simply a signpost along the road. It’s free; anyone can come in and look. And buy, if they want – and have a lot of money to spend! Mr. Lowell is 85 now, and is totally self-taught, according to a couple of newspaper and magazine articles I read while at his gallery. He and his wife Libby homesteaded here in 1958 after coming here from the Lower 48, living in a tiny log cabin after buying 140 acres of land. He has been a diligent painter of Alaskan landscapes and has clearly made a great deal of money doing so. He built a larger house and separate studio in the 1970s, then finally a really beautiful house in the 1990s, followed by “the gallery” on which he spent $400,000, to display his paintings, many of which are in the Albert Bierstadt tradition. A good many paintings are very large, wall-sized canvases that are maybe 14-feet square or larger, painted in oils or acrylics depicting nearby mountains, the Cook Inlet, winter scenes, Mt. Redoubt erupting in the early 90s, etc. A few paintings have people in them, usually children, but most are simply depictions of Alaskan nature at its most gorgeous. Quite a few of his works include images of his early homestead cabin.

I would characterize Norman Lowell’s style as that of 19th century American Romanticism. Many people came here over the years, saw and liked what they saw -- and bought from Mr. Lowell. Prices on his paintings run from $3,000 to $45,000; prints of many of his most-popular works are available for $350 up to $750, unframed. The huge gallery building, measuring 40’ x 100’ and then with an L that is another 30’ x 40’, contains about 6 large rooms filled with Normal Lowell originals of all sizes. Probably 5,200 sq ft in all, absolutely chock-full of paintings and drawings. Behind a railing I noticed a half-dozen additional paintings leaning against the railing because there was no space to put them on the walls. This is a remarkable body of work! And these are the ones he hasn’t sold…  Very fine quality work, too, and taken as a whole, this is about as good an exhibit as you’ll see in any major art museum of the world.

At one point I notice a small hand-lettered sign that said a limited selection of Mr. Lowell’s original paintings are now for sale this summer that have never been available before. I asked the attendant if we could see the paintings that are for sale right now at “special prices.” She led us into a small back room called the “sales room”…lining 3 walls were about 40 smaller paintings, all in very beautiful frames, ranging in size from 3”x 5” up to about 10”x 12”. Near the door was a very nice little 6”x 8” mountain landscape done in oil, framed in an ornate gilt wood frame, for $6,000 (that’s a $1,400 discount from the original price, the pricetag says). I’m not sure why Mr. Lowell is selling these pieces during this summer period…maybe he needs to raise money for medical care, or just wants to get rid of some things before he dies, or doesn’t have room to display everything he’s done.

In the L that runs off the far end of the gallery is a room where prints of Mr. Lowell’s work are sold (by the thousands, I can only guess, judging from the huge inventories of prints). We learned there that Mr. Lowell has lost most of his eyesight in recent years and is legally blind. In order to be able to continue his beloved painting every day, he rigged up a system of 24 LED color-corrected spotlights that enable him to see images and continue painting. One entire wall of this L room, the print gallery, is filled with his most recent paintings. They look very different from his classical works -- brighter colors, less subtle composition and content, some a bit neon-y in tone and quality. If I had an opportunity, I would suggest to Mr. Lowell that he depart from trying to paint in his typical impressionistic/romantic style and go to a completely abstract style, given his loss of eyesight. I would be willing to bet that the results would be stupendous! After so many years of painting realism, his abstracts would be gorgeous because he can see the images in his head, and just paint what is in his head, using no references at all.

What makes Normal Lowell’s gallery all the more remarkable is the enormous collection he and his wife Libby have amassed of Native Alaskan artifacts and carvings, also on public display in the gallery, on tables, in cases, on pedestals, on the floors, everywhere. Gorgeous, intricate carvings the likes of which were only available in “the old days” up here in Alaska…for example, there is a carving of walrus tusk depicting an Inupiak trimmed in furs driving a dog sled with 7 dogs pulling it…showing incredible detail…this is about a foot or 16 inches in length overall, and is perched on a long polished walrus tusk for display. These kinds of large, detailed carvings are rare and are almost never created any more. Few Native carvers have the skill these days to do such work, and most want to do small carvings that sell for $30 to $300, so they can make a lot of money; few artisans anywhere have the patience nowadays for the kind of complicated, time-consuming works that were more commonplace a hundred years ago.

The Norman & Libby Lowell Collection of Alaskan Art & Artifacts is, by itself, enough reason to visit the gallery numerous times. This is Smithsonian-quality work Alaskan art , as well as wonderful ancient artifacts – knives, spears, tools, bones, ivory, clothing, you name it, the Lowells have collected it.

The traffic problems had corrected themselves by the time we returned to town, thank goodness. We zipped through the repair section, now open for 2 lanes instead of just one, and we went looking for the Two Sisters Bakery in Old Town Homer, near Bishop’s Beach. A quaint little section of Homer. We wandered through a little Arts Center linked to Maura’s Café. Nice places. Down the street farther is Two Sisters, which we’d read and heard was a good place.

Two Sisters Bakery is quite terrific. Clearly this is a VERY successful business! Housed in a big old cabin, this coffee shop, lunch café, and bakery has a comfortable front porch with a couch and a couple of tables and chairs, as well as a few tables and chairs inside. Approaching the front steps, we passed a big picnic table and walked across a large pea-gravel play-yard scattered with toys, hula hoops and large, rusted yellow models of earth-moving equipment…aha! Caterpillar trucks, loaders, graders, you name it. And 3 or 4 darling little kids playing with all of this stuff, their moms sitting on the steps or in chairs chatting with each other and sipping their coffees.

Even at 4 in the afternoon, the place was fairly buzzing. Two Sisters has a big display case of fresh baked breads. I immediately decided I’d get an oval-shaped loaf of the sunflower-oat bread, which felt delightfully heavy and dense, just the way I like it. We both ordered decaf espresso drinks, and Don got a chocolate-chip brownie to go with his coffee, while I got a lemon bar. Both were delicious! We decided we have to return to Two Sisters tomorrow for our afternoon coffee and goodie!

We had a couple of good conversations while at Two Sisters. I asked a gentleman sitting on the couch near us having coffee if he was a local, and he said he is. He moved here from California 20 years ago, he said. I asked if he’d ever been to the so-called Old-Time Burlesque show that’s performed at Champagne Alice’s, and if is worth going to. I’d seen a sign advertising the show somewhere, and thought we might try to attend it tomorrow night (Friday). He said it’s very good, very funny and always good entertainment. He goes to it every year. Don is ambivalent about seeing the show; I think it would be fun. We’ll see.

Our other conversation, a much longer one, was with a young woman named Carolyn whose little boy, 2 ½, was one of the cute kids playing with the Caterpillar truck toys, and pouring loads of pea-gravel into a model-house with a hinged roof on it, using a big scoop. Carolyn is also a native of Homer, born and raised here. She works 3 days a week for a non-profit based here, run by the gentleman we’d just been speaking to. This is her day off. We talked for a long time about the joys and the difficulties of living in a really small town life Homer, where everybody knows everyone else’s business…the good, the bad, the ugly. She was such fun. She’d like to live in a larger city sometime, she said, just to try it out, but her partner, the father of her little boy, is “absolutely determined to stay here for his lifetime, for the hunting and the fishing. He wants no part of city living, ever,” she said. “So for at least the foreseeable future, I’m destined to be here in Homer,” she laughed.

Dinner was late today. At 9, I made fried baloney sandwiches out of the smoked bologna (baloney!) I bought from Black Jaxx in Soldotna -- with ketchup on them, of course! Mind-blowing memories of youth! Yum! Then Don went for another long walk while I read Michener…I’m very close to the end. It’s still really great reading. I want to finish it and move on.

At 10 pm the sun is still shining brightly. It’s very hard to go to bed when the sun is still up…once I’m IN bed with my mask on, I know it’s night and I know I am tired and supposed to sleep, but the temptation is just to keep going practically around the clock up here when the days are so long.
« Last Edit: July 12, 2013, 05:26:52 PM by SaltyAdventurer »
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

 

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