August 18: It rained all day here in Girdwood, at the base of Mount Alyeska, but the top of the mountain got its first snow of the season. It looks beautiful. Winter is coming!
Sea otters are plentiful in Seldovia. In fact, we were greeted by an amorous couple on arrival in the boat basin. So when looking for a name for the one hiking trail in the area (I still want to say, “on the island”), I suppose that it was inevitable that someone would come up with the name Otterbahn. We hiked it to Outside Beach and back into town.
We spent two nights in Seldovia. What a cute little village! Love their old Boardwalk area–the original Russian fishing village. The big earthquake in 1964 (9.2 on the Richter scale!) took down most of it, but there’s still enough left to give the village its quaintness.
Beautiful weather on our 45-minute ferry ride to the old Russian fishing village of Seldovia, across Kachemak Bay from Homer. While technically not an island, Seldovia has no roads leading to it from the rest of the Kenai Peninsula. The only way to get there is by boat or plane. Population: approximately 300. Should be quiet, peaceful, and relaxing!
We were the only people sitting out on the patio of Homer Brewing Company enjoying the uncharacteristically sunny day and a locally crafted brew. A man in a van held together more by rust than sheet metal pulled in to the parking lot, grabbed a growler of beer and a stainless-steel cup from the passenger seat, and walked to a nearby picnic table. His greasy wool fedora was pulled down over long, thinning grey hair, and the seat of his jeans sagged as if they fit much better 20 pounds ago. Although he grudgingly responded to Marcus’s greeting as he approached, he sat with his back to us, so we didn’t engage in further conversation.
About 20 minutes later, a spectacled man in pressed jeans, a tweed jacket, and a sporty wool cap, looking very much like a community college professor, approached him and shook his hand. “Did you bring the stuff?” The scruffier dude nodded his head and went to his van. He returned with two cases held together by duct tape. The Professor opened one and peered inside. A smile crossed his face. He reached in and gingerly pulled out a guitar. The Dude, making note of the Professor’s delight, pulled a mandolin out of the second case. The hand-cut leather strap was so worn multiple holes had been cut as previous ones had given way. “That one has seen some living,” the Professor commented. “I bought it new in the ’60s,” said the Dude, his hand stroking the neck. “I had to take out a loan to buy it.” They started tuning.
As if choreographed, vans, pickup trucks, and the occasional car started pulling into the parking lot. Out came tote bags full of tablecloths, jars of homemade pickles, boxes of crackers, and neatly sliced wedges of cheese. People bought beer from the brewery and trays of fresh Kachemak Bay oysters from a little shack at the far end of the patio. More musicians arrived: guitars, a bass fiddle, banjo, harmonica, and a microphone and amp. By now the Professor and the Dude were strumming away and singing in harmony. “Do you know San Antonio Rose?” asked the Dude. In reply, the Professor strummed a few chords. The Dude joined in, and the rest followed suit.
Just another Thursday afternoon in Homer!
Our Airbnb host in Homer offered us some sockeye salmon he caught a few weeks ago. It was frozen immediately after the catch, and was the best salmon I’ve ever eaten. Marcus grilled it outside and made a delicious meal in the little kitchen of our adorable apartment.
Note to self: Always travel with your own chef. Thank you, Marcus! <3
Tom Bodett (you may recall his voice in the Motel 6 ads: “We’ll leave the light on for you.”) has always been a favorite storyteller of ours. We used to listen to his books on tape in the car when the kids were little. He started by writing essays about life in Homer, The End of the Road, back in the ’80s as a way to add some interest to his radio program on KBBI in Homer. They became so popular locally that they were picked up by National Public Radio’s All Things Considered. Then a Boston publisher offered him a book deal, and his essays expanded into fictional accounts of the residents of a town called The End of the Road, Alaska. You can still hear Tom on the NPR program Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me. The sound of his voice is always a comfort. It takes me back to those wonderful characters he wrote about–everyday people dealing with everyday problems in a not-so-everyday part of the world. They were so wholesome, genuine, and decent you wanted to pack your bags and move to The End of the Road.
Well, here we are at The End of the Road. When driving south from Anchorage to the beautiful Kenai Peninsula, you can drive (relatively) directly to Seward on Alaska’s southern coast. And if your wandering spirit pulls you farther west (and a bit farther south), you can take the Sterling Highway off of the Seward Highway through the heart of the Kenai to Homer, on the southwestern tip of the peninsula. But you’re still not at The End of the Road until you drive out the Spit, a string of a road off of the Sterling Highway that extends 4.5 miles out into Kachemak Bay. And then, when you reach the end of the Spit and you are virtually surrounded by water on all sides, you are finally at The End of the Road. As Tom Bodett says, “…this would be as far away as you could get without a good boat and a passport.”
Our Airbnb host in Homer recommended we stop for a hike up to the Russian River Falls near Cooper Landing on our drive from Seward to Homer. Great idea! It would give us a chance to stretch our legs in the middle of our 3.5-hour drive. Cooper Landing is known for the great fishing nearby, but we didn’t anticipate a river full of sockeye salmon. The males were all decked out in their sexy red suits for spawning season. How can those females resist? ;o)
This adorable little (157-pound) walrus lives at Seward’s SeaLife Center. He was rescued in Nome when he was only two weeks old, sick and half-starved, wandering around town rummaging through trash cans–not for food but for shelter. Apparently his mom is gone, so he was transported to the SeaLife Center where he will be taken care of for the rest of his life. Unfortunately he will never be able to be released into the wild; he was abandoned at too young an age.
Although the Center hasn’t named him (his official name is OR1701), people are starting to call him Nugget. We think that’s very appropriate, as he hails from Nome–site of one of the major gold discoveries in Alaska. And he looks like a little golden nugget.
Until he is two years old, Nugget will have round-the-clock, dedicated “huggers” working in four-hour shifts. He’s on walrus formula, 1.4 liters every three hours. He misses the warm jacuzzis he had when he first arrived at the Center, and now his caretakers have to coax him into his 57-degree “bay.” So sad to consider that Nugget will grow up without a natural mother, but the SeaLife Center is giving him a life as close to nature as is humanly possible. And he’s alive.
Thank you, Seward SeaLife Center, for all your hard work on Nugget’s behalf.
After approaching the national park from the east by land yesterday (Exit Glacier), we took the much touted boat tour to explore the southern glacier-cut fjords. When you see photos of humpback whales breaching in Alaska, they are often taken around Kenai Fjords. Well, we weren’t lucky enough to see them breaching, but we did see several backs of whales and a few flukes–and other wildlife as well.
We spent 7.5 hours traveling 130 miles along the coast, visiting two tidewater glaciers. Most exciting was Aialik (I-al-ik). Check out the two videos. In the first you can hear the melting glacier creaking and popping (sounded like gun shots) as it melts.
In the second, you can see a small part of the glacier calving (icebergs breaking off of the glacier).