Back in Anchorage

riding the Coastal Trail on a bicycle built for two

We’re back in Anchorage after our three-week explore of the Kenai Peninsula. It was tempting to take a day off our first, full day here–we had a busy week in Girdwood–but I checked the weather forecast, and our first day was going to be the best weather-day of the week. So we hit the trail, the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, a brilliant 11-mile trail along the Knik Arm of the Cook Inlet. We chose to bike it, rather than hoof it, and opted for a tandem bike. It worked very well. I rode in the back, which meant I didn’t have to steer or shift gears while I navigated us through all the twists, turns, tunnels and train tracks on the trail. But I still provided power, especially on the hills. (Those spinning classes really paid off!) We covered a total of 20 miles–the trail and then some–and an elevation gain of 420 feet. Not bad for a day’s ride!

the Alaska Range across the Knik Arm

 

“I’ll be right with you. Just have to find my glasses.”

 

He looks like he’s made out of beads.

 

Finally! A moose in the wild, in Kincaid Park.

 

Lunch at the Lakefront Hotel, adjacent to the world’s busiest seaplane base, Lake Hood.

 

busy airport whether taking off from land or sea

 

Bikes and cars share the road with aircraft.

A conservation success story

wood bison at Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center

The global population of wood bison, a bigger cousin of the plains bison we know in the Lower 48 and the largest land mammal in North America, was wiped out in the 19th century–or so naturalists thought until they discovered a small herd in Canada’s Yukon Territory in 1957. In 2003 conservationists were able to isolate 13 disease-free bison from the herd and ship them to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center (AWCC), which we visited today, with the intent of bringing  the animal back to one of its native habitats. In 2005 wood bison calves were born at the Center, the first in Alaska in over 100 years, and by 2015 a herd of 130 was released from the Center into its indigenous grazing ground in the Yukon River area, some 300 miles west of Anchorage. That spring 15 calves were born in the Alaskan wild. The herd will continue to be monitored, but so far they are thriving.

muskox

Muskoxen, another species hunted to extinction in Alaska, were also restored to the their natural habitats in northern Alaska. Thirty-four muskoxen were shipped to Fairbanks from Greenland in 1930, and later released into the wild. Today there are over 5000 wild muskoxen in Alaska, thanks to conservation efforts.

Besides supporting the repopulation of native Alaskan species, the AWCC serves as an orphanage and hospital to animals that are abandoned or injured and cannot be released back into the wild. What a remarkable organization!

Adonis, an eagle whose left wing had to be amputated after a gunshot wound

 

Kobuk, a bear cub rescued last year after losing his mother. He’s eating a popsicle: fireweed (wildflower), dog food, and blood. Yum!

 

Reindeer are not indigenous to Alaska. They were brought over from Siberia in the 19th century to provide Inuits with a winter source of food.

 

wolf on the roof of his shelter

 

Finally got to see a moose, although not quite in the wild. Isn’t he handsome?

Cape Perpetua

 

I didn’t know exactly what Cape Perpetua had to offer, but I was drawn by the name and the fact that it is a designated “scenic area.” In Oregon they take their scenics seriously. They have a lot to choose from. Only the best are granted the title.

No one seems to be willing to officially declare how the Cape got its name, but they will tell you that Captain James Cook was the first to reference it by that name in his ship’s log on March 7, 1778, St. Perpetua’s Day. That sounds pretty conclusive to me.

The Cape offered much more than I expected. The headland itself, the highest point on the Oregon coast at 803 feet above sea level, offers unique views of the coast afforded only by altitude. Wow!

And then we ambled across the highway to take a look at something called Devils Churn, a US Forest Service property that hadn’t even registered as a blip on my scenery radar. Wow, again! This skinny little inlet that the ocean eroded into the coastal basalt wreaks havoc with the waves. I could watch them all day, entering the inlet and colliding with previous waves that are retreating after slamming against the back wall of the inlet. When the tide is high, or the frequency and period of the waves are such that they collide with excessive force, water can project well into the air. All along this stretch of coast signs warn of “sneaker waves.” Steps allow you access to the water’s edge, but proceed at your own risk!

Here’s a video that Marcus made of Devils Churn. It’s low tide, but you get the idea.

https://youtu.be/zxR5jAnhBM4

There’s a nifty little coastal hike through the windswept Siuslaw Forest to Thor’s Well and Spouting Horn. Both are rocks undermined by the ocean to create little caverns. Eventually the ceiling of the cavern erodes so thin it caves in, which is how Devils Churn began. Spouting Horn is off of an inlet, rather than directly on the ocean, so it takes a pretty big wave at high tide to blow a spout through its hole. It was almost low tide when we were there, so we didn’t see any spouts, but we did hear a phenomenal thunderclap, like a huge bass drum, as the surf filled the cavern each time.

Thor’s Well (the name alone is intriguing) sits right on the edge of the ocean and has a wider aperture in the ceiling of its cavern, around 15 feet in diameter. You can walk out onto the rock and peer into it, if you dare. When a large wave comes in, it fills the well from below and flows up over the rim. The water pools on the rock around the well, and then drains back into the hole so rapidly when the surf retreats that it creates the effect of being sucked down into a very deep shaft. Magnificent!

Lots of sunshine and fascinating wildlife here today. Outstanding hike!

Yaquina Head Light

Yaquina Head Light

Yaquina Head Light

Pretty little Yaquina Head lighthouse at the mouth of the Yaquina River in Newport. Not to be confused with Yaquina Bay Light on the other side of Yaquina Bay. Lots of lights in this neck of the woods. Lots of rocks.

perspective

perspective

 

Newport across the bay

Newport across the bay

 

bird haven

bird haven

 

Fred and Fred

Fred and Fred

 

Dog of the week

Ru

Ru

Meet Ru, the biggest German shepherd (mix) I’ve ever seen. He hangs out with his owner at the Rogue Ales Public House in Newport, Oregon, sometimes.

Marcus loves to photograph dogs when we are on vacation. I thought he was going to get down on the floor and play with Ru for a minute. I think he would have if there had been room.

Cape Heceta Light

Cape Heceta Light

Cape Heceta Light

It was a long day with an itinerary covering 190 miles of spectacular Oregon coastline. We managed to check out of our apartment in Gold Beach by 9:00, which for us is amazing. But then we got hung up by the stunning wildlife at Port Orford, the friendly volunteers at Cape Blanco, the intriguing walking paths at Coquille Point, the delicious Sea Star Bistro and the worthwhile Washed Ashore gallery in Old Town Bandon, and then the unbelievable dunes between Reedsport and Florence. Then the rain set in, and it was growing dark. We don’t like checking in to a new rental in the rain and the dark. All that unseen mud! We’d just have to chuck the rest of the itinerary and make a run for Newport.

I always plan more stops than we have time for, and my motto is “No regrets.” We do what we can. This is supposed to be slow travel, relaxed travel. Ix-nay on the ess-stray. As we headed to Newport, I was trying not to regret missing Cape Heceta lighthouse, reportedly one of the prettiest on the Oregon coast.

I looked up to see a sign for the Sea Lion Cave. As much as I like sea lions, I didn’t regret missing what sounded like a cheesy tourist spectacle—an elevator ride down the face of a cliff to gaze into a cavern full of Steller sea lions. I wonder what they make of that. Oh, look! Here comes another cage of tourists!

We drove on. And there it was—the coziest little lighthouse you could ever imagine nestled into the side of a rocky point, its beacon sweeping through the misty rain and out to sea. Cape Heceta! I didn’t realize it’s visible from the Oregon Coast Highway. We pulled off the road onto a conveniently situated overlook.

We rarely travel at dusk, so I’m not used to actually being able to see a lighthouse beacon. They tend to disappear in the light of day. But the rain and the hour were the ideal setting and that rocky backdrop the ideal canvas. Thomas Kinkade would have been euphoric. I stood at the overlook wall taking it all in. And then I heard the barking. Dogs? No, it was coming from the cove below us. Sea lions!

Sea lions!

Sea lions!

There was still enough light to peer into the waves 300 feet below us, and there they were. Dozens of sea lions diving into the surf in search of dinner. Dawn and dusk are optimal times to see animals in the wild foraging for food. Our timing couldn’t have been better. We stayed until the light grew too dim to see, then got back in the car and drove into the darkness. We arrived at our rental and unloaded our stuff in the pitch black (the porch light wasn’t working), but we didn’t care. Sometimes you see the most extraordinary things when you step outside your comfort zone.

Oh, look! Tourists!

Oh, look! Tourists!