Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Wanna go to Alaska?

A while ago I convinced Bernie that Facebook would be a great way to keep up with his extended family, pointing out that his mother and nieces and assorted cousins were regularly posting updates on their world.   He waded in and reconnected with his cousin Charlotte who lives in Alaska, on the Kenai Peninsula.
(The Kenai Peninsula is the part that sort of dangles at the top of the upside down V shape at the bottom of Alaska.)
I wasn't paying much attention to what Bernie was doing with his FB friendships.
Turns out he started chatting with his cousin's husband who just happens to be an all out outdoorsman.
Read: Brian loves to fish.
If you have been following this blog for any length of time, you can probably guess what happened next.
A passing invitation to "come up and visit...I'll take you fishing" was snapped up immediately.
I am not sure at what point I was asked to go along on the trip.
I am always game for an outdoor adventure so when I was asked, I just said "Yes" and didn't give it much more additional thought.
By that I mean I didn't even bother to look at an Alaskan map to see where we would be going.
Bernie meanwhile got really busy researching fishing gear, lodges (we would stay a few days with his cousins then move on to another area) and assorted other elements that would comprise our trip.
Along the way Bernie made sure I aquired gear that might be necessary for me to fully enjoy the trip.
By that I mean I came to own my very first ever set of waist high waders and wading boots!
Ladies...the last time (and only time) we went to Alaska before was for our 25 wedding anniversary, and that was on cruise, which meant that time I shopped for formal gowns and cocktail dresses.
I was pretty stoked about those purchases back then.
I was even more stoked about getting waders for this trip!
At last I could keep up with Bernie when he goes fishing!
My waders are state of the art breathing fabric with neoprene booties and shoulder harness area AND my wading boots are such a cool neat new design that even the fishing guide guy asked about them.
Comfortable was I...I could spend all day in my waders and boots and still feel as comfy as if I had spent the day my favorite lazy weekend clothes.
So that is the back story on this trip:
Bernie all studied up and anticipating every hour.
Me going along for the ride in a state of blissful ignorance.
We landed in Anchorage after a brief layover in Seattle, then drove down along the Cook Inlet to Anchor Point, which is just a bit above Homer.


It was rainy and I was greatly surprised to see autumn colors up on the hillsides.

The rain clouds hung low and blocked a lot of scenic views, but I thought it was pretty anyway.

Prince William Sound with forests of dead trees. I wondered what had gotten to them.
It wasn't until the end of our trip that I learned this was once the Kenai Forest, and that the Alaskan Earthquake in 1964 had dropped the earth nine feet in the area, resulting in sea water flooding the forest and killing the trees.

That earthquake happened almost fifty years ago...and the dead trees still are standing.

As we continued our drive more and more colorful trees began to appear.

Red fireweed lined the road edges while the mottled colors on the mountains peeked between low hanging clouds.

A rainbow of colors...and a foreshadowing of all the real rainbows I would see during this vacation.

Kenai is a Pacific rain forest area. Since I was vaguely thinking we were going to a barren area of Alaska, this sort of scene just blew me away!

We stopped at Cooper's Landing to take a peek at the river there.

The dying salmon were everywhere in the water.
This (Cooper's Landing) would be where we would be spending the last part of our vacation.
Sounded fine to me! 

Bernie turned on a small road off the main road after seeing a sign about Russian Orthodox Church.

Later we learned that just over the ridge was an entire Russian Orthodox village hiding in the mist.
Cousin Charlotte later filled us in on Russian Orthodox lifestyle:
The girls wear dresses and are married upon reaching puberty, usually to guys not much older than they are.
It is not uncommon for an eight grade boy to own a 30ft fishing boat and be in business for himself, arriving at school to study as the fishing permits.
Even though the people in the community may have been in America for several generations, they still self identify as Russian and follow Russian orthodox traditions which include living in family compounds and having large families with a Grandfather as the head of all the families.

Charlotte later told us that both Orthodox and non-Orthodox are buried in the cemetery; with the Orthodox burying their dead in house like structures that I didn't see.
This non-Orthodox grave caught my attention with the carefully designed white rock heart and beach glass decoration.

I choked up when I read the inscription...
He would of been thirty by now.
Right after that my friend Gail called from Colorado because she was shopping in a quaint area near her house for fun and was wishing I was shopping along with her.
I told her I was in Alaska and wish she was driving along with me here!
Isn't nation wide cellular coverage great?

We pulled up to Charlotte and Brian's house...

We are in Anchor Point!

The cousins hadn't seen each other since they were about 14 years old.
That is more than (ahem) forty years ago.
They actually are second cousins, or perhaps even third cousins.
They have the same Great Grandmother.
Their Grandmothers were sisters.
Charlotte had always sent our family Christmas letters about her life in Alaska.
It was so great to actually be with her there.

Their house was just across the road from the ocean water of Cook Inlet.
The Alaskan Flag and the American Flag looked great together flapping in the brisk breeze.
And by "brisk" I mean the weather report was warning of hurricane level winds in the mountains, up to 100 mph.
It was probably around 30-40 mph around the coast.

We spent the night in their guest room, and the next morning Bernie headed out to fish in the local river.
It was raining and very windy, and the river was running high.
Brian took one look at the river and came home.
Bernie...fished the whole day.
I chatted with Charlotte and then went for a little walk around the area.

It really was raining pretty hard and the wind was blasting my ears but I enjoyed the local plant color.

The winds were blowing this patch of grasses flat!
That evening Brian cooked up some of the fish he had caught and frozen early.
Ling cod...oh so yummy!
He was our personal five star chef!

The next day Bernie and I "noodled" around the area.
He had seen the beach the day before and wanted me to see it too.
Seeing the huge snow covered mountains across the inlet played with my brain.
I would look at the horizon and my brain would say "Clouds out there" always took a bit of focus for my brain to agree that the white stuff on the horizon was a mountain!

With Bernie on the beach to give you perspective.

I was fascinated by the various textural designs the rock, black sand and water made.
The clouds changed moment to moment and with each change the scene changed too.

I could tell another big rain was coming our way.

Dallied about messing with my camera...

And when I looked up...there was a rainbow! 

How seriously cool was that???

It stayed long enough that Bernie walked over and took over my camera to get some shots of me too.

Then it was gone...

And the wind kicked up so fast and hard that I nearly got blown over.

I started to head up to the car and noticed the huge house on the bluff.
What a view they must enjoy.

The drift wood alone could have kept me busy shooting pictures for quite awhile too.

The colors in the water....

The dots of small pebbles...

The shivering water wiped by the wind... 

Streaks of water lay placid while just a few feet away the water was so blown that not a glassy bit remained and took on the appearance of gravel.

When it started to hail it was time to leave.

By the time we got back to the car that squall had passed.

And in fact the clouds broke apart for some sunshine.

(I think if I lived on the house on the bluff I would not get much done for watching the endless shifting of colors on the ocean and the shore below me.)

I must say that walking on a stormy beach in chest high waders is a very nice thing.
This is what I had on under my lavender blue goretex parka.
Love my waders!!!

We continued to noodle around...

The street sign by the woods in the previous picture.
I just like how the name "Cuffel Ditton" sounded.
(I suppose they would make great celebrity kid names if the celebrities only knew...) 

Noodle...noodle...enjoying the red fireweed and yellow grasses as we drive.

I forget why Bernie wanted to stop at the general store,

I liked the log construction.
Visiting grocery stores in a new area is always a good idea.
I find there is always stuff that you usually don't see at your own store.

For example:
Cook books specific to the regional foods.
Several cook book on Halibut, another on Salmon, and Rhubarb.

Fun suspenders...

Enviable millinery....


And a grizzly bear mount leaping out of a wall.
I like it!
Bernie wanted to try fishing a stream that was a short hike from the road.

The path lead right through a marsh and onto the sea.

A juvenile Bald Eagle kept watch over us.

At one point he flew off and then later returned to the same perch.

The path was muddy and at one point I just plopped myself down on some of the grasses.

(Behind me as I sat plopped down on the grasses....)

Sitting while Bernie casted over and over again gave me an opportunity to really enjoy what I was seeing.

The grasses along the edge of the path sported their own fall colors.

Ravens, eagles and magpies flying about overhead also kept me amused.

Brian informed us that Alaska has no building codes, which allows such fanciful (if uncompleted) structures to be build.
Sure looked like a grand house design to me.

So rain, then clear, then rain, then clouds, then clear...repeat, add eagle or raven randomly.

Bernie had fished this same stream the day before when it really really  was raining hard.
He was in the stream when that tree began to fall over and slide down the hill right next to where he was standing.
That kind of caught his attention.
I think he came home right after that.

There were so many lovely small scenes like this one to see if one was just looking about.

The grasses with red stems glowed in the brief periods of sunshine; I took a picture of course.

We were greeted by Charlotte's and Brian's two dogs when we returned at the end of the day.

Doggie love.....

I am not a dog person, but I will say that if I were to live in Alaska I would definitely  have a dog or two too.

A trip down to Homer for dinner was proposed by our hosts.
I loved the varieties of blues I saw and the guide narratives by Brian about the area's people and places.
Homer is a fishing village and also a fisherman's destination location.
The place is PACKED in summer with fishermen/tourist taking up every bit of lodging and even paying a hundred dollars a night to camp on the beach.
We were there after "the season" had ended; most of the quaint shops were closed for winter.
Thankfully Captain Pattie's with its legendary "all you can eat" shrimp was open for business.
Apparently in the summer you need reservations and can hardly get in.
Us...well, we just walking on in and were almost the only ones there.

A quick shot of "old" Homer/tourist area street.
Just a bit up the ways was the bar where the television series "Deadliest Catch" films the crab fishermen's interviews. 

The restaurant windows looked out to see.
The table top was a map of the ocean depths.
Bernie and Brian had a good discussion about fishing off the coast in the area. 

The delicious all you can eat shrimp, your choice of battered or grilled.
I dug into the perfectly seasoned oh so flavorful grilled shrimp.
I think I am ruined for all other shrimp restaurants now.
Gosh those shrimps were flavorful. 

Some views of Homer.

The harbor.
Brian explained how "purse" fishing was done with a small boat holding net running a-stern around the boat and then the nets are pulled in like a purse string.
The Time Bandit from the television series sails out of Homer btw.

Overhead the clouds continued their games, creating interesting patterns and dousing us with sun and rain.

The next day Bernie was game to let me go explore the art galleries in Homer.
It is a short drive down from Anchor Point, a drive Brian does every day to his job at one of the Homer schools.
It was on this day that we noticed that the trees had turned a super bright shade of yellow.

The galleries were interesting with lots of Alaska motif art (moose, fish, Eskimo, bears, elk, Northern lights etc) and we browsed about.
A sign pointing out a winery with free wine perfect for a break from the arts.
A bottle of pomegranate wine was acquired for later consumption.

The day before Brian and Charlotte had told us about the mountains that were were not seeing in Homer because of the low hanging clouds.
This day...the clouds had lifted and we could see the mile wide Grewingk glacier.

During our Alaska cruise we took a float plane trip over a glacier.
They really are amazing things.
This one was just as wonderful and I would have happily flown over it too.

Idyllic Alaskan scene.

Just to give you an idea of what Homer residents see when they head to their shopping mall.

And right across from one little shop we saw a Mama Moose and her twins!

They were munching down some bushes and Bernie was able to pull over for a closer look.
Mama Moose likewise wanted a closer us!

I hadn't realized that moose legs are white before!

Our last morning in Anchor Point I woke up realizing I hadn't gotten a picture of Brian.
He came downstairs to stoke the wood stove before leaving for work before dawn and I tried to get a picture of him then.
It didn't turn out very well so I decided to include a picture of him from one of the pictures taken of him while he was in Africa on safari.

The man can hunt!
Notice the moose antlers above the front door?

Here's a better shot.
And I will say that he also cooks moose steaks to perfection!

It was really pouring as we left Anchor Point.
As we stopped for coffee on our way down to Homer (again!) to ship a cooler full of Brian caught fish and moose, I admired the art work on this building.

And appreciated the little devices used to cover the sipping opening on our to go coffees.

While Bernie dealt with the shipping details, I took a picture of my one Homer purchase: Earrings made of sea glass (tumbled glass) that matched my knitted cap and parka perfectly, even if they are a bit glitzy.

I did mention that it was raining...a lot?

Waiting in the car allowed me to enjoy the roof design of the building next to the post office. 

This was a bit of a joke: Each of the three times we went to Homer I saw this sign and was quite taken by the idea of 24 soft serve flavors.
For some reason we would see it coming in to town but couldn't find it on the way out.
Bernie had to fill up the car's gas tank and there it was!
(Turns out they have a machine that allows flavors to be added one cone at a time...not 24 and more flavors always on tap.)
So what flavor would you have if you were to have one?
Me...I skipped getting one.
I just wanted to know what the flavors were!
I want to thank our cousins for so graciously inviting us to come visit and opening their home to us and feeding us such EXCELLENT meals!
Big hugs to you and the dogs and the Scruffy the cat too!
Next post: Our time in Cooper's Landing!


Lorrie Orr said...

Stunning scenery! Love all the moody clouds. And what fun you had in those new waders!

Judy ~ My Front Porch said...

Wow! Amazing pictures...and an amazing time by the sound of it. Now that is a whole other part of Alaska than one sees from the cruise ship!

Vee said...

Bravo! What a post! What great cousins to invite Bernie up and mean it. ☺ These photos are simply incredible. And I'm shocked...SHOCKED...that you made it out of Homer without one of those beautiful fur hats.

ellen b. said...

What an amazing part of our world. You really took a lot of great photos. Love the sign under those antlers!

Lovella ♥ said...

Those photos of your first stops in Alaska are so beautiful. I wonder if there could be a more beautiful time of year to go? I can't imagine anything being prettier than all that color here and there!

Vicki said...

Oh, I really loved Alaska when we were there! I'm so ready to go back again! Our week traveling through Alaska was tons more fun than the week we spent on the Alaskan cruise.

Do you happen to know which mountain that was in the earlier photos? (Just curious...)

Oh, love those waders!!

Rosella said...

WOW - all I can say is Wow!!!!

You've got me convinced to go.....

Sara said...

Your travelogue is just as incredibly beautiful as I imagined it would be! What gorgeous scenery. I'll be looking for the next installment.

Anonymous said...

How absolutely wonderful that some folks can travel and then be willing to share their experiences and photos with those of us who have to stay at home! Great photos...I really enjoyed the trip...looking forward to the next installment.
Farm Gal in VA

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful sharing of your trip. We enjoyed it all so very much. Great pictures! We will look forward to the next chapter. Love, mom and dad S.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful sharing of your trip. We enjoyed it all so very much. Great pictures! We will look forward to the next chapter. Love, mom and dad S.

Brian & Charlotte Carper said...

Great travelogue - I love how you captured the beauty in photos of the things we see every day. And after 20 years, we still stop to look at the moose and to marvel at the beauty. It never gets old.
Someone asked about the mountains when you were down here. Both of those individual mountains are live volcanoes. The first one that you saw at the beach is Illiamna and the one you saw in Ninilchik is Redoubt. Redoubt blew a couple years ago, our house is still full of minute ash particles.
Can't wait for you to come back again - hopefully not in the middle of hurricane season.