Thursday, September 27, 2012

Alaska Vacation pt 2: Cooper's Landing Day 1

The drive from Anchor Point to our lodgings at Cooper's Landing only took about an hour and a half.

Bernie got us checked in at Drifter's Lodge, so named because of the drift boat (no motors) that fisher folks fished from in the local rivers.

A quilt hung on a wall with a fanciful view of the place.

Our cabin included a nice table...

Appropriately themed china...

Every thing needed for making a breakfast...
(During the regular season the place offers a breakfast with the room.  We were booked "off season", the kitchen was closed so we were on our own to make toast and coffee.)

I was impressed with the all-in-one combo sink, range and refrigerator/freezer unit.
A micro wave near the table completed the kitchen.
The kitchen, dining area and 3/4 bath was downstairs; a couch that converted to a double bed was in that room too.

Upstairs was two queen sized beds plus two twin beds.
The place could possibly sleep eight if everyone was agreed to shared spaces.
It didn't take but a moment for me to be on the green quilt looking out the window to a view of the river.

The other quilts in the room.
I later learned that the lodge had a small army of quilting grandmothers creating quilts up in the hills somewhere.

The next morning Bernie went out on a drift boat in the wind and pouring rain.
I stayed in the cabin, snuggled in beneath the quilt and read a book of true short stories about Alaska life.
Vacation bliss for both of us!
The wind pounded the rain and tree limbs against the window and I kept looking up astonished at how much rain and wind was out there.
Do note the lovely turquoise river water in the window view.

While I was cozy in the cabin, Bernie was thrilled to find himself the only person booked for an all day drift boat trip.
The boat can carry up to four passengers plus one man at the oars.
To be the only passenger was a fantastic bit of luck.
Note: the boat has a curved bottom; that allows the boat to be turned to float down stream with either end pointing forward.

This was about Bernie's fourth catch, a nice sized rainbow trout.
The area where he was fishing (the Upper Kenia River) had a catch and release policy, save for a single fish that could be kept.
There was a mandatory release of any fish over 16 inches.
A trophy fish is over 30 inches; the biggest fish Bernie caught was 27 inches.
This fish was about 24 inches.

Bernie's guide was a Cajun 25 year old guy named Alec.
The two of them hit it off and Alec said he had more fun with Bernie.

Another catch: about 20 inch Dolly Varden.
(Dolly Varden was named by a woman in the 1870's who noted the fish's reddish belly and calico top was similar to a popular dress style that was named Dolly Varden

 after a character in 1820's Charles Dicken's novel.)

Alec rowed and Bernie fished from 7 am until 6 pm, during which time Bernie hooked around twenty fish.
After they had "drifted" the river twice, Alec asked if Bernie wanted to keep going since it was around 4 and so rainy.
Bernie said "Let's go again" and Alec, amazingly, was delighted as he was so enjoying having just one person fishing on the boat and that person knew what he was doing with a fishing rod!

More fish were caught...

And carefully had the hook removed....

A picture quickly taken and then the fish was held in the water until it recovered and swam away.

The salmon were up in the stream too.  As they swim from the salt water back into the fresh water their flesh turns red and the meat is no long good for eating.
The salmon are spawning of course, leaving their eggs in the water, and trout are right behind them gulping the salmon eggs as fast as they can.

The water level was rising as can be seen in this shot with water filling in around what usually would be shoreline plants.

It was during the last drift that Bernie caught his 27 incher.

A whopper!

Alec holding the fish in the river while it recovers, gently moving it to cause the water to flow freely through the gills and then the fish swims off.

The Kenai River is a wonderful shade of glacial turquoise due to glacial silt in the water.
The addition of the golden hued trees framing the water was an extra special unexpected treat.

Around three I had had enough reading and lounging about.  I decided to take our car and go exploring a bit.
I headed toward the Russian River, about ten minutes up the road from our lodgings.

An Native American Heritage area was chained closed to cars for the winter, but I walked in and was delighted with the area.
The moss on the ground photographed up close above...

Looked like snow on the ground.

I marveled at the various tiny plants growing in the area.

The leaves in this picture are about the size of a baby finger tip.

From the signage I gathered that this campground, open to the public, was designed to tell the story of a Native peoples.
The old cabin with the hanging traps made me want to know more.

I had just finished reading about modern day families who live miles away from anywhere and still build 8x8 one room cabins that look just like this cabin.

There was no literature to explain anything I was seeing.

I do wonder why the beaver symbol is a beaver with feet missing on one side.

The wispy moss growing on the trees made me remember what I had read about how the moss used to be gathered and stuffed inside a leather cradle board to serve as infant diapers.
In a pinch, I guess that would work even today.

Anyway, mostly I just looked around.

Another question:  There was a raised boardwalk all through the area and at one place the boardwalk bowed out and over this hollowed out space.
I stared at it for awhile trying to guess what it could possibly be.
Still have no idea.

Some of the boardwalk over looking the Kenai River.

As I walked back to the roadway to my car I passed this speed limit sign.

I happened to look down: the base of the sign post was surrounded by moose poop.
I hadn't seen moose poop anywhere else in the area.
Do moose poop to mark their territory or ????

Well, never mind.
Looking up was so glorious I hardly bothered to look for moose poop anyway.

Directly across the street from the Native Peoples Heritage site was another camp ground area that lay aside the Russian River.
An ADA switchback walk way had been created to walk on down to the river.

It was so new that the wood still smelled like fresh cedar.

It was raining and the damp scent reminded me of a cedar lined sauna or steam bath.

All along the river were little walk outs where one could fish.

As I walked along one switch back above the river's edge I saw these two fishermen staring intently up stream.
I took their picture and stood watching them for a bit.
When they looked up and saw me, they explained that there was a bear just up the walkway a bit and that was what they were staring at.
I decide not to go down to the river walk after all...
Later I told Bernie that I kind of regretted that choice as I really had hoped to see a bear in the wilds.
He pointed out that I had made a wise decision; that all the river shore fisher people that he saw sported a 44 caliber rifle in a side holster and carried bear spray as well.
He had seen six bears fighting along side the river right after they launched the boat for the first drift and he didn't get a picture because of being involved with fishing preparations.

I was looking to see if I could spot Bernie out on a drift boat.
This wasn't him, but it give a good picture of what it would have looked like if it had been him.
Isn't it GORGEOUS????

Eventually I headed back to our lodgings, thinking that Bernie might be back.

He wasn't.
(There was a sauna at Drifter's Lodge...a hot tub would have been pretty neat too, but I definitely wouldn't want to share a soak with any bears!)

The small gardens on the grounds were still blooming but the rhubarb was turning some pretty vibrant colors.

I wandered around and checked out the small dock area.
Hmmm...the rising river water is already over the bottom two steps.
(Oh, but it would get higher still! Stay tuned!)

Decided to walk around the immediate area, going up to the property next door.

Cute huh?

Then I saw this cute little baby shoe that had gotten lost outside in the rain and got really missing Luke. 

Pulled myself together and kept walking over to a history enactment center.

And to one of the boat launch areas.
Hmmm...that water is kinda high isn't it?

It had been pouring all the night before and all day too.
When I got back to our cabin Bernie had gotten back and was eager to tell me all about his fishing triumphs.
I was impressed...and delighted that he had brought home a Dolly Varden for us to grill up.
But not that night...the fish could wait another day.

Instead of fish we had barbecue at the local restaurant where a fine honky tonk piano player was keeping the small group entertained.
Barbecued beef...delicious!

Over head were various game trophy mounts.

Sacketts Barbeque prove to be all that we had heard it was: Good food, and good times.
We ate, enjoyed and headed to bed.
Tomorrow was going to be another early start for another day on the river, this time with me fishing too.

To be continued!