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Twelve Lovely, Long, Light-filled Days in Alaska

Twelve Lovely, Long, Light-filled Days in Alaska

Jan 1st, 2019, 12:53 PM
  #1  
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Twelve Lovely, Long, Light-filled Days in Alaska

For years, the four of us had talked about traveling to Alaska together. It was something we should do, someday, we said. My husband, Steve, and I, along with my sister, Char, and brother-in-law, Mike, had taken a trip to Ireland a few years ago and also traveled various times together through the western United States. But Alaska was still a shared, but distant, dream until last January when some of us decided that we weren't getting any younger, so why not just do it. With the rest on board, planning began in earnest for a two week trip to Alaska in June.

Many visitors to Alaska choose either a cruise or an organized tour or a combination of both. Independent travel doesn't seem to be the norm, but we prefer setting our own itinerary and following our own pace, so I spent some time trying to devise a plan that would work best for us and the way we like to travel. The scenery and sea life of the Kenai Peninsula was a priority, using Seward or Homer (or both) as a base. Halibut fishing and a Fjord cruise was at the top of the list of to-do's. Also, could we fit in the Glen Highway, the Richardson Highway, the Copper River, maybe some salmon fishing and glacier viewing, a visit to Valdez and a ride on the Alaskan Ferry across Prince William Sound? Maybe a visit to Denali, but maybe not. If possible, we didn't want to spend too many hours in the car and we wanted to book cabins or cottages for a few nights at a time. Vacation rentals, we have found in the past, allow us to slow down, relax, enjoy the scenery and our surroundings. Plus having a kitchen would allow us to save money on food while avoiding the calorie overload of too many restaurant meals.

So, the challenge was to fit our slower travel style into a two week tour of Alaska. We needed to come up with a plan that would allow us to see some of the sights and sample some of the experiences that make Alaska such a spectacular place to visit. We knew we couldn't do it all, but we thought we could put together a memorable trip. With a few mistakes here and there, I think we managed it pretty well, and I'm hoping our trip report can provide some insights to others planning a first trip to Alaska.

OUR ITINERARY:

Flight to Anchorage - 1:36 arrival time - pick up rental car and drive to Moose Pass.

Summit Lake Lodge - 1 night

Seward - 3 nights at The Cottage on the Bay

Homer - 3 nights at Beachside Cabins



Glacier View on Glen Highway - 1 night at Homestead Guest Cabins

Gakona - 2 nights at Gakona Lodge and Trading Post

Valdez - 1 night at Best Western Valdez Harbor Inn

Board morning Ferry to Whittier

Girdwood - 2 nights Airbnb

Drive to Anchorage for 1:15 pm flight departure for home



ARRIVAL IN ALASKA:

We flew to Anchorage via Chicago on United. Flights were on time and smooth going and as we got closer to Alaska, we were treated to views of mountains and glaciers from the plane windows. We landed in Anchorage on a sunny afternoon, and Ted Stevens Airport was bright and welcoming with expansive glass window walls framing snowy mountain peaks. Because we could get better rates at Thrifty's offsite rental facility, we needed to make our way to their Spenard Road location in order to pick up our car. Thrifty does not provide a shuttle so we had to find a cab, which turned out to be a bit tricky. The first driver we approached in the cab lineup was reluctant to take us, protesting that it wasn't far enough to be worthwhile for him to accommodate us. He finally relented, and we climbed into his cab. Steve chatted with him as we were on our way and he warmed up by the time he dropped us off. Thankfully, the Thrifty people were very friendly and full of interesting factoids they were happy to share with us and we soon were on our way
Candace is offline  
Jan 1st, 2019, 01:17 PM
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Great start on your TR, Keep it up!
emalloy is offline  
Jan 1st, 2019, 01:52 PM
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Candice -

Fantastic timing as I was just invited to Alaska by a friend who has a summer home there. I've got lots of research to do and your trip report will no doubt be a tremendous help. Looking forward to reading more.
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Jan 1st, 2019, 02:28 PM
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mms
 
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I agree, great start and I look forward to more! I have been a few times but only to the deep bush, so not touristy areas at all lol. Headed there again in the fall!
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Jan 2nd, 2019, 12:12 PM
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Thank you all for your encouragement. Glad to hear you have trips to beautiful Alaska in your future.
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Jan 2nd, 2019, 01:32 PM
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TURNAGAIN ARM TO MOOSE PASS

Upon leaving Anchorage, we were almost immediately driving through spectacular scenery, withTurnagain Arm on one side and snow capped mountains everywhere . Having ripped the relative pages out of the The Milepost Alaska Trip Planner, we knew we were approaching Beluga Point and we soon pulled off the highway at the lookout. No whales were in sight. We understand whales are rare here these days,, but the famous bore tide was moving in rapidly off the rocky shore. Good timing for us on this beautiful afternoon with a brisk wind blowing and the sun hitting the snowfields on distant peaks. The strange long curving wave of the bore tide moved shockingly fast across the flat water of the channel. What a fascinating sight to see during our first few hours in Alaska.

A note here on The Milepost for Alaska. We quickly became accustomed to following this guidebook, keeping our eye out for mile markers as we drove along. Sometimes the mile markers were frustratingly far apart, but mostly they provided a reliable guide. The book was full of tips and suggestions for traveling Alaska's roads, from interesting, off the beaten path, sights to see to practical pointers, like where to fill up on gas before a long stretch of lonely highway. Everyone who is planning to drive in Alaska should obtain a copy.

Back in the car, we decided to take the advice of the Thrifty Car guy who recommended that we stop at Indian Valley Meats to sample some of their exotic meat products and smoked fish. A processor of wild game animals and fish, this facility offered venison, reindeer, and buffalo jerky and sausage, and certainly felt authentic. We purchased a buffalo sausage, thinking it might go well with the cheese and crackers we like to serve with a glass of wine in the evening.

As we left Indian Valley Meats heading toward Summit Lake Lodge, our stay for the night near Moose Pass, the weather began to change, and by the time we arrived it had begun to rain. But even in the rain, the Summit Lake Lodge turned out to be a good place for us to spend our first night in Alaska. Because we were staying just one night we chose rooms in the Historic Lodge, which saved us some money. The rooms were small but homey and completely adequate for our needs, with a comfortable bed and a nice little bathroom. Upon checkin, we were given complimentary tickets for a beer or a glass of wine in the bar which we took advantage of as soon as we unloaded the car and settled our things into our room.

The bar was small and rustic and offered Alaskan beers on tap. Steve had heard about how good Alaskan beer can be so he tried one (can't remember which) and liked it. Char and I enjoyed our glass of Chardonnay and Mike had a Coors light before we headed into the dining room. Our table had pretty view of the lake, our waiter was a pleasant young man from Utah, and we entirely enjoyed our dinner. Mike and Char shared the ribeye special, Steve had the best burger ever, he said, and I had the nicoise halibut salad. We shared the peach raspberry cobbler for dessert. By the end of dinner the rain had stopped, and we strolled down to the lake, then visited the little on-site shop to purchase bottles of water. We should have bought one of their little homemade turnovers to have with our morning coffee in our room, as we were awake hours before breakfast was served due to our internal clocks being off by four hours. But we were soon off to bed, looking forward to waking up to our first full day in Alaska.
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Jan 3rd, 2019, 12:19 PM
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ONWARD TO SEWARD AND A COTTAGE ON THE BAY

Breakfast at the Summit Lake Lodge was great. As guests we were free to choose from a pretty extensive menu featuring omelets, pancakes, bacon and sausages, and all choices were very good. Walking the lake shore before breakfast, I watched a duck shepherding her ducklings through the mist across the water. A slanted beam of sun struck them briefly causing both ducks and mist to glow in a lovely soft light. Too bad I didn't act fast enough to take a picture capturing the moment. But hopefully we'd have plenty of opportunities for great photos in the days to come.

Seward was only a 35 minute drive away, but we found plenty to do as we made our way toward our 4:00pm check in at our rental cottage. Backtracking a bit, we decided to drive to Hope, an old gold rush town which was briefly home to thousands of prospectors during its glory days but now had a population of less than 200 people. It was not very well signed, and we missed the turnoff but eventually we found ourselves in downtown Hope. Being there felt like a step back in time. The well preserved historic cabins and the old time cafe were pretty much deserted on this beautiful sunny day and we wandered the dirt streets out to the tidal meadow. Nearby a small river flowed by, its rushing water providing some activity in the otherwise very peaceful setting.

As we drove away from Hope, a large porcupine sauntered along the roadside. As we approached, he turned and raised his paw, irritability waving us on as we passed him. Unfortunately, it was another missed photo opportunity.

Our next stop, like Hope, was not well signed. But after one wrong turn, we did find ourselves at Bear Creek Weir, a great spot for viewing red salmon as they made their journey from Resurrection Bay to their spawning ground in nearby Bear Lake. The creek on the side of the road where we parked was teeming with salmon. Such a sight to see. But then we crossed the road and were absolutely wowed by the sight of salmon massed together to jump up the fish ladder positioned there in the creek. One after another, with innate determination and amazing strength, they flung themselves up and over. Many succeeded but some fell back, hopefully to make it the next time.

As we stood watching the efforts of the salmon, a young boy on a bike wheeled in beside us and asked if we had any questions. Obviously, a self appointed tour guide and resident expert, his youth and enthusiasm was totally engaging. Before long, he was offering to lead us to Bear Lake and his favorite fishing hole on the creek, and soon we were following him and his faithful companion, the neighborhood dog whose distinctive name I cannot remember, to the lake. The boy's name was, appropriately, Fisher. ( His brother, he told us, was named Hunter and his sister was named Marina.) We really enjoyed our time spent with Fisher. His love of everything he was sharing with us was so obvious and refreshing. It did cross my mind that his free-ranging life style was a bit worrisome, armed as he was with bear spray on his belt and with no hesitation to go off into the woods with strangers. But he was without question thriving in his environment and will forever, I hope, benefit from his experiences in this special part of the world.

Leaving Fisher, and the fascinating Bear Creek Weir, we headed toward Exit Glacier, where we spent and hour or two hiking the easy trail up to the closest overlook. The beautiful sunny day stayed with us and we enjoyed a pleasant walk uphill to our first glacier view in Alaska. Char and Mike are much more dedicated hikers than Steve and I and they extended their walk while we took our time. We met back at the car and by the time we drove into Seward it was past 4:00. We stopped at the Safeway in town and stocked up on groceries for our 3 day stay at our rental, A Cottage on the Bay on Lowell Point.

This cottage had a breathtaking setting right on the water with the mountains beyond. Sue, the owner, greeted us warmly and we felt comfortable right away. Soon we settled in,cooked dinner and began to look forward to our Kenai Fjord Cruise the next day.

Last edited by Candace; Jan 3rd, 2019 at 12:34 PM.
Candace is offline  
Jan 3rd, 2019, 04:50 PM
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Loving this TR!!!!
capecod73 is offline  
Jan 4th, 2019, 04:26 AM
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I'm wanting to be along on this trip too!! Keep it up.
emalloy is offline  
Jan 4th, 2019, 12:33 PM
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Thanks, capecod and emalloy. I am enjoying the opportunity to relive those days in Alaska!

We woke up to a beautiful day. Because our Fjord cruise was booked for an 11:30 departure, we were able to enjoy a leisurely morning. I was seated at the dining table, drinking coffee and taking in the stunning view out the window when suddenly, right out front of the cottage, I saw a whale blow, then breach. I literally screamed for the others to come look. What a beautiful welcome to Resurrection Bay that was! During our 3 day stay, we saw more whales from the cottage, plus a trio of eagles who seemed to make the area their home. The eagles would soar in dramatic arcs overhead then land on the beach to pick over debris exposed by the tide. Whales, eagles, and gorgeous scenery. We couldn't ask for much more. But Sue, our kind hostess, also offered great advice and lively conversation and went out of her way to make our stay at the cottage by the bay even better.
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Jan 5th, 2019, 07:28 AM
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Great report. I was also in Seward Alaska this past June (the 10th) , just for a day before a cheap but enjoyable HAL cruise.

On the day of the cruise departure , I went on the noon Major Marine Resurrection Bay cruise and we saw a pod of bubble-netting humpbacks right near the town of Seward, maybe the same ones. I have seen plenty of whales, but this was my first experience with bubble-netting, fantastic action. Also loved all the puffins (which were really my main target, LOL).

Looking forward to the rest of your report.
mlgb is offline  
Jan 5th, 2019, 10:10 AM
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What a thrill it must have been, mlgb, to see whales bubble-net feeding! Except for a trio of transient orcas, the whales we saw were mostly loners or twosomes. We took our boat tour on June 15th and went with Kenai Fjord Tours Alaska Collection. We considered the Major Marine tour but decided their roast beef buffet might be too much lunch for some of the light eaters among us.

Puffins were a high point for us too. How cute can a bird be?
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Jan 5th, 2019, 12:02 PM
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We saw those transient orcas as well. I went on Major Marine 3.5 hour tour and was afraid to take a longer tour but probably could have done the 5 hour one. The prime rib thing is optional on that one and I also didn't want it..(because 7 days of cruise ship eating came after that).
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Jan 5th, 2019, 12:33 PM
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Oops! Made a mistake. Our Kenai Fjord Tour was originally booked for the 15th, but as our trip approached, the forecast for that day predicted heavy rain and cold. We knew when we made the reservations that they were non refundable but we called the company before we left for Alaska, hoping that they would allow us to change our tickets to the 14th instead of the 15th. Thankfully, they accommodated us and the day of our cruise was perfect, with beautiful blue skies and bright sun.

Everything went smoothly, as we followed instructions and parked our car in the designated lot and took the shuttle to the docks, browsing in the gift shop til it was time to board. We have to say, all aspects of the cruise were handled very professionally and we were soon on our way, headed out and down the bay right past Lowell Point and our cottage rental.

OUR KENAI FJORD TOUR

Before too long, we were treated to the sight of three orca whales, their black and white bodies almost perfectly synchronized as they sailed along the surface of the water, then, oh so smoothly, dove under together. These transient orcas, our captain told us over the loudspeaker, are different from resident orcas, which we were to see later. Transient orcas feed on small mammals like seals and porpoises, often travel in groups, and are more likely to be elusive, while resident orcas feed on salmon and are spotted more often. The number of transient orcas, he told us, are decreasing in Resurrection Bay, and no one is sure why. After that first sighting we did not see transient whales again but we did have four or five sightings of single, or pairs, of resident whales as we made our way along the bay and continued our tour of the fjords.
Candace is offline  
Jan 5th, 2019, 01:09 PM
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It sounds, Mlgb, that you hit the whale watching bonus on your 3.5 hour tour and the sighting of the bubble-feeding group. Our tour was 6 hours and we didn’t see all that many whales. But I had never seen any whales before so I felt like this was a real learning experience. I would love to do it again.
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Jan 6th, 2019, 01:34 PM
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KENAI FJORD TOUR CONTINUED

The sun was shining so brightly that glittering diamonds of water bounced along the wake behind our boat as we cruised along, around islands, into coves, and back out into the open bay. Soon, off in the distance, we could see the far off blur of a glacier. Before long the captain was steering through mini icebergs in order to maneuver us closer to the amazing blue ice slabs and pinnacles of the glacier itself. With the brilliant blue afternoon sky as a backdrop, the face of the glacier loomed up, magnificent, as we held our breath, hoping to see it calving bits of itself into the sea. When the boat's motor was turned off, we could hear cracks and groans as the glacier shifted and settled and we saw the occasional big splash as pieces of it hit the water. The glacier, whose name is lost to me now, was not putting on a grand show of calving itself on this sunny afternoon but was impressive none the less.

As the boat left the immediate vicinity of the glacier, we were treated to the sight of some impossibly cute sea otters backstroking through the bits and pieces of glacial ice littering the water. Our boat headed next toward another shoreline, steep and rocky, and topped with a few stands of evergreens and low growing shrubbery. Eagles were everywhere and we were excited to see puffins, smaller than I had expected but so much fun to watch. They seemed to whirr by with their rapidly beating little wings and their silly orange beaks. Ahead of us was a vertical cliff with crevices split across its face. Lined up side by side in the crevices was a series of white dots. These turned out to be, as we got closer, scores of common murres. These seabirds, with their white breasts and upright perching stance, are labeling "the penguins of the North" by the Audubon Society. We watched some of them flying back and forth from the colony and, as the captain said in his commentary, they were not the most graceful birds in flight. But we learned they can literally fly underwater, diving down hundreds of feet through the sea on their hunt for food.

Leaving the birds, the captain steered us toward some low-lying flatter rocks which we soon saw were perfect spots for seals and sea lions to hang out. Big groups of them were lying around together, enjoying the sun I imagine. Again, the captain turned off the boat engines so we could hear their barks and bellows. One huge sea lion occupied a stony outcropping all by himself, obviously king of all he surveyed.

We eventually passed by another glacier, this one different from the first in that it was located on small span of water behind a tall sandy bank of silt so we could not get too close to it. The silt bank was unique and interesting on its own, I thought.

This 6 hour tour was the perfect length for us and we would recommend it to anyone interested in seeing the beautiful Kenai Fjords. The chicken wrap for lunch was good and the chocolate chip cookie which we were offered as we headed back to Seward was a delicious treat. As I have said, this was a well run and professionally operated tour and I enjoyed the whole experience.
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Jan 8th, 2019, 01:57 PM
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There was a part of our Kenai Fjord Tour that had nothing to do with the wildlife or the incredible scenery but I don't want to leave it out.

When we boarded the tour boat and made our way inside, we were able to secure four seats in a booth by a window. By the time we left the dock, the boat was almost full and most seats were taken, but when we were politely asked us by a young woman if we had room at our table for her, we were glad to shove over and make space for Lily, which we learned was her name.

Originally from the Ukraine, Lily had been living in the United States for awhile and was currently traveling all over the country on her own. Her mission, she told us, was to sample every place in the U.S. that sounded interesting. After experiencing each location and spending some time in those which seemed promising, she would eventually decide exactly where she would like to settle permanently. As her mission alone probably indicates, this young woman turned out to be a very interesting, and a very entertaining, travel companion. Lily had some very strong opinions which she delivered in a deadpan manner that was absolutely hilarious. She soon had us in stitches as she related stories of her travels and some of the adventures she had experienced on her quest to find the perfect place to live in America. One of her strongest opinions had to do with the American work ethic. The problem with you Americans is that you all work too much, she said. Your vacations are too short. You don't take enough days off. Work, work, work, is all Americans do. How can you enjoy life like that! She related to us the story of the time she was working as a waitress in Washington, D.C. and wanted to take time off to visit Boston. "No!", her boss said, you're scheduled to work this weekend, "You can't just leave to go to Boston." This, Lily, thought, is totally unreasonable. The next day, she left for Boston, which she thought was a disappointment, by the way. I think she also lost her job when she got back, but that didn't seem to bother her.

Lily had already been all over before she made her way to Alaska. She was pretty sure Alaska was way too cold to make the grade as a permanent address. After visiting Hawaii and spending some time there, she was close to deciding that Hawaii might be her final choice. Wherever she ends up, we have no doubt she will make a success of her life there. Rarely have we met such a strong minded and independent woman. No matter what her opinions of our work ethics were, she seemed to love being in the United States of America and definitely had already worked hard to become a part of our country.
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Jan 9th, 2019, 01:23 PM
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OUR RAINY DAY IN SEWARD

Our last day in Seward dawned cold and rainy, just as the forecast had predicted. We were so glad we had rescheduled our fjord tour and weren't going to spend a foggy day on the water. Instead, we dressed for the weather and headed into town with a few objectives. One goal, important to Steve, was to find the Mount Marathon winners' plaque, listing the first place finishers of that harrowing race throughout the years. The Mount Marathon race has taken place on the 4th of July in Seward since 1915 and is reputed to be one of the oldest races of its kind in the U.S. Runners start from the center of town, race to the top of Mount Marathon, turn around and race back down. The mountain is steep and rocky and the descent can be downright dangerous but every year hundreds of men and women participate in what Outside Magazine has called the toughest 5K on the planet. At his 50th college reunion, Steve was chatting with one of his fraternity brothers about our upcoming trip to Alaska. His friend Terry asked if we were going to Seward, and then casually mentioned that he had won the Mount Marathon back in the early 70's. Very impressive! So Steve determined to find the winners plaque and send Terry a picture of his name enshrined in history. Unfortunately, after visits to the Chamber of Commerce, the Seward Historical Museum, and the bar where the race, according to legend, was originally dreamed up, he came up short. Everyone he talked to thought that such a plaque had once existed but nobody knew what had happened to it. Oh well. The visit to the museum was interesting, with lots of pictures and information on the 1964 earthquake which devastated the area. The Yukon Bar, which we visited next, was definitely not catering to tourists but both the bartender and the local patrons were friendly, and although they couldn't help us find the plaque they were fun to talk to.

After giving up on finding the race plaque, we walked through the rain to the Alaska SeaLife Center. After seeing the wildlife on the fjord tour, mostly from a distance, it was good to be able to observe them close up. One large enclosed area with visitor access allowed us to really get near to puffins and common murres. We could observe them both in flight and nesting along the rocky edges of the water. The sea lion enclosure on two level was another highlight. We were able to watch these big guys lolling on the rocks above. Then, by walking down to the next floor, we could see them diving and twirling through the water below. They were pretty impressive.

Sue, our rental hostess, had recommended Thorns Showcase Lounge as a good place for lunch and we were glad we followed her advice. After starters of clam chowder or coleslaw, we shared two "Buckets of Butts", fried chunks of halibut served with tarter and cocktail sauce. Delicious! Leaving the restaurant, Char and I decided we'd like to visit a few gift shops and the guys didn't protest too much. The Alaska Shop was nearby and turned out to be the only place we needed to go. Really, it offered such a wide range of everything from t shirts to fine Alaskan carvings to stuff for the grandkids that we took some time looking around and left with a few good purchases. Later, Char and I would agree that the Alaska Shop was our favorite shop of the trip.

Returning to a Cottage on the Bay, we cooked dinner and thought about leaving for Homer in the morning. A Cottage on the Bay, with its spectacular setting and friendly hostess, had been a great place for us to stay while we visited Seward. I would recommend it to anyone with a few days to spend in the area. One caveat I should probably share, however, is the excess of decoration which some might describe as clutter. It could, I know, drive some people crazy. We were a little taken aback when we first drove up to the place and saw a few piles of tires, etc., around the driveway. But the house was clean and the knick-knacks didn’t get in our way of enjoying all the beautiful scenery out the front windows. We loved the place and thought it was one of the best lodging choices we made on this trip.
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Jan 10th, 2019, 11:37 AM
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DRIVE TO HOMER

We woke up to another cold and rainy day in Seward and we were soon packed up and ready to say goodbye to Sue. After a stop at the Safeway in town to pick up some made-to-order sandwiches for a picnic on the way, we started out on the 3.5 hour drive to Homer Beachside Cottages, our accommodation for the next 3 nights. Donna, the owner, called to touch base and told us that the forecast was rain for the next nine days in Homer. Not good! It rained off and on during our drive and was pretty dreary, but we stopped a few times along the way. Our first stop was to watch the scores of fishermen lined up on the riverbank or wading into the water of the Kenai River, fishing for salmon. After pulling off the road, we could follow a path down to the river's edge and get a good view of the action. Not too many of the anglers were having any luck that we could see. Our next stop was for lunch at a park on the edge of Soldotna. The rain had stopped briefly so we wiped off a few benches at the river's edge and ate our sandwiches, watching the water rush by below us. There were some fishing platforms available here but we didn't see anyone using them. The weather didn't clear, unfortunately, but we pulled off the highway next to explore the old Russian church at Ninilchik Village, which with its flower strewn cemetery and picket fenced graves was very picturesque, even in the gloom. The gloom, however, obscured most of the scenery when we exited onto the Volcano Viewpoint pullout, and what could have been the very scenic approach to Homer was clouded over too, which was disappointing. But the end of our journey was near, and soon we were driving up to our rental cottage, located right on the Katchmak Bay.

Even on a dreary day like this, we could see that the location of the Homer Beachside Cottages was spectacular. When the tide was in, the waves broke right below the cabin's deck. When the tide was out, the sandy, rock-strewn beach reached far out into the bay. The front of the little house was all windows facing the bay and the mountains, plus the edge of a glacier was even visible on the other side. The sight was magnificent and ever changing but most spectacular in the middle of the night. Then, everything gleamed in the half light as the waves surged in and the clouds lifted over the mountains. Donna, the owner of the Homer Beachside Cottages, was just as pleasant and accommodating as Sue had been. She rushed from town to meet us, fussed around to make sure we had everything we needed, and even gave us her favorite recipe for halibut. Soon, we were settled in, relaxed and happy and looking forward to our next few days in Homer.
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Jan 11th, 2019, 12:53 PM
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FATHER'S DAY ON THE HOMER SPIT

It was still dreary when we woke up the next morning. With no special plans for the day, we took our time with breakfast and enjoyed sipping tea and coffee while enjoying the view from the cottage. It wasn't until we'd received some text messages from our kids that we realized it was Father's Day. A good excuse, we thought, to treat Mike and Steve to the king crab meal we had all been dreaming about since we got to Alaska. Donna, the owner of our cabin, had recommended Captain Pattie's, on the Homer Spit, as a good place to eat, and a search of the menu online showed that king crab was available. So it was decided that we would head to the Spit to explore a little and then have lunch.

On the way to the Homer Spit, we took a slight detour and stopped at the Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitors Center. This turned out to be a timely destination for Steve on Father's Day. During World War II, his father had been temporarily stationed in the Aleutian Islands while serving in the Navy and had often shared stories of this bleak and distant place with his sons. The visitors center had several displays and exhibits describing the part played by the Aleutians in the war, and Steve found it all to be very interesting. After spending some time inside the center, we followed the boardwalk which led down to the water's edge. It wasn't a long stroll but we saw some shorebirds and enjoyed the blooming lupines before we continued on to the Homer Spit.

The Homer Spit is in a category of its own and I'm not sure how to best describe its appeal. We drove its one road to the end before we curved around and came back, looking to find a parking spot. Some of the buildings erected in the narrow space between the road and the water of the bay look pretty flimsy, but in order to withstand the elements they were exposed to, they must actually be quite substantial. The whole place had a handmade or handcrafted feel to it and some might call it tacky-tacky. But to me the place sort of combined both the attitude of an old hippy with the energy of a young backpacker, neither of whom would care about appearances. Take them as you found them, and enjoy the experience. A free spirited place, I guess you'd say. We all liked it.

After checking out the charter fishing company we had booked for the next day's fishing trip, we found Captain Pattie's and were soon trying to figure out how we could order crabs legs for all without breaking the bank. We knew king crab was expensive, but $71 for one meal with a side seemed really extravagant. We almost passed it up, but finally decided to settle on one meal we all could share. Hey, let's just spring for it and enjoy! It was, after all, Father's Days. And we did enjoy our meal. It turned out that the meal portion was plenty for us to share, and it was as delicious as we had hoped it would be. I'm hungry just thinking about that dinner.

After lunch, we did a little shopping. I was looking for a sweatshirt and one of the waitresses recommended ak starfish, a lovely little shop. The wildflower sweatshirt I ended up buying was so soft, comfortable and well made. I'm sure I'll have it to enjoy for many years.

We left the Spit for our cottage, knowing we would be back in the morning. The fishing charter we had booked for the next day left the harbor at noon, and would turn out to be a real adventure.
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