So far in Utah, we have been to Salt Lake City, Park City, and Arches National Park; and I must say that utah has blown my mind away. Mostly everywhere you go, you can see mountains and beautiful landscapes. I simply must say that i love it here and would love to come back in the future.
The benefit of taking the midnight flight out of Anchorage was we had all day to meander back and see the things we missed on the southbound trip. The skies were high overcast, so we could see all the vistas that were shut out by rainy skies a few days earlier. We skipped by Ninilchik, a cute little Russian fishing village we had visited on the way down, and continued on to Portage, where there was an animal conservation park where we could see native animals.
We saw our first moose in Alaska, musk oxen (my favorites!), wood bison, elk, bears, and caribou among others. The history of that area is interesting. The tides rushing through Turnagain are some of the most dangerous and dramatic in the world (and further north along Cook Inlet, we saw SURFERS riding the tidal surge!). During the 1964 earthquake, the whole area dropped 6′, killing vast areas of forest due to the saltwater that that now surrounded their roots. Everywhere you go in Alaska, there is still talk of that devastating earthquake.
Arriving in Anchorage, we walked around Earthquake Park. We glimpsed a beautiful rainbow through the trees and across the bay that seemed to end in the city. As our plane took off for our flight to Denver/Seattle, the pilot had us all look out at the marvelous Northern Lights dancing in the sky to bid us farewell to Alaska!
We had a dinner date with our hosts in Seward, however when we arrived, Celestia was down for the count on the couch. Her daughter Maddie hopped in the car with us to show us around town, and grab some pizza from the grocery store. We found where the kayak place was, at the end of a dirt road where the town road left off. At home, 4 of the 5 kids and the big dog, Loki all gathered around the table for a casual pizza dinner. One of the oldest twin daughters had sacrificed her room for us, so she was elsewhere.
Saturday morning, we all piled into the Tahoe and met Joe, Allie’s (the other twin) boyfriend on the waterfront for some salmon snagging. Joe handed out poles to those who wanted to fish, and they lined up on the shore, casting the lines out into the water. I had gone closer to the stream inlet to watch the line of fishermen there, and was amazed at how many fish were caught. The fishermen would filet the fish right on the beach, and leave the carcass for the seagulls.
I was almost back at our group, when Adam was wrestling a salmon to shore! The first one, and so quickly! They fished for a while longer, but Adam and I wanted to do the long hike to Harding Ice Field, so we left just before noon to give us time for the climb.
I was determined to keep up with my young buck on the climb. We would gain about 1000′ per mile, so this was no easy task. Our first glimpse of the glacier was amazing! A huge lick of ice hanging down the valley like a Dali painting, it’s crevasses colored an incredible aqua. We spotted a black bear foraging for berries in the distance, and continued the climb into the grey shale skree field. It looked like a moonscape!
Finally, we were at the edge of the vast ice field; like a frozen ocean on the mountaintop. Ever the adventurers, we scrambled down steep slopes and rock faces to the edge of the glacier. It reminded me of the spring melt in Chicago, with the dirty snow forming weird, dirty drifts against the road curbs. We followed along, and found cleaner edges, water constantly dripping from the curved blue ice. Exploring deeper, there were some tunnels under the glacier that we could walk through. It was astounding! Definitely the coolest (no pun intended) thing we have seen.
Dinner that night consisted of the salmon that Adam had caught, coupled with some wild blueberries from Homer, and some other berries Celestia had made into a sauce. Celestia and I stayed up to talk (and she gave me a fabulous foot rub!), and when I finally went to bed, I found Adam had found a friend. Loki was snuggled in, so we shared the bed that night with the Big Dog!
Our kayak adventure began with mystical, overcast skies. The water was smooth as glass, and Ben, our guide, was excited to go. We paddled easily to Cain’s Head point, where we extricated ourselves from the kayaks and hiked up to have lunch at the WW2 bunkers standing sentinel over the inlet.
The tide was in as we paddled back through the light rain, and since Adam and I were the only ones on outing, Ben took us on a detour to a salmon stream that was just past the beach where the bald eagles like to hang out. The water in the stream was clear, and the same unnatural blue of the glacier. Looking down, a myriad of salmon could be seen heading upstream. Way cool. That was the only activity of the day, so we went back to the house, and Adam and the kids played card games into the evening.
I am frequently asked if I have travel plans set up. Yes and no. I have a general idea, but as often happens in traveling, plans change, and the object is to go with it. We had intended to go to Seward, Alaska after a day in Anchorage, but our hosts’ plans had changed in Homer, and she wanted us there sooner so our boys could get together. Sally and her son Alex had traveled and home schooled, so I really wanted to pick her brains.
The persistent rain on the drive south from Anchorage had let up by the time we drove into Homer, and not a half hour after our arrival, we found ourselves zipping across the bay on a water taxi, captained by Alex, the youngest skipper in the area! The cove where we were to pick up two ladies was calm, with rugged shale cliffs reaching into the water. I was surprised where people had built cabins: on pine-covered crags, with ladders to the water the only access, or sometimes just on stilts by a cliff! We were entertained on the return trip by large sea otters, floating on their backs, eating, or playing with each other.
Alex and Adam hit it off, as did Sally and I. She persuaded us to delay our kayak reservation in Seward so we could join her and some friends at an exclusive lodge for the night. The boys went longboarding for an hour or so, and Sally and I gathered food for the evening festivities.
It was an intimate gathering of friends who joined the host, Mike McCann on his skiff to head out to the Lodge. Upon arrival and initial unpacking, a group of us went to pick abundant blueberries from a hill just up from the lodge. The boys ate the berries like bears… with blue fingers, and tongues, and full bellies! The adults showed a little more restraint, and more blueberries made it into containers for later consumption. With all containers full, we trudged down the hill to a sumptuous crab chowder (with a Thai flavor) dinner prepared by Sally et al.
After dinner, we all gathered by the glow of the wood stove in the front room for a musical evening cap-off. Kathy played sublime fiddle to the variety of genres of tunes the two guitarists belted out. We all retired to our individual cabins, satisfied by the food and friendship of the evening.
The next morning, Sally proved more cooking prowess with delicious huevos rancheros. A couple more guests motored in to join us for breakfast. It was suggested that Alex, Adam, and I go for a boat ride into Halibut Cove, since we would be able to see a stream where there might still be salmon. Alex wrestled the incoming roiling tide, which carried the boat into the calmer waters of the cove. The fauna count included harbor porpoises and bald eagles, and a peek-a-boo sea otter by the public dock, but no salmon in this
Once again, we all piled into Mike’s skiff for the journey back to Homer Spit. Several of the group had to leave, but Mike wanted to show Adam and Alex the Antonov, a Russian cargo plane, that he was rebuilding. We played in and on the aircraft for a while, then Mike dropped us off at Sally’s where Adam and I packed into the car for our drive to Seward.
Please note that Mike had just finished filming a few episodes of “Yukon Men,” and will be on TV!