July 15 until July 26 2017 – Still traveling through Alaska
Last night I saw pants for Dick so before we leave we have to look at them at Fred Meyer on Saturday July 15-th. I am glad Dick says the pants are acceptable so with our purchase we leave Soldotna and drive directly to Homer. We go to “Homer Spit”, a spit of land into the sea. We hope (it’s Saturday) we can find a spot on the campground next to the fishing hole. We are lucky, a Chinese couple just left the place where we desire to stay. Although it is a narrow spot, it has a great view and next to us is only a cage and ice-box and no RV. Unfortunately it is cold, with an icy wind not warmer than 37 degrees, so we stay inside. But then we get our bikes and explore the Spit. Next to several campgrounds are some shops, restaurants and of course a harbor and fish-processing factory. All together a lot of activity on a small piece of land.
At first we go to a shop where we hope to obtain tickets for the musical “Chicago”. The theater “Pier one” on Homer Spit has during the summer season several stage performances. Three years ago we have seen “the Odd Couple” , a fantastic play. That’s why we want to visit tonight’s show. Unfortunately all the tickets are already sold out, but at 5.30 pm we can try to get on the “waiting list” and so still gain access. We cycle further, look at the cleaning station where people clean salmon and halibut and back in our RV we write our story for the website. Doing that we almost forget time. Fortunately, Dick notice that its 5.30 pm, he goes outside and walk to the theatre, 50 yards away. If he don’t come back I’ll have a look outside, it turns out that we are number 7 and 8 on the waiting list, so I get our jackets and join Dick and several others. It’s quite cold outside when you are standing still but in the lee of “Pier One Theatre” we can stand it. Everybody here (most of them from Homer) hope to get access, we wait and wait and wait and our patience is rewarded because at 7. 15pm we may walk into the theatre. Traditionally, at the start of the performance, the stage manager ask where everyone is originated; the one who travelled the most to come here is offered a delicious freshly baked cookie. Three years ago we were the lucky winner of this cookie and now we are the only ones who visit from outside the USA, so again we are given a delicious cookie. We don’t really mind because as we had to wait a long time outside, we did not have had a meal and the massive cups filled with popcorn, all other people enjoy, are less suitable for us European.
The performance of the musical Chicago is gorgeous and we enjoy. During the break we buy two more of those delicious cookies (they taste so good) and after the second part of the performance, again we buy two cookies for tomorrow. Around half past 10 the theatre performance unfortunately comes to an end and after saying thanks to the actors (all people from Homer) we walk to our RV and with a glass of wine we relish the memory of this wonderful evening. It was the last appearance for this musical in Homer so we were really lucky to be here and got tickets. Sunday morning the clouds are dense and you cannot see the mountains. Laundry time! Next to our campground is a shop with fishing equipment and also a laundry so we walk towards it. Unfortunately, there is only one machine available so for the next few hours I’m busy washing and drying. When I return to our RV at 1.30 pm, the clouds lifted and the sun shines in a blue sky. It’s beautiful weather, but nevertheless it is still cold, the temperature is only 50 degrees so sitting outside is not a pleasure.
Oh well it’s nice to look at the people in the fishing hole but we can do that from our RV. Today is the last day that “snagging” is allowed. It means that you pick the fish out of the water other than let him bite in a hook.Usually it’s done with a Harpoon-like hook struck in the dorsal fin of the salmon. It is a dynamic way of fishing and it gives a lot of fun to watch. The edge of the fishing hole is completely filled with snaggers and one after another King Salmon is catched. Not only on the shore also in the water are hijackers for salmon. At least 10 seals swimming around, every now and then they look around the fishinghole and otherwise they hunt for fish. There is also a seaotter catching his meal from the bottom and laying down and relaxing while eating. Ofcourse we take our bikes, eat a “small” ice cream (Dick) and a milkshake (Tita) and enjoy the beautiful mountain world with glaciers around us.
In this part of Alaska is still wilderness, the road literally ends here and only boats and planes can bring you further to (for instance) the Aleutian Islands. Monday July 17-th the weather is still cloudy but as the wind settled down, it doesn’t feel so cold. After saying goodbye to the 6 Americans in rentals, we encountered earlier in Hope, we take our bikes and ride to the town of Homer. It’s always nice to cycle along the Spit. We look for the library so Dick can publish once again and we can read and answer our mail. That means that we spend some time in the library. In the afternoon we leave, search some geocaches in the village, eat something in the “Save U More” and of course we look around in some shops to see if there is something very special for sale. I find a used book shop, packed with books, you can barely walk around and searching for a book is impossible. The owner is a Russian guy with old fashioned Russian looking clothes. He has some books for sale from the series “Wagons West” by Dana Fuller Ross. I would love to have some of them because I want to complete the series. However he wants to sell all ten at a time and also wants a ridiculously expensive price, so unfortunately, no deal! I’ll have to complete my series elsewhere.
End of the afternoon we are back on the Spit where we socialize with our neighbors from California, together we enjoy the fire and the fishermen who try to catch salmon in the fishing hole. Snagging is forbidden now so looking at the fishing is less interesting. Despite the fire, after two hours outside we get numb with cold, so the rest of the evening we remain in our RV. Tuesday July 18 it rains when we get up. We were so lucky with the weather yesterday because cycling for 32 miles in rain-showers is no fun. After breakfast, we decide to leave Homer. The weather will not improve. At 11:00 am we arrive in Soldotna. The clouds are almost on the ground and it made no sense to stop in the small villages along the way. After filling up at Fred Meijer (with 30 cents discount) we drive to Kenai City. Because the rain stopped we walk around, searching for geocaches. All the caches are hidden deep in the Woods where the grass is at least three feet high and dripping. After two hours walking around and searching and with an increase of raindrops, we are soaking wet and only want to stay near a hot stove with dry clothes. Wednesdaymorning we wake up because a Raven is ticking on our roof with a plastic cover. He thinks there may be some food hidden in it. Dick has to put his head through the roof window to chase the bird away, it’s already half past eight am. After breakfest we drive to the Library in Kenai so Dick can publish the English text. It’s possible to stay in a study room so once again I can skype with my 92nd years old auntie Ank. It’s great to speak to her and hear all the news. I miss her, but that is naturally when you’re used to spend each week a day with each other. After several hours at the library we search for a laundromat, our clothes are still soaking wet. With so much moisture and cold, it is only 58 degrees, our wet clothes won’t dry. Fortunately, the machines do their job well so at 4 pm we finally can drive to the beach to look at the “dipnetting”. Now the Alaskans are allowed to catch salmon with large dipnets. Unfortunately all the parking lots near the beach are occupied, but the visitor center tell us where we can look tomorrow. Next to the old city of Kenai. It’s already 6 pm so we drive but back to Walmart where we find out that our air bags arrived at Dick and Kaye in Seward. We will get them Friday. The Sun is shining when we leave Walmart Thursday July 20th. The carpet in our RV is filthy so, before we may explore Kenai, we drive to a carwash with vacuum cleaners and clean our RV. After that we park the camper in front of the visitor center and walk to the old part of Kenai.
Immediately we spot a Moose and baby moose roaming at Moose Headquarters. Ofcourse we sneak closer by in the high grass and make lots of pictures. Kenai is an old Russian settlement and there are still Russian churches. Unfortunately they are not open but they look great, also from outside. On our way to the beach we want to help Granger, Bethany and their two boys to carry their coolbox and other stuff to the beach. We are not allowed to carry the dipnets because just carrying it gives you a fine. We’re lucky tide is coming in, the best time to catch the salmon. Salmon are lazy and float with the flow to the estuary. The sea, along the coast is full of Alaskans standing in the water with dipnets. Let’s hope a salmon swims into the net. And that happens, time and time again people leave the water, go back to the beach with a salmon caught in their net.
The “Sockeye” is arrived. I understand this salmon fever. It’s fun to stand in the sea and catch a salmon in your nets. In season (from July 10 to 30 ) every head of household is allowed to catch 25 salmon with a dipnet and another 10 extra for every family member. You can imagine that it takes some time before you catch all the salmon you are allowed to. It is sad that a non-Alaskan is not allowed to dipnetting, otherwise I loved staying in the sea.
But standing on the beach between the Alaskan and experience how this works is already an adventure. After catching a salmon and beat it to death, you immediately have to cut off a piece of the tail fin. Herewith is clear to all that this salmon is caught with a dipnet and for private use only. We stay on the beach for hours and watch the countless salmon catched. Sometimes the salmon is cleaned on the spot, a feast for the innumerable gulls that flawlessly dive into the sea to get the salmon eggs.
I cannot get enough looking around, chatting and taking pictures but after several hours for Dick it’s enough and we walk to “Veronica’s”, a small eatery near the Russian church where we have excellent food. After that, to digest the amount of food, we walk around the old cabins still preserved. When we return to Walmart we look back on a special day. Friday July 21st the sky is blue , the Sun is shining and there is no wind so the thermometer gives 62 degrees. After breakfast we drive to Seward only stopping for a Moose in one of the many lakes along the way. We meet Dick, Kaye and Carl, on our way to their home and when we park our RV they also arrive. A great reunion, we have so much to talk about.
Eventually we repack our RV, empty our spare tanks, put our engine oil in a different place and leave our American Propane cylinder with Dick and Kaye. In this way we hope to save some weight on the back axle. And then we say goodbye to each other. We hope we may return again in a couple of years to our friends. The distance to Anchorage is only three hours, the Sun is shining and at half past six we arrive at Cabela’s. There is still place to stay overnight. Despite the sunshine there is cold breeze so sitting outside is not agreeable and we stay in our RV and read our books. Dick and Kaye showed us where we can stay overnight in Talkeetna so on Saturday morning we leave Anchorage. The weather is amazing, no clouds and no wind so the temperature is good. Around noon we arrive in Talkeetna.
Unfortunately, the campground in town is not allowed for RV’s so we park the RV in a side street and walk to town, looking for a firetruck from Limburg in Holland. After some searching we find a fire truck at the “Fairview Inn” . The only thing indicating it’s not an Alaskan fire truck are the rock tamers or mud flaps on which is written: “Kronenburg Hedel” , is this the fire truck from Holland? No one knows anything, only that this car arrived here in the 60th . Sorry Richard, we could not find out anymore. After walking around in this busy tourist town (we have no click with it) we continue our travels. Ofcourse we take some pictures at the view point of Talkeetna, where we see Mt Denali, cloudless in a steel blue sky. We also take a tour in a factory of birch syrup and then drive to the parking of South View Denali on Parks highway.
Again, we enjoy the beautiful view of Mt Denali and in the evening we socialize with the other travelers present on the parking lot, chatting together and of course we look at the highest mountain of North America when the Sun disappears behind it. At half past 11 we go to bed. Although Mt Denali is still visible on Sunday July 23rd , there are more clouds and the Sun is more veiled. Yesterday we were incredibly lucky with the weather. On our way north we stop at the visitor center of Denali National Park to view the movie and stamp our National Parks passport. It is obviously that in Denali National park the important things are wildlife and wilderness and not the highest mountain of North America. We arrive in Fairbanks at 5 pm. There is a strong wind and some rain. On Monday its cloudy and there is also some rain. Laundromat time! And when we find a REI shop in Fairbanks, a fantastic sporting shop, I finally can replace my two pair of shoes. After 3 and 5 years they are completely worn out. After some hours we leave REI with new Keens and then we drive to the visitor center and look at a performance of the Atabascan first nations. The shows is nice and soon I am on the stage, dancing with the Native Indians on music, clearly inspired by Irish immigrants to these regions. Unfortunately the weather is not so good so if we are back at Walmart at the end of the afternoon we stay inside and read until bedtime. Tuesday July 25th it is still cloudy with some drizzle.
After breakfast and some shopping at Fred Meijer we leave Fairbanks. Soon we pass the Airforce Base Eielson where huge cargo planes are parked and hunters take off. The way to Tok is pretty boring and very, very quiet, we only see a Moose and calf. There is a lot of rain and the rivers look more like mud flows. At 2 pm we arrive in Tok and after getting a place for our RV we walk to the other side of the road to Tok RV park where our friends from Germany stay: Anne, Werner, Renate and Dieter. Unfortunately, Anne and Werner have problems with their clutch so their car cannot move anymore. It is a pleasant reunion and fortunately, the rain stopped so we can sit outside and enjoy our coffee.
We chat and chat and laugh and make an appointment at 6 o’clock pm at Fast Eddie’s, a 5 minute walk, to have dinner together. It is a success because the food tastes really exceptional and as the weather is improving, after dinner we can stay outside chitchatting and enjoying a glass of wine together.15