[This is a series of blogposts for my friend Susan. I have left all her misspellings included, since they add to the charm of the travel log. I have removed any writing of a personal nature. These writings were given in email form. I offered to post them for her for all her friends on Facebook and others who may have missed her emails because of overactive spam filters. To comment on her log, please go to her Facebook page and comment there. Susan doesn't have access to comments here on my blog. Sorry.]
The return trip from “The Great Alaska Adventire”
In the last edition you learned about “flipping and that Reds don’t eat when they start up the river to spawn”. Let me print a retraction….new info from a second source says that Sockeye Salmon are plankton eaters and they have their mouths open to gather the plant food as they go up river to spawn therefore they are not interested in traditional bait. But ofcourse they are vulnerable to hooks! The fishing regulations vary but in the area where we are fishing we can hook them in the mouth but if the hook were to catch them outside the mouth we would have to through them back. You have to have a degree in fishing legal ease to understrand some of this stuff.
Thursday the 21st was the “Great Halibut Hall” The next day we (3) spent the first part of Friday packaging and freezing lots of white fish after which we had breakfast. I made Roy & Dave pan cakes, sausage, bacon, eggs and hash browns. These “he men” brought home 60 pounds of fish and felt justified and deserving of BIG cholesterol and sugar filled breakfast so I fixed it for them.
The three of us sat at the picnic table in the sun filled yard, in front of Roy’s Alaskan built home and enjoyed the view, friendship, fried food and warm sun rays falling on our tired and sore bodies. The short green trees surrounded us and the moose mom did not show up for breakfast. She and the twins might be scouting out the busy hwy as over 250 moose have been killed on the Alaskan roads so far this year. Big signs are placed on all roads that might have moose crossings which say “Give the Moose a BREAK” and then listing the current death figures. Let’s hope the twin’s mom is smarter than the 250 that went before her.
You might ask “what is the difference between an Alaskan-built-home and lower 48 built-home?” Well this is what I was told by a young resident and several adults residents. First there are no building codes in most of Alaska. Some cities might have codes but these codes do not apply outside the city. So the owner of the land cuts down the trees, to clear part of his/her land. Then s/he uses the logs to build the house. It is often built right on the bare ground without the benefit of a foundation. It may have electricity but may not have a septic system.
Most homes of this ilk probably have an out-of-doors, out back, out-house while in the house a bathroom has a shower and sink (another sink is usually in the kitchen). water is drawn from a well via an electric pump and heated by the electric water heater. ”Where does the water go?”… Into a pipe towards a rock filled hole in the back of the property. The roof is sometimes sod and these days sometimes metal. They don’t have gutters because the gutters would be torn off by snow and ice every winter.
The wood stove is most often the only source of heat as electricity & oil are very expensive. (With oil heat it could run $1000 per month in the winter for house hold heating.)
Dave’s Birthday was Saturday July 23rd, so we had a little dinner party. Ted and Janet were close by and came to Roy’s home/our trailer site to join us for the celebration. We had salmon, Moose sausage/hot dogs on the barbeque, with homemade potato salad by chef Roy, and birthday cake an excellent bakery called “The Moose is Loose” bakery. The cake had a large king salmon cookie on top with writing that said “Happy Birthday Dave!
The next morning Dave and I road with Ted, Janet whi drove their car to the end of the Kenai Peninsula, some call it the End of the Road because it dead ends on the Homer spit. The spit is a long finger of land which makes a natural shelter for mooring boats in Cooks inlet. The spit has, RV parks with full hook-ups that look out on the bay, a tent camping ground on a sandy spot with a similar view, small to medium businesses to include the obvious fishing charters and restaurants and not do obvious gift stores, theater arts, art galleries, ship docks for luxury liners docking, and ferry terminals.
The four of us were interested in the later because we booked a night in Soldovia. The only way to this small old quaint fishing village is the hour trip by ferry across the bay. The residents of Soldovia have cars but the ferry does not include cars so we were on foot. The hotel was a block or two from the dock and had balconies that overlooked the small bay and moorage.
We ferried across Cooks Inlet to the far side to find this small town, with three restaurants, a once a year chainsaw carving festival (not today), one bridge and 15 miles of roads which do not go to anywhere with a name but fishing lodges and homes. The residents number about 250 year round and it swells to over 1200 people in the summer months. There is a fire department, City Hall, a policeman with the appropriately painted car and flash on-demand light/siren.
There are at least two official churches and we saw a church sign on what was an old unpainted single car garage next a home. There were a dozen or more hotels/bed and breakfast lodgings and a view of the snow capped mountains that surround the miniature bay.
This town was nearly wiped out in the 1964 earth quake/Tsunami. Prior to the quake the town had a large cannery, which was destroyed by the shaking earth and a population over 3000. The town was originally built on the edge of the ocean with wooden boardwalks/docks lining the shore. When the tides were in the boats could pull up to the board walk and tie up. When the tide was out the tall pilings traversed the space between the boardwalk/docks/buildings and the sandy beach below. Only a few of the boardwalks are left after the earth quack and they have a charm that matches other old frontier towns The wood fronts with hand painted signs are much like we see in old western movies. Many of the buildings share the same outside walls and might magically produce a old salty sea captain any moment.
These days the town does not have a large industry but it does boast that it has one of the only ice free ports for ships in the area. Even Homer, just across the bay, in direct sight, can not match that claim.
We had an early dinner at a cafe which was two doors down from our hotel. After dinner, Janet and I walked the town checking out the 2011 chain saw carvings that were sprinkled here and there. They were perched on porches, rolling off roves, lounging in the library, viewing the visitors center and playing in all of the little parks scattered around the town. (We counted 4 postage stamp sized parks in the first mile and central Park was right across the street from our accommodations) I will post photos after I get home as the carvings were many and wondrous in size and imagination.
We found that Verizon cell phones work well but our ATT cell phones could only get a signal when the holder of the devise could visually see Homer across the bay. TV’s worked and you could rent ATV’s to ride the 15 miles of road or go on long hikes to small beaches or nature viewing with multiple types of berry picking in the forests around this isolated small town. There was a visitor’s center with very beautiful young women who could only answer a few of our questions but was charming just the same.
Some of the history of the town was displayed in the visitor’s center with a live camera that was recrding and showing shots of the birds on a nearby island. Should we call it Bird-Cam or Peeping Cam?
We chose to check out the town and kick back and watch the ships/boats go in and out of the tinny harbor. The other fun viewing was the one male Otter who inhabits the bay and river. He paddles his 3+ ft long dark furry body along then disappears only to surface a minute later with his clam dinner on his belly and a rock held under his arm pit. The rock comes out from under his arm to crack the shell and reveal his sea food prize. Then he swims on to another spot to disappear once more. We were told that Otters have ….800,000 TO 1 MILLION HAIRS PER SQUARE INCH of fur) and that was why the Russians came so far to hunt for these prized the furs and build towns like Soldovia.
The munchies came upon the four of us about 7 pm and we found a nice bayside place to have desert. Dessert was very good and included things like; fresh personal size hand made Strawberry-rhubarb cobbler, blueberry cobbler, coconut or banana cream pie, and pecan pie. Some of us went al-mode and when the bill came we were astounded that it was over $40 without the tip. Very good food and very pricy was exactly what we found everywhere. The grocery had a large bag of walnuts like you get at Costco that was priced at $28. A pint of Kailua liquor was $45 so we decided to drink water instead.
The next day we had breakfast watching the small charters and personal crafts buzz in and out of the quiet port. Janet and I have this thing about adventuring on foot to see whatever we could find. We could see an old church steeple but could not find the road to get up closer to it. Then we found a small path and took a chance that we would not be found trespassers and went up to up to the Old Russian church at the top of a small hill in the middle of town. At the church we discovered several interesting things. First, there were at least two other roads coming up to this church, the church has a padlock on the front door and lastly that I could see Homer and get my voice mail and make a phone call.
At noon we were all back on the ferry for the 45 minute trip to Homer. Small town life would be interesting but none of us were ready to check into any of the many “for sale” signs sprinkled around town. Some lots were as low as $10,000 and some ragged weathered homes were as low as $45,000. This info was on a sign at the real-estate office which also was “for sale” and had a second sign saying “gone fishing”. Well, the reds are running. In fact when we got to the bridge on our walk, the tide was out and the red/sockeye Salmon were waiting under the bridge for the next tide to go up the river and spawn. I here that if I had a fishing pole with a treble hook I could have dropped the line in the water from the bridge and snagged a fish and it would have been legally fishing since my fishing license was still good for a couple days and that river has special dispensation for that type of fishing. I could have rented a pole in town but our freezer was full to over flowing.
Well, many people have been asking when we will be home. I can’t answer that question but I can share that tomorrow (July 26th) is the day we are leaving for home. The freezer us full, the fishing license expires to-marrow at 6 am, and both of us are tired, sore and in agreement that it is time to head for home. It could take a couple of weeks or more before you see the RED of our tired eyes but we are heading home with a dream come true and memories of the wonder and beauty of this very natural extraordinary place. In many ways it is like stepping back in time because Alaska has so much undisturbed land and very few cities with people. We have really enjoyed this long but flexible adventure and appreciate those loved ones and neighbors who have looked after our place and our kitty while we are out adventuring…
Love Susan and Dave.