Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Kenai & Seward

Thursday night we drove to Soldotna where we stayed at the Longmere Lake Lodge. The rooms were very comfortable and the french toast breakfast was excellent. In the morning we woke up and drove north through Kenai to Captain Cook State Recreation Area (new entry #110). It is just about 30 minutes north of town and is one of the least visited accessible parks in Alaska. From there we walked out onto the beach for some great views of Mt Spurr


and Mt Redoubt (the volcano that delayed our move and two of the first mountains on the Aleutian Range).


After a nice rest and some pictures we drove East to the Russian River to try our hand at fishing for salmon. While we were there a black bear roamed the shores looking for fish carcasses left behind.


However, the reds weren't running so after everyone getting a turn we packed up and continued heading to our final destination on the trip: Seward.


That night, after we checked in to our own apartment at the Harborview Inn, we made fresh halibut for dinner. The next morning we were all supposed to take a Northwestern Fjord Cruise into Kenai Fjords National Park. However, the weather did not look promising so Rebekah and I decided to stay behind. The weather cleared up nicely and on the trip they saw orcas,


puffins,


humpback whales,


sea lions,


harbor seals,


waterfalls,


glaciers (they are wearing Glacial Camouflage - sold at any good Alaskan outfitters),


and many other types of wildlife and scenery. While they were on the cruise Rebekah and I explored south of Seward and found a couple of sea otters playing in the surf.


That night when we were all back together we drove over to Exit Glacier for an after dinner hike.


With only one day left in our trip (and 8 hectic days down) we were very tired and got some much needed sleep so we could enjoy our last day!


Steven

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Homer

After visiting Denali and then staying the night in Alyeska, we headed on down to the Kenai Peninsula and our first stop, Homer. On the way there, we stopped in Whittier to experience the world's longest highway tunnel. Although there is not a lot to do in Whittier, we did stop to see the old military barracks and a scenic river.


Our next stop was further down the road. We stopped in Ninilchik to see an old Russian Orthodox church. It was interesting to see and built right on the cliff overlooking the ocean. It was very scenic and also historic.


Once we arrived in Homer, we went to the Fresh Sourdough Express (restaurant and bakery) for some supper. It is billed as the first eco-friendly restaurant in Alaska. Serving only organic and locally grown (when possible) foods, it is also owned by the same couple who owned the bed and breakfast that we stayed at in Homer, A Memorable Experience. Donna and Kevin were great hosts and we found both the restaurant and accommodation comfortable, clean and cozy. They have a very beautiful backyard and we were able to take some nice family photos.



There was also a beautiful view of the Homer spit and the sun just happened to be shining on it just right!
The following day, some of the group was going out on a halibut fishing charter (new entry #109 on the list). We went out with Bear Bear Halibut Charters. It was a long day with some rough, high seas, but we all caught 2 large halibut each! Here we are with our Catch of the Day.

Rebekah

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Denali National Park and Hatcher Pass

After a short nights sleep in the Denali River Cabins we got to Denali National Park in time to make our reservation on the 5:30 AM bus into the park. It had rained the previous night, but as the day went on the weather cleared up very nicely.



On the bus ride into the park we saw Brown Bears,


Moose,


Wolves,


Caribou,


Marmots,


Dall Sheep,


Falcons,


and many other birds and wildlife (all part of #86 on the list). There were also some great views as the bus winded through the park.


We took the bus in all the way to Wonder Lake at the 85 mile mark. However, the mosquitoes there were so bad that we didn't even get off the bus. So, we took the bus back to the Eielson Visitors Center at the 66 mile mark. From there we got a clear view of the peaks of Denali.


And since the sun was out we decided to take a hike up the mountain side by the visitors center.


It was very windy at the top, but there were some great views of the surrounding areas.


The next morning we got up and started heading down to Girdwood through Hatcher Pass. On the way through the pass we stopped at a garden for some pictures.


When we reached the pass and Summit Lake we hiked around the lake to a remaining late summer snow bank.


While some of us ate lunch, the others hiked up the hillside to the top of a nearby waterfall.


We were running behind and still had a long way to go, so we quickly drove the rest of the way to Girdwood stopping only in Wasilla so Mama could see where Sarah Palin is from.


That night we ate at the Double Musky restaurant, which was excellent. It is a New Orleans style restaurant that has a famous French Pepper Steak. We stayed that night in a house we rented from a local agency and used the opportunity to sleep in and (try to) catch up on our sleep.


Steven

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ridin' the Salmon in Fairbanks

Fairbanks was our first stop on our Alaskan road trip with the Connors clan. We had a peaceful nights rest at the Sophie Station Hotel and all of the family was very glad to have heavy curtains that blocked out all of our Alaskan "Midnight Sun"! We headed out for a full day of adventures and sightseeing. Our first stop was the beautiful Georgeson Botanical Gardens on the University of Alaska-Fairbanks campus! These gardens are the northernmost public gardens in North America and are dedicated to plant science and research relating to growing plants in the "Far North". Basically, they are experimenting to see which plants will grow well and which plants (and flowers) will not.


After the gardens, we headed just down the road to Creamer's Marsh. It is named that because there is a Creamery there and the person who used to own it also had the last name of Creamer. He used to gather the milk and then deliver it around town. We learned that he used to have to keep a heater on in the delivery truck so that the milk would not freeze. Part of his land is a big field and is now used as a waterfowl and bird sanctuary. We enjoyed seeing the different types of birds that live there. The picture below is of the baby birds inside the nest and the momma bird bringing them food.



The field was full of small, lovely yellow flowers and it had a cute little fence around the field too!
After leaving the marsh, the visitors headed over to the Ice Museum. Steven and I did not go through this museum because we have already visited one at Chena Hot Springs. They enjoyed seeing all of the ice sculptures though and also watching a movie about how the artists carve and create things out of the ice.After the Ice Museum, we all were starving, so we headed over to Pioneer Park (basically a touristy shopping, music, museum, food outdoor park) to go to the Salmon Bake. It was a nice outdoor, all-you-care-to-eat buffet that not only has salmon, but halibut and prime rib also. The fish was wonderful as were the different sides (beans, slaw, salad, pasta salad etc.) and the desserts.


After stuffing ourselves Alaska-style, we went to check out the -40 Below room (#108 on our list). It is basically a big cooler that is chilled to -40 degrees Fahrenheit. We all bundled up as best we could with hats, boots, parkas and even gloves. I was wearing a skirt and my legs were cold in there and very red when I came out. We got to hammer a nail into a piece of wood with a frozen banana and also throw boiling water up into the air and watch it freeze before it hit the ground. It was really interesting and CRAZY to think that the people of Fairbanks have to go to work and school when it is really that cold outside!

The last thing we did before leaving to head to Denali, our next destination was ride the giant salmon at the park. Mama really liked this part as you can see!


Rebekah

Monday, August 16, 2010

I want to see a MOOSE!

My family came into town at the beginning of July (I know, we are way behind). They landed on my birthday and took us to Simon & Seaforts for dinner! While I finished up my work week, Rebekah took them around to Thunderbird Falls, Shopping on 4th Avenue, the Anchorage Museum, and Potter's Marsh to see the Arctic Terns (part of #86) my dad had read about.


We would spend the next 9 days traveling around the state doing everything from glacial trekking to halibut fishing.

Early Saturday morning we got up to drive the Richardson Highway north to Fairbanks. While the weather wasn't great (it was raining), it cleared up long enough for us to stop at the Matanuska Glacier.


For those that don't remember from a very early blog, it is the largest glacier accessible by car in the United States and Rebekah and I had visited it on one of our first trips around the state. The access is privately controlled, so you have to pay an entrance fee. But, you can actually hike out onto the glacier which is a very interesting experience.


Last time we had just walked a short way onto the glacier, but this time we were more adventurous (after hearing stories from friends) and hiked down to a cool glacial lake on top of the glacier itself.


The lake sat at the face of a cliff of ice around 100 feet tall.


When we left the glacier we continued driving the Richardson Highway viewing the Trans Alaska Pipeline along the way. However, the beautiful scenery, pipeline, and walking on a glacier apparently wasn't enough. Everyone kept saying that they wanted to see a moose, why wasn't there a moose, where are all the moose?


So, after looking and looking I finally found a moose drinking in a small pond just off the road. I thought this would end it there, but soon found out that this moose wasn't good enough as it didn't have a big enough rack (apparently my family has gotten shallow since I left).


Almost 12 hours after we left that morning we made it to North Pole, Alaska and the Santa Claus House. We looked around the gift shop and of course took a picture with Santa!


Next, we finished the final 10 miles to Fairbanks and immediately headed to our favorite restaurant this far north, the Silver Gulch.

The longest driving day of the trip was complete, so we headed to the Sophie Station Hotel for a restful night's sleep!


Steven