Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Alaska {5 of 6}: Kenai, Continued.

Homer, AK {Wednesday, August 11th}
If you're just catching up with our Alaska travel log, make sure to read Parts 1, 2, 3 & 4. We're on the homestretch - tonight is post 5 of 6! I may have to take another month long break from blogging after this marathon week.

So where were we? The Kenai Peninsula!

On Wednesday of Week 2 in Alaska, we got up early, ate our oatmeal & hit the road early heading to the southwestern end of the peninsula to Homer. The drive on the Sterling Highway was pretty ho-hum for awhile, until about 3/4 of the way through when I looked out of the passenger side window & saw a huge mountain across the Cook Inlet, just peaking through the clouds.
Driving along the Sterling Hwy, we spotted this beauty across the Cook Inlet {Wednesday, August 11th}
Thanks to our guidebook, we were able to identify the snow covered peak as Mount Redoubt, an active volcano in the very volcanic Aleutian Range. Last time it erupted was...2009! We naturally had to jump out of car & get a closer look.
Pitstop to check out Mt. Redoubt {Wednesday, August 11th}
It was very Mt. Olympusesque (according to Matt).
Very Active Volcano, Mt. Redoubt {Wednesday, August 11th}
When we jumped in the car, we saw another Alaskan phenomenon: a street sign used as target practice. This wasn't the first (nor the last) we'd see, so Matt had to snap this photo.
Apparently, Alaskans like to use street signs for target practice {Wednesday, August 11th}
Shortly thereafter, we arrived in Homer & stopped at a scenic overlook just outside the city. From Homer, you can look directly west across the Cook Inlet to the Aleutians & Lake Clark National Park & south-ish across Kachcemak Bay. If you look closely, you can see the glaciers that dot the opposite shoreline.
Overlooking Katchemak Bay to Aleutians in Homer {Wednesday, August 11th}
Mountains & Glaciers across Katchemak Bay {Wednesday, August 11th}

Matt also spotted a bald eagle (not our first of the trip, but certainly the closest). What a beautiful bird.
Bald eagle in Homer, AK {Wednesday, August 11th}
We spent most of the day on the Homer Spit, a 4.5 mile narrow, gravel bar jutting out into Katchemak Bay. The spit is part-beautiful beaches, part-RV park, part-fishing hole, part-junkyard,  part-tourist trap, part-commercial/personal fishing harbor. Don't get me wrong, we loved Homer & would highly recommend visiting the Spit if you ever find yourself in Alaska!
Homer Spit {Wednesday, August 11th}
It was low tide when we arrived at the Spit, so we checked out the beach first. Our plan was to picnic there, but the wind was out of control. Amazingly, people tent-camp on the spit! There are lots of RVs, but I couldn't imagine a windier spot. We were fortunate enough to have a beautiful, sunny day ... in the rain, it would have been downright frigid!
Beach on Homer Spit {Wednesday, August 11th}
While I took photos, Matt made friends. He's good at that, especially when the new friends bark.
Matt & a new friend on the Homer Spit {Wednesday, August 11th}
Low tide on the Homer Spit {Wednesday, August 11th}
I spy Matt! {Wednesday, August 11th}
Next, we ventured to the very end of the spit, watched some fishermen doing their thing, spotted a few otters & picked up rocks (not Matt, me. Somehow in the last 3 years, I've developed a rock fetish. Pick 'em up wherever we travel). We eventually made it to the Harbor, where I was in photo heaven. It was a happy (fishy smelling) place.
Homer Boat Harbor {Wednesday, August 11th}
Homer Boat Harbor {Wednesday, August 11th}
Fishing boats at the Homer Boat Harbor {Wednesday, August 11th}
These photos are my faves of the harbor. I loved all of the bright colors & I couldn't have asked for a more beautiful day to put my camera to work.
Homer Boat Harbor {Wednesday, August 11th}
Homer Boat Harbor {Wednesday, August 11th}
Homer Boat Harbor {Wednesday, August 11th}
We spent most of the afternoon on the Spit, browsing the work by talented, local artists & photographers, as well as, a fair share of unnecessary touristy knick-knacks.
Out & about on the Homer Spit {Wednesday, August 11th}
At the advice of a friendly, Midwestern couple we met in Denali, who had RVed for the month of July in the Kenai Peninsula, we took a drive that afternoon in search for a hole-in-the-wall general store that apparently had clam chowder to die for. We drove for a LONG time & eventually found the general store.

Unfortunately, they just served soup du jour & we hit it on tomato-basil soup day. No thanks. We decided to save up for a yummy fish dinner on the Spit. We did venture up to Skyline Drive, at the advice of that same couple & several other Alaskans, & enjoyed a unique view of the Spit & the glaciers across Katchemak Bay.
View of the Spit from Skyline Drive {Wednesday, August 11th}
Glaciers never get old! {Wednesday, August 11th}
I know, I'm obsessed! {Wednesday, August 11th}
Skyline Drive {Wednesday, August 11th}
These pretty pink flowers are everywhere on the Peninsula {Wednesday, August 11th}
We spent the rest of the afternoon & evening just putzing around Homer. We visited the Alaska Islands & Ocean Visitor Center, where we learned about the biological history of Kachemak Bay & the diversity of life found in the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. We finished off the evening at Captain Pattie's Fish House. Another excellent meal (though the Salmon Bake is still my all-time fave). This time I opted for fried halibut & Matt had baked salmon. Yum-o.

Our amazing day & amazing weather continued. When we got back to Cooper Landing, we got to enjoy this sunset on Kenai Lake. Lovely.
Sunset on Kenai Lake, Cooper Landing {Wednesday, August 11th}
If you're just joining me today, this is where camped. Our tent was a few steps a way from this spot. Not a bad campground at all.
Gorgeous sunset on Kenai Lake {Wednesday, August 11th}
Last night camping! Couldn't have asked for better weather & a more beautiful end to our tent time! {Wednesday, August 11th}
The next day, Thursday, we hiked Devil's Pass Trail, a 20 mile roundtrip hike to Devils Pass (duh). It was a really wet day & after about 5.5 miles of rain, mud & fog, we decided to end our misery & turned around. I don't have any decent photos from those 11 miles, but at least we got a good workout!

That evening (our last night in a tent....yippee!) we tried to call it an early night since we'd be getting up early, breaking down camp & driving back to Anchorage, but we weren't so lucky. About the time we finished dinner & dishes & were about to turn in for the night, 2 young dads showed up with their 4 very cute, very rambunctious boys. They squeeled & screamed until way past midnight. So much for campground sanctioned quiet hours. It was a bad omen for what was to come Saturday night on our red eye out of Anchorage...

There was a silver lining, however. We managed to escape rain free on our last night, which was quite a blessing since we were putting away the tent for the rest of the trip. I wasn't keen on hanging it all over our Anchorage hotel room to air it out, so I was relieved!
Sixmile Creek, Seward Hwy {Friday, August 13th}
Our Friday drive back to Anchorage was foggy, but I was determined to get photos of the "prettiest drive in Alaska." Matt graciously stopped for me along the way - so that I could try to snap a photo of the picturesque Sixmile Creek (above), among other photo-worthy spots. Can't say I'm all that pleased with the results, but it was still an pretty ride - despite the less-than-ideal-photographic-day!
Turnagain Arm, Seward Hwy {Friday, August 13th}
We stopped in Portage at the advice of my parents. Portage is home to Portage Glacier, supposedly one of the most accessible & frequently photographed glaciers. The weather just wouldn't cooperate with us & we couldn't see the glacier across from Portage Lake. Darn.
Portage Lake {Friday, August 13th}
As we continued our drive along Turnagain Arm (the northern branch of the Cook Inlet that borders Anchorage on the south), we kept an eye out for beluga whales. My folks had seen them a few short weeks earlier, & they frequent the Turnagain Arm to feed. Maybe we hit the tides wrong, maybe we just had bad luck (or eyesight), but we saw NO belugas. We even whale watched at Beluga Point for crying out loud!
Where are all of the belugas? Bummed we didn't spot any! {Friday, August 13th}

Beluga Point. Do you see any belugas? Me neither. {Friday, August 13th}
Nevertheless, the drive to Anchorage was relaxing, especially knowing that we had a hotel waiting for us at the end of the day. I have a few more adventures to share with you from our 2 days in Anchorage -including a hike that you must do if you ever visit Anchorage - but you'll have to wait until tomorrow to hear about that!

We'll bring this travel blog to an end tomorrow! Yippee! Thanks for reading along so far!

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