This month, Steve and I are checking off a big item on our life list. After years of planning and dreaming, we’ve finally reached Alaska! Even after just three weeks in this amazing state, I can happily say that the rumors are true—things are all done on a large scale here. The mountains tower over any we’ve seen before. The water is bluer, and icier, and it seems to go on forever. The pine forests are carpets of green, and the wildlife is everywhere. From the bald eagle that soared over our heads on the first day we arrived to last night’s bull moose, we’ve seen something incredible during every day of our visit.
We started our tour in Anchorage, thinking that would help us get our bearings and lay our plans for heading further afield. This is where the Iditarod Sled Dog Race starts every March, and I’ve already made Steve promise that we can come back here to watch it one day. Right now, however, snow is the farthest thing from our minds. It’s been in the high 60s lately, with beautifully clear skies—perfect for snapping photos of birds and local attractions.
We took a tour of the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum, then I left Steve there to look at more planes while I went to the Museum of Art. They had amazing baskets and hand-made crafts by the Aleut, Tlingit, and Haida people—truly stunning. Another day I poked around town and did some gift shopping while Steve played golf at the Anchorage course. It struck me as so funny to think of him golfing in Alaska! But I suppose they play bridge and have book clubs here, too—I shouldn’t be so surprised.
It turns out that we’re just one month too late for the Alaska Renaissance Festival and the Solstice Celebration. But if we stay long enough into August, we can catch the Annual Silver Salmon Fishing Derby, which Steve is pretty excited about. In the meantime, we’re heading southwest to the Kenai Peninsula, because that’s where our friends told us to go for absolutely fantastic fishing. Kenai is 137 miles from Anchorage, and that’s considered nearby in this mammoth of a state!
Kenai is amazing. There’s no other word for it, really. The open water, the endless meadows, the forests, the sea—it’s all spectacular. After we’d soaked in the views, Sally and I caught the ferry early one morning to the Russian River so we could get a jump on salmon fishing. The river bank was a popular spot, but that didn’t stop us from getting our day’s catch. A silvery salmon, as long as Sally’s arm, chomped on my line after about two hours of fishing. How about that!
We processed and froze that fish, then went out for a hike on one of the Kenai River boardwalks, so Sally could try out her new bird-watching binoculars. Our fishing streak continued strong all week as we tried different spots: the Kenai River, Crooked Creek, the Ninilchik River (which Sally awarded “best name”), and the Anchor River. I have to admit that Sally became a pretty serious fisherwoman. After she caught her first twenty-pounder, she became just as fanatical about the mechanics of fishing as I am.
After that first week, we picked up camp and headed south, trailing around the Kenai Peninsula to Homer where a short 4 mile water taxi takes you to the magical world of "across the bay" as the locals say. Kachemak Bay is an extraordinary place to explore by kayak, since you can slip right up into the narrow little fjords, looking at sea otters and ocean-going birds. We even saw an orca-whale pod from a distance one day, blowing their spurts of water up into the air. Sally got a photo of one with its tail flipping up after a dive, just as if it had posed for the picture.
It was in Homer that we saw the fields full of sandhill cranes engaged in their spectacular mating dance. Sally saw a momma moose with this springs twins walking right through the local dime-store parking lot! Locals didn't even blink an eye, but did warn the tourists about keeping our distance. Apparently moose cause more injuries to people than bears. One day kayaking "across the bay" and we spotted more dall sheep that we could count high up on the mountain ridge. On a hike later that day we saw ptarmigan and something that looked like a weasel. The weasel turned out to be an ermine and both these critters are now wearing there summer camouflage of browns and tans, but just before the first snow fall they will change into there winter attire and turn completely white. Mother nature sure is amazing. Sally has started sketching the creatures we see and then making watercolor paintings of them, so we have a colorful little booklet full of the animals we’ve seen. Between you and me, she’s going to have a hard time getting me back to the lower forty-eight. At least until the snow starts flying!