Friday, July 30, 2010

Herring Islanders

Our friends Jane and Tim, and their two boys Logan and Bridger invited us out to their isalnd in Kachemak Bay for an overnighter. It was a fanstastic trip. We left Homer Harbor in sunlight and very calm seas for the crossing, once on their island they treated us to grilled salmon and fresh salad. Jane and Tim commercially fish salmon, so after dinner Joyce, Jane, and I went out to check the nets. On the way out the outboard engine decided to  act up. A pin had fallen out of throttle linkage so we were idle only for a while -  I was able to fish the necessary bits out of the bottom of the case, re-secure the likage, and get us going again. We got up close instruction in identifying the different varieties of a salmon an and their quality as Jane pulled the catch out of the nets.

We spent the night in their guest cabin and after breakfast we motored over to Jackolof Bay and walked along the road picking salmon berries in just a light rain.

A blustery front was moving through, so after lunch Jane took us back over to Homer before it got any worse. It was an e-ticket ride in the skiff with really good wave action right off the Homer spit. We rolled up the Sterling Highway back into Deep Creek just as the rain really started to pour down.

Captain Jane passing out PFDs and prepares to shove off.

Tim and Jane's cabin.

Still life, cabin porch.

Joyce and Jane clearing the net.

Island view.

Good friends, good food, warm and dry.

Playing frisbee-golf with the boys on the beach.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

An Egg McMuffin, Ninilchik Style

We've been hearing good things about the Boardwalk Cafe down at the mouth of the Ninilchik River just before the boat harbor. We decided to try them out for breakfast. The "Sunrise Sandwich" is a fresh ingredient homage to the Egg McMuffin. We can report that the burgers are pretty good too - the other night while Joyce did the laundry up at ranger central I surprised her with some "take out" from here.

A fishing fleet works out of Ninilchik Harbor, this is a pretty tight anchorage, and boats need to come and go only on the high tide. We often see them sitting offshore waiting for an incoming tide.

Joyce is ready for breakfast.

Ninilchik Harbor.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Whiskey Gulch

The sun came out and so did we. Joyce and I scurried off to the beach at Whiskey Gulch for some beachcombing. As you can see the tractor-launch there is on a different scale entirely then what goes on commercially at Deep Creek.  Whiskey Gulch is a few miles north of Anchor Point off the Sterling Highway - it is a very nice, laid back place to wander. The road down is quite steep, we had to stop and put the truck into 4x4 on the way back up.

Glorious sunshine.

Gratuitous architecture photo from the ride home.

Monday, July 26, 2010


We've had three straight days with a variety of rain. Everything from misting, to sprinkles you could ignore, to driving downpours, but mostly just plane, old, steady rain. Anchorage set a new record for today with .75" of precipitation (the old record was .50").

The weather has emptied the campground and the outhouse I clean each morning has stayed pristine - I'm good with that. The trailer does seem to be shrinking. Ha! In self-defense we fled last night to the one excellent Mexican restaurant in Homer. Don Jose's was a good time - warm, dry, and nice Kodachrome colors to the decor. The seafood enchilata was fresh and excellent and the steak fajita would feed two people. The margarita was good chemo-therapy for the rain, it wasn't watered down (oh my gosh, reduced to rain puns).

We roll out in just over two weeks so we're cleaning and organizing and getting ready to become road warriors again. I found an excellent blog by Sue Thomas that is chock full of Yukon/Alaska/BC travel lore, including places to boondock. Her photography is top-notch so I'm enjoying that greatly.

Some cheery news: An article I wrote for a British ham radio magazine telling of my operating exploits here in Alaska is being published this fall and I'm lead to understand one of my pictures will grace the front cover. Cool beans!

The really big news is that Joyce and I took the plunge and booked a month long stay in Kona, Hawaii for mid-November. It was great fun using the Internet to research, read reviews, and book the condo and flights. I guess three days of rain does have expensive side effects! So dear reader if you have Kona/Big Island tips for us please email or comment - we're rookies and appreciate any guidance/suggestions.

The hat! I must have that hat!

An Oklahoma couple cleans clams in the rain. Say that three times fast.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Kasilof River Dipnetting

Today we drove to the end of the North Cohoe Loop Road and walked over to the mouth of the Kasilof River to get a look at the dipnetting action. The reds (sockeye salmon) are running! We saw probably 25 fish landed in the time we were there.

Dipnetting is for resident Alaskans only, and they're allowed to keep 20 fish plus 10 per additional family member. The nets can be a maximum of five feet across. The specifics are here.

The variety of nets and people were really interesting. There were round ones, square ones, oval ones and rectangular ones - the nets of course. There was a festive, family atmosphere, with ATVs, coolers, tents, trucks and cars scattered just above the high tide line. Folks would wade out with their nets about five feet from the next person and be chatting away until a salmon trying to reach the spawning grounds at Tustumena Lake decided to run the gauntlet. Then the lucky netter would lunge back up the bank and haul the fish clear of the water as fast as he or she could move in their waders, thump the fish on its head, clean it, and plop it into a cooler of ice.

A note: Waders do make your butt look bigger.

Dipnetting on at the mouth of the Kasilof River on an incoming tide.

High summer fun, that's glacier fed water folks are wading in.

A good look at the action.

Another 'red' hits the cooler.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Skilak Lake Loop Road

Today we packed a picnic lunch and headed north up the Sterling Highway to the Skilak Lake Loop Road. it was a great 20 mile tour on a very good dirt road with decent views of both the lake and the Kenai Range. Some big fish come out of this lake. Don't believe me? Check it out.

A bonus was finding the Hidden Lake Campground, a neat place tucked into the tree. Later, Joyce and I took a short hike down to the Kenai River just below Jim's Landing and had fun seeing salmon jumping as they worked their way up the Kenai River. There was enough bear scat on the trail to keep us talking with our "bear voices" as we went to and fro. No mosquitoes this year!

Skilak Lake and the Kenai Range

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Mount Redoubt's Plume

Our volcano 'neighbor' about 50 miles away across Cook Inlet is putting on a show today. A pretty good sized steam plume showed up this morning and kept growing as the day wore on. Redoubt last erupted in the spring of 2009. Here are a few links to the professional volcano watchers. The web cam and the web site.

Mount Redoubt venting.

On a much smaller scale we're starting to notice the first few fireweed blooms showing up. This is a sure sign that summer is rolling on. In another week we should have quite a show.

A sign that summer is slipping by.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

A Full Day of Salmon

We were given several sockeye salmon today. So Rich and Les worked their fillet knives, and then we vacuum packed the results and pop'ed them in the freezer. Yum! Later in the day we had several helpings of slamon kabobs from the fund raiser the Ninilchik Health and Wellness Center put on. Boy was that a treat! Full stomachs and full freezers and plenty of Omega-3.

Rich and Les getting after it.

  The Food-Saver vacuum packer in action. Janet checked me out on her machine and then let me solo.

Tacky tourist shot to see if you're paying attention. That's a fiberglass fish.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Eveline State Recreation Site (Homer)

Just 20 minutes out of Homer on the East End Road is the Eveline State Recreation Site. There are two relatively short loop trails on this 80 acre parcel and both have stunning flowers this time of the year. If you're in Homer and only have time for one hike I'd recommend this one. We've been out to this little gem of a hiking spot three times because of the flowers and the views across Kachemac Bay to the Kenai Range and its glaciers. The pictures tell the story, but you can sense Edmund loved Eveline very much.

Directions: Out of downtown Homer (not the Spit) on East End Road for 13.8 miles past the McNeil Canyon School, take the left onto Alpine meadow Drive and go .3 miles to the trailhead with good parking. There are usually trail maps and a flower guide at the trailhead bulletin board

At the trailhead.

Joyce on the trail checking out the lupine.

Somebody's dream house sits above the Alpine Meadow Trail.

 Click on this one for a hi-res treat.

We Love Our Ranger Station

Having access to the local ranger sub-station makes it possible to live well down here on Deep Creek Beach. We're on the schedule to do laundry and take showers up there a few times a week. Ah, glorious, hot, never-ending water! Those visits lighten the load on the trailer's water systems so we only have to hook-up and bounce to the dump station once every two weeks. Getting the trailer back into our spot is always an adventure, I never claimed to be a big rig specialist!

We're 2/3 of the way through our stay here. The "Milepost" and the Church & Church Alaska camping books are back out on the night stand now and we're planning and plotting what to see on the way north to the Arctic Circle. We know we'll tow over to Seward first and take a day cruise to see what we can see. A halibut fishing charter has been booked for early August so we're trying to take full advantage of our summer here in Ninilchik before we go.

The Cassiar Highway is calling too, but I think we'll avoid the Top of the World trip from Tok over to Dawson City as the Taylor Highway washed out big time last weekend. They got over 3" of rain and the road is gone in several places. They're forging a rough single lane path in to extract the 20 or so stranded RV's. News links:  here.

The lowest tides of the summer just happened here so we were pretty full with folks itching to get after the clams. I think they did well. We've dropped down to less then 20 rigs a night now which is just fine. Of course because of the position of the new moon we also got the highest tides of the season too. Waves get to within about 5 feet of the trailer. We sit on a gravel berm a few feet above the high tide line so no worries mate!

 It may look rustic to you, but it's a palace to us.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Hiking the Caribou Hills

We broke into the 70's today under sunny skies so it was time to go find a hike. I ran out to the end of Oilwell Road and found a big parking lot mostly used by ATV'ers and snowmobilers to access the Caribou Hills. I'd call that a trailhead. I hiked generally south and east into the hills for a few miles on an ATV trail. It was an excellent workout as it rolled up and down. Lots of nice views of the volcanoes across Cook Inlet, no mosquitoes, plenty of moose sign, and lots of fireweed coming on for their showy August display.

Driving back down Oilwell  Road I could see into the Kenai Range and found another 'trailhead' for a future hike.

The ATV/snowmobile trail that does triple-duty for hiking.

The Caribou Hills has lots of neat cabins with awesome views.

Who can help me identify this one?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Kenai Peninsula Weather

The weather has been consistent the last week, 55 degrees and rain showers. Even the locals are lamenting that their gardens have stopped growing. Just to show you how varied the weather is on such a huge land mass like Alaska, Fairbanks has topped 80 degrees already this summer. This morning we did have full-on sun and a good look at the mountains. Nice!

The Ninilchik Public Library has become one of our favorite haunts. I'm reading about Captain James Cook and his voyages of discovery. I knew Cook Inlet right behind me was named after him, and that things ended badly in Hawaii, but I was amazed to know he took a single ship out from England and found the east coast of Australia. A good read.

We're well over 1/2 way thru our time here so rain or shine I've started doing maintenance on all things on wheels in anticipation of becoming a road warrior again. The latest project was to adjust the king pin on the fifth wheel trailer and the matching hitch in the bed of the truck to get the trailer to tow perfectly level. It wasn't off by much, but I might as well make it as good as it can be. I even gave the pin box on the trailer a fresh coat of black paint.

Summer wear Kenai Peninsula style.

Monday, July 5, 2010

In Search of Bullwinkle

We took a ride last night up Oilwell Road looking for moose. Oilwell Road runs 18 miles east into the back country toward the Caribou Hills. We hadn't gone but a few miles when we found our first moose representative. He sure didn't like being caught between us and the small RV park behind him. Later on we found a bull just starting to grow out some antlers.

Hitting one of these guys out on the Sterling Highway is not trivial. They can step out of the brush along the road and be idling along in your lane in seconds. 

As a bonus we got to experience muskeg first hand. I found a small lake just sprouting some liiy pads and blossoms and slopped my way out there for a picture. I knew I should have thrown my rubber boots, the staple of Alaskan footwear, in the truck!

Moose trot.

These guys are very happy with the few mosquitoes this year.

It looks like dry ground, but it's muskeg.