Archive for June, 2010

A beautiful day on the Kenai, Wednesday, June 30, 2010

June 30, 2010 - 6:03 pm 1 Comment

This morning we left a dreary, cloudy, damp Seward Alaska and headed toward Soldotna. We had to backtrack about 45 miles because Seward is one way in, one way out. We passed through Cooper Landing and drove into the Cooper Creek campground one more time, just for a last look.

We were told that because this weekend is July 4, all of Anchorage “empties out” and heads for the Kenai Peninsula for a weekend of celebration. We made reservations for tomorrow night on the Homer Spit, which is a famous place for fishing. It’s the farthest point south we can go in Alaska, and like Seward, it is one way in, one way out. We will enjoy our stay in Homer. We’ve got reservations at an RV Park right on the spit.

We saw fishermen along the Kenai and Russian Rivers today, but it was so crowded, I couldn’t get a photo because there was no place to stop. We talked with Don and Sandie who flew back to Anchorage last night from Kodiak Island. She said the trip was good, but they did not spot one single bear. Bummer…. They are spending tonight in Seward and then will head north toward Calgary to catch their flight home on July 15.

We spent the afternoon seeing the sights around Soldotna and Kenai. We stopped at a Fred Meyer store (I’m hooked) in Soldotna and did our grocery shopping. Tonight for dinner we will have chicken breasts, corn on the cob (fresh from California), and a green bean casserole. Maybe I’ll make a low fat peach cobbler.

The Russian Orthodox Church was interesting in that, although they are currently doing renovations to shore up the walls of the church, they still have church services here. The church was built in 1894 and it still has the original chandelier in it. This community is still home to many Russian immigrants. The retired priest was very interesting and he gave us a lot of information about the church.

We really enjoy reading your comments and hope you continue to follow our journey. Stay tuned. Bonnie

A Rainy Day in Seward Alaska, Tuesday, June 29, 2010

June 29, 2010 - 5:35 pm 1 Comment

We left Cooper Landing this morning early because we wanted to get to Seward (50 miles away) in time to get a campsite in the city park, which is right on the bay. We figured if we got there early we might snag a good spot on the water. Well we arrived around 10:0o a.m. and there was one spot left, not directly on the water but one aisle over, so we took it.

After we registered, we drove down to the harbor and looked around. We had lunch in a nice little restaurant called “Ray’s”, which was suggested by the lady in the Visitor Center. The weather is so cold and windy it is not comfortable being in it for long. After lunch we walked around a little. Seward is not an RV friendly city. We had trouble finding parking anywhere. Even the restaurant had a sign out front saying “NO RV’s”. We finally found a parking lot on the edge of town where we could park. At any rate, it’s a difficult little town to maneuver around in. We found the post office and mailed a package, we found the library and I uploaded yesterday’s blog entry, and we drove back to the campsite.

We tried to take a walk along the bay but the wind and dampness drove us back inside the RV. So we will spend the rest of the afternoon reading and dozing. It’s a good day for it.

We will leave in the morning and drive farther south toward Homer, the last town on the Kenai Peninsula. We plan on ending tomorrow in the little town of Soldotna. Stay tuned. Bonnie

Cooper Creek Campground, a sentimental journey Monday June 28, 2010

June 29, 2010 - 3:01 pm 3 Comments

Our friends Don and Sandie are flying out today to Kodiak Island to view the Grizzlies. Greg and I headed out from Anchorage this morning on our way to the Kenai Peninsula. Don and Sandie will spend tonight on Kodiak Island and return to Anchorage Tuesday evening. We will be in phone contact on Wednesday, when they will have to start their return trip to Calgary for their flight home. We expect to be on the Kenai Peninsula til the end of the week, so we probably won’t catch up to them. So we said our goodbyes this morning.

The morning started out dreary—rainy, foggy, and cold. As the day went on, the temperatures moderated and the sun came out for a warm afternoon.

We followed Turnagain Arm, a body of water named by Captain Vancouver in 1794. This body of water is known for having one of the world’s remarkably high tides, with a range of more than 33 feet. A bore tide is an abrupt rise of tidal water just after low tide. This dramatic tide is formed by a flood tide surging into a constricted inlet such as Turnagain Arm. It’s a beautifully dramatic area with high mountains surrounding this body of water. The road follows the water until you get to the Kenai Peninsula, less than 50 miles from Anchorage. Our first stop was the little town of Girdwood. In the earthquake of 1964, the original site of this town was beside the Turnagain Arm. The earthquake caused the town to be destroyed by flooding due to the high tides. When the town was rebuilt, it was moved 2 miles into the valley so as not to be beside the water again. It’s a quaint little town, just a little village, but we found the post office and mailed a package out to Allan. We stopped for a cup of coffee at a little coffee shop in the middle of the village.

We stopped at a visitor center at the start of the peninsula and got a lot of good information about this area. Our next stop was the town of Hope. We turned off the main highway and drove 17 miles down a 2 lane road to the town of Hope. The road ends in Hope, so in order to continue your journey you backtrack the 17 miles to the main highway. This picturesque community was a frenzy of gold rush activity in 1896. The gold rush here was short-lived because by 1899, many of the miners had joined the gold rush to the Klondike. Hope is the best preserved gold mining community in southern Alaska.

We stopped by the side of the road to have lunch. Our trip today has been one of unbelievable dramatic scenery at every turn. The peninsula road is in the valley with grand snow covered mountains on the other side of the Turnagain Arm.

Our last village of the day was Cooper Landing. I was most anxious to get to this area because the campground where my Mother and Dad hosted 30 years ago is in Cooper Landing. Cooper Landing was named for Joseph Cooper, a miner who discovered gold here in 1894. It has only been since 1954 that a road connected Cooper Landing with Anchorage. The campground we were looking for is named Cooper Creek US Forestry Service Campground. I brought photos with me of Mother and Dad in their campsite, Dad fishing on the Kenai River, etc. I knew their campsite was right on the river, and I knew, because they were hosts, their site would be the first one on the campground. We found the campground and turned in. The first site had a big motorhome in it, and I saw the couple sitting around the campfire at the site. I had Greg let me out while he parked the RV. I walked into their campsite and introduced myself and told them my mission. I had the photos with me and showed them as I told them the story of Mother and Dad and this campground. They were very gracious in telling us about the area (they have camped here off and on since 2002). After looking at our photos we all determined that this was indeed the campsite we were looking for. We took photos in the campsite and along the river. This was one of the most beautiful sites I’ve ever seen. The Kenai River is very green due to it being from glacier runoff. It has a gentle flow and it is so clear you can see to the bottom. I have a photo of my Dad fishing from this very site, and we think we even spotted the grouping of 3 trees where he was standing in the photo. Well anyone who knows me can imagine what an emotional moment this was for me. I never realized what a beautiful spot this was, and can you imagine they camped here for 3 months? Dad caught salmon, and Mother canned it. No wonder they loved it here and they never forgot about it. No wonder, as long as Dad lived, as he lost his memory, he never forgot that wonderful summer in Cooper Creek Campground, fishing for salmon on that beautiful river. It was overwhelming for me to stand there. The couple who are now camping in that site told us to stay as long as we wanted. They were so gracious, helping us set up the picture frame so that we could capture exactly what we wanted. I really had to make myself walk away from this spot. It was just so beautiful and I just cannot believe we found it. I’ll never forget this day.

We would have loved to spend the night in that campground but it was totally full. So we are camped down the road in another campground. But it doesn’t matter. I’ve done what I came here to do. I’m one very happy camper.

Tomorrow we’ll head over to Seward which is only about 50 miles away. Seward is a fishing village and there is a city campground that we would like to stay in tomorrow evening. It is right on the ocean and would be a great place to stay. We hope to see some fishing boats in the harbor.

Stay tuned. Bonnie

Rain Rain Go Away Anchorage, Sunday, June 27, 2010

June 27, 2010 - 4:29 pm 1 Comment

We awoke to a light rain this morning and the clouds looked as though they were set for the day. We had a good breakfast and piddled this morning getting things stowed away. Then we read for a while, waiting for the weather to clear. After lunch it seemed to be clearing, so we put on our rain gear and headed out to town. We visited the market which was nice but a lot of the vendors had not opened their tents today due to the bad weather.

On our way back to the RV, we stopped again at the ULU factory to look around. I’m sure the majority of the ULU’s are made at a plant somewhere else. There is a small shop in the store that you can see the artisans making the boards and handles. The story is that they generally made about 10,000 ULUs a year until a few years ago when Rachel Ray came to town and filmed a story on Anchorage. She did a piece on the ULU, using it in a demonstration, and since then their production has gone up from 10,000 to 50,000 ULUs manufactured each year. Anchorage thanks you, Rachel.

We are excited about starting our journey tomorrow down to the Kenai Peninsula. We will probably be moving around all week next week from one little village to the other. We will visit the campground where my parents were hosts 30 years ago. We sure hope the weather clears up tomorrow, but we’ve been very lucky so far. Today is really the first day we can remember on this trip that we’ve had rain all day long.

Stay tuned. Bonnie

Hello from Anchorage, Alaska Saturday, June 26, 2010

June 26, 2010 - 6:26 pm 1 Comment

Well Don and Sandie took a flight last night over Mt. McKinley and the plane landed on a glacier. They also got a view of Mt. McKinley. Sandie was tickled to get to walk on the glacier. Someone who landed before them had left a small box on the ice at the place where the plane landed, and the sign on the box said “rest in peace, Dad”. Would love to know the story of that adventure.

Also last night in our campground in Talkeetna, Don and Sandie ran into a fellow from Georgia. They mentioned they went to UTK, and the guy said “my parents graduated from the medical school in Memphis”. Sandie said, so did I, I’m a pharmacist. The guy said “so are my parents”. And you guessed it, Sandie graduated from pharmacy school with this guy’s parents and knew them well.

It’s interesting that when we stop at a grocery store in the smaller areas, there is usually a sign on the door saying “NO GUNS”!!!

We stopped in Wasilla to visit the Iditarod Headquarters. It was an extremely busy day at the headquarters because today is the signup day for next years’ race. So there were lots of people milling around. We saw some dogs and there was a small museum. We treated ourselves to Arby’s for lunch. Wasilla was a larger town than we expected. It is also the home of a woman who ran for Vice President a while back. She’s not very popular up here in Wasilla.

We arrived at our campground in Anchorage around 2:00 p.m. We settled in and were able to walk to the ULU Factory down the road. We saw the workmen making the bowls that go with the knives. I picked up several gifts and a set for myself. We then rode a shuttle to the nearby downtown area where on each Saturday and Sunday during the summer they have a festival where all local artisans bring their goods for sale. We will spend most of the day tomorrow at the festival. While walking back to the campground from the Ulu Factory, a city policeman told us to go by the area behind the Ulu Factory to view the running of the king salmon. You know the story of the salmon. After they spawn, they come home again to die. They are very red when they are at the end of their lives. They are struggling upstream, and they appear to be sluggish. It is a very interesting part of nature that these salmon travel long miles and come back to the place they were born to die. The young salmon feed on the dead bodies of the older fish. This is their life cycle.

This afternoon we washed four loads of clothes. We will have Choo Choo Barbeque for dinner this evening. Home away from home.

Stay tuned. Bonnie

Talkeetna Treat — Friday, June 25, 2010

June 25, 2010 - 6:54 pm No Comments

We loved our stay in the Riley Creek Campground in Denali. It’s a national park campground, meaning it is primitive. But oh so beautiful and tranquil. You know when people aren’t playing televisions, radios, etc. there is no noise. The campsites are very big and shaded. Don built a great campfire the first night in the park and we enjoyed sitting around it after supper. We were going to have a campfire last night but we were all so tired we didn’t get around to it. We would have loved to stay there longer if there were electricity and water. It would have been a great place to sit and read a book, take a walk, etc.

We turned 6,000 miles on our way to Talkeetna. The drive down here was wonderful because it was very isolated. We stopped by the Alaska Veteran’s Memorial between Denali and Talkeetna. I forgot to tell you that we met two couples from Kentucky while we were in Fairbanks. They camped next to us. They are driving Model A’s all the way from Kentucky and they are pulling these little trailers they specially built to pull with the A Models. They sleep in the little trailer. They were telling us that they drove up to the Arctic Circle from Fairbanks just to say they did it. They drove round trip from Fairbanks 18 hours in one day!!!!!

We also saw the View that belongs to Bob from Virginia. This is the guy and his wife who spotted us at Yellowstone and spoke to us. We knew they were on their way to Alaska but this is the first time we’ve seen them since leaving Wyoming. They were camped the next road over from us in Denali. Unfortunately we never got to speak with them because either we were gone, or they were gone.

A corvette club passed us today—-there must have been 10 or 12 of them and one of them was a 1962 model. Greg enjoyed seeing all those corvettes.

We arrived in Talkeetna around 2:00 p.m. After setting up we walked into the village. It’s just a little strip village but has interesting shops. The best part of it is most of the goods are Alaskan made by local artisans. Greg came upon a John Deere ice cream churn, as you’ll see in one of the photos. It has a 5 gallon churn capacity and is one of a kind. Greg loved it!!! We stopped by a little community shop and both Sandie and I bought a raffle ticket for a hand made quilt made by the local “ladies”. The proceeds of the raffle are for a scholarship for a local high school graduate to go to college. So whether or not our ticket is drawn, we are helping send a local kid to college. That’s a good thing.

We bought a meat pie for dinner (it’s called a “patsy” or something like that). It’s like a chicken pot pie but it’s beef and gravy in a pastry pouch. I’ll let you know what we think.

Don and Sandie are trying to line up a flight over Mt. McKinley for tomorrow and also it will land on a glacier. We’ll drive on over to Anchorage and meet them there. You all know I don’t do FLIGHTS!! LOL

Stay tuned. Bonnie

Denali — Dangerous, Difficult, and Delightful Thursday June 24, 2010

June 25, 2010 - 9:12 am No Comments

This morning we started our journey into Denali at 7:00 a.m. We drove the RV over to a hotel where the tour started from. The bus was actually a little better than a school bus, but not much. The seats did have some cushion which was a pleasant surprise. Also, our driver was an anthropologist and she reminded both of us of our good friend Ann Hall. She knew a lot about the tundra, food chain, and you could tell by the way she described everything that she’s devoted to the park and the preservation of the wildlife. So here’s a shout out to our friend Ann Hall. We’d heard stories about the long difficult day inside the park so we were somewhat prepared. Because Don and Sandie had already done the Denali Tundra and Wildlife tour, they opted to move around the park on the shuttle service.

We packed our backpacks with plenty of water and snacks. There was a box lunch in our seat as we boarded the bus. It’s a wonder what they can prepackage these days. In the box were a sandwich roll, a CAN of chicken salad (that’s a first), crackers, and a little prepackaged item of carrot sticks and ranch dressing, and a cookie. There was a hand wipe and a spoon inside the box as well. Actually at lunch time, we were tired and hungry so it tasted pretty good. The chicken salad was in a can similar to a can of tuna, and it had a peel back aluminum lid, much like applesauce or some of those other individual servings of jello, pudding, etc. At any rate it was pretty good.

The park is difficult to describe. It is a vast area of some 2 million acres of designated wilderness. A single 92 mile road offers the only access through the park. No vehicles are allowed past a certain point except the tour buses. There are no power lines or buildings. The roads are dirt and gravel and make for a rough ride. On top of being rough roads, they are also scary roads (for me anyway). They are very narrow, and one side drops off at such a level it looks as though the bus will go flying off the edge at any minute. The roads are curvy and go up and down the entire day. But the weather was perfect for looking for wildlife. We saw caribou, moose, grizzlies, elk, and dall sheep. The problem is the wildlife was so far away it was difficult to see with the naked eye. But we all had binoculars, and the tour bus driver had a fancy video cam that she could get close ups of the animals. At intervals in the bus there were small dvd screens, similar to the ones used in vehicles for children to watch movies. We could view live video close-ups of the animals anyone spotted on the trip. So viewing the close up of the animals on the dvd screen was better than trying to find them with binoculars. The down side of this was we didn’t get good photos. We actually saw more wildlife close up while driving in British Columbia and Alberta than in Denali. If there was any disappointment of the day it was that we did not get to view Mt. McKinley. The mountain was covered with clouds although our day was beautiful. The mountain makes it’s own weather, and only about 40% of the visitors ever get to see it. But we have another couple of chances to view it on our way to Talkeetna tomorrow.

We did not get back to our drop off point until nearly 5:00 p.m. Before we headed back to the campground we had a quick pizza in the bar and grill at the hotel. It was delicious, partly because it really was delicious and partly because we were so tired and hungry.

We really enjoyed our excursion, but we think we will not do any excursions in the next few days. We plan on being in Talkeetna tomorrow night, and then on to Anchorage for Saturday and Sunday evening. Talkeetna is a small unique village off the “beaten path” which is our favorite kind of place to visit. We will just visit some of the artisan shops there and chill. We will visit the Ulu (Alaskan knife) factory while in Anchorage. I’ve learned to only visit the native artisan shops in these villages. In the more tourist shops, all articles are made in China!!!!

Stay tuned. Bonnie

On our way to Denali, Wednesday, June 23, 2010

June 25, 2010 - 8:58 am 1 Comment

This morning before we left Fairbanks we stopped by the Great Alaska Bowl Company headquarters where they actually hand make the bowls out of birch wood. We could see the artisan in his workshop behind a glass wall while he worked. Very interesting. I bought a few things and then we went directly over to the UPS store to mail some things home. There’s only so much we can carry home in the RV and we are fast approaching full capacity as far as that goes.

After the UPS Store, we headed for Denali. It is a beautiful day today with high’s in the 70’s, hardly a cloud in the sky, and no humidity. We are wearing shorts today but if we were to sit under a shade tree, it would be a little chilly.

We met a couple yesterday in Fairbanks who are in an RV but are hauling a motorcycle. The lady told me she and her husband drove all the way to Prudhoe Bay, the farthest point north on the Arctic Ocean, on their motorcycle. I asked how the trip was because we have debated whether or not to try it. We’ve heard stories about how bad the roads are. Well she said it was a “frightening” trip on the motorcycle due to the road conditions. Slick mud in some spots, terrible gravel in others, plus the dirt made for a difficult day. But now they can say they’ve been to Prudhoe Bay. We won’t be making that trip.

We ran into some more frost heaves today but overall the road was pretty good. We arrived at Denali Park around the middle of the afternoon and checked into the Riley Creek Campground. There are no amenities here but it’s a beautiful rustic park right in Denali. We are prepared for two nights here. We also bought our tickets for our tour of the park tomorrow. It was be an 8 hour tour into the park for wildlife viewing. We will take our backpacks with snacks and water and they will provide a box lunch for us. We hope we see lots of wildlife but you never know.

Stay tuned. Bonnie

Summer Solstice in Fairbanks, Alaska, Tuesday, June 22

June 22, 2010 - 9:21 pm 1 Comment

You all know yesterday was the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. Well, when you are in Fairbanks, Alaska, the day is REALLY LONG. As a matter of fact, there were 23 hours and 28 minutes of sunshine yesterday. That’s for real. The sun was up in the sky the entire day and night. I didn’t sleep a wink. At 10:00 p.m. we tried to settle down, but the sun is so high in the sky, it’s like you are taking an afternoon nap. Then at midnight, it still is so light outside you can play baseball. As a matter of fact, Fairbanks celebrates the summer solstice with a “midnight baseball game”. It’s a pro baseball game held every year on the summer solstice. The game starts at midnight without any sort of lighting, and it goes on until 3:00 a.m. or so, when it is still daylight. We watched the local news last night, and the commentator said, it’s 3:00 a.m. and it looked like 6:00 p.m. Freaks me out!!! I need some sleep!!!!

This morning we caught the shuttle in our RV park over to the Discovery Riverboat landing. The boat took us up the Chena and Tanana Rivers. The commentator was very informative. There are many homes on the river and we enjoyed seeing the different styles of log cabins. One cabin will be luxurious, and the one next door is very “primitive”, shall we say. The commentator said Alaska prides itself on not having any rules, so once you buy your property, there are no guidelines as to what you can put on it. A float plane took off and landed right beside the riverboat and it was interesting to see this up close. The pilot, who spoke to us by microphone, said he “found” this plane in a field, the plane was covered with weeds because it had been there so long, and he took the plane, refurbished it, and has been flying it ever since.

We passed by the home of the famous Iditarod winner, Susan Butcher and her husband David Monson. Susan won the Iditarod four years, 1986, 1987, 1988, and 1990. She died of leukemia in 2006. Her famous lead dog, Granite, lived to be 17 1/2 years old. When we passed by their home on the river, her husband gave a demonstration with the dogs right on the banks of the river. When they started harnessing the dogs together, the dogs got in a frenzy because they love pulling so much. As soon as he said “mush” they started off and were going up to 25 mph. They were pulling David on a four wheeler, which was in neutral. It was a great demonstration. When we got off the boat David was there with a children’s book his wife wrote before she died about her beloved lead dog, Granite. David signed the book for me. We will read the book to Olivia until she is old enough to read it for herself, then we will give it to her.

We were served salmon spread on crackers which was very good. We got back to our RV park around noon, just in time to have lunch and rest before getting on another shuttle and heading out for the El Dorado Gold Mine tour. This tour was very interesting –they showed us how to pan for gold, how the process works, and then they gave each of us a bag of “dirt” which we then put in the pan, dipped in water, and swirled around while the heavier rocks separate and finally you see some specks of gold in the bottom of the pan. When all was said and done, Greg and I together had about $20 worth of gold, which I promptly had set into a beautiful pair of 14 carat gold earrings which cost $130. Ya gotta laugh, but I will have a good story to tell when I wear them.

Oh, and I couldn’t resist taking a photo of the guy sitting behind us on the train ride up to the gold mine. I looked back at him and he had a name tag on (must have been with a tour group). His name is Bill Bailey. That happens to be the name of Greg’s friend who introduced us 40 years ago (and we are still friends). So shout out to our good buddy, Bill Bailey!

We are tired tonight but we had to do four loads of laundry because we will head out to Denali tomorrow morning. We will stay in a primitive campground inside the park, which will have no access to phone, electricity, etc. On Thursday we will do the all-day tour of the park and we are hoping to see lots of beautiful sights, including Mt. McKinley. If the weather is as nice as today, we should have no problem seeing it. By the way, we are wearing shorts today for the first time in a month.

We will be out of touch until the weekend, but stay tuned. Bonnie

A visit with Santa in North Pole, Alaska, Monday, June 21, 2010

June 21, 2010 - 5:54 pm 1 Comment

Our day started out very chilly and damp but by the time we got to Fairbanks, it was 75 degrees so we put away the heavy coats and jeans and put our shorts on again! I hope the worst of the bad weather is behind us.

We stopped at the Delta Smoked Sausage Company in Delta Junction on our way out of town. They process all sorts of funky meats there and we tried some of them: yak (yuk), buffalo, elk, etc. We settled on some beef sticks (we chickened out on the more exotic stuff) and canadian bacon.

We stopped at the Knotty Shop near Fairbanks and picked up another gift or two. This was a really nice shop. Then on to North Pole, Alaska. There is a military base at North Pole and our daughter-in-law’s cousin lives in the area. I gave her a call but she did not answer, so I left a message on her voice mail. She returned my call after work and we had a nice conversation. I asked if she had ever seen a photo of Olivia and she said her Uncle Tim (Catherine’s dad) sends photos regularly. The Santa Claus House is a sweet little tourist shop and we arranged to have Santa send our granddaughter Olivia a letter at Christmas time. I know she won’t understand it this year, but just wait a couple of years more and she will understand a letter from Santa very well.

Before stopping in Fairbanks for the evening we shopped at a Fred Meyer store. Never been in one before, but it’s a huge Kroger “super store” so we stocked up on supplies. This afternoon we are doing some housekeeping chores and basically getting the RV organized. Traveling a lot of miles several days in a row makes havoc on everything else.

Tomorrow we will spend the day in Fairbanks doing some sightseeing. We have scheduled a riverboat excursion tomorrow morning and we’ll go panning for gold tomorrow afternoon. Luckily this RV park has arranged for shuttles to pick us up for each excursion so we so we won’t have to drive the RV.

Stay tuned. Bonnie

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