Sunday, September 30, 2012

Seward and the road back to Tok

We headed back up the 1, leaving Homer on our way to Seward, another seaside town on the Kenai Peninsula.  Along the way, we passed another glacier.  The view from the highway really showed it's size.  The sides of the road also had many names and phrases made by passerby's efforts using local rocks.  "Love" letters and "I was here" notes went on for miles.  

It was definitely a day of driving.  The weather was cloudy/foggy as we traveled down to Seward.  The dogs were in their routine.  An occasional dog would come up to us in the front seat to say hey.

We got into Seward mid day.  It was quite unimpressive.  Maybe it was the clouds.  It appeared dingy and had no small town charm like Homer.  We stopped at the Visitor's Center and really did not find much to do.  We drove around town and after some ball play with the dogs at a local park, we headed North, back to Tok.  All roads lead to Tok.

We landed in Tok around 8 PM.  The ride there was impressive as we drove through mountains.  We stopped and set up camp.  We would be headed back to Canada tomorrow on our way to Haines to catch the ferry to Juneau.  Another Capital and a few more border crossings.  Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Seward Highway to the End of the Road

The Seward Highway was all that they say it to be.  As soon as we crossed over the three bridge going over the three outlets in to the Turnagain Arm, we entered into an area that appeared untouched and all natural.  We were headed down the Kenai Peninsula to Homer, Alaska.

We took a wrong turn at one point as we entered into the town of Kenai.  We were heading to old town so Tom could see a church he had read about in our ever growing bag of guides and brochures.

The wrong turn ended up as good fortune for the dogs as we found ourselves turning around right by a ball field.  Ball!  Ball?  Ball!  Dogs out the door and waiting for a toss.  They are so easy to please.  Tom was doing the tossing as I finally changed from my sandals to socks and boots.  It was getting chilly with the overcast.  I took the picture below from a truck which was parked at the ball field.  It's not every day you see a bottle of coke emblazoned on an image of Alaska.

We took the right turn we missed and headed to Old Town Kenei.  Located on the banks of Cook Inlet was the Holy Assumption of the Virgin Mary Church, a Russian Orthodox church built in 1894.  We walked around the building and took a peak inside.  I was surprised to see a priest waiting to answer any questions.  No pictures allowed in the interior, unlike the last church.  We did take some shots of the outside though.

Church Domes

Information and home for the priest

Front Entrance

Across the street from the church was Veronica's Cafe.  It was getting near lunch time and it seemed like a perfect place to grab some nosh.  We pulled into the parking lot and found one empty spot.  Good sign.  We walked up the wooden path up to the door and entered a quaint shop offering sandwiches, coffees & teas and a friendly staff.

The first person was named Veronica.  I asked if she was "The" Veronica and her reply was, "We are all Veronica."  What a fantastic reply and sentiment.

We ordered some sandwich specials and found a table on the covered porch.  Lots of locals were there. They all appeared to know each other.  While we waited for our lunch to be delivered, To walked around the grounds and took a few pictures.  The place just screamed "lovely!"

Look close.  That's me in the window.

Getting back onto Route 1 was easier than getting off.  We found ourselves traveling along the edge of Cook Inlet.  Supposedly, during the summer, it is a great area to see Beluga Whales, but none were to be seen that day.  We were also supposed to see some Dall Sheep, but once again, they too were not seen.

My research prior to our trip afforded me a destination stop in Homer.  Two Sisters Bakery.  I don't know the history of the place, but after stopping by the shore, located a few blocks away, we went back for some coffee.  Tom purchased some bread for our dinner that night as well as some coffee to brew over the next few days.  Again, the community was all around us in the brightly colored seating area.

Thank you Yukon Charlie for the turnaround!

We had heard from Veronica that the Homer Spit was a great place to camp, so we headed towards the spit, passing through downtown Homer.  It was fairly easy to find as it was the end of Route 1, the westernmost highway of the United States.

The weather was windy and cloudy.  As we drove along the spit, passing a few campsites, small shops and restaurants.  We drove to the end of the road and stopped.  We took this shot of a boater chugging along the choppy water.

The wind was really blowing.  The few tents which were located on the spit were held down with rocks and rope.  There was nothing to break the wind and I was a bit cautious about spending a night there.  I googled camping in Homer and found another campsite located in the hills of Homer.  I decided to take the chance and head up to see if there was a site available.

We followed the map to Hornaday Campground, through a residential neighborhood and up the hillside.  They had a few sites for the whopping price of $8 a night.  Score!

We set up camp and walked the dogs down to the registration area to pay for our night's stay.  As we went down the hill and cleared away from the trees, we saw the glacier which could also be seen by Homer Spit when there was no cloud cover.  The clouds were starting to break over the glacier and it shone it's brilliant blue ice for us.

We headed back to the spit so Tom could get some fish for dinner.  Google again and a dose of yelp brought us to Captain Pattie's Fish House.  We went in and gave our name.  Half an hour wait.  They took my phone number and told us they would call us when our table was ready.  Great service!

It gave us a chance to check out a few of the shops.  Tom picked up a few postcards.  There was a lot of aboriginal arts and clothing.  Also cribbage boards carved out of various bone or stone, all shaped into the local fauna.

Captain Patty called and we were back for a scrumptious fish meal consisting of Halibut, Salmon and Scallop.  The service was friendly and we simply enjoyed the exquisite dinner.

We headed back to camp and headed right to bed.  Another long day was over.  We were at the end of the road and thoughts were creeping in that we will be heading back from here.  The fears of crossing borders with a broken Indian Card had not crossed my mind for a few days, but we were heading towards Juneau to check out the capital and that meant a number of crossings to get there.

That would be another day, though.  Tonight, sleep!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

So much to see and do in Anchorage

We woke up to a beautiful morning.  We had been very fortunate that the rain had stayed at bay for as much as it has.  The tent held up to the rain the night before.  It got heavy a few times and only had a few drips from the zipper strings.

We had planned a full day and had no idea how filled it would become.  We really saw lots of what Anchorage and it's surrounding communities could offer.

We started with a walk around the RV park with the dogs, paid our fees for the night before and also for the following night.  Yes!  We actually stayed in one place for more than 24 hours.  It would prove to be rare, but still happened.  The registration area even had a dog collar to replace the one that Luther broke while going after a squirrel in Yellowstone.

Off we went to see the salmon run at the Ship Creek Viewing Platform.  North and South of us were plenty of men and a few women fly fishing for the salmon that spawn in the pristine creek.

We headed to one of the local dog parks in town.  It was about 5 miles on the West side of Anchorage on the campus of the University of Alaska Anchorage.  We passed the usual suburban mall plazas and fast food emporiums before landing at the non-fenced University Lake Park Unleashed Dog Park.

The "non-fenced" caused me some concern, especially when a young woman informed me that there was a moose and her calve spotted across the lake.  Moose can be mean and I wasn't sure how Luther/BuddyJack would react if they saw them.  I would have hated to have found out that they did not mix with two dugs bucked.

We played some ball to keep them occupied.  They enjoyed the balls as well as the new smells of many other dogs and animals.  We leashed them back up and continued down a trail to the water.  Both dogs really wanted to go swimming.  They were allowed to run along the banks, but definitely no swimming with that cow and calve around.

We got back to the ,main area of the dog park and saw the cutest dog park sign I've ever seen:

We had to replenish our supplies, so we stopped at Target to pick up some Clif Bars and other staples.  Neither of us are huge breakfast eaters, preferring a cup of joe instead.  But when 10 AM rolls around, we needed to eat something and that Clif Bar solved the problem.

We headed back to camp to unload the groceries and to check on the campsite.  All good!  The camping area even cleared out a bit, which was good for parking the car.

We didn't stay long, but headed out to really start the day of sightseeing.  The first stop was to check out the monument of Ike which we had passed a number of times already.  The Eisenhower Alaska Statehood Memorial is a bronze statue overlooking the Alaska Railroad yards and Ship Creek.  It commemorates the 1959 signing of Alaska into statehood.  A bust of Ike wrapped with a bald eagle and the American flag was surrounded by flowers and plaque honoring Anchorage as a tent city 75 years earlier.

Eisenhower Alaska Statehood Memorial

Alaska Railroad

Our next stop was to Earthquake Park, an interpretive trail commemorating the 1964 earthquake which occurred in Anchorage and South-central Alaska.  The views of Anchorage were supposed to be amazing.

What was amazing were the amount of mosquitoes in one small area.  The dogs paid no heed, but we were getting eaten alive.  To get from the parking lot to the first sight, one has to walk through, what seemed to be, a rain forest.  The flora was huge and quite lush.  The bugs, the same!

We quickly walked from the first exhibit to a clearing where I took the next shot.  With the rain the night before, it was muggy.  The mugginess caused us to be a great treat for the bugs as we walked back along the trail to the car.

Anchorage from a distance

We got back to the car and jumped in.  A few mosquitoes jumped in with us, but they were soon swatted and killed.  We headed back to the main road and headed South on the Seward Highway, a 125 mile scenic byway from Anchorage to Seward, Alaska.

We had planned on heading down to Seward the following day, but we traveled to the Turnagain Arm of Route 1, first stopping at Potter Marsh.  Located in the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge and formed by the construction of the Alaska Railroad in 1917.

Multiple boardwalks headed into the marshlands, offering glimpses of the local animals which inhabit the area.  We did not see too many animals, but we did get a chance to view a soaring Bald Eagle, some swans, fish and ducks.  It was a great place to stop for a bit, without mosquitoes and without the engine running.

We meandered the walkways, looking all around.  It was so quiet.  The skies were threatening rain but the sun seemed to be just as sure of himself.  The crowds were light and all guests spoke softly with a simple nod or polite hello as we passed each other.

Look real close and you can see the bald eagle

Spawning Salmon

Tom at the end of the line


We headed back towards the car.  The dogs were anxious for our return.  It was not hot, but there was no shade.  We gave the dogs some water and headed back onto Route 1.

The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center was next on the agenda.  Located at Mile 79 on the Seward, it was fairly quick to get to.

I am not a great fan of zoos or animals in captivity, but I was drawn to this conservation center.  All of the animals that were in the center would be dead without there aid.  Many came as babies, hungry, alone and in need.  I would suggest clicking on the link above and reading all about the different animals they assist.



Musk Oxen

Black Bear

Wood Bison

Wood Bison



Black Bear

Along the route to the AWCC, we passed a road sign directing visitors to the Portage Glacier.  We decided to head back toward Anchorage and take the turn to our first up close glacier sighting.  We passed many pools of water and then saw the glacier below:

I wanted to take a picture, but the trees blocked my view from the parking area.  As usual, no dogs are allowed on the trails, so I parked the car and climbed onto a rock to get a view sans trees.  The blues of the glacier never really came through the lens, but it was awesome.

We traveled down the road some more, continuing to follow the signs to the Portage Glacier and found ourselves at a visitor center and parking lot.  One needs to travel in a boat to see the glacier as it had receded around the mountain over the past few years.  (No global warming?  Right!)

The temperature was getting warm, so we decided to return to the main road, avoiding having to leave the dogs in the car for any extended period of time.  On the way back, I looked for a spot I saw on the way in.  A few twists and turns and I found the pull off to a glacial lake.

The dogs deserved some play time too.  I stopped the car along the banks of the lake and let the dogs out.  Both went running to the water and waited for a ball.  We were all lucky to find an old dog toy left at the banks of the lake.  A green cloth frisbee.

Again, I was not sure of the temperature of the water, but what the heck.  A quick toss and Luther was in.  Back and then a toss for BJ.  Back and forth, longer and further.  They loved it.

BuddyJack tired out first and jumped onto a picnic table, something he likes to do.  I took the opportunity to take a few pictures as he looked quite beautiful along the green lake and mountains.

Tom continued to play with Luther with his own leash.  This was a great day for them and would be a great night for us as the dogs would surely sleep.  It was still early and we were heading back to Anchorage.  Still so much to see before heading back on the road tomorrow.

We got back into Anchorage and parked the car by the Visitor's Center.  We strolled past flower gardens and then the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts.  We took a peak inside the building and grabbed a brochure to bring home to show my peeps at the PAC.

Alaska Center for the Performing Arts

Main Lobby

For my PAC peeps, "No Balloons Allowed!"

I had heard about a Planet Walk in town and wanted to check it out.  Basically, it is a representation of our galaxy and planets if real time if one's stroll was at light speed.  The first stop had the Sun and an interactive kiosk.  Sponsored by the Rotary Club and was designed by 2004 Service High School graduate, Eli Menaker.

The Sun

Interactive display

The planets were actual size based on the sun.  I did not fully comprehend that fact until we searched for the sign for Mercury, and then the planet, not realizing it was on the sign.  When we got to Mars, the Alaskan Railroad was rolling down towards Seward.

For those who know our galaxy, getting to Neptune would be a lengthy walk and we were getting hungry.  We turned around and headed back to the main drag and stopped at Club Paris for a bite.

But, first, a martini with three olives.  

We had a nice time at Club Paris, enjoying our food and beverage.  We sat at the bar and savored the dark room and delicious meal.  The restaurant was extremely busy with steaks being served all around.

We headed back into the cloudy dusk and scoped out the local gift shops and public art which was located around the town.

Flight of the Raven

He's gonna get me!

Awww.  He just wanted to give a hug.

May have found help for Tom's sleeping

Moose and Me!
Sled Dog

We headed back to camp only to find our campsite had been overrun with some young person's caravan.  Tents were everywhere.  We had a late night snack and called it a day.  We saw so much and tomorrow was going to be just as varied and stimulating as we were heading back down the Seward Highway to the Kenai Peninsula.  Until then...

One Dude, One Dog!  Cheers!