Monday, June 30, 2008

Cook Inlet

Our last day in Homer we did a laundry and had breakfast at Sourdough Express before hitting the road. We wanted to make it back to Gwin's Lodge in Cooper's Landing for lunch (M had fallen for their salmon chowder on the drive down) - so I kept the scenic stops short while we headed up Cook Inlet through Anchor Point (the western most segment of highway in North America), Whiskey Gulch (beach and volcanoes), and Nimilchik (Russian church).

The next two days were our only unscheduled days of the entire adventure - in part because we thought we'd gauge the weather before deciding to invest in a drive up towards Denali. The weather was great, so that's where we were headed.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Kachemak Bay

Although Homer is a wonderful coastal town, it is mainly long, exposed gravel beaches and poorly planned shoreline over-development, so kayaking tours head for the other side of the bay, which is steeper and rockier and therefore much more interesting to explore. We took a water taxi across to the bay and with guide Ben and three college guys from Indiana, we kayaked along the edge of Yukon Island and around Elephant Island. D got a boat of his own, although Ben noted that adolescent males tended to be the most likely to flip the boats. D did note later that the problem with singles is that you actually need to paddle, unlike our excursion in Bartlett Cove, where there was someone in the back seat doing most of the work.

True North Kayaks deserves credit for one of the nicest outhouses I've seen.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Homer Spit

If towns are defined by place, and Homer certainly is, its defining place is the Spit, which extends out from the rest of town into the middle of Kachemak Bay. The spit's got boats and halibut and souvenir shops and places to eat, and spectacular views, but it also tended to look like a five-mile long RV Park stuck like a piece of duct tape down the center of a picture post card.


The pictures suggest that the weather wasn't perfect the whole time, but my memory was that it was. We arrived late in the afternoon and, like every visitor by highway before us, including many who have stayed, we rounded the corner and saw Kachemak Bay and the snow-capped peaks spread out in front of us. We were impressed. It didn't hurt that we spent the next three days in a pleasant inn perched on the bluff (which is another story) overlooking the beach and the spit and the bay and the glaciers.

We found the Sourdough Express and Wasabi's and the Two Sisters. We found gravel beaches (although only one of us spent much time wandering on them). We found the Homer Spit, although I think we all found it too crowded and too tacky.

As usual, I got up early and went off in search of coffee and bakeries and walks on the beach, returning later in the morning to retrieve the late risers and lead them to breakfast. Our place had a TV, but no cable and no NFL network, so D watched Seinfeld videos (which his mother could enjoy, too, whereas yet another ESPN counterpoint on the end of Brett Favre's retirement was wasted on her).

Friday, June 27, 2008

Mount Logan

I actually have no idea if this is really Mount Logan, except it was in the right place at the right time, give or take a hundred miles or so, and it was sticking through the clouds more than anything else I could see out of the right side of the plane on the flight from Juneau to Anchorage.

Mount Logan is 19,551' high, the highest mountain in Canada and second only to Denali in North America. Remind me to come back to do this flight on a clear day!


On our last day at Glacier Bay we rented bikes at the lodge and pedaled in the drizzle back towards town. A mile or so outside the park entrance we dumped our bikes in the woods and walked an unmarked trail a quarter mile back into the woods to find the remains of a small transport plane that crashed in 1957. Sort of eery - I guess it would be even weirder to encounter this on a walk without knowing ahead of time it was there.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Glacier Bay

We spent one of our days taking the Glacer Bay tour from Bartlett Cove - the boat wasn't very crowded, which made it easy to move around between decks and seats, depending on inclination and view.

Glaciers and icebergs, otters and sea lions, puffins and kittiwakes, bears and passing cruise ships.

Bartlett Cove

We settled into the Glacier Bay Lodge for three days. The weather was gray, though there always seemed to be some distant peaks poking through the clouds to tease us. D was appalled to find there was no TV - not in the room, not even in the common area - but he checked his fantasy teams from the computer in the lodge when he could and was easily calmed with beef and chocolate.

D&I kayaked for a couple of hours one day and we all took the boat tour on another. But mainly we relaxed. I read John Muir's accounts of Glacier Bay. His lodgings weren't quite so nice, but he camped where he could hear the glaciers calving and it seemed like he was usually up in the middle of the night tromping around the mountainns above the ice anyways.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Gustavus Airport

We flew in a Cherokee Six from Juneau to Gustavus, where we waited to get picked by the shuttle from the lodge. I think we pretty much had the airport to ourselves for 25 minutes. Definitely not DFW or ORD. We returned a few days later to catch our flight (a 737 this time) to Anchorage - a long delay in the drizzle waiting for our plane to show up from Juneau.


Juneau, like Ketchikan, is strung out along the steep edges of the valley, and like Ketchikan, it seems to be dominated in the summer by the cruise boat crowds. The gift shops peter out as you move away from the cruise terminal.

Most of the wildlife we saw on this trip was a long ways away and tended to avoid us, but in Juneau, the critters are trained to pose for the tourists.

Monday, June 23, 2008


The rest of the family wasn't very cheerful about having to get off the ferry in Juneau (Auke Bay) at 3:45AM. We shared a cab into town and M&D tried to sleep in big chairs in the hotel lobby while I walked around town. As always happens when traveling on too little sleep, I have no recollection of how we spent most of the day, but the photos suggest it was spent wandering past stuffed animals in front of gift shops and taking the bus up to Mendenhall Glacier, where Devon found a bench in the Visitor's Center to sleep on. I think we had lunch at the Silverbow Bakery and dinner at Twisted Fish.

There were four cruise boats in town at dinner - and a different four by the next morning.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Southeast Alaska

From Ketchikan, the ferry wound its way north to Wrangell. We had dinner as the boat threaded Wrangell Narrows - too small to handle the big cruise ships - and we arrived in Petersburg to rainbows and great late-day light.


Sunday morning, after sailing from Bellingham on Friday evening. This was our introduction to Alaska and cruise ship economies. I expected the t-shirt stores and the knock-off native crafts, but I hadn’t forseen all the diamond and jewelry stores. Apparently all owned by the cruise companies and all clones of similar shops in ports of call in the Caribbean and on the west coast of Mexico. Stupid me – I thought cruises were an opportunity to travel without having to deal with local people and local food, but really they are just ways to shop.

We had three hours, so we took a cab downtown with Sarah and Amanda (who we had run into on the ferry), had breakfast at the Pioneer Café, and wandered down Creek Street and then past the cruise ships.

Arkansas was my 48th state, in 1978, just before I turned 20. This spring I got to Hawaii (49) and now I’ve finally gotten to Alaska (50) - just before turning 50. Time to start all over again.