Sunday, July 18, 2010

This blog is brought to you by Hamilton’s laundry, gas station and café. Our campsite does not have electricity, so while I do the laundry, I am writing the blog! When we left Anchorage we drove the Glen Highway south as it skirts the Cook Inlet. Home to Beluga whales, we kept watching the water in the hopes of seeing one of these rare animals. When the tide goes out, the gigantic inlet becomes a narrow channel making it easier to see the whales. Cook Inlet has 23 foot tides which turn most of the inlet into massive tidal flats. Because the mud flats are not sand, but glacial flour, they are too dangerous to walk on, locals say it’s like quick sand!

We are now on the Kenai Peninsula in southern Alaska. The Kenai is rainforest country, lots of fern, lush forest and overcast. The town we are staying in is Cooper Landing which is located right on the Kenai River. Talk about beautiful, the waters here are glacial melt so the creeks, rivers and lakes are the color of turquoise. If you come to Cooper Landing, it’s probably for FISHING! Everywhere you look people are wading, canoeing, kayaking, rafting, and boating while fishing. I even saw a guy today on one of those surf board looking things people stand on and paddle with a long oar. I thought the guy was crazy, since the Kenai has class I, II and III rapids.

We drove to Seward the other day to check out the glacier tours and make a reservation. Good thing we did, the tour we want to take had two openings in the 4 days we would be there. We are taking the small charter; it holds 16 people, gets in closer to see birds, wildlife and the glaciers. Seemed better than fighting with 135 people at the rail on one of the bigger ships. We did some of that in China and it’s not fun. Had a wonderful lunch, walked around the harbor checking out all the boats, birds and sea otters. Seward is a typical sea town, really lovely.

I’ve learned a valuable lesson here, NEVER EVER believe anything a blonde waitress in one of those drive through coffee kiosks tells you about how easy a hiking trail is. First off, Jim says it’s only 2.3 miles round trip, then she says it’s so easy it’s almost a handicap disabled trail, then he says that’s what I heard - it’s an easy walk, so she says oh yes, even my dad who has twins (his belly size) does it. So off we go to see the Russian Falls on what turns out to be 2.3 miles ONE WAY. Did I mention the first mile is at least a 6% uphill grade? Or the voracious mosquitoes? Someone says they saw a sow and two cubs walking on the path up ahead, better make lots of noise. We are prepared, we had already put a bear bell on Maggie’s harness so she jingles with every step she takes. I don’t know if it works on bears, but I sure found it irritating! So I am trudging along breathlessly singing Yo Ho Yo Ho a grizzly life for me and 29 bottles of bear on the wall and Jim keeps telling me to be quiet so he can get a picture of the Momma bear and her precious little cubs (just before we run like hell.) He even says, “You grab Maggie and run and I’ll fend off the bear” with his 42” long stick. Yah right. All Jim can talk about is getting pictures of bears fishing the falls for salmon (you see where this is going don’t you.) Finally we reach the falls, nice but not spectacular, and there are no bears and no salmon. Some guide says the “reds are about done and it’s too soon for the sockeye.” Since I am feeling faint from blood loss (the torture of a million skeeter bites), I tell Jim that Maggie and I are heading back. Since the mosquitoes don’t find Jim tasty he stays behind to take some more photos. We begin passing fishermen on their way to the stream, all tricked out in their flannel shirts and waders carrying enough gear to stock a tackle shop. Boy do they look hot. Hot, but cute, with their pretty little colorful flies pinned in their hats and fancy fishing vests. Jim finally catches up (accuses Maggie and I of jogging) and off we go on the long and not so easy trail back to the truck. On the hike back I am running through the list of things I will do to the blonde coffee chick when we get back to town. Almost to the truck and Jim and I have hit a wall, hunched over, hobbling and moaning, Jim says something incredibly stupid – hey this is good for us! Now I am thinking of doing Jim and the coffee chick. Maggie has had enough, she sits in the road with a resolute expression on her face that says carry me or kill me right here. We finally arrive at the truck (praise God) and share a bottle of warm water (no floaties.) I tell Jim you owe me lunch and at least six beers. Maggie collapses in the backseat and immediately becomes comatose; four paws in the air, imitating an Alaskan road kill. After lunch we take a nice drive and get home in time for Tylenol and bed.

In our travels around Alaska we keep seeing signs and bumper stickers that say “ There is not one single mosquito in Alaska. They’re all married and have huge families!” Jim bought me a mosquito trap, it looks like a really really tiny bear trap. Alaskans joke the state bird is the mosquito. In addition to mosquito spray I also carry “After Bite.” After Bite works really good after it quits stinging.

We’ve eaten a couple of times at a place called “Chief’s Kick Ass Cookhouse.” The owner/chef looks like a Samoan who has gone Grizzly Adams. He says he used to be a chef in the bay area. Came up here on vacation and never went back. He makes the best cole slaw I have ever had. For dessert I ordered one of his cherry turnovers and when he brings it to me he apologizes because it’s not as flaky as it should be, he had a problem with the oven. Well, it was amazing, so flaky, so perfect and delicious. He recommended a drive to Cooper Lake, said it was a really pretty drive. On the drive I saw my first Crossbill bird (thanks to Jim’s eagle eye.) On the way back we almost ran over a clutch of baby Spruce Grouse and their momma. I think I’ve mentioned before that these birds are dumb as stumps, just standing there, waiting to be shot or run over. As promised, the drive was really beautiful with several alpine lakes dotted with yellow water lily and loons paddling in the still waters.

Now we’re off to Homer. We have a reservation for an RV park right on the spit in Cook Inlet.

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