Adventures in Alaska with my Pops, Pt. 2

After a wonderful whirlwind of the first 4 days, Dad and I set out for the rest of our adventure.  We were sad to go, both commenting on how we missed everyone within 4 hours of being gone.  But, we were excited to see what was awaiting on the Kenai Peninsula.  Rather than driving the 6+ hours to Anchorage, we decided to try out the Alaska Railroad.  The journey took approximately twice the time, but we were able to walk around, eat and sleep as we wanted.   Pops had never taken a train journey before.  Plus, we had already seen the scenery along much of the highway to Anchorage when we road tripped to Denali.  So, it seemed like a great idea.  We were lucky enough to have first row seats in the dome car, which made for excellent views.  Our car had an outside viewing deck off the back, where we could get some fresh air and better photos as we winded through the canyons along the route.  The seats were comfortable, the food was good (although the dining car was freezing!), and we saw some decent wildlife.  I think we both agreed it was a few hours longer than we would have liked, but that it was a pretty cool experience overall.

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We pulled into the Anchorage Train Station about 13 hours later (yes, there were a few delays en route), gathered our luggage from the most disorganized baggage claim I’ve yet to see in my travels, rented a car, and found our way to our home for the night.  With the high price of accommodation in Anchorage, I had decided to book us a place through Airbnb.  I had stumbled across a place very close to downtown Anchorage for a very reasonable price, but the catch was that it was a RV parked in a woman’s driveway.  It looked clean and had good reviews, and the price point was right.  And, it met all expectations, making for a great place to lay our heads for the night.  Plus, I think that this was another first for us, as neither of us had slept in an RV before.

The next morning was a little slow going for us.  We were tired from the day before, and it was our first good opportunity to get caught up with telephone calls and emails and run a few errands.  After a little rejuvenation, we found ourselves a hearty breakfast at Snow City Cafe in Downtown Anchorage.  I think we both ordered the BOB (best of both benedicts), which was essentially eggs benedict, but one with king crab cake and the other with salmon cake.  It was delicious, and we both happily overate.  We then set out on another road trip, this time with the destination of Homer in sight.  Initially, we were in no hurry, but we soon realized that with our late start and the 6 hour drive ahead of us, that we needed to keep somewhat focused and minimize the amount of distractions we allowed.

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So, other than several quick photo stops along the stunningly scenic route, we only took 1 substantial rest stop, Ayleska Resort in Girdwood.  We took a 5 minute ride on their high-speed tram to the top of the mountain, where we found breathtaking views of the surrounding Chugach Mountains and the Turnagain Arm of the Cook Inlet from 2,300 feet above.  You can hike from up here in the summer, but we just chose to meander around a bit and enjoy the scenery before heading back out on the road.

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Pops in the tram. Cook Inlet in the background.

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Looking up from the mountaintop tram stop at Ayleska Resort.

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Pops looking out at Cook Inlet from the top of the tram at Ayleska Resort in Girdwood.

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Chugach Mountains from the tram.

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The scenery en route to Homer was stunning and elicited too many photo stops to count. Around every corner, we were ohhing and aching.  Photo taken by Mark Denny.

The drive to Homer was beautiful, driving through valleys surrounded by mountains, passing rivers of light blue glacier silted waters, through spruce forest, and then finally along the coast often burdened by fog from the Inlet.  We both wished we had more time to stop and enjoy the different areas along the way.  We pulled into Homer and were welcome by this splendid vista.

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It was surprisingly late.  So, we grabbed dinner at Fat Olives, which was delicious.  Beer, oysters and seafood pasta for me, and the salmon special for Pops.  We were already ready to eat up all the seafood that the area had to offer.  Then, we checked into our sweet little bed and breakfast, where we had beautiful view of the bay and the mountains beyond.  Our 1 bedroom (and 1 pull out couch), 1 bathroom place was clean, comfortable and plenty of space for 2.  Our host, Kathy, was friendly and helpful.  She provided us with juice, fruit and delicious home baked goods daily for breakfast.

We enjoyed our time in Homer immensely.  The weather was a bit different than that we’d been experiencing up in Fairbanks, being much cooler and wetter along the coast.  But, the scenery was spectacular.  Every morning, we were welcomed to views of the bay and the mountains beyond, the tone often cool blue or silvery.  The town had an interesting vibe.  I could definitely understand how this artsy, feel good town got the reputation of a drinking town with a fishing problem.  Fishing is definitely a focal point here.  In addition to fishing and water taxi adventures, we spent most of our time tinkering around town, eating halibut, and driving around the scenic surroundings taking photos.

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We spent one morning at the Pratt Museum, a museum covering topics of local relevance, such as art, natural history, native cultures, homesteading, and marine ecology. I found the exhibits on whales and the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill particularly interesting. They also have a wonderful little botanical garden that we did not visit due to museum fatigue and, honestly, forgetfulness.

The food offerings in Homer were plentiful and tended towards seafood.  Our favorite was Boardwalk Fish & Chips out on the Spit, where we ate twice, loving it so much the first time.  The food was delicious and affordable.  My go to – halibut, oysters and Midnight Sun Kodiak Nut Brown Ale, a delicous brown ale out of Anchorage that I only recommend if it’s on tap.  The bottled variety tastes a bit too much like molasses for my liking.  Another great stop was the Duncan House Diner, where the locals will recommend you find your steaming cup of coffee and a hearty breakfast.  You’ll find this one up on the hill on East Pioneer Avenue.

Our first morning in Homer was spent fishing.  We wrestled ourselves out of bed way too early (5am-ish), but thankful that it was already light out at this ungodly hour.   We got ourselves ready, stopped by the grocery store to throw together some snacks, then found our way down to the Spit, where we checked into Homer Ocean Charters for our day of salmon and halibut fishing,  With king salmon numbers down and restrictions tight, the salmon fishing was not as rewarding as we might have liked.  But, it was still quite enjoyable, as the waters were calm and the views beautiful giving us quite a relaxing morning.

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The halibut fishing was a bit more exciting, as we caught quite a few fish and the waters were rocky, leading Pops to have quite a challenging afternoon of trying to balance a little sickness with catching his halibut allotment.  We caught our halibut, and both of us were quite ready to hit land, grab some pho, and head for the comfortable digs we were calling our temporary home.  Read more about our fishing adventures here.

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Our boat’s catch; we were allowed 2 fish per person. All I see is food.

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Top: The look out on Skyline Drive.
Bottom: Gull Island from our water taxi.

Looking for a way to explore the other side of Kachemak Bay while recovering from our exhausting fishing excursion, we decided to rent a water taxi for a few hours to take us touring around some of the coves around the state park.  You can definitely find hiking and kayaking opportunities, but we weren’t up for that kind of exertion.  So, we booked our ride for the morning, predicting that it would be stiller and more serene earlier in the day.  One word.  Wow.  As my dad said several times that morning, “This is a real photographer’s extravaganza.”  The scenery was breathtaking as we explored Gull Island and Halibut Cove for a few hours on the still waters of the bay under a silvery textured sky.  Read more about our trip here.

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Exiting Homer’s harbor.

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Never ending serenity.

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Our first stop was Gull Island, a tiny island (or large rock!) inhabited by an enormous number of birds.

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We were lucky enough to see a few sea otters playing around in the water, seemingly undisturbed by us. The otters around Homer were definitely some of the least shy otters I saw in my Alaskan travels.

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Photo taken by Mark Denny

Then, we headed into Halibut Cove, a small fishing and artists haven at the base of Kachemak Bay State Park, only reachable by boat or air.  The coast line is dotted with beautiful houses and old weathered buildings.  The backdrop is mountains.  The opportunities for stunning photos were endless, and we were in heaven.

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We spent our afternoons exploring Homer and its surroundings, either walking around the harbor, along the beach at the Spit, or driving out of town along Skyline Drive (one of the best vantage points for viewing the bay) or East End Road, both very scenic drives dotted with beautiful vistas.

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The ever bustling harbor. We found new things to look at and photograph whenever we took walks along the docks as the harbor seems to always be changing..

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The beach at the Spit, behind Boardwalk Fish & Chips.

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Views from Skyline Drive.

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We did a lot of this during our afternoon adventures. Views from East End Road.

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At night, this is where you’d find me…curled up on the couch/bed, looking out the window, listening to Mixcloud, editing photos, and catching up on my internet.

After 9 days traveling together, 3 days of which in Homer, a town we were both quite fond of and reluctant to leave, we packed up and headed out.  After several hours drive, we made our way through the tunnel connecting Portage to Whittier, where Pops was going to drop me off to wait for my ferry to Juneau before he headed back to Anchorage for his flight home.  It was pouring down rain, which was no surprise for this particular area of Alaska, but it sure did make the mood dreary.  We grabbed some soup at a little cafe for lunch, then Pops dropped me off at the hotel, where I was planning on eating, drinking and reading the afternoon away at the bar while I awaited my night ferry departure.  Sad to go, Pops had to get in one last photo of us before he took off to ensure he made the tunnel crossing (yes, it is restricted and scheduled).  Our last day felt a bit rushed with the long drive to Anchorage from Homer complicated by the need to navigate the tunnel crossings to drop me at the ferry terminal.  But, we definitely enjoyed ourselves and, I think, both are looking for excuses to go back!  A good trip packed full of family, fun and fish.  Alaska Love.

THE END

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One response to “Adventures in Alaska with my Pops, Pt. 2

  1. Pingback: Homer, Alaska: A self-proclaimed drinking village with a fishing problem! | pathway unconventional·

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