Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Week Two At Klondike RV Park

Our first job was learning the reservation system on the computer and how to clean the bath/shower house. Our second job was to find a leak that showed up in the van. Al was wonderful crawling under the van a few times and bringing his mechanic friend overs to check it out.

As it turned out, a small fuel line developed a leak and will be fixed tomorrow.  So this meant not using the van except as our home (no problem). We took to the old "shoe leather" express.  

One of the places we visited was the Soldotna Visitor Center for the second time.  I had read about a special collection of ivory that was compiled by a man from Pennsylvania named Kunkle.  This peaked my interest since the name was familiar to me as a Pennsylvania Dutch name from the area where I was raised between Harrisburg and Hershey, PA.  The collection was in the Visitor Center and packed into the exhibit.  I did get a few shots.

Reading the article about the collection, I learned that many pieces came from First Nation people who are allowed to hunt the ivory bearing animals and carve it.

The Visitor Center sits on the Kenai River so we always take time to vist the beautiful water.

The steps are access points for fisherman.  A mother and her children were picnicking at another spot upstream.

Not far from the Visitor Center is the Soldotna Historical Society and Museum.  We went for the tour with some very knowledgable volunteers who took us into each building a shared the history of the area and time!

   Museum Visitor Center

    The schoolhouse.

This model of a food cache doesn't show the actual height it would have been(much higher). Anything that could be frozen was kept here.  The poles that supported this cache are very small so a bear couldn't get a successful hold and eat all the winter store. Fascinating visit!

From the waters of the area, came Sockeye Salmon that we were privileged to share. A camper gave it to Al who shared some with us.  We quickly turned into a dinner to share.

Another footnote of our time here, is that we get to share our duties with two other hosts, John and Joann.  They have been here a few years already, so our a great help to us along with Al.

One of the things I love the most is the surprising visits with wildlife.  Here is a mother moose and her babies we saw along the road.  Most people really slow down and carefully pass the animals.

Some of the area around Soldotna looks like tundra (where we found the Kenai Lowland Caribou) in the foreground...


 And in the woods around the museum, we found these Prickly Roses blooming.  

And look what else I found at the Museum Natural Display getting a big bear hug from a Brownie!

          ALWAYS the best part of any picture for me!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A Fish Story, Plus

In the last blog, I mentioned the record King Salmon (aka Chinook). The fishing story is worth sharing.
In May 1985, Les Anderson and his fishing buddy, Bud, went early to the Lower Kenai for another day of salmon fishing.  Veteran fishers and residents of the area, the set off early in their boat.  Around seven am, Les hooked onto a fish that leaped in the air and came down over Bud's line.  While Les tended his line with the fish on it, Bud untangled his line and pulled it in.  He took over the boat and the salmon drug them a mile upstream and then back again.  At one point, as the story goes, Bud turned the craft so quickly Les landed on his back in the bottom of the boat. After an hour of trying to land the fish and bring it into the boat, they decided to go to the shore and drag it to land.  They finally got the fish into the boat. They decided to keep on fishing. Other fishermen saw the fish in the boat and encouraged them to get it to the official weighing spot, but they wanted to fish.  Finally they went ashore, put the fish in the truck and drove around for a while in the warm sunshiny day.  At two in the afternoon, they went to the check-in spot and learned they had the new official world record of a King Salmon caught on a rod...97 pounds, four ounces.  Many think it would have exceeded 100 pounds had it been weighed immediately.  As the story goes, Les always hoped someone would catch a 100 pounder and break his record.  But it still stands!

    The stuffed model in the Soldotna Visitor Center.

     Les with his fish on the day it was caught.

A few days ago, Al came to ask us if we wanted to see some clams given him by some campers.  What came to mind, were the many clams we dug from the shores of Gouldsboro, and also the thought of the many steamers we have eaten.  Anxiously, we followed him and saw this cooler full
of Razor Clams.  As you can see they look quite different from the Atlantic Razor Clams.  These are
considered the most sought after of the clam species here.

        You can see how big this one is in his hand. Al said he will make clam chowder, and clam strips from these beauties.

Latona found a post card with Alaska Facts on it, so I decided it might be fun to share some of the new things we learned with you. Growing behind the van is the state flower, the True Forget-Me-Not. 

Here are a few more.

*     Mt McKinley is the highest peak in the US and is called Denali meaning Great One in Athabascan, the First Nation people of this area.

*     Seventeen of the highest twenty peaks in America are in Alaska.

*     There are over 100,000 glaciers in Alaska and the largest one, called Malaspina, is roughly the size of Rhode Island. About 5% of Alaska is covered by glaciers.

*     Alaska has approximately fifty earthquakes each year with a magnitude greater than five.

*     There are 70 or more active volcanoes and most are part of the Pacific "Ring of Fire".  We will actually see some of them when we visit Homer in a day or two.

*     Alaska, once part of Russia, became an organized territory after it was purchased by the US in 1867, and finally became the 49th state added to the Union in 1959.

And the final fact is definitely something we are experiencing as we approach the summer solstice. Yesterday, sunrise was at 4:33 am and sunset was at 11:40 pm, giving us 19 hours and 7 mins of daylight. We seem to be sleeping very well, but by 4 there is so much light it really seems like it is time to rise up and say, "Good Morning, Morning" (Maya Angelou)

Hope you are having a wonderful day as we approach the longest day of light on June 21!
We celebrate the Light!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Campground Hosts!

     It has been exciting to make it to our ultimate goal of Klondike RV Park and Cottages in Soldotna, Alaska.  We will be here until August as campground hosts or worker campers.  As you may remember, we met a couple, Debby and Howard, at Big Pine Key Fishing Lodge last winter and in the conversation they told us about their son Al who owns a park in Alaska. They said he was looking for hosts for this summer.  They had been his support for two seasons, but had decided to spend this summer back in Michigan.  They were helping him by looking for new hosts. We started waving our hands and jumping up and down inside, hoping and praying it might be us!

So months and miles later...here we are!

     Sitting next to the office and shower/bathroom buildings.

    Some of the sites.

    A lovely cabin to rent.

We arrived June 9, coming from Palmer and the Mountain View RV park.  The road had construction and we were happy to see the conditions improving.  We had encountered many places where the tar was gone and only gravel patches remained.  It wasn't a big problem until someone sped by us and threw a rock that made a small hole in the windshield. But we continued to have awe-inspiring views. From Anchorage, we traveled the scenic Seward Highway.

    Beluga Point pull off.  We saw some Mountain Goats along this stretch of highway.

    Rivers and lakes everywhere showing the blue of the influence of the glaciers. 

    Lovely!  We saw many cabins and houses tucked off in sweet little spots.

    The cabin above was located on this body of water.

    Soon we started to pass the Kenai River.  We crossed it several times.  We also passed many fishing camps, rafting companies, camping spots, all centered around the famous rivers of the area and the fish that soon will make the spawning journeys to continue the cycle of life. (More below about the salmon.) 

We found the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge in the acres that abut the campground, so it was a first stop for us.  I like to get passport stamps in my National Park book so we always stop and learn.

    The beginning of the nature trail!

    Guess what actually lives inside the Refuge, at least during calving time?  What a thrill to see our first Caribou in the wild.

   Needless to say we will go for a visit any chance we get.

Another stop we made was to the Soldotna Visitor Center.  This is a wonderful place to learn about the salmon and other fish species.  We saw the record King Salmon that was caught right here in the Kenai...over 93 pounds.

   We learned from Al that in order to access the River, fishers must use any number of steps to get to the bank and then can wade in from there.  People can't just stop anywhere and jumped over the bank to fish.  This is a wonderful conservation effort to protect the River from overuse.

    We enjoyed these gulls and their pink legs and feet.  I think they are Glaucous Winged Gulls.

    Eating spot on way to campground. We didn't partake...smile.

    Here we are, back to the park and Al is having his septic system checked before the heavy season begins.  I am getting a chance to meet the workers and another volunteer, John, in the red shirt.  He and his wife also help Al, and we have enjoyed getting to know them and look forward to our summer together.

   Let the camp season begin!  Looks familiar from Daicey Pond.

    Our boss and new friend, Al.

   Our footnote from Latona!  We found this old guide camp inside the Wildlife Refuge and we decided this would be a great new home when we stop traveling!  Isn't she funny!

Happy Father's Day to our sons, sons-in-law, stepdads. brothers, brothers-in-law, and in our memories to our dads.  They both loved the adventures we have taken and encouraged us to continue on, living each day to the fullest.  Well, here's to you Dad!