Friday, July 25, 2014


The past few days were filled with a much anticipated visit to Denali National Park.  I can share images of scenery, wildlife and signs that tell our location, but unfortunately not pictures of the mountain, Denali - the great one. It was still thrilling to be in the midst of such grandeur! 

On the way...

Red Throated Grebe

Our first stop after leaving Soldotna, was in the "artsy" town of Talkeetna.  We had a friend who had homesteader in this area years ago, so we really wanted to see it.  We toasted her spirit of adventure and her ongoing love of Alaska.

The West Rib is one access route for those who want to climb Denali.  It also was the name of the eatery where we finally had a chance to eat the famous Alaskan King Crab. Delicious.  

We spent the night here on the edge of town and visited the spot where three rivers come together and sometimes affords a view of the mountain.  We saw the wild, glacially fed Susitna, Chulitna and the Talkeetna Rivers, but no mountain view.  The village name cames from the Athabaskan word for "river of plenty".

From the Rivers, we decided to stop for our morning coffee at the first cafe we found.  The name was the Flying Squirrel.  We wanted to take our coffee to go, but still visited a moment with the woman who waited on us.  She asked where we were from, and after saying "Maine" she said she used to live there too, near Baxter State Park. One thing led to another and we mentioned hiking the Appalachian Trail since the trail went close to her house.  She brightened, and said she had hiked it too.  We asked when, and she said '91, and we said we did too!  We started jumping, and she shrieked as we shared trail names and mutual friends. (She had hiked many miles with Marmot.) After much hugging and smiling and the wonderful moment that renewed the joy and comraderie of the AT, we said "happy trails" to each other!  We headed on to see what other surprise the day might hold.

We got set up at the Riley Creek campground and went to the visitor center to get my passport book stamped - smile - and to locate where to meet the bus in the morning. We also listened to an informative talk by a ranger about the natural recycling of bears, moose, caribou and wolves and sheep.

The next day was our day to ride through the national park.  Personal vehicles are not allowed to travel the park road and it is a wonderful program that keeps many extra vehicles and much pollution from the park.  We booked the shuttle bus to take us through the entire park,  one way trip 92 miles, and about 12 hours round trip, depending on how many wildlife stops we would make. Here is what we saw!

Our first sighting! My picture of far away Dall Sheep and below is image from Internet. Like Caribou, both sexes have horns but the females have smaller ones.

Artic Ground Squirrel

Part of Polychrome Range. Colors are spectacular.

Male Caribou

Small herd of female Caribou.  We saw about 60 to 70 in small herds, mostly female and the young.

The closest view we had of Grizzlies. We saw five bears in all and it was the thrill of the ride!

At Wonder Lake we saw this BIG Moose feeding near the road.

We also had a great view of a Common Loon family.  Hope you can see the little head of the baby on the back of one of the adults!  

This picture is from the Internet, but we saw three Golden Eagles, two adults and an immature.

The road was quite scary at places.  Latona was sick in her stomach much of the way across this section. 

So much beauty even on a cloudy day.  The trip met all my hopes and the only one of the large animals we didn't see was a Gray Wolf.  There are about fifty in the park in small packs and they are seen regularly.

Obviously, there are many more photos and moments that were part of this day so we tried to share a few of the scenes and the best of the wildlife shots.  One more funny thing...

              Thank goodness we can laugh!  She loves me to take these crazy shots!!

Today we return to the Klondike RV park, and next week a final adventure when we visit Seward and go on the Kenai Fjords Trip.  More after that trip.  For now it is back to work!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Fish and More Fish

The Rivers are filling with Sockeyes running upstream to their spawning beds.  The riverbeds and beaches are filling with both sports trying to catch fish with rods - both spinning and fly - and Alaska residents trying to use nets to dip the fish from the River. 

Al has been taking me to the Kenai and giving me lessons on the style of casting a fly rod necessary at this time.  Fishing right now is called Combat Fishing because there are so many people fishing and necessarily, fishing quite close together.  Soooo... it is important to wear protective eyewear, hats and shirts that can catch the errant flying hook.  

Not too many yet...still early.

More fishers have shown to fill the riverbed.  Banks are protected and one cannot fish from the bank.

After three attempts, number four was to be my lucky morning with a catch of my first Sockeye.

Al was as excited as I was since he now has another successful student.  Yeehaw!
Lots of great meals.

A  Different Kind of Fishing

Latona and I explored a Beach called Beluga Point a few weeks ago and this is what it looked like.

On the 11 of July, a special event began -a fishing phenomenom called dip netting. Here in Alaska, every resident who is the head of a household is allowed to net 25 salmon and each additional member of the family can take 10 more.  This is to sustain the family through the winter months and is an amazing thing to watch.  This is how the beach changed during just the first day of dip netting which goes on for two weeks.

It is amazing to watch as a fish is landed, killed, and added to the family count.

I am shocked to see this natural flood of fish into the area and to realize what the fish are providing for so many. Everyone I have seen fishing is either freezing or canning their catch to serve them later in the year.  We hope to send some home too!  

The Fish and Game Department have underwater counters on the River to monitor fishing limits.  Yesterday, over 30,000 Sockeyes swam into the Kenai! I can only say thank you.

The final note for this short blog post is a special picture we took yesterday.

The double rainbow was another special gift of being here at Klondike RV park with Al.

And my final message is one of gratitude for Latona and her support of this adventure.  It could never have happened without her.  It has been so exciting in so many ways and has exceeded my dreams so far.

 Next week, we will travel to Denali National Park.  Hope to have much to share after that trip.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Four and Five...Time is flying!

We have much to share today, much of it fish stories! Since our last post,  we hiked in the Kenai Wildlife Refuge, visited Homer for the first time, fished for Sockeyes and Halibut, and ate a classic meal for the 4th of July.

We hiked this special trail built in 2003 commemorating the Hundred Year anniversaryof the National Wildlife Refuge system, established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1903. What vision!

     Devil's Club.  Very large leaves and the flower will turn into a clump of red berries that the bears love to eat.  Not edible for humans.  Bad tummy reactions, hence the "club" part I guess.

A side trail took us to this beautiful lake.  Hard to see, snow-capped mountains were all around the background.

As we hiked we followed the advice to make lots of noise so we wouldn't startle a bear.  When we turned the corner and saw this, we both were in shock for a moment.  Okay, just a deadfall, but for a moment we were stopped in our tracks!

There are boot cleaners at the ends of the trail to keep from introducing non-native plants and weeds into the area.

We realized that we were okay on the trail probably because of the noise we were making, but only missed a bear sighting by a few days.  This was our first venture into the woods of the Brown/Grizzles of the area and were encouraged by the folks at the Visitor Center.  So we made it, but not without a lot of caution and concern.  It was beautiful and worth it!

HOMER TRIP.  On the drive to Homer, we had more mouth-dropping views...

Homer is the place made famous by the National Geographic article written many years ago, highlighting the eagles which were everywhere.  The story we learned was about the Eagle Lady, Jean Keene, who for more than 30 years fed as many as 200-300 eagles during the winter months from fish she got from salmon processing plants and from road kill.  After her death in 2009, the town made it illegal to feed eagles or other raptors.  However, many still find residence on the Homer Spit.

Homer is also famous for several others things including halibut fishing, a piece of land known as the Spit, the small boat harbor, and the tourist shops, the Pratt Museum, and the eateries and a famous saloon known as The Salty Dawg.

The Spit is the piece of land in middle of picture.  Not very good picture,but we were high above it at the time.


We appreciated this Memorial to all who have been lost at sea in Alaska. In Maine, we know this experience as well.

One of the largest small boat harbors anywhere with over 700 boats here.

The famous saloon...

Where we ate a wonderful brunch.

Several Kittiwakes found a cozy spot for their nests.

One of the exhibits we enjoyed at the Pratt Museum was a video presentation by the family of Ruth Kilcher called The Rich and Simple Life about pioneering and homesteading in Alaska with her husband and eight children. Very fascinting.  You might enjoy googling this woman's name and reading more of her story.

     My favorite eagle shot so far...for Jean Keene and others.

    On the way home from Homer, we stopped at Anchor Point and saw something I couldn't believe.
These boats are actually launched by this tractor that backs right into the surf and releases them into the water.  They come back in the same way. The method is certainly common in fresh water but unique to me on the salt water beach.


       Al hs one on the line. This is the first day he took me to the River to learn to fish for Salmon.
      He was successful, but I did get a chance to wet my line.

    Hopefully next post, I will have one on the line!

JULY 4th

    We enjoyed eating picnic dinner with Al and other work-camper Rusty. It was the traditional July 4th one for me that included Mom's potato salad, pickled beets and eggs, barbecued chicken, and watermelon .

Al made it possible for me to go fishing with his friend Mike, Captain and Owner of Alaskan Adventure Charters.  Here is Glenn, crew member, getting our gear on board.


   Successful day.  I caught a few small ones and have some lovely fish for us to eat. Great fun.

    Captain Mike - it was a five star experience!

   One of the Sea Otters we saw on the trip!  PS. One of the favorite pictures I have taken!

Another creature relaxing!  Latona after our hike...horsing around as only she can do.  Love it!