Tag Archives: Kenai Peninsula

Once upon a time on a trip to Alaska, day 27

Elmendorf Air Force Base, Anchorage, Alaska

Thursday, July 12, 1973

I wasn’t feeling well yesterday, so today you get two posts to make up for it.

And we head back to my aunt’s before beginning the long trek home.

But not before having a close encounter with an Alaskan brown bear:

Alaskan brown bear

My father and I were awakened in the wee hours of the previous night by something thrashing around outside.  My diary says the bear was raiding the garbage can.  I remember it as having something to do with that piece of leftover roll, but upon further consideration he couldn’t have possibly been making that much noise with just a piece of roll.

Anyway, Daddy and I peered out the windows of the trailer, and saw, in the long twilight of Alaska at that time of year, an enormous brown bear.  I did not know at the time that brown bears are the same species as grizzlies, but apparently they are.  All I remember is that he was absolutely enormous, and that when my father tried to wake my mother up to see him, she just rolled over and ignored him.  Then the next morning we had to convince her we’d actually seen it.

That was as close as we got to any large animal on the trip.  Less than 10 feet away, which was more than close enough, thanks.  He could have opened the trailer like a can opener with those claws.

After that, the drive back to Anchorage, including another stop at a Dairy Queen (why DQ every time we ate out on this trip is something of a mystery to me now), was something of an anticlimax.

Teenage me was rather glad to watch some TV at my aunt’s, though.

True Gold, a novel about the Klondike Gold Rush, is now available through Amazon and Smashwords

Once upon a time on a trip to Alaska, day 26

Russian River Campground, east of Soldotna, Alaska

Wednesday, July 11, 1973

We left Homer on this day.  Time to go since we’d caught our salmon, I guess.  We didn’t go far after dumping and refilling our water and sewage tanks, just to a campground a few miles east of Soldotna, which is about 75 miles back towards Anchorage from Homer.

The campground was on the banks of the Russian River.  I imagine that name is a holdover from early in the 19th century when the Russians actually owned Alaska.  There’s another Russian River in California, too, which supposedly marks how far the Russians got in their explorations of North America’s Pacific coast back in the day.

We did some more fishing, but as I wrote in my diary, we “discovered that you had to fish with flies,” apparently a state park regulation, so the only thing caught was a minnow, by my father.  “It was cute.”  I think that was the last of the fishing on this trip, if I remember correctly.

That evening after supper, my father took a piece of leftover bread roll and tied it to the end of his fishing line, then set the roll on the picnic table.  Soon a ground squirrel came to investigate, and Daddy teased him by repeatedly tugging it away from him with the fishing line.  “At first I thought it was funny, afterward I didn’t like it.”  Honestly, I remember it not even being funny to begin with.

It was, to use my personal metaphor, like filling someone’s car with popcorn, being deliberately mean to get a laugh at someone else’s expense.  My three sisters all got married the year I turned twelve.  You know how people tie old shoes onto the back of the car when a couple gets married?  Well, at the first wedding reception, my new brother-in-law’s friends decided to do something different, so they filled the honeymoon getaway car with popped popcorn.  All the way to the roof.  Everybody else thought it was funny.  All I can remember is the mess it made and how it took forever to get the car cleaned out enough to drive it.  My sister said that they were still finding popcorn kernels in that car a month later.

There are some things that other people find hilarious that I find just mean-spirited and nasty.  And teasing some poor hungry ground squirrel is like filling someone’s car with popcorn.

True Gold, a novel about the Klondike Gold Rush, is now available through Amazon and Smashwords

Once upon a time on a trip to Alaska, day 26

Homer Spit Campground, Homer, Alaska

Tuesday, July 10, 1973

 Fish!  We have fish! 

The day started, however, with another trip up Skyline Drive, this time, I wrote in my diary, all the way to the end.  I don’t know what kept us from doing that the first time, but something must have.  We did a lot of that on this trip — in Fairbanks, we drove partway down to Mt. McKinley and back before going the whole way a couple of days later, and we drove partway out to Circle City and back, too.  And there’s more of that later on in the trip, too.  But we went back up Skyline Drive.  Maybe the weather was better or something.

After lunch we came back and fished for hours.  From the beach, from the dock, from the beach again.  I was a little ways down the beach from my parents by late in the afternoon, when my mother yelled, “Mary, Daddy caught a fish!” (I went by my first name back then — my mother is the only person on the planet who still calls me Mary), which was very exciting, but soon after that, “something hit my line like an express train” to quote my diary.  “I yanked it out of the water, screaming, and this little boy came over and took out the hook.”  Actually, he hit it over the head with a rock first to kill it.  My mother still talks about how he said “this won’t hurt it” and then went smash with the rock.

Anyway, the two fish, Daddy’s and mine, were both pink salmon  (since most salmon are pink, I don’t know if they were really officially the variety called pink salmon or if they were just salmon which happened to be pink).  Daddy’s weighed four and a quarter pounds and was male, and mine weighed two and three quarters pounds and was female.  Both were 21 inches long.

Pink salmon


I remember ‘helping’ my father clean and fillet them.  And I do remember eating them.  I still have a fondness for salmon at least partly because of that day.

And that was the day we caught fish!

True Gold, a novel about the Klondike Gold Rush, is now available through Amazon and Smashwords

Once upon a time on a trip to Alaska, day 25

Homer Spit Campground, Homer, Alaska

Monday, July 9, 1973

The day was bookended by fishing.  Unfruitful fishing, alas.

In between, we did the groceries and laundry thing, then went to the Homer museum, which is now known as the Pratt Museum, and famous (in museum circles, at least) for its exhibits about the oil industry in Alaska, and about the infamous Exxon-Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound in 1989.  The museum has obviously grown and changed greatly in 39 years.  I remember it as being a tiny place in what was obviously a converted house.

I bought a book in the museum’s gift shop called Alaska Harvest.  It is a children’s novel set in the area, about crab fishing and, as I remember it, an interesting young woman.  I don’t have my copy any more, which is too bad.  I’d like to reread it one of these days.

In the afternoon we went up on a road called Skyline Drive.

The view from Skyline Drive.
And another

As I wrote in masterful understatement in my diary, “it was real pretty.”

Then we came back to the campground, ate supper, and fished the long summer twilight away.

True Gold, a novel about the Klondike Gold Rush, is now available through Amazon and Smashwords

Once upon a time on a trip to Alaska, day 24

Homer Spit Campground, Homer, Alaska

Sunday, July 8, 1973

Today was a rock-collecting day, although I don’t remember anything about it at all, or about what happened to those rocks once we got home.  My father, who had a very strong interest in geology (I grew up learning more about things like the Lewis overthrust and alluvial fans than I want to think about), wasn’t a rock collector to the best of my knowledge, unless, apparently, the rocks in question were Alaskan.  I do say in my diary that some of the ones he brought back from the beach were pretty.

In the afternoon we drove down to Homer, which I always think of now in connection with Tom Bodett, the writer, radio personality and spokesman for Motel 6, although he doesn’t live there anymore.

Homer has a spectacularly beautiful setting.  People have been known to call it the Last Best Place.  I know you could buy t-shirts there that said it was.  Then again, when I lived in Libby, Montana, you could buy t-shirts there that said the same thing.  It’s nice to know there is more than one Last Best Place in the world.

Homer, Alaska, Homer Spit, and Kachemak Bay

Homer was arguably the most beautiful spot on the trip, and that’s saying something.  That finger of sand sticking out into Kachemak Bay is called Homer Spit, and it’s three miles long.  The campground where we stayed for the next five nights was out on the end of that spit.

A campsite at Homer Spit.

We spent our first afternoon there wandering the beach, then going back to the trailer to get our fishing gear and head back to the beach, where we fished for a long time but didn’t catch anything.  My diary says that I spent most of the time just looking out at the water and the mountains instead of casting.  And the weather, my diary adds, was perfect, cool with just a little wind.

True Gold, a novel about the Klondike Gold Rush, is now available through Amazon and Smashwords

Once upon a time on a trip to Alaska, day 23

Kenai, Alaska

Saturday, July 7, 1973

We drove out of thick fog in Seward into sunshine at the town of Kenai on this day.  Kenai is a small community in the northwest corner of the Kenai Peninsula, and was only a couple of hours from Seward.  We stopped along the way when my father spotted some Dall sheep.  The sheep, the size of deer, were quite some distance away, because they “were like small dots on the hillside.”

Once we arrived in Kenai, we decided to spend the night at the municipal campground.  My diary says that the trailer got stuck in the sand and that we had to be towed out of it, and that this happened because we followed the wrong directions.  I’m sure my father was not amused.

But we got settled in our campsite, which was close to the ocean, and spent the afternoon at the beach.  I got my shoes covered in mud walking down to the water’s edge, and we were dive-bombed by arctic terns, which took exception to us walking on their beach.

Arctic tern

They might have been nesting, but they certainly weren’t happy with us being there.

My father poked around in the copious piles of driftwood lying about, and cut a few pieces to take home.  One of the pieces was shaped kind of like a whale, and it sat on our patio for years.  Another was shaped sort of like a slingshot, and when we got home my mother (or maybe one of my sisters, who all got married two years before we made this trip, and so weren’t with us) macraméed a hanging planter using it as the base.  This was the seventies, after all.  That also hung from our patio ceiling for years after we got back..

In the evening, after rhapsodizing in my diary about a supper of barbecued steaks and baked potatoes, my father and I went back to the beach and walked around some more.  On our way back up the trail, we had a close encounter with the largest porcupine I’ve ever seen.  He had to be at least two feet long.  He was waddling down the trail, and was completely unimpressed by us as we scurried out of his way.

Porcupine, not nearly as big as the one we saw.

By the way, I had no idea that when I went to look for porcupine photos on the web I would find so many photos of dogs after a close encounter, with their muzzles full of spines.  Ouch!

True Gold, a novel about the Klondike Gold Rush, is now available through Amazon and Smashwords

Once upon a time on a trip to Alaska, day 21

Portage Glacier Recreation Area, Alaska

Thursday, July 5, 1973

We left my aunt’s and drove just a couple of hours to Portage Glacier, which is sort of on the neck of the Kenai Peninsula.

Portage Glacier

“The scenery is gorgeous.”  That’s the first time I actually wrote those words in my diary, which sort of flabbergasts me considering what we’d seen up to that point.  But I think I was massively impressed by my very first icebergs.

Portage Lake with icebergs

According to Wikipedia, the glacier has receded to the point where you can no longer see it from the road.  Thank you, global warming.  This was not the case in 1973.  And the visitor center is new since I’ve been there, too, although we did visit one.  We also hiked a trail, then I sat in the car and read while my parents hiked a second trail.  Remember, I was fourteen at the time.  Self-absorbed teenager and all.

The Kenai Peninsula portion of our trip was actually the part I remember the most.  It’s where we had the most encounters with animals, where we had our only success fishing, and where the scenery struck even me so hard I remember it.  We spent about a week exploring it before we headed back to Anchorage.

 True Gold , a novel about the Klondike Gold Rush, is now available through Amazon and Smashwords