S: Alaska July 2012
BC: Beluga Slough Trail, Homer
FC: Trails | Wildlife
2: Fargo, ND; Minneapolis, MN; Las Vegas, NV; Seattle, WA; Anchorage, AK Airports. We flew out there together, but on the way home Kirk decided to stay in Las Vegas a couple extra days while Krista went home and got back to work.
3: The slots "cha-chinging" in Vegas, the Halibut in Anchorage, the green of Seattle with the picture window with rocker chairs to rest in and watch planes take off and land, and oh the leg room and busy skies! | World Record Halibut 9'5", 459 lbs, 31 yrs old June 11, 1996 Unalaska, AK
4: McKinley Express | Mat-Su Valley
5: Glen Highway to Parks Highway; past Chugach State Park, coastline ride of Knik Arm, views of the Mat-Su Valley, Talkeetna Mtns, and Mt McKinley or known to the locals as "Denali". When we stopped half-way to the B&B we got out and were taken over by the native bird "skeeter". The air is so clean, the views are spectacular, and the mountains are immense! Everything is BIG in Alaska, Texas should take notes. Moose run wild, all over the place; best time to see them is at dusk (11 pm). The top photo was an older Caribou and he didn't mind people coming and going; he was dodging a predator we learned later. The big animals run to where people are because what's chasing them are afraid of motorists (so we were told).
7: The clouds seem to go on forever, the sky is so incredibly blue; falling in love with the landscape! | We were driving along and saw a couple of ladies taking pictures on railroad tracks, thought "what the heck", until we turned the bend........ a beautiful rainbow, not sure how we missed that.?.? The rainy season was upon us during our Alaskan adventure, temperatures stayed in the balmy 50-60 degree range.
9: Getting up at 3:38 am and heading to the airport from Vegas; made our flight to Seattle and then landing in Anchorage (5 hours behind MN). Getting in at 1 pm, grabbing supplies along the way, and making our way to the B&B in Healy for our 3 night stay. MilePost in hand for the whole trip brought out the map reader and information seeker in all of us, but it is hands down the best guide we could have at our fingertips! Land of the Midnight Sun; the sun never really set the whole time we were in Alaska.
10: Denali, Savage River
12: The brown bear pelt on the next page was as large as Kirk, very unassuming animal until we got a good look at the claws and the teeth. The grizzly bear on the same page shows his claws quite well. The homesteaders and gold seekers that put Alaska on the map lived very basically and harshly. Even in today's world this is a very remote destination with the basics. The settlers were bringing everything on their backs, animals, and if lucky on a boat for part of the journey. Considering buying any souvenirs would incur a cost beyond the purchase price, shipping or the weight on leaving would gouge into any budget. | We stopped at the Denali Visitor's Center; learned about the land-scape of the mountains, the wildlife that roams inside, and the history. The pelts hanging from the beam were wolf, fox, mink, otter, and unsure what the white one was (didn't make a note of that one).
13: Breathing under the snow can be a challenge; snow traps the carbon dioxide that subsurface residents exhale. When carbon dioxide levels become high, voles and other small mammals dig their way to fresh air. | Denali Visitor Center | Squid fossils found in park dated 50-100 million years ago
15: This was a good day for a mini hike and a trail walk; a raincoat was needed for a short time. Connie & Gary made it part of the way before the downpour came, Kirk & Krista walked the river in the rain. | Arctic ground squirrels running about, rushing water, and the wooden bridge was a nice surprise. Climbing to the top of the rock was fun and scary, no trail, but what a great place to rest and check out the view.
16: Connie & Gary
18: 11:52 PM
19: July 1-4 On the advice of an old high school friend, Daryl, we made our way to this hideaway just a short 15 mile drive north of Denali Park entrance. Our choice of accommodations were Primrose B&B; quiet, comfortable, and very reasonable place to stay. Healy is unincorporated, as we are to understand; the residents of this place are responsible for its maintenance, hard at work on the road is Daryl. The sun never really sets at this time of year, makes going to sleep very difficult when used to sleeping in the dark. Easy to forget what time it is; the 3 pictures on the left page were Daryl and I at 10 pm, leaving the 49'er at 1152 pm, and the gas station at midnight.
20: The 49'er, The Totem Inn, Black Diamond Grille with a golf course attached, World's Famous Salmon Bake Restaurant; checking out the area. Kirk & Krista met with Daryl at the 49th State Brewing Company our first night in Healy, never would have gone inside by the looks of the outside; beautiful woodwork and the picture to the right, the world of beer, those bottles are showcased above the door leaving the bar and grill. The Salmon Bake, below, was an interesting eatery; the ceiling is heavy canvas, the floor is uneven, and the food cannot be cooked inside the establishment. Therefore a number of wait staff are at your disposal; one to take your order, one to bring your drinks and appetizers, and yet another to deliver your hot food. Kirk and I had a variety plate of salmon, steak, and halibut and an appetizer of razor clams, unknown to us that we would be digging for those later on this trip and making them ourselves. The food we had was scrumptious!
21: The Totem Inn has the world's only mechanical bear, we checked it out after our flight on July 3; then we walked back to the Primrose B&B, our hostess Terry was wonderful. It was a good day for a walk, Connie and Gary went on a river rafting adventure so it gave us some time to unwind and catch a snooze. Kirk unfortunately suffered from altitude sickness and spent the last night in Healy in bed. Krista left Connie, Gary, and Kirk to join up with Daryl, Tera, Kendra, Keenan, & Emma for dinner 30 miles north at the Clear Sky Lodge. | Healy
22: Otto Lake | We are standing on the side of the road, (middle right lower picture) we drove up to and looked over the river. Just finished with our mini-hike at Savage River and headed back to Healy. Frequent trips back and forth to this area while we stayed in Healy, the drive was always lovely; The Healy Mountains giving a splendid view!
23: Nenana River Canyon
25: Healy | J U L Y 3
26: Talkeetna Air is based out of the southern town but to our luck there is one in Healy, so no need to drive 2-3 hours to board our twin engine plane any where else. The only difference is that there is not a summit and glacier landing option out of this base. Our pilot, Trent, 28 yr old was great; very knowledgeable and made our 60 minute summit flight seem like 5. The hour and a half flight brought us to the top of North America; the view couldn't have been better. The rain fell all morning, was worried the cloud cover would not allow us to see Denali, but as luck was on our side, as we reached the base the clouds parted and we were able to see the entire Mtn! Approximately 20 days a year is it visible from the ground, it was not the enitre time we were in Alaska. | Savage River is the end of the 15 mile drive into Denali Park, from there tour buses finish the 90 mile trek to the base. Gossip was that the wildlife was every-where along that route but the chance to view The Great One was not. We also were able to view quite an expanse of the entire park & preserve during the panoramic flight; deliberating for 2 months on whether to do this excursion was washed away very shortly after take off. 7 seater, twin engine flew at 200 mph, but it felt like we were sitting still; however when the second group's plane went flying by it looked like it was cruising. Every seat was a window seat, meaning unpressurized cabin; so at approx 14,000 ft we had to wear oxygen masks until the summit flight was back to a safe altitude.
29: Facts of Alaska | Alaska is the home of the: Largest State in the Union since 1959 Highest concentration of bears; 100,000 Grizzly, Black bear, Polar bear, & the Kodiak Brown bear-by far the largest bear on the planet. Largest Eagle population-3000 gather at the Chilkkat river to fish; Largest Moose & Antler racks-1350 lbs with 72 inch span; Largest Sea colony- 1 million found on Pribilof Island; Largest Salmon-97.5 lbs, 6'5". Over half the world's Glaciers; Largest Glacier is Mallspina 1500 sq miles. Highest Mtn in North America: Mt McKinley (aka) Denali (aka) The Great one at 20, 320 ft at its peak. Right are pictures of the top of Denali at 22,000 ft. Mt McKinley National Park is 6 million acres. Largest North American earthquake: 9.2, Good Friday 1964, Prince William Sound. The Only State to touch 3 seas; more than twice as big as Texas; purchased from Russia for 2 cents an acre; 55 miles from Russia; The Trans-Alaska pipeline moves 88,000 barrels of oil an hour on its 800 mile journey from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez; has 29 volcano's; Rhode Island can fit inside Alaska 425 times; most snow fall in one year 97.4 inches. Juneau is the only capital city in the USA that is only accessible by boat or plane. Alaska is as big as England, France, Italy and Spain combined If New York City had the same population density as Alaska, only 16 people would be living in Manhattan; Largest city, Anchorage, covers 1,955 square miles. There are more than 3,000 rivers and 3 million lakes in Alaska.
30: Mt McKinley | Kahiltna Glacier | Mt. Crosson Mt. Hunter | Muldrow (Ruth) & Tokositna Glaciers
31: Mt. Foraker | Mt. McKinley | South Peak 20,320 ft North Peak 19,470 ft | Alaskan Mtn Range
33: Denali offers brutally cold and extreme weather conditions to climbers year-round. Temperatures dip as low as -75 F with windchill temps down to -118 F, cold enough to flash freeze a human; these temperatures have been recorded at the automated Mount McKinley Weather Station at 18,700 feet. Denali has less oxygen on its summit than mountains close to the equator. Denali’s summit oxygen is 42% of the oxygen at sea level, whereas a mountain close to the equator has 47% of sea-level oxygen at an equivalent elevation. Base camp at 17,000 feet, shown below, no one was out climbing while we were out sight-seeing. Flight-seeing pilots are often in contact with the various base camps and other arial businesses; they work together to give weather reports and help keep everyone safe. During our flight unfortunately in an overheard conversation someone at a lower base camp needed to be rescued off the side of the mountain.
34: Crawling out of bed early in the AM we started our drive south heading for Homer; Traveling the Parks Hwy back down to Anchorage to connect with the Seward Hwy; approximately 470 miles. Connie said that driving in Alaska is like driving in a postcard. Sun has been our friend thus far, a few sprinkles here and there; unfortunately we are about to encounter rain on a daily basis for the duration of vacation. Windy and rainy with temps ranging 50-60 degrees all day; got info that MN is having desert like conditions of more than 100 degrees since we left. The Igloo was once a great place to stop, now it's a huge restroom without proper plumbing. Quaint towns dotted the mountainous drive and we came across the annual marathon that is run every 4th of July; Mount Marathon. Road signs stated how many moose hits this far into the year, 455. The snow coming down from the mountain tops was so close to the road, at times we forgot what time of year it was.
35: Reading the Milepost; came across a place to eat great BBQ; it is the food usually eaten today! | Great slow cooked brisket! Beans that tasted like chili, and no one left hungry! Turnagain Armpit BBQ | Sensory overload was in full force; scenery, food, and great company to share it with. Gary has been to Alaska before, he is taking in sightseeing, new experience for him. The group gave Krista a hard time related to the amount of pictures she was taking, Gary said "I have never seen anyone take that many pictures"..... Not sure if we would make it back any time soon, drinking in the scenery was too much; needed a photo to remember and share, because now being November making this book it is great comfort to see these all over again. | More than 5,000 pictures taken
36: Cooper Landing
37: A chance to get out and stretch our legs; walked around the board walk and read all the signs of interest. The water is such a glacial blue, it is such a brilliant color against the greens. Gorgeous! There are so many opportunities to get out and explore, you make your own adventures. People are so friendly and helpful, who wouldn't want to vacation here? It's a wild wilderness, there are always reminders to keep yourself safe; special reminders that we are in bear country.
38: Razor Clam Digging on the Kenai Peninsula, Ninilchik, Alaska left the morning of July 5th a 45 minute drive from Homer. Razor clams have a golden-brown, oval shell and range from 3 to 10 inches long, Gary, Kirk, & Krista had quite the adventure that day. The renter loaned us his clam digging equipment, but we did stop to purchase some boots (very handy!). Clamming is done during low tides, which occur for several days once a month; for our purpose this day was set to be the lowest tide of the season. We didn't have a clue as to what we were looking for or how to truly dig for them. Fortunately for us a guide who had dropped off his group at a more touristy location was kind enough to show us how to go about it, he made it look so easy (which it was not). Find a dimple and dig.......
39: Shown above was our catch that day, we didn't catch but half, but they were delicious. Dropped them into some fresh water, added a little salt, put them in the refrigerator, and left for Seward. Returning back at the rental and checking on the clams a day later, the clams had cleaned themselves. The lighter color is their body and they filter sand, when left in freshwater they shoot out all the sand and they are clean of sand. Connie & Krista googled how to finish cleaning them; rinsed and opened up the shell to remove the dark parts. Kirk made a great meal out of them. While clamming there was an incident; there was a young child being eyed by a Bald Eagle, I saw a man running full bore for the child. Kirk then asked Krista if she was willing to fight an eagle for a razor clam, "uh NO fight eagle wins!"
40: We had to do the touristy thing and drive to the end of the road at Anchor Point, this is about as far west as you can go in North America on the highway system. The name Anchor Point comes from a legend that when James Cook discovered the area, he lost an anchor. Settlers came beginning in the early 1900s. | To reach the most westerly highway point, follow Anchor River Road (Beach Road) from town to its end, where you’ll find a viewing deck and telescopes overlooking Cook Inlet and a sign designating this special point. On a clear day this is a spectacular spot where you can gaze across Cook Inlet and see the distinct cones of four volcanoes: Mount Spurr, Mount Redoubt, Mount Iliamna and Mount St. Augustine.
41: Grewingk Glacier seen from Skyline Drive in Homer
42: Drove from Homer the morning of July 5th, to reach Moose Pass just slightly North of Seward for a nights' rest before our Glacier Tour July 6th. Connie & Gary had dinner in Seward, Kirk & Krista walked the little town; had dinner and drinks at Trail Lake Lodge. Rock Fish tacos, Stump Jump wine, and Alaskan beer. All the pictures taken here were between 8-11 pm.
43: Trail Lake Lodge pictured to the left
44: Mid-Night Sun Lodging
45: Just left Moose Pass to Seward
46: S E W A R D | July 6 our 10A Fjords National Parks Tour, quaint little city. 8.5 hour tour aboard the Tanaina. The art deco below and the buildings are all colorful. The rainy part of the vacation has set in, not constant rain but enough to need a raincoat every time we go outside.
47: They fed us well on this trip but Gary looks a bit hungry.
48: S E A O T T E R S
49: Founded in 1903; Seward, pronounced "Soo-word," is situated at the head of Resurrection Bay on the Kenai Peninsula. with a population of 2600. Harding Ice field lined along the back extending to the coast. Chugach National Forest, Kenai Fjords National Park and Exit Glacier are nearby. Seward's climate with average winter temperatures ranging from 17- 38 F and average summer temperatures ranging 49-63 F, up to 66 inches on average of rain a year, and 80 inches of snowfall. Glad it was summer when we visited.
51: Murre | Puffin
52: Fjords National Park hosts wildlife of all array, we were fortunate enough to catch some on film or with our vision but here is a list of some that call it home: Black & Brown Bear, Moose, Mountain Goat, Sea Otter, Steller Sea Lion, Harbor Seal, Dall's Porpoise (pictured below), Pacific White-Sided Dolphin, Killer Whale, Minke Whale, Fin Whale, Bald Eagle, Puffins, Murres (penguin looking birds pictured on the previous page), Black-Billed Magpie, Peregrine Falcon, and the Humpback Whale (peeking above the water pictured right). The Murre Bird is interesting; before it learns to fly it learns to swim and can dive up to 300 feet. The Puffin can fly to a height of 300 feet and dive the same. The mountains collect moisture in the clouds renewing the ice field with 35-65 feet of snow annually. The thunderous boom of calving ice can sometimes be heard 20 miles away. Our little vessel was rocking after a baby ice berg calved, could not imagine if it would have been larger. Before leaving port Connie & Krista put on some pressure point wrist bands to help with sea sickness, since the water was so choppy this day they came in handy. It rained all day. The Harding Icefield is the source of over 30 glaciers that cover over 700 square miles. The Harding Icefield is one of only four remaining icefields in the United States and receives at least 400 inches of snow each year. History lesson regarding the water that we traveled...... Resurrection Bay is a bay on the Kenai Peninsula of Alaska, United States. Its main settlement is Seward, located at the head of the bay. It received its name from Alexandr Baranov, who was forced to retreat into the bay during a bad storm in the Gulf of Alaska. When the storm settled it was Easter Sunday, so the bay and nearby Resurrection River were named in honor of it. Fox Island was our last stop and we were treated to an all you can eat buffet of Prime Rib, Salmon, and King Crab (sold separately), we were absolutely famished! The chicken wrap were were given at lunch time was well worn off by dinner.
53: Bear Glacier | Aialik Glacier
54: We had quite the opportunity to witness up close how immense these creatures are, in the bay coming in from our glacial cruise a pod of humpback whales were in the surrounding waters of Seward. Slightly disappointed not seeing a whales tale but we were lucky to see these up close and personal. A woman with high speed film caught the whale from start to finish with krill scurrying away from being dinner, amazing how such a tiny fish feeds the appetite of a giant!
56: Spring 2012 the rock broke, changing the name (can't remember) and below the water fall is barely visible until captured on film as we cruised by. Trying to find wildlife in the landscape is almost impossible, such as the inserted picture of the mountain goat, looks like snow until pointed out.
57: A total of 669,982.99 acres in the national park, 601,839.20 acres are federally-owned.
61: Aialik (pronounced eye-al-ick) Bay where Aialik Glacier is, it's a tidewater glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park, an outflow of the Harding Ice Field where the the cruise boat we were on stopped for almost a half hour to listen to the sounds of the cracks and booms as it inched its way into the water.
62: Exit Glacier Arriving at 6:30 pm after our day cruise was a great way to spend the next 2 hours. Connie & Gary stayed behind and enjoyed some down time. Spoke with the ranger of the park before trekking out, was made aware of the wildlife seen in the area that day, and the rain had subsided making this hike more tolerable. Navigation of a trail was offered prior to heading out, we chose a shorter route because the park was closing and we would not have been able to do a 7 hour hike. All glaciers have a deep blue glow, when light passes through ice this thick all the colors of the spectrum are absorbed except blue.
63: The glacier retreated 230 feet from 1815 to 1889, averaging about 3.1 ft/year. Again more rapidly between 1889-1899, 1680 ft about 168 ft/yr. A slower retreat the next fifteen years at a pace of only 42 ft/yr Between 1914 and 1917, its most rapid retreat, the glacier retreated 908 ft or almost a foot per day. From 1917 to 1973, Exit Glacier continued to retreat with periods of slow to moderate retreat. There were five periods of retreat, with the ice melting fastest between 1961 and 1968, 115 ft/yr. During the retreat of Exit Glacier from its Little Ice Age maximum in 1815 until recent times, the glacier has an average retreat of roughly 6/10 of a mile each century.
69: Taking in the sights by road on the Spit and above on skyline drive it is hard to take a bad photo, but it is hard to capture the mesmerizing view. This four-mile-long strip of land known as the Homer Spit; March 27, 1964, Good Friday Earthquake magnitude of 9.2, caused the Spit to drop seven feet. Reduced the Spit to 508 acres, about 350 of which are submerged at mean high tide; consisting of sand, silt gravel and coal deposited by the currents of Cook Inlet & Kachemak Bay. The Spit has the longest road into ocean waters in the entire world, taking up 10–15 minutes to cover by car.
70: Salty Dawg Saloon Once owned by the Hillstrand family, this bar is so full of character....as noted by the money that is tacked to the walls. They hand you a marker and the tacs, it was fun to be part of a tradition!
74: Islands and Oceans Visitor Center, a beautiful facility with towering windows facing Kachemak Bay. A visitor and education center for the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. Nice interactive exhibits and photo murals teach about the history, adventure, and wildlife of this refuge.
75: Beluga Slough Trail is approx .25 mile, with the trailhead located at Bishops Beach off Bunnell Street. The trail winds along the tidelands and connects to the Islands and Ocean Visitors Center.
76: The livelihood that takes place on the Homer Spit is fascinating! Wildlife excursions, fishing charters, local food at the restaurants, and availability to visit or live here. Gary & Kirk found it to be very fruitful catching Pollock, above far right. Visiting this tiny community is not something that should be done in a day, by car would be a waste of time to drive this far and not stay, the locals are friendly and the food is wonderful. Farmers market was a must stop, laundered clothes-nice that it had a coffee shop attached, Kirk & Gary did some Halibut fishing, and short visits to other business in the area were interesting to check out especially when the map used didn't exactly match up with the geography.
79: Road Miles from Homer Anchorage - 225 Miles Seward - 171 Miles Kenai - 89 Miles Soldotna - 73 Miles Cooper Landing - 133 Miles Denali National Park - 462 Miles
80: July 8
81: Day trip for Connie & Krista. The lovely captain is pictured left, one of her hands is from Staples, MN. Population 286, located in the entrance of Seldovia Bay on the southern portion of Kachemak Bay, Seldovia is only accessible by sea or air, great for fishing salmon and trout.
84: Chainsaw Woodcarving Contest
86: The ship was built in 1991 at the Giddings Boat Yard in Coos Bay, Oregon, is a 298 ton, 113 foot house-aft boat and is powered by two 600 horsepower engines with a cruising speed of 9 knots. It has a hold capacity of 120,000 pounds for king crab, 175,000 for snow crab and 370,000 for salmon. Custom-built by the Hillstrands themselves; includes such unusual amenities as queen-size beds, a four-person sauna and a dishwasher. The F/V Time Bandit’s home port is Homer, Alaska. Deadliest Catch is one of Krista's favorite reality tv shows, since fishing is done during the winter months the show airs every summer. Forgotten that the Hillstrand family is from Homer it was a great stop at their family shop. As luck would have it the boys were out Salmon fishing, however their mother and step-dad stopped in during our visit; as you can see they were very kind to snap a photo with Krista! As we're having the purchases rung up, we also bought raffle tickets.......... a month later a call was made and we had won 3rd prize, we won a t-shirt. That crab pot weighs 800 lbs, the rope sides felt like steel, and those buoys are hard as rocks.
87: JULY 9
89: Walking around the Conservation Center in the Girdwood area was a breath of fresh air; from the road it looked small and uninviting, but once we started our trek it was more than we bargained for. All of the wildlife safely contained behind fences kept out curios and too friendly people from interacting with them, however, the moose exhibit people were less inhibited and did get quite close. Across the road is a ski resort, Aleyeska with a tram that takes you to the top of the mountain, but we didn't find the time. | July 9
90: This path lead us to the bears. The entire conservation observation sites can either be reached by foot or wheel.
91: Great learning stop, majority of the wildlife are orphans. Gary & Connie utilized their wheels while Kirk & Krista stretched their legs for a walk. Couple of hours later we headed back to Anchorage, this was the last day we spent in Alaska.
92: Polar Bear, Black Bear, and the Brown Bear are all found in Alaska. .
93: Thankfully seen at a safe distance.
94: Windy | Beluga Point was a wonderful roadside stop, wish the wind would've been less.
95: Turnagain Arm | The Seward Highway linking Anchorage and Seward is a National Forest Scenic Byway and one of 15 roads in the United States that has been designated as an "All-American Road."
96: Don't Play In The Mud! Turnagain Arm is no place to go looking for sea shells. The mudflats, which extend some distance into the arm at low tide, are like quicksand. The Girdwood fire department has had to rescue people trapped in the mudflats, and one person was killed about a dozen years ago when rescuers were unable to pull her free before high tide.
99: Strolling through the park was a smorgasbord for the mosquitoes, thanking Kirk for his contribution to dinner. Krista barely noticed their arrival. Anchorage is a modern city with long history and the wonderful residents are ready to talk and share. The sunlit hours are still amazing, taking a walk in the park well after 9 PM and it looks like like early evening.
100: Last night in Alaska spent in Anchorage; stayed at the Puffin Inn but first Kirk & Krista enjoyed an evening of walking from eatery to eatery enjoying a sample of the local cuisine. Reindeer sliders, an authentic Greek dinner, but first started at an outside restaurant watching float planes come and go.
102: Las Vegas
103: Seattle Mt Rainier | Mt St Helen's