|Our drive to Homer was only around 100 miles, so we didn’t hurry off on the trip, but we didn’t lollygag either. We wanted to get to Homer in time to still have a good amount of the day left to look around some of the sights of the area. The drive took us across the top of the Kenai Peninsula and then south, following the coastline of Cook Inlet on the west side of the peninsula. We went through the small town of Soldotna, where we will be going after we leave Homer, and a couple of other areas that clearly cater mainly to fisherpeople. Anchor Point, where the Wishnies are now staying and where some other people with whom we’ve communicated are or have been, is definitely one of those places.
We arrived at our campground to a scene of some chaos in the office; several rigs had arrived at the same time and the check-in was a complicated one. In addition, the office was small and very crowded with overflow from the attached gift shop. The woman behind the desk was slightly disorganized, but very efficient and, as we came to find out several time in the coming hours, very helpful. One complicating factor with the check-in was that they had recently converted their cable tv service to digital cable, requiring a conversion box for every unit if you wanted to be able to get cable tv. The service was great (over 100 channels, maybe even over 200 – I never got to all of them!) but the conversion box wasn’t quite as easy to connect as we had thought. But before we even got to that point, we had to back into our site and – you can see it coming, right? – it was another very difficult time for us. Brian had gone on to a battery place to see if he could get replacement batteries for his trailer, so we were on our own and required the help of a couple of people, but we eventually made it. One of the problems with this kind of situation is that once things go wrong, it’s very difficult to calmly start over again and remember all you know and just do it. But we’re learning more with every “difficult situation”. Eventually we got set up, got the cable box connected, signed up for wi-fi (our dish couldn’t see over the beautiful-but-solid mountains on the other side of the inlet) and headed out for a late lunch.
Brian and Maryann had, on an earlier visit, discovered a Mexican restaurant, Don Jose, in Homer and they wanted to make a repeat visit. Despite our skepticism about coming from Arizona to Alaska to eat Mexican food, we went along and were very pleasantly surprised. Margaret had halibut fajitas (we’d never seen that before) and Ian had a tostada that was very impressive. Brian and Maryann also had great-looking dishes and, after a round of serious desserts, we all left full and happy.
To stave off the nap that we all felt we wanted at that point, we decided to drive out to Homer Spit and look around. This is a long, narrow spit of land that looks like it would wash away in the next good storm (and, in fact, has partially washed away in big storms in the past and now is regularly stabilized and reinforced to keep it from doing so again). Although it was cold, windy and threatening rain, we walked a ways along the waterfront, looking at the boats, the quirky businesses and buildings along the way and all the accoutrements of a working fishing community. Of course, much of the “working” seems to be the taking of people on chartered fishing trips, judging by the seemingly endless line of charter company offices along the road, but we did see evidence of “real” working fishing boats. We also stopped at a fish market to pick up some frozen salmon and halibut and to get a price list to order fish sent to us once we return to Arizona.
On the way out, Margaret just had to stop at an area of “dead boats” – one is tempted to call it a marine salvage yard, but it didn’t look exactly like anything was being salvaged – just abandoned. Anyway, it was a fun place to photograph and look around a bit, even if it was cold and windy.
We succumbed then to the cold and heavy lunch and called it a day, returning to the trailers for the evening. After a nap and some quiet time, however, we decided to venture down to the beach via a path from our campground and see more closely the fabulous view, some of which we could see from the campground, over the water to the volcanic mountains on the other side. The tide was out and we joined just a few people wandering around, venturing out to the water’s edge (which involved making our way across some challenging areas of rock), and back again to investigate some very interesting driftwood and dead trees (yes, here we are with the dead things again!). The evening was clear, after the windy and cloudy afternoon, and the light across the beach was wonderful. It was a great evening and a really lovely place for a walk.
Saturday Fred and Jo Wishnie came over from Anchor Point to go the Homer Farmers’ Market with us, while Brian and Maryann went for a couple of beach and nature walks that we will hope to do later in the weekend. The Farmers’ Market was a fun one, with the usual approximately 50-50 mix of actual food and handcrafted goods, and we replenished our almost-gone stock of fresh vegetables, got some jam to make more baked rhubarb and Margaret got a pair of earrings. A pretty good haul for the money but, except for the earrings, I wouldn’t exactly call it a bargain. Nothing in Alaska is!
From there we went to the Pratt Museum, which is small but has a very impressive collection of art work, historical objects and marine exhibits. They also have a (very small) botanical garden that was a bit disappointing in lack of signage and past-their-prime flowers, and a “heritage house” with exhibits from homesteaders in the area and a very talkative and enthusiastic docent minding the place. We spent quite a bit of time there, mostly in the museum itself, and were very impressed with the collection for such a small place. After that, however, we were more than ready for lunch. We went back out to the Spit and wandered into what is apparently a well-known and definitely a crowded restaurant, Captain Pattie’s. We all had some sort of fish dish and sampled some of the local wine (a surprisingly good blend of chardonnay and rhubarb – you have to try it to believe it) and continued our fun and challenging conversations with Fred and Jo. After checking out their next campground, on the Spit, so they could pick out and reserve a favorable spot, they drove us back to our campground and we said our good-byes, this time realizing that we don’t know when we will see them again, but we will find a time – somewhere, sometime -- because we’ve enjoyed their company so much.
After the Wishnies left we went back out to make a short trip to the grocery store and – nearly literally – ran into Mike and Mary Camp, whom we had met in Anchorage. We waved in astonishment, shouted that we’d see them later and went on our way, unsure of the closing time of the store and not wanting to miss it. Margaret went over to their place (just a few sites up from us) that evening and had a good long visit with them and their traveling companions, Hugh and Simone. We ended the visit by promising to get together before we left, which we did at a wonderful salmon and halibut bake they invited us to on Monday night.