Day before yesterday we left Anchor Point & drove the whole 77 miles to our new home at an old airport runway in Soldotna. Friends Mark & Diann Ross, who we met at Palm Harbor RV Park in Rockport 1-1/2 yrs ago, told us about this old airport runway where you can boondock for free. They spend their summers here - but this year are camp hosting at the county campground not far from here.
We had a good drive from Anchor Point. We could almost see the Chigmit Mtns & the volcanic peaks across the inlet. We stopped in Kasilof for lunch at the cutest restaurant that was also a mercantile - lots of stuff for sale. Their food was good, too.
Yesterday we drove out to the city of Kenai. It was one of the Russian settlements here on the Kenai Peninsula. We went to their Saturday Market - didn't see any fruits or vegetables but there were lots of artsy-crafty things for sale. Then we had lunch at the Burger Bus. This was recommended to us by our friends Mark & Diann - and they were right on - great burgers. Then we took part of the walking tour of Kenai to see the Russian Orthodox Church. The walking tour was very interesting. We drove out to the Port of Kenai on our way out of town. There's a Copper River Seafood processing plant there & lots of fishing boats in the harbor. We saw some of the Kenai caribou herd on our way home. Unfortunately they were fairly far away & were busy eating so we didn't get the best view or photos.
Mark & Diann came over for happy hour & dinner yesterday evening. Because they've spent so many summers here on the old landing strip, friends of theirs saw us sitting out & brought their chairs over & joined us for happy hour. It was fun & we learned more about the fishing in the area. Soldotna is a huge salmon fishing area for Alaskans & tourists.
This morning we took Callie for a walk down to the Kenai River near here. They've built very nice stairs & landings & a fish walk at the bottom for fishing. The stairs are built with metal snow grates & Callie took a couple of steps & froze so David had to carry her all the way down & back up. When we were walking back toward the landing strip, we saw black smoke billowing up from the airport. David said he hoped a plane hadn't crashed & Judi said if it had we would have heard sirens. Immediately we heard sirens. We walked over to where we could see & there was a tail of a plane & flames shooting out of the fuselage of the plane. The fire trucks had just arrived & started putting water on the fire. There were a couple of ambulances there but they just stayed there. We thought from what we could see that it was a 1 or 2 person plane & there couldn't have been any survivors. Later we heard that there were 9 people on the plane & at least 3 had died, including the pilot who was a life-time charter pilot here. This evening we found out that there were no survivors. We weren't surprised that there were no survivors but from what was left of the plane we couldn't believe it had been large enough to hold 9 people.
We had lunch at the St. Elias Brewing Company here in Soldatna. A really neat place with good beer & great "Neapolitan style stone fired pizza." David had their sampler & tried 8 different brews. All 8 had very distinctive flavors: Kolsch (fermented cool), rye, APA, stout, IPA, Lambic style beer (spontaneous fermentation), Belgian ale, & a Kolsch style red raspberry ale. Their pizzas are 11" so we each ordered 1 & had leftovers to take home for dinner - they were still good reheated.
We went to the Soldatna Historical Society Museum where they've brought in some of the homestead cabins & buildings. This area was opened for homestead filing in 1947 - right after WWII. Transportation to the area was difficult; some flew or took a barge to Kenai & then hiked 11 miles to the Soldotna area, while others took a train to Moose Pass & sloshed 70 miles thru the mud. In 1949 Soldotna obtained its first post office - as far as communities go, it's not all that old. Diann told us that she knows a lady who used to volunteer at the museum who was a homesteader. She & her husband did the 70 mile hike from Moose Pass & homesteaded with just what they could carry on their backs. These people were tough & determined!
After the museum, we drove into Centennial Campground (the museum is on the road into the campground) to visit Mark & Diann. Their camp host site is right down by the Kenai River - a nice spot. On our way out we drove down into the parking area along the river - now we know where they catch their salmon to fill the freezer they take home to Utah. It was really nice to see them again. Maybe next time it'll be in Texas again.
We've enjoyed our short time in Soldotna & Kenai. Tomorrow we're moving on to Seward.
Critter Count: Moose 3 - (19) - Bald Eagle - 1 (39) - Caribou - 6