Made it to Homer and found the campground. It is about ¼ mile from the end of the spit (Peninsula). The ocean is on three sides of us (Kachemak Bay). We drove back up to the boat harbor. 920 boat slips and they are all full. There are also bigger boats in the deep water dock. They have two big cranes where they unload the commercial fishing boats. There are lots of shops, charter services and cafes down on the spit. The actual town is back on the main part of the Kenai Peninsula. The population of the actual town is just a little over 5,000 but there are about 15,000 in the borough, which I guess is like a county. Fishing is KING here.
We visited the Pratt Museum which has a lot of exhibits about the history of the coast, it’s fishing, native culture etc. The big earthquake on Good Friday of 1964 took a lot of structures off of the spit and also took several feet off of the narrow spit. The resulting tsunami did more damage. The spit is maintained with big rocks and gravel is added as it slips into the sea. The museum was interesting. Years ago, the native hunters introduced the blue fox to some of the islands. They reproduced quite rapidly and the pelts gave the natives another source of income. The down side was, the fox decimated the bird populations and some of the small animals. Rats were also brought in on the ships. They ate the bird eggs and generally caused havoc. The govt. has a program to rid the area of the fox and rats. As usual, when you mess with Mother Nature, it generally backfires.
We went for a walk along the rocky beach when the tide was out. We found a few sea shells, lots of kelp, sea lettuce and other strange plants. We also saw a Lion’s Mane jellyfish that was washing up to shore. We weren’t sure what it was, but thought it might b e a jellyfish so didn’t touch it. Good thing, we found out the next day that it was a Lion’s Mane and one of the more poisonous jellyfish with a painful sting.
While we were walking we came up on some fishermen who were catching flounder. They look like small halibut. Flat, brown on one side, white on the other and have both eyes on the brown side. They were using chopped up herring as bait. We saw several sea otters. They were getting clams then turning up on their backs in the water. They carry a rock in a little pouch. They would take the rock and crack the shell then eat the clam, all in less than a minute. I never could get a picture of one before it dived back down.
Homer was a very busy place. We left this morning and stopped at the Islands and Oceans Visitor Center. It is a very neat place. They have ocean themed architecture in the building and it is very attractive. We learned a lot about the Northern Pacific Ocean and it’s inhabitants. We found out there what the jellyfish was that we had seen yesterday.
We headed toward Seward. When we got to Soldotna, there were more people fishing than we had seen several days before. The red salmon (Sockeye) are running up the rivers and streams in large numbers. It was drizzling rain and cold. We stopped at Fred Meyer to restock the pantry and get diesel. The parking lot looked like an RV dealer’s lot. A lot of the fishermen had unhitched from their trailers and went to fish for the red salmon.
We stopped at a pull off along a big lake about 35 miles north of Seward. It was still raining and cold. We have used our little catalytic heater quite a bit.
We drove on to our campground which is about 7 miles north of Seward. It is along a creek, back in the woods and is quite nice. The folks who run it do a great job. We have water, elect. And internet!!!
We unhitched and took the pickup to town. We visited the Alaska Sea Life Center, which is one of the largest ocean aquariums in the world. It is quite large and is very interesting. They are constantly doing research on the waters in the Kenai Fjord National Park, which includes Resurrection Bay and surrounding waters and lands. We saw a Stellar Sea Lion and a Harbor Seal there. They have many huge tanks with all types of saltwater life in them. Star Fish of many kinds, Sea Anemones, lots of kinds of fish, shellfish, Sea Urchins, Jellyfish, Octopus and many other forms of sea life. They also do rescue and rehabilitation of injured sea life. We learned so much about the sea life that live in the cold northern seas.
One of the neatest things they have is two shallow tanks with different kinds of live shellfish, star fish, sea cucumbers, sea urchins, anemones etc. in them. You are allowed to touch any of them using 2 fingers. The water is constantly circulating through the tanks and is very cold. Some of the star fish are quite hard and some are soft. The Sea Urchins feel like they have toothpicks sticking out of them all over. It was a neat experience. We also saw live video cams of sea lions an several kinds of sea birds. They also have a big tanks for sea birds with cliffs up above for nesting. Some of the birds have little ones and other ones are diving deep into the tank, which is about 25 ft. deep. You can go downstairs and watch the birds underwater as well as watch the Stellar Sea Lion and the Harbor Seal.
The birds called Murres can dive up to 600 ft. The Tufted Puffins and the Horned Puffins are really cute. One of the Tufted Puffins named Dorrie is very people friendly and will sit up on a log and look you right in the eye. The Alaska Sea Life Center is a great place and does very good work trying to figure out what is changing in the oceans and why some species are disappearing. What a wonderful place to bring children to learn about ocean life.
We have a reservation for a boat tour of Resurrection Bay and part of the Gulf of Alaska tomorrow. We can hardly wait.
We boarded the Glacier Express catamaran at about 11 am. There are 2 enclosed decks with windows and a top open deck. The temp was 48° and drizzling rain, but of course we went to the top deck. The raindrops on the windows of the other decks might interfere with pictures. We wore our coats and raincoats. I thought about wearing my long underwear but didn’t. Sure wish I had. The boat carries about 150 passengers and has 2 big caterpillar engines. They had coffee and hot chocolate available all day and served either smoked salmon or turkey sandwiches for lunch.
We saw a little sea otter floating on his back soon after we got out in Resurrection Bay. The sea otter has the densest fur of any animal. Over one million hairs per square inch. They don’t have the fat layer like seals so they need lots of fur to keep them warm in the frigid waters. They have to keep that fur groomed so that is stays water proof.
We saw a lot of Sea Lions hauled up on the rocks, resting and some squabbling. In some of the coves, there were thousands of birds nesting on the cliffs. We saw a lot of baby birds tottering there on the cliffs. A lot of the birds were floating around in the water or flying. We saw Kittiwakes, Puffins, Murres and other kinds.
We saw some old US Army bunkers and other installations. There was a pretty big buildup of military force in Alaska during the cold war. The edge of Alaska, along the Bering Sea is only 53 miles from Russia.
The Capt. Of the boat got reports from fishing boats that were coming into the bay that out of the bay the seas were getting very rough and the weather was getting worse so he made the decision to cruise in the bay and not venture out on the open seas. We were supposed to visit a couple of glaciers outside of the bay but we could see that the waves were getting much bigger even in the bay. It was quite cold, windy and drizzling rain all day. Taking pictures was difficult. Trying to keep the rain drops cleaned off of the lens and trying to keep my feet under me in the rolling seas. I bounced off of the railing etc. several times. I got tired of cleaning the rain off of my glasses and just took them off. The day was so gray and cloudy that a lot of the pictures look like they were taken in black and white.
We saw some really beautiful places in the bay and really lucked out about 2:30 pm. The Capt. Found some Humpback Whales . There was a momma whale teaching her baby to dive. The first sight of them was of them blowing water up in the air. The mom would breach out of the water and dive straight down with her tail up in the air. The baby would try to imitate the mom but couldn’t get his little tail up straight. More practice will make perfect. The Capt. And the Park Ranger that was on board to interpret said that we were seeing one of the best whale shows that they had seen in a long time. Usually you just see one breach and then they dive and you might not see them for 15 or 20 minutes. The mom just kept doing it trying to teach the baby. It was absolutely thrilling watching them.
The trip was cut short because of the nasty weather but the whale show helped compensate for that. The tour company refunded all of the passengers part of the ticket price because we didn’t get to go all of the way into the Gulf.
We might take another of the boat tours at Valdez which will tour Prince William Sound.
We took Dramamine before the cruise to prevent sea sickness. Even with the very rough seas we did fine but were sure wiped out by night.
There is a huge loading machine at the harbor that loads coal onto ships. The coal is mined near Denali Nat. Park and is brought to Seward by rail car. It takes about 500 railcars of coal to fill the big ship. It is then taken somewhere overseas. Portugal I think.
We plan to drive to Exit Glacier tomorrow. You have to park and hike the rest of the way to the glacier but can go right up to it. This Alaska is just so amazing. There was a grizzly up on a little hill just above the campground this afternoon. When he saw the people watching him, he took off.
Odie talked to a man in the campground this morning who said that about 5 or 6 o’clock this morning, he heard the dogs barking so went and looked out. There was a momma grizzly and cub about 50 ft. from his trailer.. The cub climbed up on a picnic table and started playing around. After 5 or 10 minutes, the momma reached up and cuffed him and he climbed down. The Momma and baby wrestled around on the ground for a little while and then they ambled off into the woods. I would have loved to have seen that.
We went to the Exit Glacier Visitor Center and got info about viewing the glacier. We took the Overlook Trail which is about 2 ½ miles round trip and goes to the edge of Exit Glacier. The trail to the Harding Ice Fields (which is where many of the glaciers start) was about 8 miles round trip. We decided that 8 miles of mountain climbing trail was too much for us old folks so we opted for the Overlook Trail.
We were a little slower than some of those youngins but we finally made it to the top. The view of the glacier was well worth the trip. It is really pretty. When we left the visitor center the temp was about 55°. I had worn my coat but shed that early on in the hike. When we got up to the glacier there was a very cold wind. The glaciers make their own weather through the melting and sinking of the ice which creates a catabolic wind and it is frigid. That felt good after the hike up the mountain.
We viewed the scoured rocks where the glacier had recently receded. There were a lot of pretty rocks left in the glacier’s path. Small plants have taken seed on the silt and rock that the glacier left behind. The beautiful luminous blue light that emits from glaciers is just beautiful.
There are tidewater glaciers-ones that reach right down to the ocean and land glaciers. Exit glacier is the latter, although many years ago it is believed that it reached down to Seward which would be about 10 or more miles away.
It is unbelievable how much beauty there is in Alaska. Such varied terrain but so many beautiful forests, streams, rocks and that breathtaking azure blue glacial fed water.
We will leave tomorrow headed toward Valdez. We may make a stop or two on the way. It is wonderful to have no schedule and no timelines. We are just ‘flyin by the seat of our pants’ and having a ball every day. We are like turtles-we carry our house on our back. Sure gives us a lot of freedom. Our new trailer is wonderful and very cozy and comfortable. It is truly our ’home away from home’.
We are looking forward to whatever lies down the road tomorrow.