It’s been a busy two weeks since I last posted, and I apologize to all my loyal and faithful readers for my absence.
At last post, we were ensconced in Stoney Creek RV Park in Seward awaiting the arrival of Fred’s daughter, Faith, and granddaughter Isabella. While there, our new RV friends Leslie and Robert arrived from Homer, and we had another opportunity to get together with them and go out to a delicious dinner at the Exit Glacier Salmon Bake restaurant. During our conversation, I mentioned we weren’t sure whether the park staff would be able to walk Boo Boo for us while we went on the glacier cruise, and they graciously offered to do that for us. Thanks, guys! (I secretly think they enjoyed it as much as Boo Boo did.)
On Friday, the 15th, we drove the two hours to Anchorage to pick up the girls at the airport. I have to tell you, that airport is one of the most confusing we have ever encountered. The signage is terrible, and the availability of parking for our large truck, too tall for the parking structure, was difficult to find. We finally got to the gate in the nick of time and in our rush, I had left the camera in the truck. So I have no pictures of little Isabella, excitedly running down the concourse squealing, to run into the waiting arms of her Papa. After a quick dinner at McDonald’s and the two hour return trip, we retired to our sleeping quarters.
I had decided early on that we would give Faith and Isabella the bedroom for their stay, and Fred and I would sleep on the blow-up aero mattress on the living room floor. And I wouldn’t do it any differently again. Faith is not a camper, and not used to the lifestyle of living in a 365 sq. ft. RV, so I wanted her to be comfortable. But after about the third night of inflating the mattress, and deflating it the following morning, I decided we made a major mistake in discarding the pull-out sleeper sofa when we bought the recliners. A better choice would have been to get rid of the Euro chairs and keep the sofa. After all, it’s just for overflow seating for guests, and it is much quicker for extra sleeping arrangements. (But that’s all water under the bridge now.)
While in Seward, we took the Renown Kenai Fjords cruise and visited the Sea Life Center. The weather cooperated for the cruise, thank goodness, but we saw very little in the way of either mammals, or birds. That part was a disappointment. And of course, the glaciers were interesting, but did not calve for us. The park ranger on board was very friendly, and she gave Isabella a Junior Ranger booklet to read with tasks to complete. After that, Isabella was awarded a Junior Ranger badge in a little ceremony with the other Junior Rangers. I think she really enjoyed that and it made it more than just a boat ride for her. Our lunch of smoked salmon, cream cheese and bagels was delicious, and we all learned that we really like the wild Alaskan smoked salmon.
The Sea Life Center was underwhelming to all of us. I think Isabella, at 5 years old, is a tad young to appreciate most of the exhibits, although she did enjoying seeing the sea lion swimming, as we watched through the underground viewing window. But we were glad we had a toursaver coupon and a free ticket our friend Grant had given us, since we all agreed it wasn’t worth the price of regular admission.
We also visited Exit Glacier. This glacier has seriously receded. It is retreating at the rate of 50 feet a year in the last 200 years. There are date markers all along the trail indicating where the glacier was in certain years. I took a picture at the 1917 marker, which is remarkable for the large forested foliage that has grown up in the years since. It was a nice easy-to-walk trail, although we didn’t take it all the way to the glacier, but merely a viewing point.
We took Isabella over to Leslie and Robert’s rig to meet them. Robert, with his flowing white beard and hair, bears a striking resemblance to Santa Claus and Fred thought it would be funny to tell Isabella she was going to meet Santa Claus. She informed us that she had already met him in the mall at Christmas, whereupon Fred explained to her that this was the real thing. Wide-eyed, she believed him and during our visit, promised him she would be a good girl to qualify for good presents. Upon returning to our trailer, she told her mother that she had met Santa Claus, his wife, and their cats. It was so sweet.
On Tuesday, we moved on from Seward to one of our favorite Alaskan cities, Homer. We felt pretty sure Faith would enjoy it like we did, and we were right. In fact she liked it so much, we changed our plans to extend our stay there an extra day and didn’t move to Williwaw until Saturday, the day they were leaving. We again stayed at the Homer Spit Campground, as we really couldn’t imagine staying anywhere else in Homer. That gave Faith a lesson in what life is like in campgrounds without full hook-ups. Now, granted, that may not have been something she felt she needed to know. But we provided it anyway :)
She loved the boardwalk shops, and the galleries in town, and just the overall natural beauty of the bay and the mountains. We ate a lot of seafood, both preparing our own freshly caught halibut at home, and dining out. Another first for Isabella was discovering she liked eating fish. Five year olds can sometimes be finicky eaters, so it was wonderful to see her discover new foods to eat, even eating broccoli for the first time and liking it!
In spite of all the interesting places to visit and unique activities, I swear that Isabella’s favorite activity was just going to the park and playing on the playground equipment. We could be anywhere, and as long as we can find a playground, she is happy. Typical of a five year old, I’m sure.
Isabella and Boo Boo really enjoyed their time together. They spent endless hours playing, rolling around on the floor, Isabella giggling and the dog jumping and climbing all over her. And Boo Boo got more than her share of walks outside as Isabella enjoyed taking control of the leash. (And as a side note after the fact, it’s clear to see that Boo Boo misses her playmate. She’s constantly looking up at me, barking, as if to say, “Where is Isabella?”)
She’s also just learning to control the digital camera and spent lots of time taking pictures of all of us, and then walking around our little house on wheels taking pictures in a very themed way. First snapping photos of every picture and piece of art on the walls, then every item sitting on the floor like everyone’s shoes, dog toys, pet food bowls, etc. Maybe it is soon time for her to have her own “first camera”.
While in Homer, we were visited by friends Gordon and Juanita, who stopped by our campsite on the Homer Spit to say goodbye. Having spent a long time in Anchor Point, with near-daily visits to Homer, they were ready to move on. It was nice to see them again and their beagle, Bodie.
Also still in Homer were friends Grant and Kathy, and they visited us as well, along with their golden retriever, Raider. Isabella has loved meeting all the dogs. That led Faith to observe how much more social we seemed to have become since we’ve been RVing. And that is certainly true of our travels in Alaska, more so than at any other time since we’ve gone on the road.
We’re been enjoying eating our halibut so much that Fred almost went on another half-day fishing charter while in Homer. But in the end, we decided that it wasn’t worth the six hours away from our visitors, and instead I was able to purchase a nice freshly caught halibut filet from one of the fish stores across the street. We promptly cut it into meal size portions and I vacuum packed it for the freezer. We also stopped at the Deep Creek fish processing outfit on the highway going north when we left Homer to buy some fresh salmon filet and smoked salmon. I can safely say that the little freezer above our refrigerator is packed to the gills with fish and we will be enjoying our booty for some time.
Once again, we bade farewell to Homer, vowing to return again some day, and drove to our last campsite with the girls. It was the US Forest Service campground of Williwaw in the Chugach Forest near Portage. It is a gorgeous heavily treed campground with views of glaciers from some of the sites. Very big sites, each privately shrouded with lots of trees. The only thing that would make it perfect would be some hookups. There are none here, so we would be boondocking for a couple days.
Grant and Kathy had preceeded us here, and we concluded the last day of the girls visit spending some time with them having liquid refreshments and snacks. Then it was off to the airport in Anchorage to bid them farewell. It was a whirlwind eight days with two moves (each three to four hours driving time), and it was sad to see them go.
I’m sure Isabella enjoyed her visit with her Papa as much as he did. And I think it gave Faith a real feel for what our life is like on the road. The last time she visited, along with her sister Mary, and our granddaughter, Monique, it was in Newport Beach, California. That was a big resort with rental cabins which they stayed in, and we just drove around during touristy city things.
We will miss them, but know that in a few months, we will be swinging through Wisconsin on our way south for the winter, and we’ll be able to spend time with all the family again then. Until then, it is north for us to see Denali National Park and Fairbanks before exiting this beautiful state of Alaska. There is a nip of fall in the air, and mentally and emotionally, we feel like we are on the downside of this trip. It will be a race to see and do everything before the state shutters down for the season in September. But we’ll give it our best shot.