Welcome to our Adventure!

Al and I are thrilled that you have found your way to our blog. We hope you enjoy reading our journal and viewing our photographs of the natural wonder of our United States of America. Let's hit the road together!
Homer, Alaska

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Homer: Fishing and Bears!

 On Friday, 7/15, we departed Seward and drove 163 miles to our next destination, Homer, at the very tip of the Kenai.

As per what has become the normal circumstances, it was drizzly and on the cool side. It was still a beautiful drive up through the mountains surrounding Seward, then through the Kenai River area, which was lush and beautiful with the color of the Kenai River unbelievable - no place to really stop with our rigs to take pictures - and then along the northern coast of the peninsula. 

Once we were settled into our campground, it was mandatory to jump in the vehicles and head down to the marina to find the dock for Big Dan's Fishing Charters, the company they booked their overnight trip with. We found it and the boat, The Double Down, that they will be fishing from. 

They had to pose in front of the boat.

As we were walking around the floating docks, we saw this adorable sea otter. He would dive down and come back up with a crab. Listen closely and you'll hear the shell cracking as he's eating it.

The famous Salty Dawg Saloon on the Homer Spit. The history from its website:

The Salty Dawg started out as one of the first cabins built in 1897, soon after Homer became a town site. It served as the first post office, a railroad station, a grocery store, and a coal mining office for twenty years. In 1909 a second building was constructed, and it served as a school house, post office, grocery store. And at one time, it housed three adults and eleven children.

It was acquired in the late 1940’s by Chuck Abbott to be used as an office for Standard Oil Company. In April of 1957, he opened it as the Salty Dawg Saloon. The late 1950’s produced a change for the Salty Dawg Saloon by joining this building to it.

The Alaska Territory became the 49th state of the union in January 1959.

Earl Hillstrand, the late State Representative, purchased it in 1960. After the March 1964 “Good Friday” earthquake, he moved the structure to its present location. The distinctive lighthouse tower was added to cover a water storage tank, thus completing one of Homer’s more historical and recognizable landmarks.

The Salty Dawg Saloon that we know today is owned and operated by John Warren.

Lots of boats of all types along the Homer Spit. This is just one section. 
So....what is the "Spit"?
Homer Spit, Homer, Alaska

The Homer Spit (Dena'inaUzintun) is a geographical landmark located in Homer, Alaska on the southern tip of the Kenai Peninsula. The spit is a 4.5-mile (7.2 km) long piece of land jutting out into Kachemak Bay.[1] The spit is also home to the Homer Boat Harbor. The harbor contains both deep and shallow water docks and serves up to 1500 commercial and pleasure boats at its summer peak.[1] Additional features and attractions include  The Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon, which is an artificial "fishing hole", campgrounds, hotels, and restaurants and the Salty Dawg Saloon, which is constructed out of several historic buildings from Homer. Hundreds of eagles formerly gathered there in winter to be fed by Jean Keene, the "Eagle Lady".[2] The Spit features the longest road into ocean waters in the entire world, taking up 10–15 minutes to cover by car.[3] (Wikipedia)

The next day was my personal highlight of the trip, the activity I've been looking forward to since we started planning this trip back in 2016. We were flying from Homer via seaplane to Katmai National Park, home of Brooks Falls and grizzly bear extravaganza every July when the salmon start swimming upstream. The bears come down to feed as they are able to bulk up pretty quickly for the long winter to come. It was absolutely fascinating, amazing, and any other superlative you can think of. 

We flew with Bald Mountain Air Services in a 10-passenger DeHavilland single-engine Otter seaplane. I researched many different companies and their aircraft and chose this one based on their safety record and the safety record of this type of seaplane. I ended up being even more grateful that I chose this particular company as they were the only ones able to fly out that particular day due to weather. The smaller aircraft were not able to fly. It was rainy and foggy, and, yes, I was a tad apprehensive about the whole thing. It was an hour and a half flying time, and for the most part, all we saw was clouds surrounding us. It broke a little as we got close to Brooks Lake, where we landed, as you can see in the next picture. 

Land sighting!
We were very lucky in that it did not rain at all over there, just a light misting from time to time. The rain and fog kept smaller flights from going over and nothing from Anchorage either, so there were very few people there that day. Normally there can be up to a 2-hour-or-longer wait time to enter the viewing platform, and then your time was limited to a half hour. Only 40 people at a time are permitted on the platform. There was no wait, never more than 29 people there, and we were able to stay for a good two hours watching the bears. It was so interesting to stay that long in that we were able to actually figure out the dynamics of the group of bears and the relationships between them. It was an amazing day, ranking as one of the most memorable experiences in my lifetime.

There is a live webcam where anyone can watch the action occurring at


The next day was unplanned, basically just doing a little sightseeing and the guys getting prepared for their overnight trip. We had heard an area called Anchor Point was usually pretty good for seeing eagles, so we headed that way. 

Again, a wet day, but eagles still manage to look regal though rumpled.

This was very interesting at Anchor Point. The tides are so extreme that they use tractors to launch and reload fishing boats. I couldn't believe how far out in the water the tractor goes. The boat also approaches pretty quickly as well!

Tractor on the way out.

Boat approaching. I can't believe how far in the water the tractor is.

Boat gets hooked up to tractor.

Tractor hauls boat up the beach to the parking lot.

Eagles, mature and juvenile

In flight with mountain backdrop.

So finally fishing day arrives. Unfortunately, it's pretty windy and drizzly. The guys head down to the dock, and we awaited word on what was going to happen. I was really hoping it didn't get canceled as Al was looking forward to this as much as I was looking forward to the bears. The captain decided they would give it a go, trying to stay out of the weather as much as possible. So they didn't get to go out quite as far as they had hoped, but the trip was on. They figured the first day might not be so good, but they'd give it hell the next day when the wind laid down. Imagine my surprise when I got a call around 10:30 the next morning that they'd be in by lunchtime. Not because of weather, but they had their limits of fish already. 

Dan with a prized yelloweye rockfish.

My brother Bill with his 110-pound halibut.

Our 3 fishermen with the boat's catch.

Their actual catch for the 3 of them.

The fish is handed over to the fish cleaners, and then the haul is sent over to the processors where it's cut into approximately 1-pound pieces, flash frozen, and vacuum sealed. I think it came out to about 240 pounds of fish altogether.

Our last day in Homer, we visited the Alaskan Maritimes (Islands and Oceans) National Wildlife Refuge Visitors Center. It was a very interesting exhibit and had a nice nature walk out back that goes through the marshlands to Bishop's Beach. The tides are so extreme that at low tide you can walk pretty far out. Cody enjoyed running around on the sand when the tide was out!

We also took a ride on the East End Road, running along the south coast east until the road ends. There were some nice views of Kachemak Bay and the coves on the far side....what we could see around clouds!

One last thing we did but I don't have any pictures of is visit the Norman Lowell Art Gallery in Anchor Point. It was beautiful. I was fascinated with the art created by Norman Lowell. Sadly, his work is definitely out of my price range! But I loved walking slowly through the gallery, marveling at the talent. What was even more amazing to me, in 2013, after battling glaucoma, he was declared legally blind. He continued working through 2017, utilizing increasingly stronger arrays of lighting, until the point where his final works were done purely from memory.  More information about the gallery and pictures of a few 0f his works can be found here: https://www.normanlowellgallery.org/

Overall, I really liked Homer. I would like to see it someday in nice weather, and there are a few things I wanted to do and see that just weren't going to be enjoyable with the weather we had. At least we had about a 4-hour window of sun so that I was able to get the beautiful photo that is now my blog header.

We then headed to our next destination, Soldotna, and the final fishing of the trip: river fishing on the Kenai River.

Friday, August 19, 2022

Seward: Fishing, Glaciers, and Wildlife

 We arrived in Seward on July 8 for a week. We had 2 fishing trips planned, a wildlife/glaciers tour of the Kenai Fjords booked, and planned on a few other activities including hiking to one of the glaciers you can approach safely on foot. And of course, the rainy weather had settled in quite well at this point, with no let-up in sight. So, what do we do? Put on raincoats and boots and head on out. The only thing we had to juggle a bit was the fishing charter, as the first day was canceled due to windy conditions. When checking in, the guys were told it was canceled on Saturday as they don't wish to fish in 9-foot seas. Al said no problem, either does he! Fortunately, they had room on their Tuesday charter that they could jump on. So the fishing charters were on, and here are the results:

The first trip was the 3 guys. No picture at the dock as the fish were cleaned on the boat prior to arriving back to the dock, but they caught their limit of halibut, rockfish, and salmon.

Second day when Jonell joined the fishing team: halibut, rockfish, and salmon.

While the guys were fishing one day, we girls headed up to the Kenai Fjords National Park Visitor Center where we accessed the trail to walk to the Exit Glacier. This is the only part of the park that is accessible by road. It was named Exit Glacier by grateful backcountry travelers, descending 3000 feet in just a few miles from the Harding Icefield, forming a stunning natural ramp. It is also a poignant sign of the impact of climate change occurring causing the glacial retreat. There are markers all along the road leading to the visitor center and then on the trail to the glacier itself showing where the glacier terminus, or "toe," would have been at various time periods.

Graphic representation of the glacier's retreat from 1815 to 2007. In 2019, the latest year I can find data, the glacier lost 252 feet, the most lost in any single summer on record.

This is a topographical map in the visitor center of the Harding Icefield atop the Kenai Peninsula in the Kenai Fjords National Park. Seward is all the way on the right-hand side at the head of Resurrection Bay. On our cruise that we take, we are going out to the Northwestern Glacier, at the head of Northwestern Lagoon and Harris Bay in the middle of the map.
The Harding Icefield and its outflowing glaciers cover 700 square miles of Alaska's Kenai Mountains in glacier ice. Up to 40 different glaciers of different sizes and types flow off the Harding Icefield.

Exit Glacier, as close as we could get to it. 

Zoomed in picture of the terminal edge. You could actually hear the ice cracking and see a chunk floating down the glacial river from time to time.

Seward harbor on Resurrection Bay

There are several murals painted on buildings throughout the town. I would have liked to have spent more time exploring the town on foot. We did walk the waterfront trail in between rain storms one day. There is a campground right at the end of town on the bay, and where it isn't anything more than a parking lot, really, in retrospect, I think I would stay there next time. We stayed at a campground outside of town, which was very nice and quiet, but it would be nice to be able to walk to town at will like we did in Valdez. 
You can see the back of a couple RVs right along the bayfront. The view, especially on a nice day, makes up for the less than stellar sites.

One morning we visited the Alaskan SeaLife Center, which was a pretty nice small exhibit of fish and marine animals in the waters off Alaska. 

Finally, what was the highlight of the stay in Seward for me, we went on an all-day boat trip with Major Marines to view wildlife and glaciers. Again, we had a puppy sitter for Cody to take him out a couple times during the day so I could go on the trip without any guilt :-). The day was cloudy, but at least it wasn't raining and the wind wasn't bad. So we bundled up, having learned our lesson on the glacier trip in Valdez, and headed out.

Bundled up and ready to go.

We saw several humpback whales during the day in different areas. This one was lunge feeding very close to the island's rocky shore. It shows how steeply it drops off that the whale can get so close to the rocks.

We then motored through the Chiswell group of islands, home to massive bird rookeries.

All different species of birds were literally all over the rockface on ledges.

I finally spotted some puffins nesting on the ledges.

Puffins are surprisingly difficult to catch on the water. They seem to fly off as a boat approaches. It isn't the greatest picture, but I got one.

We then headed up to Northwestern Glacier. It did not have the impressive icefield to navigate through like Columbia, but was still a pretty impressive block of ice. 

Harbor seals hanging out on the iceflows.

We saw several nice calvings while we floated around.
There was an ice cave opening on the terminal edge of Northwestern Glacier, and as we floated around watching, you could see chunks falling off the roof into the water below.

This was a cove off Harris Bay that had a multitude of waterfall threads running down from the Harding Icefield cap above. 

And finally, a highlight for me was the finding of a pod of orcas as we were heading back to the harbor. They never really came far out of the water, but it was thrilling to see them for sure. I was very happy that on my last day of any sea life viewing on the trip we saw the orcas.

So we had a pretty full week in Seward. Even with the lousy weather, we were able to do all of our activities. So we prepared to head further down the peninsula to the farthest point, the town of Homer. There's another fishing trip, an overnight charter that the guys are going on, and my personal highlight of the summer: bears!