Yes, we are still alive. A few people wanted us to let them know that.
We have done much. We arrived on Friday the 18th. We spent Friday in Anchorage with Karen (Jen’s college friend) and enjoyed a fresh “wild caught” Red Salmon dinner which we purchased at Sam’s Club. If you don’t have time to catch it yourself, just stop by your local supermarket and pick up fresh Salmon (assuming it’s the right time of the year).
Saturday we picked up our rental car and headed towards Homer. We didn’t make it 15 minutes before spotting a Dall Sheep grazing on a bluff above Turnagain Arm.
Homer is a little fishing village at the end of the Kenai Peninsula known for its Halibut fishing. We drove “the spit”, found the Eagle Lady’s abode, and then headed back North to the Deep Creek campground. We had a fantastic campsite on the Sound where we watched 6 bald eagles (2 mating pairs, 2 juveniles) circle, fish, and steal fish from lesser birds.
Jen has some of her Dad’s “fish fever”. You should have heard her squeals of delight as hundreds of salmon danced in the water right in front of us. The salmon are in a feeding frenzy as they prepare to head up the spawning streams.
The next day we found an old fellow with some clamming gear and rented a couple buckets, shovels, and a clam gun. We tried the shovels a couple times and realized that would be a LOT of work to catch our limit (60 each) with shovels. So, then I gave the clam gun a try and after crushing a couple, got the hang of it and we extracted a few dozen razor clams.
We put our clams in a disposable cooler and then cruised on over to Seward to spend the night. After setting up campe, we spent a few hours cleaning clams. It’s an experience that everyone should have. Once. 🙂 I can only describe it by saying that Jen was no longer disappointed that we didn’t both collect our limit.
I fired up the trusty MSR Whisperlite (stove) and sauteed our clams in generous portions of melted butter and we ate a razor clam feast for dinner. They were excellent. Afterwards, we scraped up $2.00 worth of quarters so that we could use the showers to wash the clam fragrance from us and our clothes.
The next day we cruised up to Exit Glacier park. On the way in we had to wait for a black bear cub to stop playing in the road. We hiked up a hardy mountain trail a few thousand feet, above treeline, and finally into snowfields to a nice rock outcropping. From there we could see the Harding Ice Field (120+ square miles of ice) and a great views of Exit Glacier. Jen has now seen a glacier. I’ve seen dozens, and I agree with a comment we heard from another hiker: “once you’ve seen one glacier, you’ve seen them all”.
We had dinner at The Salmon Bake (just outside of Seward) and contrary to the slogan on their sign, the food was excellent. We spent the night at Bertha Creek campground, where we were formally introduced to Alaskan mosquitoes. Myths suggest that the size of the mosquitoes are “Alaskan” but that isn’t the case, they’re the same size as our mid-western mosquitoes. Where they really stand out is in their quantity, intensity, and ferocity.
We could not get into the car without a few getting in. We could not unzip the tent door without them getting in. We took absurd measures. We’d unzip the rain fly, rush inside, and zip it back up. Then unzip the tent, crawl inside, zip up, and then pause for a 3 minute shakedown. As the inevitable mosquito (or three) appeared, we’d squash it. Then we could resume “normal” tent life.
Before getting out of the tent, we’d put on at least two layers (long sleeved base layer + mid-weight) on our entire bodies and then headnets. The only exposed skin left was our hands which got deet. We were mosquito-proof but only comfortable when the temperature (or wind) made it comfortable to wear two (thin) layers.
The following day we mosied up to Whittier. There is nothing to see there. It’s just a community of 185 persons, surviving in an old military outpost. We cruised though and caught the ferry to Valdez and spent the rest of the day cruising across the sound. The captain took the ferry into the Columbia Bay, right up to the edge of the ice floe (as close to the glacier edge as a boat can get).
After arriving in Valdez, we cruised around down town for a few minutes and then headed out of town up to Thompson Pass and spent the night at the Blueberry Lake campground. The views getting to and from the campground were absolutely fantastic but it was here that we cemented our plans to send a bill to the Alaskan governer for feeding his mosquitos.
… to be continued.