June 28, 2017 Homer Spit, Salty Dog and Oceanfront Camping

Great night of sleep but I still have a lingering headache. On our way to see Homer which is only an hour and half away. Grey skies but no rain….summer in Alaska 🙂
We drove straight to the Island & Ocean Visitor center before we stopped. This visitors center is really great! Tons of information with really great displays. We hung out for nearly an hour looking at everything. Really well done! Next we headed to the Homer spit which is a 4.5mile strip of sand and gravel that juts out from the mainland. Homer got its name from a con man who was always scheming a way to separate wealthy people from their money. In 1896 and 97 he set up base camp on Homer Spit (named in his honor by his hopeful gold mining crew) and looked for gold in the cook inlet. With the knowledge he had about the local gold and coal outcrops he established bogus mining companies then traveled to the east coast and sold stock in them.
We found a free public parking area and got out to check out the little shops on the strip. One original building that my dad remembers from his time here is The Salty Dog Saloon. We walked there and posed for a picture just in time to have a guy walk out from the bar…at 10:30am.20170628_120206 I loved that he was dressed in his waders and camo and was a legit fisherman. It was pretty funny since mom snapped a picture just as he was passing us so it looks like he’s just part of the family 🙂 We walked down a ways and found a camping area as far out on the spit as you could camp. Scott and Dad paid for a spot that we could come back to after lunch and some exploring of the area. Our spots were right on the ocean front….so beautiful!!!
There were a few gift shops and lots of little places to eat. We looked around and decided to eat at Captain Patty’s for some fish and chips (I had a chicken sandwich…I’m so lame, I know) Patty’s was excellent and everyone really enjoyed their meals. There was a map of Homer and the surrounding islands under the glass on the table. Dad showed us where he was stationed when he worked for Fish and Game in Alaska. DSC_0680He was pretty remote for a few months! It was neat to hear the stories of the fisherman who made their livelihoods there. There were some sneaky people as well that would try to cherry bomb the waters then net all the scared fish 🙂 After lunch we got back in the RV and headed to old town Homer. Not too much to see there but worth the drive through town. We went to the farmers market and bought some fresh salsa and kettle corn and then hit the thrift store next door. Back in the RV we made one last stop for ice cream then headed to our spot. So beautiful watching the fishing boats coming and going, a couple of seals and even a guy in a full wet suit stand up paddle boarding.

We walked on the beach and Ellie and I drew on a few rocks and hid them around for people to find. We found our best rainbow of rocks yet! The reds, oranges and yellow were my favorite. The beach was full of beautiful flat skippers too.

The tides here are pretty amazing. When we arrived the tide was way out and by the time we were ready to go to bed it had risen all the way up to the rocky areas. The rain began to fall so we sat under our awning and just took in the view. The kids and Scott played multiple rounds of UNO and I wrote a couple days worth of posts…the internet has been so terrible or nonexistent it has been difficult to keep up with posting or witting. I will need to add all the pictures later when I have a good connection.DSC_0686
Tomorrow we are going to head to Seward for a night then onto Valdez for a night or two. We are having lots of fun and the views are just spectacular….still waiting on a darn moose though!!!

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June 27, 2017 Kenai Peninsula, Fishing in the river and still no moose!

We left Anchorage without seeing any more bears 🙂 We are headed to the Kenai Peninsula to go stay at our Craigslist friends house. Pretty nice couple that they are letting us all stay on their property and even use their home if we want to!
The weather looked pretty grey but no rain yet so that is a win. Sounds like if there is no rain it is considered a summer day. Not my idea of summer but super thankful for the lack of precipitation.
The drive to Kenai is a short one and we make it to our destination by 1pm. Just so you are aware…we have yet to see any male moose. We have seen numerous signs stating that a moose could appear at any moment but they have avoided us all together! It’s almost comical at this point!
This house is on the Kenai river and it is just a beautiful setting! The water runs pretty fast and its fairly wide in this spot. We spent some time at the bank side dock just looking at the river and watching a giant bald eagle soar through the sky and land just across the river in a tall tree. It was calm and peaceful by the river and we were protected from the wind.
Once the neighbors arrived we got the key for the house and we were able to do a bit of laundry. I had a major headache which was a bummer so I kinda laid low the rest of the day. Scott and my dad and the kids all tried their hand at casting off the dock. No success in catching anything but they had a lot of fun trying 🙂

The girls took a break for a bit and it was awfully quiet (a big sign that something is up) I found them and it smelled a bit like smoke…hmmm. Upon questioning them I come to find out that they had attempted to dig a hole and start a fire to cook their “soup” that they made. Needless to say I put the kibosh on this idea and they had to stay within view from then on. kids 🙂
We had a simple meal and then the girls, Scott and Dad went to try fishing again.
It has been great to have the kids spend time with Scott and with their grandparents. I love watching Dad explain something or tell a story.DSC_0638 Katherine loves to go see what Grandma is making for dinner and chatting with her while she watches. The evenings around a fire are so fun when the weather works out. I do wish we were having more sunshine and warm weather but this time together is far more precious. What a blessing to be here, enjoying Gods creation that He gave us. Alaska is just expansive and beautiful!

June 26, 2017 Anchorage, gift shops and a bear in the campground

Headed out about 8:30am to see Anchorage. We did not have a lot of driving to get there so it was nice to arrive in the city before lunch time. Years ago my brother stayed with a family in Anchorage while he worked here. The couple quickly became close friends and they have continued to keep in touch over the years. We found their house and tried to stop in and say hello but they were out. Bummer but that is what you get when you don’t plan ahead…it was worth a shot 🙂
We found a paid RV parking lot and made a little lunch before heading to the gift shops and the little visitors center for information. Lots of cute store fronts and we visited pretty much every one 🙂DSC_0609 The visitors center had postcards that they would mail for free so the girls wrote a couple of those. A couple of hours down town allowed us to buy a few souvenirs and shirts. DSC_0608The rain looked like it was not too far off so we headed from town to our campground , Centennial Campground. It was right off the freeway but was treed and nice. When we checked in they told us to drive thru and see where we would want to stay then come back and confirm the availability. As we rounded the first big curve there was a tent that was pretty smashed on one side. Katherine immediately said it looked like a bear got into it. When I was confirming the spot we wanted the office manager said there were two tents that were gotten into by a bear. I bet those guys got into big trouble for leaving food in their tent!DSC_0623
Once we were parked it was really raining and Mom and Dad headed back into downtown to meet up with one of Dads friends. They were going to catch up over dinner at a place that apparently has the best pizza around and is always packed out.
Since the rain was falling and we were plugged into power we all watched RV (Robin Williams has some great lines ) as a family and then played some UNO. Around 10pm someone started honking their horn a few campsites away. The sun doesn’t set until midnight around these parts so we looked out and tried to see what the fuss was about. Scott walked out in front of the RV and immediately began walking backwards. This is a bear sighting move that we all learned about . As soon as he started walking backwards I looked through the trees and saw a pretty good size black bear running out of the campground towards the hill. Wow, funny to see a bear close up in the city and not in the national park! Pretty exciting stuff, I called my mom on the walkie-talkie and she said it came up an sniffed their front bumper then walked around their camper. Pretty sure he was in the mood for the Alaskan bug buffet that they have on the front of that truck.
Lots of excitement then off to bed…Headed to the Kenai Peninsula tomorrow!

June 25, 2017 Flying Squirrels, puppies and a teeter totter

Today we are headed south to Houston AK to see the Iditarod headquarters and possibility of getting to hold puppies.
Nice day with a bit of sunshine! We made a stop for gas just before the cut off road up to Talkeetna and this place was hoppin with travelers. We are seeing more and more RV’s on the road as we get further into our travels. It has been really great to just go and not have to make too many arrangements along the way. The only reservations we did make were for Denali. You have to make those in advance or you may not end up being able to stay inside the park.
Talkeetna is on a dead end road about 14 miles long. This is the place where people who are brave and crazy enough start on their climb of Denali. Denali is the tallest mountain in North America at over 20,000 feet tall. One guide told us it would cost you about $15,000 and two weeks if you wanted to climb it. Some people do…not a bucket list item for me at all. Driving up the road there were little places to stop if you wanted. One was a Birch syrup place..sounds interesting and not so tasty, there was also a bakery and other stops on the way up. Once we reached Talkeetna it was a hub of activity. Super cute little town with log buildings and people milling about everywhere. We decided to just drive thru town and not stop. It was really quite busy and parking was very scarce for our 29 foot home on wheels. Instead of stopping there we decided to go to the Flying Squirrel Bakery which had a write up in our MilePost book that we have been using during our trip. We managed to find some parking while swarms of moths flew all over our windows…strange…. Inside the bakery it was really cute and much bigger than I expected. There were quite a few people as well. Since it was about lunch time we decided to stay and have a bite. The line took awhile but we ordered some bagels and a loaf of bread and a couple of sandwiches. I noticed a note on the board that said good food takes time…hmmm. Yup, they put that up there as a reason to go at their own pace. They had one guy making the food and he was less than quick but that was okay. We sat at a table and chatted. Once the food did arrive it was good but I wouldn’t say outstanding and worth the 40min. wait time. It was bagels and sandwiches…not too tricky to whip up 🙂 None the less our bellies were full and we were now headed to Houston to see the Iditarod Headquarters where they say we may be able to hold puppies. Before we made it there we had to stop at an ice cream stop with the giant ice cream cone on the roof…of course 🙂20170625_161525
After completing the big circle that our GPS took us on we arrived at the headquarters. We went into the gift shop to inquire about the puppies while the kids looked at all the things they were selling. The gal said we were welcome to head outside and see the puppies. Scott said to the kids “She says there are puppies that we can go see and hold outside when you are ready” Katherine looked at him at stuttered “Let’s go..let go right now” with a look of amazement on her face. Really hard to portray how funny it was. This girl LOVES her dogs!

The trainer was by the kennel that had three of the cutest puppies ever! They all were different colors but from the same litter. It worked out perfectly that there was one puppy per kid and boy were they all in heaven.

The guy handed each of them one and they were able to snuggle and enjoy these little guys as long as they wanted. We all were able to hold them and it was so great because we were the only ones there. It was fun to hear about the dogs as well. These ones were different than the ones at Denali in that the Denali dogs were built for strength and these dogs were built for speed. They had a team of dogs there as well that was hooked up to a wheeled cart (similar to the training cart used at Denail) that you could pay for a ride on. The kids were perfectly happy with the puppies so we skipped that attraction 🙂
After our fill of puppy time we headed to the campground pretty much behind the facility on Lucille Lake. Pretty over grown but a bargain at $10 a night. After everything was set up the girls, mom and I went to the playground to see the toys. They had those bars that kids do spins or flips on in a few different heights. I told the girls how I used to spin around on them with one leg hooked over and how you could go and go if you threw your body weight forward. I tried to get Katherine to do it but she didn’t quite get it…so I tried to show her. Yep, I did and yep I felt pretty old 🙂 So funny that what was so simple in elementary school seems impossible when you are 41 years old! I made the first attempted “spin” only to realize that the forward motion stopped at the bottom and there was no way to make it fully around. Oh, I tried…believe me, but to no avail. There was no way to get this body up and over that bar another time. I was laughing pretty hard by the end of the ordeal. Well, at least I tried…I guess 🙂 We all made our way down to the lake and out onto a really nice dock. The lake was beautiful and the temperature outside was nice enough that some kids were swimming. Katherine was determined to try the water and eventually did take a hop in. The bottom was sinking muck and mud and she did it anyways….definitely doesn’t take after her momma!
Back at the campground Mom, Dad, Scott and I were able to sit and chat about Dads time in Alaska and about he and mom and their meeting on the east coast when he was in the Navy. It is so fun to learn new things about your parents. The girls came over and made a teeter totter out of a downed tree.DSC_0592

They even customized it with areas they “whittled” out to sit on and some pegs of wood that Grandpa pounded into the stump to keep their teeter totter from falling. We enjoyed a nice fire outside and then called it a night.
Fun day that turned out a bit different than we had planned…which is the beauty of no plans and a loose schedule 🙂

June 24, 2017 Catching shuttles, great photo ops and ranger talks

The weather was not too promising when we woke up….rather cloudy. Not a problem there was no rain so we decided to catch a shuttle to the visitors center and go from there.
We checked out the Murie Science building which had a lot of hands on things to look at. The parks ranger and skier were a hit for everyone! Ben was looking at the micro scope and decided to check out his finger nail…rather yucky if you ask me 🙂 After that we went to the Wilderness Activity Center so Mom and Dad could watch the video and we could hit the gift shop for a necklace that Katherine wanted to buy.


There is an area further up the main highway that they refer to as the valley and there was a great trail that took us out to the nice walkway that crossed the river then up to the little strip of stores and some bigger hotels. The walk was about a mile and the weather was mild but not cold. We checked out a couple of gift shops then headed to a pizza place for a late lunch. We were all so hungry that it tasted delicious…it was great pizza anyway but it just tasted that much better on a really empty stomach.
We happened to walk out of the restaurant at the same time as a shuttle for the Princess Hotel showed up to take people to the Visitors Center at Denali. We hoped on not sure if we were allowed to but no one said we couldn’t. It stopped at the Visitors Center and the bus for our Savage River campground was there and ready to make the 40 min. trip out. Couldn’t have planned that any better 🙂
The rain poured out after we got back to our RV for about 30 minutes. When it subsided we made a quick dinner then headed to the ranger talk about Fannie Quigly. It was so good! Fannie was a crazy tough lady who came to Alaska from Nebraska in 1906, alone, at age 16, in the winter, not speaking any English and was 4 foot 10 inches and less than 100 pounds. Wow right? She was quite a gal and one of the very best hunters in the area (she had never hunted before arriving in Katishna). The ranger told a story of how Fannie spent the night in a moose carcass during one of her hunting trips that went too late into the night. She woke to find that the rib cage had frozen solid and she had to bust her way out. It was a fun evening and we had a fire and hung out until 9:30 then headed to bed even though the sun was shining like it was 1pm. So weird!
Tomorrow we are leaving Denali and heading south to where ever we end up. We are hoping to check out the Iditarod Headquarters and see some puppies 🙂

June 23, 2017

 

Well, the clouds did part and there is nice sunshine making its way through here and there this morning. I hope it will hold out 🙂
Since we have been doing so much staying at provintial and government parks we have not plugged into power and water and our RV has been using the battery and the propane tank to keep our lights on and our fridge cold and we are now at the point that our propane is reading 1/4 full. This is a concern since our fridge runs off of it. We decide that since we are in the park for two more nights we would rather not risk it and decided that we better go find some propane. Outside the park another 10 miles up the road is the town of Healy and there is one station there that sells the propane. We pack it up and head out at 8:15 am because the dog sled presentation is at 10am and we don’t want to miss it.
There is a ton of construction on the 10 mile stretch and we keep getting stopped and have to wait. The last stop before Healy is a pretty long one…maybe 15 minutes. The flagger lady started walking towards us so I rolled down my window to see if she needed to tell us something. Nope, she just wanted to shoot the breeze with us for the next 15 minutes. She was a total kick! She was jumping from one subject to another telling us all about her old boss and the great coat he bought for all the employees to the fact that she was at the end of her shift and had stood through three boughts of torrential rain storms through the night. She told us a long story of the major prank her son just played on her a couple of weeks ago where he had her thinking he had picked up a couple of hitch hiking kids whos dad left them after getting drunk. The story went that he had left them and drove back to North Pole AK which is 12 hours away and her son picked them up because they were trying to make their way back home. She was livid as ever but still working so she talked with various other people (big surprise since she is chatting our ear off) and decided that she needed to turn this guy into CPS. A couple hours into her shift a semi truck driver with a sad looking passenger came into her line and the passenger asked her if she had seen any kids hitch hiking. She gave him a piece of her mind before they had to move on in the traffic. She called her son and he just laughed at how good the prank had played out. Needless to say she used some colorful language when describing what she thought of her sons “funny” prank. It turned out to be one of his friends that had his truck break down and her son offered to take the kids while the friend waited for the truck repair guy. What a tale…and what a mean son! I would have been pretty mad too 🙂 I am wondering how many other drivers have heard the story by now…she was a hoot and it was fun talking with her and listening to her stories during the long traffic stop. Eventually we had to say good bye to Jodi (her great coat given to her by her old employer had her name on it which she showed us). We made it to Healy only to have the lady say “We don’t sell propane until 9am” It was 8:52 so we waited…and I uploaded one day of the blog with their free Wi-Fi so that was a bonus!
One the road back to the park by 9:20am and we made it to the dog kennels just in time. Such a neat experience. They had a few of the dogs on their leashes so that you were able to pet them. They all live in these little wood log dog houses that have a leash attached and a flat roof. The dogs go inside or lay on top of the house. There were about 30 dogs total there and they are all Alaskan Huskies. Really beautiful dogs. The presentation was very interesting too. These dogs can endure -40 degree weather no problem and they can turn fat into instant energy. Their long legs and big feet allow them to run through deep snow. The dogs showed us their speed when they hooked up five of them to their training cart (looked like a motorless dune buggy) and pulled it around a loop. They took off at about 20 miles an hour! Pretty amazing and strong animals! On average when they are training the go a speed of about 10 miles an hour. This was one of the most fun things we have done in the park. After the presentation and demonstration we were able to go and pet the dogs again and look at the information they had about mushing .
After leaving the kennels we went to the shower area and took showers while Scott emptied the dump tank and filled the water tank.
We then headed to our new campground to snag a spot. Mom and Dad headed north a mile on the main highway to check out the little town “the valley” and then came to the campground. We got a couple sites that are connected and really nice.
The weather turned and we had some good rain storms come through. We took a walk down to the river and saw some moose prints. The river had a bunch of little sand bars and of course this was a challenge that Ben could not pass up. The leaping was pretty impressive for sure! The girls followed suit and we did end up with some wet shoes 🙂
Caught in a rainstorm on the way back to camp we all tried to hurry so we didn’t get soaked. Scott and I and the kids played some games and laughed a lot then made some dinner. The rain let up about 8pm and we enjoyed a fire at Mom and Dads campsite.
It has been really fun to enjoy this area. Tomorrow we will explore a bit more for the day. We are headed toward Anchorage after that and then on into the Kenai Peninsula.

June 21, 2017 Denali Highway, pot holes and the National Park

We left our RV park with all the “amenities” by 7:30am. We are headed to Denali National Park today and to get there we are taking the Denali Highway. The Denali Highway is 85% gravel and 15% concrete and opens mid May or when the snow leaves. This is the scenic route and due to the road you are to go only 30 miles an hour for the whole 120 mile road. We are up for it because when are we going to do this again? Hoping to see some beautiful sights and hopefully a bit of wild life.
The gas stations are now becoming less frequent so we stop at one of the two that are available until we finish the Denali Highway. Nice little stop. One lady working there in the shop that was built in 1902. The back of the store was a little museum about the lady who lived there since her birth in 1902. They had so many neat little nick-knacks and mementos from her life as well as the moccasins that she would make and bead, a caribou head mounted on the wall and lots of items from the surrounding area. Nice stop and fun to chat a little with her. She said she was sad that it was the solstice because then the days begin to shorten again. On December 21st they get about 3 hours of twilight before it is totally dark again and its 40 below. Not my kinda place to live at all. Scott laughs at me at how much light I always want. When we renovated our kitchen I was all for more light 🙂DSC_0335
We made it to the turn off to the highway and started in. Really just lovely from the very beginning. We stopped at an overlook right away to take in a vista that was stunning. You could see for miles! The Alaska range curved in front of us with lakes and tundra below.
The roads were really not that bad for the first half of the drive. There was some construction that we had to stop for a few times. I did spot a cow moose on the hillside and it ended up coming closer to the road and we were able to get some great pictures of her! The really neat thing about this highway was that we only saw a hand full of other cars. It felt like we were the only ones on earth much of the time.


The fun came about half way thru our 120 mile trip when the pot holes started. Whew…those are some pot holes and there were soooo many!!! It felt like a real life video game dogging in and out trying to miss these small craters in the road. We must have looked hilarious…a big bread box bobbin and weavin all over the road. We were lucky to be going 25 miles and hour thru this area. At times the road would improve and Scott would get up to 35 miles and hour and it felt like we were risking it…living on the wild side 🙂
We made a stop at Alpine Creek Lodge because Scott and Dad needed a rest from all the defensive driving and because their ad in the MilePost said that they always offer free coffee 🙂 Like Ben says “you can’t keep a person from their coffee” when the girls said they are not wanting to stop. We park in the lower lot and head up the driveway to the lodge. Its a big log building and inside we are greeted by the owner and the kitchen cook. We looked around and had a cup of coffee then headed out onto the deck to take in the sweeping views. Wow! They even had a little glassed in area for a game of ping pong in inclement weather…outside of that they had a Seahawks Adirondack chair (good people 🙂 ). We still had at least 2/3rds of the highway to conquer. The roads continued to be bad for about 10 more miles but got increasingly better as we went on. We enjoyed lunch at one of the many turn outs along the road. The really neat thing about this highway is not only the views, the quiet and the immensity of the area but the fact that you can just pull off anywhere and camp…for free.

You are allowed to pull off on any BLM Land and stay. Such freedom. There were groups of 4wheelers at sites along one of the lakes or rivers here and there. There are so many lakes its crazy! If you ever get the chance to drive this highway you should plan to stay a night here…just bring bug spray 🙂

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Ben practicing with the nun chucks he and Ellie bought

By the time we hit pavement it was a welcome feeling. Dad and Scotts arms were tired from all the shaking! The next 30 miles were a breeze as we made our way to our camp ground in the National Park. The Riley Creek campground is the first government one in the park. We stopped for a quick picture by the Denali Sign then found our sites after checking in at registration. DSC_0409We ended up being able to find two just across from one another which was great. The sun was out and it was over 70 degrees! I feel like that is a huge blessing because I had been following the weather before we left and it didn’t look very nice. We feel so blessed! We made dinner and a fire and the girls made up a fun hoola hoop show for us.
Tomorrow we are planning on checking out the visitors center and then catching one of the Denali buses into the park at 5pm. The only way you can go into the park (past the 15 mile post) is to pay to ride one of the buses to certain stops or pay to take a tour bus into the park which is a bit more but narrated. Our ride only goes 53.5 miles into the park out of the 92 mile road and it will take us 6.5 hours to complete the bus ride. We are hoping to see lots of wild life. They say that because they do it this way it stays way more wild.