Friday, August 12, 2011

Our Last Day

As I sit here writing this it's hard to believe that tomorrow at this time we'll be at home (the good Lord and airlines willing). We have had such a wonderful trip, I hate for it to end.

Our last day was another beautiful one. How nice it worked out that we had such good weather these last 3 days in Alaska. It'll make our final memories even better.

We woke up in Homer, had our breakfast and headed out to Anchorage. A big part of the way was along the same highway (the Seward Highway) that we'd taken to get to Homer from Whittier. Again, the scenery was amazing.
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We stopped at a little museum. The volunteer there had been in Alaska for 30 years working as a biologist with bears. There were pretty pansies on the steps that made me think of my sister Jan, who loves pansies.

I was thinking of my sister Jan when I took these.

The last leg of the trip is called the "Turnagain Arm." It's beautiful, too. One thing we went by was Portage Glacier, which I vaguely remember from when I was a kid. My parents would bring visitors to see Portage Glacier. Back then you could see the end of the glacier from the road but it's receded now, as have many of the glaciers.
Portage Glacier

It's still a beautiful scene, though, and all along that piece of highway it's very pretty. The trees growing from the rocks are striking. As we got closer to Anchorage we saw, too, that there are very nice facilities built for viewing nature. There are big rest stops with paths and nice viewing areas, and a long boardwalk over the waterlands in one area.

We stopped for lunch and dinner along the way. Lunch was at a little place called Sackett's Kenai Grill. It looks like a dive but the food was delicious. They bake their own breads and make everything themselves. It was cute, too, the way the workers all seemed to be having a good time. They laughed and joked with each other and the customers the whole time we were there.

For dinner we stopped in Girdwood, at a restaurant called Chair 5 that the Milepost book said was a popular with the locals. We were early, fortunately, and beat the rush. I had a small "Yukon Gold Potato" pizza that was delicious.

We spent about 2 hours by Quartz Creek. Randy went fishing and I read my book -- and sometimes dozed. There were lots and lots of salmon in the river but he wasn't fishing for those. The salmon were spawning, which means they don't eat anything. People can, in some places, just snag them but you can't use live bait and in some places you can't fish them at all. Randy was trying for the trout or graylings. He didn't catch anything but he said it was fun anyway.
Salmon hanging out in the water.

My handsome fisherman

My last big purchase of a momento was a beautiful quilt I found at a tiny quilt store around the place Randy went fishing. I fell in love with it and even though it was kind of expensive, I think I'll be really glad I bought it. Randy approved, too. It's completely handmade.

Now we're back at the Arctic Fox and have everything packed -- had to buy an extra box to hold it all. Tomorrow it'll be good bye to Alaska. Hope we'll be back again someday.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Beautiful Kenai Peninsula & Homer

Yesterday we left cold, rainy Valdez and took a ferry to the Kenai Peninsula. On the ferry, the weather was beautiful and it's stayed that way since. It's been sunny and gorgeous for the past two days.

The ferry was fun. It was luxurious, with comfy seating, pretty art on the walls, a cafe and tons of windows for viewing the scenery.
On the ferry. Randy working on the sudoku book I bought him in the airport.

Me on the ferry.

Lots of beautiful scenery out the windows.

A glacier from the ferry.

Once we got off the ferry, we followed the cars to a place they were lining up. At first Randy thought we didn't want to go that way but then I remembered that the ferry captain had said we would be "right on time for the tunnel." It turns out there's a one-way tunnel from Whittier, where the ferry lands, to the peninsula which serves trains, cars and pedestrians. It opens in 15 minute increments to allow the different sides through.

The one-way tunnel from Whittier to the rest of the Kenai peninsula.

The tunnel is used by the train, cars and pedestrians. We drove right on top of the tracks.

Once we got out of the tunnel, there was a sign by the highway designating it as a "scenic highway" and it sure was! I could hardly stop taking photos. Everywhere we turned it was beautiful, whether it was the bright pink fireweeds against the green grass, the sparkling rivers, the mountains topped with snow or the green hills.

Some of the beauty we saw as we drove across the peninsula.

The sign said it was a

The bright pink fireweed was everywhere.

We debated going to Seward because we'd like to see it but our B&B is in Homer. We decided to go straight to Homer and I think it was a good decision because it was quite a long drive, which we hadn't realized. We saw some nice rivers along the way where Randy plans to stop and do a little fishing tomorrow when we drive out of Homer to Anchorage. Homer is right on the ocean and has a bunch of companies that fly people out to fish halibut or view bears.

We settled in our B&B, then got something to eat and drove around. It was a beautiful night, with a sunset on one side and a moon rise on the other.
Our room at the B&B in Homer.

Our view.

More of the view.

When we drove out to

...and the sun was setting on the other. It was around 10 pm.

And more moon rise.

It was a gorgeous evening. Well, night, I guess, it was after 10.

Today in Homer was a shopping day for me. There are lots of cute stores here both in town and on "the spit," a long narrow piece of land sticking out into the bay. We went to the museum and a bunch of stores where I found stuff for myself and a few gifts to bring home. Randy was a good sport about driving all around. When my parents settled in their home in Lynden for retirement, they had one bedroom they called the "Alaska room," where they put a bunch of their Alaska pictures and memorabilia. I'm thinking of copying that idea and doing that with our guest room.
Here's me by the cabin window. Same b&w / color effect.

A used bookstore we stopped at.

My kind of store!

Winetasting in Homer, Alaska. There are no vineyards in Alaska. Most of the wines were made with berries, or a combination of berries and grape juice they buy from elsewhere to make into wine.
We stopped at Bear Creek Winery and tasted wine. There are no vineyards in Alaska. Most of the wines are berries or a combination of berries and grape they get from elsewhere. Randy liked the blueberry best, we also liked raspberry and peach apricot. Very fun.

I'm sure it helps that the weather so incredibly good, but I never knew Homer was such a pretty place. It's surrounded by the ocean and mountains.
The sun was shining the water was sparkling.

More beautiful views around Homer.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Bear-y Rainy Day in Valdez

Hoaky title, I know. Couldn't resist. Today was a quiet day, nothing special planned. We slept in a little, I had time to work on my photos and blogs, we relaxed. It rained quite a lot. In fact, when we think of Valdez we're going to think of wet and cold. Low clouds, swampy land, waterfalls, and rain. But as with the whole trip, rain or shine we have a good time.

After hanging around the B&B for the morning, including meeting another couple, this one from Germany, we went into town. We visited 3 museums. At one I took a photo of  a quote from our boat captain yesterday.
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That museum had a whole exhibit to do with the oil spill. Rose says that people were all quite upset by it around here, understandably so. She said they were very angry with Exxon.

Our B&B, as I mentioned, is Rose's home. It's got beautiful views, lots of windows.

We walked around the Valdez Memorial Cemetery. I like to walk around and read the gravestones. They're like a story about the people. I like finding family plots and seeing a kind of family history sometimes.

Besides the 3 museums and the cemetery we spent a lot of time watching bears today. There's a fish hatchery in Valdez and several places where the spawning salmon congregate. This attracts hundreds of seagulls and also black bears. It was so fun to see some mama bears and cubs.

One young-looking bear was ambling along the side of the road right before our turn into the B&B.

We took tons of photos. We used a telephoto lens quite a lot, that Bill's camera has. The only problem is that it's long and therefore hard to hold steady. Probably every 3rd or 4th photo is actually useable. We were kicking ourselves on the boat yesterday that we'd forgotten that lens but I'm thinking we might actually be better off for having done so. The ones with the regular lens are clearer and often I can zoom in with the computer and get a decent result. It was especially hard to hold it up at an angle to try to get the eagle.

Tomorrow it's on to Homer. We have a reservation on the ferry at 12:15. I can't believe there are only 3 more days of our trip. In a way it seems like we've been here a good amount of time and crammed so much in, but in another way it seems like not half long enough. I know that when we get home the whole thing will seem like a dream, but I'm counting on this blog to bring it all back for me.