The country itself … it’s grand. It’s so damn grand.… It’s like trying to paint Niagara Falls or a brilliant sunset or the Grand Canyon or some other visual aspect of nature which can only be described by people who have lived in it, have soaked it up, have been in that environment long enough to assimilate and understand it.… It is very hard to look at something with your mouth open and at the same time try to think in technical terms: how do you control this image, how do you present it? How do you compose it so that it is the most effective?

–Karl Fortress, WPA artist, 1937

Continue reading “Back in Anchorage”

5:00 a.m.

I just got dropped off at Denali River Cabins, where I have an hour to wait before my 6:00 departure. There’s a restaurant that’s supposed to open at 5:00, so I can get breakfast. A few other brave souls are here waiting for it to open as well. I’m sitting here wearing a T‐shirt; they’ve all got sweatshirts and/or fleeces. The restaurant just opened, so I guess I’ll go in. It’s a beautiful morning, cool, clear, still, the sound of a rushing river in the distance.
Continue reading “Denali”

7:30 a.m.

I’m sitting across from the Alaska Railroad depot, which doesn’t look even remotely like what I expected. I imagined a quaint village depot. No, it’s nothing like Grand Central Station, but it’s more like a small white office building than a train station. Until I saw “THE ALASKA RAILROAD” on the front of the building, I wasn’t sure I’d found it.
Continue reading “Anchorage, Talkeetna, Denali”

7:05 a.m.

Hard to believe that by the end of today I’ll be back in Anchorage. Five days ago, the thought of being in Anchorage was thrilling. Today it just means that my Kenai adventure is over.

Yesterday on the road to Hope along Turnagain Arm, we stopped to check out the bore tide coming in. It was a wave, and we could easily follow its leading edge, rolling at a good clip. Patrick said that if the wind is blowing against the tide, and it’s a particularly high tide, it creates a wall of water, and he once watched someone surf it!
Continue reading “Hope, Mt. Alyeska, Anchorage”

8:55 a.m.

I gave up on waiting for sunset last night and was asleep by around 11:00. Full 8 hours of sleep — felt great!

Russian Orthodox Church in Seldovia

After a quick walk up to the old Russian Orthodox Church (which I somehow overlooked in my wanderings yesterday), I came back for breakfast at The Buzz. Baked french toast that was yummy, with fruit and cheese baked into the bread. It reminded me of Grandma Rose’s Lokshen Kugel. It’s cool and breezy this morning, but not enough to keep me from sitting outside.
Continue reading “Seldovia, Homer, and back to Hope”

5:00 a.m.

Well the serenade of the creek was drowned out by the torrential rain pummeling the metal roof of our cabin. Finally, unable to sleep, I got up at 4:00, took my shower, got dressed and packed up. Turns out the downpour is just a light shower, amplified on the metal roof, and the creek makes it sound all the more torrential. I’m tempted to tell Jeanne, who’s never seen a moose, that one wandered by while I sat here on the covered porch of the cabin. Maybe one will.

We have a 6:00 departure so we can get to Homer and catch our boat to Seldovia, where we spend the night tonight. The word is it’s a quaint town. I wouldn’t say that about Hope. On our tour, we drove down the main street which, Patrick says, has appeared in a number of TV commercials. Apparently, at the Seaview Cafe, “they don’t take American Express.” Tomorrow night I hope to walk back down there and take photos. I hope it will stop raining by then, preferably much sooner. We were lucky yesterday; though it remained overcast all day, there was almost no rain after the morning. They say the wildlife makes a better show under cloudy skies, plus the blue of the glacier (from the blue eyes of the tiny ice worms that live just below the surface is the local joke they like to tell tourists; actually, it’s because of the highly compressed ice that traps all of the spectrum except blue) shows up better when it’s overcast.
Continue reading “Hope, Homer, Seldovia”

7:20 a.m.

Last night at the campfire the staff people were looking at the clouds in the west and saying that rain was coming. This morning it’s here. Kind of a Seattle‐style rain. It’s grey and drizzly. Well, a little more than drizzly. I thought I packed my rain pants to bring to Fox Island, but I guess I left them in the van, so I guess I’ll have to spend most of today’s boat ride inside the cabin.

Grey morning on Fox Island

I’m sitting on the porch of the Wilderness Lodge listening to the rain and the birds. A distant boat heading south in Resurrection Bay is the only other sound, along with the water lapping onto the beach. I wonder if the boat is off to catch halibut. Yesterday while waiting to board our cruise, we watched fishermen unloading their catch from their boat. Some really big halibut.

I just got a private wildlife show and went down to the edge of the water to investigate. It was a family of river otters–five of them. For a while they were swimming right toward me, and I got to see them really close up. With binoculars I could see their whiskers and watch their nostrils flair. Then they swam off. I also saw herring jumping out of the water.

The rain has stopped. For now.

10:00 a.m.

Just finished our nature walk on the beach. The sun is coming out. We saw lots of birds: pigeon guillemot, hermit thrush, goldeneye, Stellar’s jay, plus interesting sea animals stuck on land in low tide.

They’re grilling salmon for lunch. Breakfast was scrambled eggs with cheese and mushrooms, really good fried potatoes, and fresh melon.

12:50 p.m.

On the boat touring Kenai Fjords. Just had a wonderful sighting of humpback whales!

1:10 p.m.

We just saw a sea otter with two pups swim past us, plus two oystercatchers, and a bald eagle in its nest.

2:20 p.m.

The amazing show continues. The most thrilling, on Chiswell Island, were the Steller Sea Lions lying on the rocks. And the puffins and kittiwakes. There was another humpback whale, but we lost it.

4:00 p.m.

It is hard to express the awesome beauty of Holgate Glacier. It’s not that it is a pretty thing to look at. It’s seeing this massive wall of ice and realizing that it is actually a flowing river, with Harding Icefield as its headwater. We saw it calve a few times–it sounds like cracks of thunder–and the sound is continual, as the glacier flows, breaking apart and compressing against itself. Big chunks of ice float in the water extending maybe a mile away. It brought tears to my eyes.

10:30 p.m.

I’m sitting on the porch outside my cabin in Hope. We have a very early morning tomorrow, so I’m not going to write too much. About 50 feet below and in front of me is a creak and waterfall, the sound of which will be a wonderful serenade for sleeping tonight.

We had just a little time in Seward before we got back in the van.

Cleaning fish in Seward

We drove to Hope (and had a sighting of a porcupine ambling along the side of the road) and directly to the Discovery Cafe.

Dinner at the Discovery Cafe in Hope

Dinner was really good, especially considering how ordinary looking the restaurant is and how tiny the town of Hope is. I had blackened halibut with rice and veggies, and a really good mixed berry cream cheese pie for dessert. We even got the recipe:

Mixed Berry Cream Cheese Pie

Mix 1 cup of powdered sugar into 11 ounces of softened cream cheese. Fold in one container of Cool Whip. Stir in 2 cups of mixed berries (frozen are fine). Pour the mixture into a graham cracker crust. Chill and serve!

Then Patrick gave us a little tour of Hope and brought us to Discovery Cabins. Our cabin consists of nothing but a set of bunk beds and a table and some lamps. The bathroom is up the path. It’s very charming.

OK, I’m going to go brush my teeth and try to sleep until 4:30.

7:10 a.m.

Thank you Mary for giving me the night mask. It was still broad daylight when I got to bed last night at 11:00. I woke up periodically during the night and had to look and see how light it was. At 1:30 it was kinda dusky. At 3:00, it looked like dawn. Mask or no mask, I woke up at 6:00, an hour before my alarm. So I showered and dressed and now I’m sitting on the bench on the front steps of the B&B. It looks like a great morning — light overcast, pleasant. Kate should be up shortly with breakfast, and the van comes at 8:00.
Continue reading “Anchorage, Seward, Fox Island”