Thursday, June 23, 2011


It was an easy drive of about 95 miles from Soldotna, on a sunny day with fairly good roads. Here are a few of the scenes we saw on the way down.

Kenai Lake.


The water seems more blue than many lakes with glacier runoff, which tends to be gray and looks like wet ashes.


The inevitable construction zone.


Gorgeous mountains and interesting clouds. Plus a bug or two on the windshield.


Lupine growing wild alongside the road.


Seward is a small town on an ice-free port, founded in 1903. The Kenai Fjords National Park, to which Seward is known as the “Gateway,” was established in 1980 to include ice fields and coastline. The town is situated between Resurrection Bay and Mount Marathon. It served as a transportation hub for Alaska’s mining, exploration, fishing and trapping industries in the past. The Iditarod Trail originally went from Seward to Nome as a mail route. In 1924, planes started delivering mail. The Iditarod is now best known for the annual dog sled race held in March, running 938 miles from Anchorage to Nome. We plan to take a 7-hour excursion boat ride tomorrow to see the glaciers and wildlife in this area.

Some of the scenes from our drive around town.






Mount Marathon (elev. 3,022 ft.) is just above our campground, and is where runners run/climb up and run/jump/slide down the rocky slopes during the annual July 4th race. According to The Milepost, “Good things rarely come from a bar bet, but when 2 Sourdoughs wagered over whether Seward’s Mount Marathon could be climbed in under an hour, a legend was born…The race is said to have begun in 1909…Fastest recorded time is 43 minutes, 23 seconds set in 1981 by Bill Spencer.”


According to The Milepost, “Resurrection Bay was named in 1792 by Russian fur trader and explorer Alexander Baranof. While sailing from Kodiak to Yakutat he found unexpected shelter in this bay from a storm and named the bay Resurrection because it was the Russian Sunday of the Resurrection (Easter).”

Wikipedia states, “The opening of the film The Hunt for Red October was filmed in Resurrection Bay, with the bay serving as a stand-in for Russia's Murmansk Fjord.”

We’re all parked facing the water of Resurrection Bay. Most of us are at the Marathon city park, across from the dump station at $15/night dry camping. Jim and Pat decided to stay at the Resurrection city park, one park south of us, for $30 with electricity and showers. We all have similar breathtaking views.


Food supplies coming in, probably from Seattle.


Will our tour boat look like this tomorrow?


We had happy hour together. We’ve spotted a sea otter playing in the waters near us, and an eagle soaring overhead, along with lots of seagulls and cormorants. Maybe we’ll get to burn the firewood Don and I have been carrying around since we left Homer.


The campground host stopped by to see if we needed any information.


Don finally found some fresh flowers to refill my empty vase.


Interesting comments we heard today: “Major chill” on the news from Chicago, IL = low 60’s. “It’s going to be really hot tomorrow” while signing up for the boat trip in Seward, AK = low 60’s. It’s frequently a little on the cool side for me, especially when it’s in the low 50’s and the wind’s blowing. But I’ll take this weather any day over hot temps in the 100’s, especially when humidity is added to the mix!

Addendum: About 8:35 pm, just as I was publishing this, a fire truck drove by announcing a tsunami warning. It wasn’t a joke, and was repeated several times. Don was walking Shadow at the time, and very quickly returned and told me to grab my purse and phone and come with them. We 3 got in the car and drove out of the campground, following the tsunami evacuation route signs. They led us in a circuitous route around town to higher ground (now we know the short route). About that time, Dennis called to say it was a false alarm, okay to return home.

Larry and Marilyn had started to pack up their motorhome, with slides pulled in. (Don and I believe the motorhome and contents are just ‘things’ that can be replaced; save lives first.)


The campground host decided to turn over his job to Don, after earlier hearing that he’d previously been a campground host!


The fire truck returned to announce that it was a false alarm, no evacuation necessary.


Even the City Manager stopped by to make sure we got the message.


If you hadn’t already met your neighbors, this was a good opportunity!


The people in this sailboat didn’t seem concerned.


We later learned that a 7.4 magnitude earthquake in the Aleutian islands was the cause for the tsunami warning. We hope nobody was injured.

The excitement’s over. Time to start a new book. Thanks to my friends for loaning me paperbacks while I wait to return to Anchorage to receive my Kindle replacement.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Visitor, Reservations and Soldotna Homestead Museum

We awoke to a visitor in our campground this morning.


The moose cow wandered in and out among the RVs for awhile, but this was the only shot I could catch since I wasn’t dressed for traipsing around the campground to follow her.

Later this morning I spent about 45 minutes on the phone with Denali Reservations getting 6 sites for our group in Riley Campground for July 10-13. We weren’t able to get into Teklanika, where we wanted to stay. But we’ll take the shuttle bus to the Eielson Visitor Center, 66 miles into the park, an 8-hour round trip, that will allow us to see more of the park and to visit the newly rebuilt center. (Private vehicles aren’t allowed past mile 15 of the park road.)

I paid with credit card for the whole group (total $621 for 6 rigs’ parking for 3 nights, and 12 shuttle bus tickets) and will be repaid by our travel companions. However, imagine my shock when I got the confirmation by email and saw that I’ll owe another $1,890! Somehow their computer hiccupped and made 72 shuttle reservations instead of 12! I called back, spoke with another agent who verified with the supervisor that it was just a “glitch” but I also replied to the email as well. I wouldn’t mind paying for the whole bus if people reimburse me, but I’m afraid it would be a mostly empty bus and I’d be stuck with the bill!

After lunch Don and I visited Soldotna’s Homestead Museum. We had our own personal tour by a woman who was born and raised here. Her parents were homesteaders with 40 acres, and she still lives on the property. She told some wonderful stories as she showed us the various log buildings that have been moved from various places to this location to represent a homestead village.

The cabin below was built by a homesteader in 1949 and 1950. He cut the trees and fitted logs together by hand. WWII veterans were exempt from requirements of clearing and planting crops, and merely had to reside in some type of living quarters on the land for a minimum of 7 months to quality for 160 acres. After being awarded the “patent” as a homesteader, the builder went to work helping to construct the Sterling Highway to Anchorage. He returned with his bride for two months in the summer of 1951, but has since lived in Tucson, Arizona. He visits this area about twice a year now.


Interior of the cabin is spartan, but liveable.


Another homesteader built his cabin in the late 1940’s with larger windows for more light, and furnished the interior with a few more amenities. (The porch was added recently.)


He returned to California to marry his sweetheart, brought her here and they raised their family in this cabin until 1956.


They even had a washing machine!


This cabin served as a one-room schoolhouse.


Inside there was room for the 13 students, ranging from first through seventh grade. Classes were taught here 1958-1960. Soldotna Elementary School opened in the fall of 1960, making this schoolhouse no longer necessary.


Damon Hall was built in 1967 as a community center/church/multi-purpose building. It was originally connected to the schoolhouse (see the faint outline of the smaller building where the two joined). The former schoolhouse served as an administrative office.


Inside Damon Hall was a wonderful display of wildlife and hand-made objects from various periods.




Carroll, our guide, allowed us to run the back of our hands over the seal, beaver and fox pelts. They felt incredibly soft!


I got a bear hug, and appreciated the enormous size of this grizzly bear.


Later, our happy hour included two Escapees RV Club members who had pulled into the park today: Don and Betty Spitler. They made an enjoyable addition to our group. Their path is just crossing ours as they’ve been to Seward where we’re going tomorrow, while they’re heading to Valdez where we’ve been! Nice to meet you, Don and Betty. Hope to see you again down the road.


While Larry was away talking with the RV repair guy, Dennis decided to try Larry’s Manhattan. This photo followed the grimace I didn’t catch. I’ll bet he won’t do that again!


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Summer Solstice in the Land of the Midnight Sun

This is a special day in most places, but it has even more meaning this far north. Many cities, towns and communities have events to recognize Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year. There are ball games, music performances, festivals and all kinds of parties. Technically, the sun doesn’t really shine for 24 hours, at least not where we are, but it’s certainly light enough outside to see without extra light. Sunrise here is about 4:20 am, and it sets about 11:40 pm. The sun does shine for 24 hours at points near the Arctic Circle, but we’re quite a distance south of that. Wikipedia provides a good discussion of the midnight sun.

Unfortunately, I don’t feel like attending any of the celebrations after spending 1-1/2 hours in the dentist’s chair this afternoon. He did a temporary fix on my broken tooth. It happened last night during happy hour while crunching on a cracker – the tooth broke and was fixed about this time last year, and I thought it was okay, but I need to get two crowns replaced whenever I stay in one place long enough for that to be done. It probably won’t be until November. I was lucky to slip into a slot caused by a last-minute cancellation by a regular patient. So now I’m good to go for at least a few months.

We were also lucky to find a pet groomer who not only had an opening for Shadow, but she was also very good at handling a difficult case. Shadow likes to bite groomers, and consequently doesn’t always come out of the experience looking his best. Today was a different story. He looks like a real Poodle! And he smells a lot better, too. Brandy even noticed and chased him around the lawn, with Marilyn (who had just walked Brandy) and I trying to keep the leashes from tangling. Without all his curly fur, he looks like he lost weight!


The forecast of rain proved to be wrong today, and we enjoyed our happy hour gathering in warm sunshine!


Tom and Carol Bezdeka joined us and we shared hugs and stories of our travels. They’ll be leaving tomorrow, so it was just a brief visit.


Travel safely, friends. We hope to see you again down the road.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Homer to Soldotna

It was a short drive today, about 78 miles. All our group is parked at Edgewater RV Park on the Kenai River in Soldotna. The park is part of the Sunrise Resorts, Coast to Coast and Passport America. The nightly fee varies from $1 to $13 to $17.50 for those memberships. Non-members pay $35 per night. We have full hookups with 30 amps. Some sites have grass and picnic tables. The location is close to everything in town and will give us a good place to stay for a few days.

The Kenai River is the location of the largest salmon caught, typically, and has a 20-year average of 3.4 million anglers per year during salmon season. Last year there were only 1.6 million, and the number is predicted to be lower this year because of the economic slowdown. So, if you want to catch salmon, this could be your lucky year!

We had happy hour for the first time in a few days.


Our 6 RVs are parked in the same area of the park, 3 on the left, Forbes, Hills, Fradettes.


The others are on the right, Smith/Livingston, Olsons, Del Rosarios.


And just beyond us, you can barely see a Simba motorhome. In it are our good friends Tom and Carol Bezdeka, members of our Escapees Chapter 21 based in Benson, AZ. We coincidentally came to the same RV park on the same day and got parked next to each other! It’s a small world, after all! Will get a photo of them tomorrow.

The Forbes are getting service for their refrigerator and washer/dryer from Dan’s Mobile RV service. He divides his time between Alaska and Arizona.


I noticed our satellite dish had collided with the CB antenna. Good thing we replaced that spring recently!


Don extended the washing brush handle and reached up to free the antenna. That’s one long pole. Saved climbing on a ladder!


We went to dinner with Dennis and Carol to Sal’s Klondike Diner, about 1/2 mile away.


There’s a model train track that runs around the top of the walls of this room. It moves fast!


We’ll be here for 3 nights and will visit the city of Kenai a few miles away. The new, very large WalMart Super Center is one of our planned destinations, and I’m sure we’ll find other interesting things to report on.

A final note: Thanks to Pat Livingston for pointing out that several postings of my blog were loading every time she went to the site, and it took a long time to come up because of all the photos. I didn’t realize that because I rarely look at my own blog! So I found the setting and changed it in Blogger. I hope the post loads more quickly now. Thanks again, Pat!