The Kenai Peninsula in Alaska is the the little (little in the scope of Alaska) Peninsula that pokes out of the Southern Coast of Alaska just south of Anchorage. The Kenai Peninsula has it’s own personality for sure! We ended up spending about a month total time on the Kenai.
Mike dropped me at the airport as I flew out to go to Brazil on the last day of our travels with Mom and Dad. (If you missed that episode, read it here.) The following day he set off for Kenai Peninsula, first stop was Whittier, where Mom, Dad, and my sister Monica caught the ferry back to the lower 48. Unfortunately, that last day was pouring rain so hard that they didn’t even stop to take advantage of the beautiful views. The ferry was part of the Marine highway and is a well used inexpensive option to get back and forth from Alaska and within Alaska. From Whittier to Bellingham, WA, is a 5-day trip that leaves Whittier at 11pm. That gave them a long, rainy day, to entertain themselves, and because of the rain they didn’t stop much on the one hour drive. They ended up with time for one more card game before boarding.
Mike didn’t even spend the night in Whittier. The second longest tunnel in North America is 2.5 mile long, and you must go through to get to Whittier. During each hour, 20 minutes is dedicated to Eastbound traffic, 20 minutes is dedicated to Westbound traffic, and the remaining 20 minutes is dedicated to train travel. The train tracks go down the center of the road and you straddle them with the car… Mike decided he didn’t want to take the RV through there, twice. So he parked and stayed that night on the Anchorage end of the tunnel.
Cooper Landing is on the end of the Kenai Lake. The campsite was remote and wooded. It was very quiet. Not much to say about this place. In the middle of the week Mike ran up to Anchorage to pick me up from the Airport (from Brazil) and make a Costco run.
Hike to Russian River Falls
On Saturday we did make it out to hike up to the falls at the Russian River. This is a fairly famous bear-catching-salmon-out-of-the-air viewing spot. The hike was a nice length and adequately challenging for us old folks! The falls were beautiful and the Salmon were running. It was amazing to see the pile of salmon jumping up the falls. Didn’t see any bears though! Also saw some of the “combat fishing” as they call it where the fishermen are shoulder to shoulder casting in unison so they don’t tangle their lines! Crazy, and primarily why Mike hasn’t bothered to get his fishing license yet in Alaska.
I had scheduled to hit Seward over the 4th of July to take in their annual Mount Marathon race (the toughest 5k on the planet) and 4th of July celebrations. We got into town a few days early and were shocked that it was not very crowded. For the race the town swells from less than 3000 residents to 20,000. But I guess they all arrive the day before.
the boat tour
Actually I’ll back up a minute. We drove over on Sunday afternoon and first thing went to the visitor center to plan our week. A big feature of Seward is the Kenai Fjords National Park, and the popular way to see it is from a wildlife/glacier viewing boat. We decided we would like to do that, and went to the dock to book it. At the last minute we looked at the weather, and Tuesday was the only nice day during our stay. I decided to swap some work hours around and we booked it for Tuesday.
the race day
It all kicks off with fireworks at 12:01 AM on July 4th… that’s about 24 hours BEFORE we expected it. Boy am I glad the visitor center mentioned that or we would have totally missed it. We arrived about 15 minutes to midnight. I was in a panic that these 20,000 people would be competing with me for the best seat in the house, but when we got there… no one had yet appeared. Kind of weird really. But we claimed the best spot in town, as close as you could get to the fireworks, almost underneath them. It was not dark, but kind of dusky, and beautiful really! From our spot we could see the mountains around, folks watching fireworks form the RV parking and from the beach across the way, even people watching from their kayaks in the water… cool!
The show was about 15 minutes long and the girls (20 somethings) sitting next to us sang every song they could think of with America in it. That was fun! Then we got back to the RV for sleep, and headed back to town first thing in the morning where they had vendors (although not as many as we expected), street food for lunch, the parade, and of course kept our eye on the race. It was very festive. We were back home though before the last of the women’s race contenders were back. Here’s a well done video about the race.
Seward is also known for it’s aquarium. It was very nice, rather small, but well done. They also do a lot of animal rescue and rehabilitation there. They have viewing area where you can watch all that going on. interesting. We got there on Saturday, after the crowds had died back down and I didn’t have to work… and our last day in town.
Known for being the premier fishing spot on the world Famous Kenai river. Soldotna was all about the salmon. Mike had been here before although he didn’t remember it in detail. It’s actually a livable town, and Kenai up the coast too. We parked at a little spot just on the bank of the river. Basically a parking lot, with hook-ups. But no complaint’s We went for a couple of drives in the area, one in the evening hoping to see wildlife, but didn’t see anything. And I worked all week anyway.
We mention Frontsight Firearms Institute quite frequently because we are lifetime members with them and visit the primary location in Pahrump, NV a couple of times a year for classes. Well they have a facility on the Kenai Peninsula near Soldatna, Alaska, and I’ve been bugging Mike to visit since we first started talking about Alaska. I really wanted to take classes here, but bringing the handguns up to Alaska, through Canada, was just too difficult. In the end I settled for a visit.
Turns out they only do classes on weekends in July and August, only have 2 ranges, and only have 5 targets per range. So at any given time there are only 20 students on the property maximum. Compare that to Pahrump where there are 2000 students going through there a week. We got there on a Friday, and we were lucky to find Kevin (an instructor we knew from Nevada) on site waiting for a package to be delivered. He was friendly and chatty though and we talked all about it (Frontsight, Alaska), and I left with enough Wild-caught-the-day-before-by-Kevin-Salmon for 4 meals (score!).
Anchor point and Nikolaevsk
Since we had to be in Homer early on Sunday morning, we chose to leave Soldotna Saturday and drive closer to Homer. We landed in Anchor Point on the lower corner of the Kenai Peninsula. This is the furthest West that the highway system in the US goes. Even Homer is a little further East. One reason we stopped there is because of a little Russian town we were told of 9 miles to the East.
When we stopped at the chamber of commerce to ask for suggestions for places to stay. The Chamber was having a meeting, so one guy stepped out to answer our questions. I asked about the Russian town I had read about in the Milepost. He said oh, there really isn’t anything there. His wife overheard him say that and came running over saying “No, no. There is a lot to see there, gift stores, a Russian Orthodox Church, pretty, colorful painted house. I thought that would be fun
So we stopped, set up, ate lunch and headed out to Nikolaevsk. Well, turns out the guy was right! There was a church, but you couldn’t take pictures there. There was a store/cafe with Russian trinkets.. so crowded that you couldn’t even see what she had. She had a good heart though and was trying so hard to sell SOMETHING, so I had a cup of tea. Her shop did have painting in Russian style, but was the only building in town painted that way. Oh, there also was an RV park, which looked like an old drive in movie theater, nothing was flat… Hilarious. Well, I suppose we will remember this story fondly, but can’t say it was worth the drive out.
Anchor point also had a state park along the beach where we stayed in one of the campgrounds, and although it was raining, we drove out to the beach to watch some of the Halibut boats come in. Mike has longtime told me of the boats that come in fast, in order to beat the surf and land on the trailer (put out in the surf by a tractor). It’s pretty sporting, and fun to watch. We didn’t see many so had to return while we stayed in Homer.
Homer – the end of the Kenai
We arrived in Homer early on a Sunday morning because we were catching the ferry to Kodiak for a week. The Homer spit has free parking for us to 7 days, but that was exactly what we needed. I wrote a different post on Kodiak so I won’t go into that here, but when we got back from Kodiak we stayed another week in Homer. We actually stayed at a place called “RV Sites in Homer” which turns out to be a guy’s property where he has roughed out 3 spots for RV’s.
He’s trying to do a good job, but he’s on a shoestring budget and not finished, yet. I suppose in the end this will be a decent place. The views were fantastic. The price probably should have been less, especially since “full hook-ups” came with Electricity and sewer, but no water. The water in the area is bad, so he hauls his water, and probably will never have water to the sites. However he does have long hoses and agrees to come fill you up whenever you need, so perhaps it’s not so bad.
Homer is known for it’s famous Spit that is 4 miles long into the Kachemak Bay and the very end of the Kenai Peninsula. There are a bunch of tourist shop shacks and beach along the spit. Fun place to walk and hang out.
Seems I can’t keep these Alaskan posts short! Alas our Alaskan time seems like it is running short! Well a couple more weeks anyway. (Yep, I am behind in posting!)