After a very long day of travelling yesterday (up at 5:00 am, leave by 6:00 am from Wasilla, drive to Anchorage, flight out of Anchorage at 9:00 am, fly to Seattle, delay in Seattle of 2.5 hours, fly out of Seattle at 3:00 pm, in at San Francisco at 5:30 pm, sister met me at the airport, go to dinner with sis, finally leave SF at 8:30, drive home, arrive home at 1:15 am)... I'm finally back from Alaska!
Twas awesome... I'm sure I don't have to state the obvious, but Alaska is one big beautiful place! And we managed to pack a lot in during the short time I was there.
The trip was a surprise for my best friend, Mindi. Mindi grew up in Alaska, she lives near Boston now, and she was just recently ordained as a minister. Her dad invited me up at a time she would be visiting home and we kept it a surprise from everyone.
So he picks me up at the Anchorage Airport, we drive up to Wasilla, only to find out Mindi and her Mom had left to go on a drive up to Matanuska Glacier! So we just hung out for a couple of hours until they got back.
We were sitting on the couch when Mindi came back. Just sittin there, readin the paper, actin like nothing was out of the ordinary, like I belonged there. You should've seen the look on her face! It was priceless...
On Saturday we took a drive up and over Hatcher Pass which is just north of Wasilla. I love how you only need to go up to 1,000 feet or so to get above treeline there! The landscape up there reminded me of Colorado above 11,000 feet or so. Broad stretches of alpine tundra, marmots, cold little lakes, and fireweed!
On Sunday we attended church, Mindi preached, and we ate out with her parents.
On Monday we took off for the Kenai Peninsula. My, what a place. They say it's Alaska in miniature. You've got the mountains, the glaciers, the rivers, the lakes, the coastline, and all the wildlife. I had been as far south/east as Portage Glacier before, but it just gets better as you go around Turnagain Arm and into the Kenai Mountains.
It's so green there right now! Last time I was in Alaska it was late August, it was fall, and the different colors had popped out in the tundra - gold, red, yellow, brown. In July the landscape is various shades of green - the darker green of the spruce and hemlock trees, the lighter green of the willows and the tundra. And I've never seen so much fireweed in all my life! Fireweed is a beautiful dark pink flower that grows in tall stalks. It was everywhere, and appeared in pretty much all my photos I'm afraid!
We drove down to Seward, a very scenic town on Resurrection Bay and one of Alaska's main deep-water, ice-free ports. We took the three hour Resurrection Bay cruise. And of course had the theme from Gilligan's Island stuck in our heads the entire time, "three hour cruise, a three hour cruise..." Fortunately we did not get stranded on a desert isle! It was rainy and misty but we still saw a lot - puffins, sea lions, jellyfish, murres, sea otters, bald eagles. But no whales. The boat was small enough to get right up close to the cliffs and rocks. We even saw 4 mountain goats!
On Tuesday we went to the Alaska Sea Life Center. Then we went to Exit Glacier. Exit Glacier is the only part of Kenai Fjords National Park that's accessible by road. It's awesome, you can walk right up to the glacier!
Then we drove over and down to Homer. Saw all the fishermen on the Russian and Kenai Rivers. Did NOT see any bears... Thank goodness!
Going down the shoreline near Ninilchik and Anchor Point the skies cleared and we could see across Cook Inlet to Mt. Redoubt and Mt. Iliamna, 2 volcanos that rise about 10,000 feet above the ocean. It was a spectacular view!
I loved Homer. It's on the shore of Kachemak Bay and the views are incredible. Across the bay are glaciers and fjords and horns and to the west are volcanos. We had ice cream out on Homer Spit. The Spit is a narrow strip of sand where the ferry docks. There is also a small boat harbor, campgrounds, and boardwalks with lots of artsy shops. We saw several bald eagles out there. We also saw a sea otter and what we believe were 3 orcas. We watched their wakes move out into the bay, but never caught a fluke or fin so we can't be sure.
On Wednesday we drove back to Wasilla. We stopped at Ninilchik, an old Russian village dating back to the 19th century. We went to the 1890 Russian Orthodox Church on the bluff overlooking the ocean and walked through the cemetary. The fireweed there was TALL, taller than me! We also stopped at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center in Soldotna. I break for visitor centers!
And then I flew back home yesterday.
So a short trip, but I think we managed to do more in one week than the last time I was up there for two!
So, one of my new goals in life is to get to Alaska at least once every five years. Whaddya think?