Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Kenai Peninsula

DH's Alaskan vacation wish list looked like this:
  • go to the reunion
  • go rafting on the Kenai River
  • go on a fishing charter (preferably salmon)
  • do some hiking
  • see a bear
  • see moose
  • go to Denali
  • go to as many Alaskan breweries/brewpubs as possible
  • see the Kenai fjords/Kenai Peninsula
  • see the bore tide
  • take a boating excursion of some sort to see a glacier and/or whales

Mine looked like this:
  • go to the reunion for as short a time as possible (I'm not big on staying at other people's homes or doing group activities)
  • take a kayak excursion to see a glacier and/or whales
  • see wildlife, both flora and fauna
  • go to Denali
  • see the Kenai fjords/Kenai Peninsula
  • HIKE as much as humanly possible; at least one half-day (say, 4-6 hour?) hike and many shorter hikes
  • relax, read, knit
We had seen the bore tide (by luck, not design!) and were able to cross it off  DH's list.  We had done a (very) little hiking, so (I think) he crossed it off his list.  I still anticipated more hiking as the trip went on, especially after the reunion. We were supposed to spend two days and nights at his aunt and uncle's home for the family reunion.

We spent three nights and most of four days.  (Review my Alaska vacation wish list for an idea of my attitude on the third and fourth days.)

On the third day we spent with the reunion crew, DH, DD1 & Honorary Son went on a river rafting trip that was part of the planned reunion activities.  By now, DS2 had taken leave of us for his own vacation plans with friends.  I would rather be shot in the head than get on a raft, and it was also another drizzly cool day, so I did not participate.  The rafters all had a good time, and saw lots of eagles while floating down the Kenai River.  I read a little bit, and mostly took advantage of the quiet (with literally everyone except DD2 and I gone rafting) to take a nap.  Sleeping at the reunion was even more difficult than sleeping at other locations on our trip, and I was not just mentally exhausted from being in the large group, but also physically feeling sleep deprivation.

Another optional reunion activity that DH elected to participate in was a halibut fishing charter (which is why we stayed yet another night and almost an entire fourth day).  He absolutely loved it--he wasn't so sure, at first, since he'd really wanted to fish for salmon--and caught many fish even though he only brought back a couple of halibut.  He caught and released several sharks up to four feet in length, multiple small halibut, and one of his cousins who was also on the same boat caught a skate, which is a type of ray.

catch of the day: halibut

He ended up with 17 pounds of halibut--there were six people fishing per boat, and the total catch was distributed equally at the end.  His share of the fish went into the RV's freezer and stayed there until the day we flew home.  Alaska is a very popular fishing destination, and the stores sell what are known as "fish boxes".  DH bought a smallish one; about 24" x 12" x  8", that is a Styrofoam cooler inside of a cardboard box.  It worked very well; his fish was in it for over 24 hours during the trip from Alaska to this little place here, and stayed completely frozen.  I have the feeling that fish box will be used often in the coming years.  Probably not in Alaska, but in closer to home fishing trips.  (We've decided that an annual fishing charter is cheaper than buying and maintaining a boat, and depending on the type and quantity of fish, most likely cheaper than purchasing a year's worth of fish from the store.)

Once the fish had been packaged and divvied up, we were able to head out for the remainder of our vacation time.  We went to several more places in the Kenai Peninsula, some that took just a few minutes to view and others that we stayed hours at.  It was mostly drive-stop and take pictures-drive-get out and walk around and take pictures-drive. . .

We walked a boardwalk through a wetlands named Potter Marsh, seeing mostly the same birds and waterfowl that we see at home in Michigan in the summer time ("like at home" and "like the Upper Peninsula" became common refrains when viewing new places in Alaska and eventually led to the conclusion that some of us would probably be content living in Alaska as it basically was much like Michigan's U.P., only with more and taller mountains.  And tides.)

We walked through Moose Flats, which is another wetland in a different part of the Kenai Peninsula. Although we didn't see any animals while in Moose Flats, we did run across a group of U.S. Forestry Service employees who were doing a goshawk survey.   They would walk to a specified spot, then play a recording of goshawk calls several times, listening for any response.  Then they'd move to the next predetermined spot and play the calls again.  Being a wildlife ecology major, DD2 thought that was really cool, and I don't doubt she wished she could ditch us and tag along with the U.S.F.S. people.  We did get to hear a goshawk answer their call, although we never did spot it.

We went to Ninilchik, and DH showed us the beach where the charter boats for the halibut fishing trip launched from.  We also saw a neat old church and cemetery at the top of the hill there.

view from the church steps

We went to Homer, and drove out on the Spit, with is the very southernmost tip of the Kenai Peninsula.  Unfortunately, the campgrounds there were all full that evening, so we had to keep driving for a while before finding a place to stop for the night. We took a few pictures before we left, though.  There were many, many seagulls in Homer (and honestly, that is mostly what I remember about it).  There were also lots of seaplanes.

Another place we went was the the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, where DH finally got to see bears (although they were in a fenced enclosure rather than loose in the wild).  When taking pictures of the bears, I tried really, really hard to not get fencing or other signs of pens in the pictures.

The other place in the Kenai Peninsula that we stopped at, and stayed at for most of a day, deserves it's own post.  That place was Seward.

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