Alaska! Part 5: The Modest Finale

Whittier, Seward, Homer, Ninilchik and Anchorage, Alaska (Map)

Summer 2012.


I woke up in Whittier, snapped Buckner Building exteriors, ate breakfast at their fancy restaurant to support the city, decided against the $49 King Crab (sorry Geordie), then rushed out of there to make the 10am tunnel crossing.

By the time I reached the village of Moose Pass, I was in dire need of coffee.

With only 2 days/1 night remaining, the plan today was to tour the Kenai Peninsula. The major goal was to reach the town of Homer near the end, but there was enough in Seward to warrant a 2 hour side trip.

I drove right past Seward and onto a short coastal road which follows the edge of Resurrection Bay. The road would occasionally go through a bit of forest with sparse housing, but then the mountain to my left would be so close that it was a tight fit to squeeze a road between here and the bay.

There was a hike I wanted to do out here, but the rain and the trail intensity turned me around.

Seward itself was a bit touristy for my taste, but there were some neat buildings & the scenery was top notch.

Of course this town of 2700 people had a far better skatepark than CB.

As I sat in my car taking pictures of the skatepark, I noticed this crow hopping around. Remembering that Shahlene told me to pay attention to crows up here as they're different, I rolled down the window & he made some strange mechanical steampunk noise.

It was as if I had found a glitch in the matrix and this one was broken...but no, I had only seen a Northwestern Crow.

While in Seward, I also wanted to hike something at their Kenai Fjords National Park - but again, the same weather cancelled that. In fact, it was raining to the extent that I was amazed at the road leading to the Kenai Fjords and the number of people who came prepared and were hiking to the glacier in the rain anyway.

As mentioned previously, I tried to come prepared, but alas I'm an ditsy boob who forgets his rain jacket in Calgary.

This is the glacier you can hike up to at Kenai Fjords National Park.

I returned up the Seward Highway before turning down the Sterling Highway towards Homer.

I had to stop at the salmon creek viewing area. Check em out Steve!

The scenery along the start of Sterling highway was beautiful. I've stopped talking about the highways in these updates because they're all these epic crossings through mountain valleys with picturesque scenery - but the Sterling gets points for being different, while still being stunning. The difference being that the Sterling Highway follows the large Kenai River for its beginning, so you have these incredible mountains and this beautiful flowing river beside you.

Unfortunately the next part was actually mediocre, as I passed through northern shrubland on a highway I'd expect to be in Ontario. I bought another coffee and scurried along to Homer (above).

For those of you who know me well, you might be wondering why I haven't hit any lighthouses on this trip so far (and apparently the only Alaskan lighthouse I saw was the bar in the above picture.) Well, Alaskan lighthouses are mostly isolated, helicopter-in, incredibly hard to reach places. They are not the type of lighthouse where you park your car 10 feet away, or even 3 miles away. In fact, I don't think there's one you can reasonably hike to. Lighthousing in Alaska would be a serious undertaking.

Anyway, back to Homer.

One of the reasons I came here was because they have one of those old-school, tiny, village theatres. I paid my $8 at the forest campground above town & went about getting some dinner before my movie...but then, then I drove out onto Homer's land spit, its dominant feature. I thought the spit sounded overrated and touristy while planning this trip, but once I was out there, my eyes opened. Why was I camping in a forest above town? Why was I going to a small-town theatre when I can check that off in any number of places? Why wasn't I paying $8 to camp down here on the spit, where I can have a fire and watch the sun set below the edge of Cook Inlet?

I purchased the campsite 20 feet from this store & then went there for matches, firewood and Steel Reserve 211.

I'm not one to normally do things like build campfires or barbecue or cook ribs, as I don't think the effort is worth the reward. Deciding to build a campfire for myself by myself out here on this land spit this evening, was a great decision & worth every bit of effort it took to 'gather' firewood.

It wasn't the most exciting sunset & the family at the next campsite seemed a bit nosy towards the lone guy drinking 211 without a tent or a camper; but still, this was the thing I came home & told people about. Sitting by the brisk, northern waters, with a gentle wind fanning the flames against a meagre sunset that seemed to last forever. I know I'm waxing poetic here, but when my friend Christian asked what was the best part of this trip, this came to mind (even though I'm sure Kennecott would actually hold that title).

I ended up walking down to that lighthouse bar after I ran out of firewood. Their claim to fame is that people stick $1 bills to the walls, so I wrote my name on one and now it's there. I then walked back to my bed with a considerable amount of light still in the skies.


The next day would be my last in Alaska. I didn't have much planned besides getting to the Anchorage airport to catch my red-eye back to Calgary.

So, after talking with the salesgirl at the 211/firewood liquor store, I followed her recommendation to do the Diamond Gulch Hike, a 3 mile hike from the parking near the highway down to the shore of Kachemak Bay (of Cook Inlet).

I was amazed at how thick the vegetation was and the sloppiness of the trail. There was a couple of times I wondered what I had gotten myself into, as I clung to vegetation while trying to avoid giving either of my shoes a mud bath.

The short hike was worthwhile as the beach was isolated and quiet.

I gasped upon seeing Mt. Iliamna from the shore.

The water was certainly cold, but I've now waded in the Cook Inlet. My stupid camera wouldn't focus with the rushing water moving back & forth, so my feet were in stinging pain by the time I gave up.

After another Americano at a coffee shack in Anchor Point, as well as using their public library to check fantasy baseball, I stopped at the Russian Orthodox Church in Ninilchik.

This one didn't have spirit houses, but a sea of white orthodox crosses was enough to get me to stop. The fact that this church dates from 1901 doesn't hurt either.

I was a bit startled when I opened the church door and found the priest inside. Apparently he stands there all day, doing the same spiel over and over (I heard him say the same thing 3 times while taking pictures). The item of interest is that sadly this church only has 9-12 members left...but then again, judging by the number of visitors during my short time there, I imagine they acquire a decent sum in donations.

I left Ninilchik, bought Taco Bell in Soldotna & returned to Anchorage.

Pulling into downtown, I parked beside some glass office tower and sat in my passenger seat with the door open. I then proceeded to lather up my feet and wash them with water about 10 feet from glass windows which surely aren't mirror-like on both sides. Oh well, you can't have smelly feet at dinner or on a plane.

After walking around for a short while, I ate at the Snow Goose, a brewpub with really tremendous food. The only complaint would have to be with how busy it was, as I had to squeeze in at the end of the bar with every single table taken. If it wasn't such a nice day it would have been amazing to sit outside, as the bar sits atop a bluff overlooking the waters outside Anchorage.

I continued walking around Anchorage until my feet hurt. I had never been in a major northern city like this before, so it had that foreign appeal, but Anchorage also seemed mishy-mashy with what it was trying to be. There were ugly modern monstrosities, then northern metal siding-style places, then older buildings - it was a strange mash-up that confused more than it impressed.

I'm sure the destruction caused by that Good Friday Earthquake didn't help the building stock either.

In addition to lighthouses, you might also be wondering why I don't have any county courthouse pictures from Alaska. Well, Alaska has boroughs instead of counties & they don't have specific buildings designated like the Kenai Borough Courthouse. I snapped a picture of what I thought would classify as the Anchorage Borough Courthouse, before finally declaring myself beat & returning to my rental car.

I had a bit of time, but I was really sore and simply tired. I decided to clean the rental & return to the airport. The only remaining remarkable thing was that I went to the airport bar and felt a bit fruity ordering some wheat raspberry beer...and then certainly fruity after a lady sat down and ordered a double Maker's Mark (bourbon) on the rocks. Put in my place I was.

I landed in Seattle at some early morning hour, bought duty free rum and went back to bed on their long benches. After a 3 hour layover, I found myself in Calgary & back hanging out with Geordie after a week's absence. We bought a television and along with his roommates, we put the duty free rum to good use in very strong rum smoothies.

Epilogue: Alaska is as amazing as anyone portrays. I only broke the surface but certainly wore myself out. I could think of 5 amazing trips that I'd love to go back and do just off the top of my head. The Land of the Midnight Sun comes highly recommended from me.

Thank you for reading.


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