It’s a summer weekend in Alaska which means it’s time to go fishing!! After seeing how busy it was we wondered if we should stay put for the day (especially since it was Saturday) but decided to move on. We drove past 100’s of people fishing in the Kenia River before hitting an area with a smoldering fire. This area was hit hard the last few weeks by forest fires. You could see some of the new burn areas as we drove. In Soldotna we read about the St. Elias brewing company so stopped in for a few tasters and a great wood oven pizza. We were the only non-Alaska vehicle there, definitely a local place. It was really congested in town (maybe we’re just not used to traffic anymore). We decided to head south to Homer and the Homer Spit. Since it was Saturday we couldn’t get a waterfront camping spot in the city campground on the spit so we settled for the back row. Unfortunately, we were feet away from the road onto the spit and the traffic was steady until 1:30 am and started back up again at 5:30 am for the fishermen so we really didn’t enjoy our stay, too much traffic noise!
Everyone seems to rave about Homer and granted the views of the mountains across the bay are spectacular, but the Homer Spit is a very busy tourist destination. The end of the spit has gift shops and restaurants and literally thousands of people. On our way out of town we stopped to visit the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge Islands and Ocean Visitor Centre. They have a research vessel that goes around the Aleutian Islands each year to study the wildlife population and look for ways to preserve the habitat. They had a couple of movies and lots of exhibits to see. We enjoyed our visit there, I wonder why??
It started to rain and believe it or not, life does take over at times and we do need to stop and do laundry 😊. We decided this would be a good day but soon learned it was very expensive to do laundry in Anchor Point. The extra costs were made up for by a friendly local who gave us some tips on where to camp for the night. We headed to Halibut Campground at Anchor Point, the furthest west you can drive on a continuous road in North America! Once the rain stopped, we headed down to the beach and were entertained by LOTS of Bald Eagles, both mature and immature (molted colours). Unfortunately, our timing was off to see the tractor launch for the boats. This area is in the tidal water and they have no boat launch, they have huge tractors that will pull your boat out on the sand so you can launch. At the end of the day (you better be back before they close at 8pm) they will get you back out of the water. We went down in the morning but all the fishing boats had gone out really early, so we missed them!
Russia original owned Alaska so there is some Russian heritage along the western Kenia coast. Most noticeable are the churches that are still standing. Our first historic Russian church was in Ninilchik called Holy Transfiguration of our Lord Russian Orthodox Church. In Kenia we had a long stop at the Visitors Centre to post the blog on their free wifi. They had a small museum with a “big catch” that was quite interesting.
We had read in a brochure that you could fat tire bike on the beach at Captain Cook SP so after talking to the visitor centre staff about that we headed that direction. It was drizzling again so we stopped at the Kassik’s Brewery to wait out the damp weather 😊. Joel enjoyed a few tasters while Sharon enjoyed the popcorn! After finding a site in the SP we had dinner and went for a walk along the beach to check out where we planned to ride the next day and to collect some interesting rocks. It was strange because several local fishermen were driving back along the beach and over the rocks to bring in their day’s catch of salmon.
We headed out for a day’s adventure of Fat Tire biking down the beach, you can go 28 miles at low tide.
We headed down to the beach area and the tide was low. The pictures in the brochure show people riding on the sand so off we head towards the “sandy area”. I hear Joel say “Come this way” so I head over towards him and my bike tires are sinking into the “sand”, or should I say tidal mud!! I stop, get off the bike as it’s hard to ride. Now my feet are sinking in, so much for my nice clean shoes and my socks I just spent all that money to clean!! When I reach Joel what he really said was “DON’T come this way”!!! We headed up to the rocky area to continue our ride…
We rode through the campground and down the steep ramp to get onto the beach. This is where we had seen the fishermen with their trucks the night before exiting from the beach. The first part was very rocky so I decide to head out onto the sand which looks quite solid. About 20 m in my tires start to sink (Sharon has the Fat tire bike and I have regular MTB tires) so I turn around and yell to Sharon “Don’t come this way!”. I step off the bike and I am above my ankles in mud!! I mucked through that section and found a harder patch of sand but only got a little further before that was a no go, so I headed back to the rocky part of shore. Once on the rocky section I quickly figured out you could not follow the truck or ATV tracks as they made the sand quite soft so you sunk in. If you made your own trail and weaved in and around the boulders you could find solid ground. After that initial mud disaster, the rest of the ride was quite physical but also quite enjoyable, especially with some of the Ring of Fire volcanoes across the channel in their snow covered glory. We went as far as a bizarre shack that was perilously perched across to a large boulder. It didn’t look safe to enter anymore but interesting to see. We did about 12 kms in total. We had trouble washing our bikes off at the end because we were low on water and the hand pump from the well in the park wasn’t really working.
After putting all the bike stuff away I enjoyed the St. Elias Mother’s Milk stout, all 32 oz. of it! However the Chocolate Cherry stout from Kassick’s was my favourite of the 3 local ones I tried. That evening we went back down to the beach and were really surprised by how much the tide had come up. There was literally no beach left to walk on so we went down around the river outlet and saw some driftwood shelter piles and some terns.
As we headed out of the park back to Kenia we were entertained by a moose and her calf. Kenia is popular with for dipnet fishing (only Alaskan Residents can dipnet). We went to a popular beach to check it out but the tide was out so there weren’t too many in dip netting. The nets are very large and seemed to be a popular family fishing outing. We parked at the visitors centre and walked to old Kenia to see the historic Russian church built in 1894 and a few other historic buildings.
After some banking, shopping and RV prep we headed across the Sterling Highway seeing a bit more as the smoke was not as bad as it had been. There were still a few small smoldering fires on the hillside but at least you could see. When the smoke was really bad they actually have lead cars you have to follow to get through the smoke! Glad we didn’t experience that. This section of the road is a fishermen’s paradise! Everything is about fishing. Someone had told us Russian River NF was an interesting campground to watch people fish and to see fish jumping at the waterfall so we decided to stay the night. We were one of the few people not fishing 😊. They had an extensive path system with walkways to get the fishermen to the water and to protect the banks along the river. Not only do people like to fish this area but bears do as well!! As we walked down one of the path’s we saw a “Brown” as the locals call them, we would say Grizzly, mom with her cub. It was fun to watch from a distance before they headed off into the bush. However, when we got further down the trail they reappeared, hopefully that’s the closest we ever get to a grizzly.
The next morning we hiked to Russian Falls to watch the “Reds” (salmon). There were a lot by the falls but they couldn’t get up, but some were trying hard! It was fun to watch the action, this area was closed to fishing. Imagine taking your dipnet here!! Back on the road with a stop at a scenic lookout. All the State Recreational areas have a fee (usually $5/day) but you get 30 minutes free which is usually enough time for us to pull in and have a quick lunch, see a view before driving again. Our nights destination was Porcupine Campground in the state forest near the village of Hope. It was a pretty drive into the Hope area following a river well known for Whitewater rafting, and then we drove along Turnagain arm. The tide was low and in Turnagain Arm when the tide comes back in you may see the bore tide (a wave of water). Sharon had the schedule figured out when we need to go watch (give or take 30 minutes), unfortunately the event didn’t occur, so it really was a tidal bore!!
We did a quick tour of Hope, a historic old mining town before beginning today’s drive. We really didn’t drive far since it’s Friday and we’re in a busy area we figured we’d better stop early to ensure we had a nice spot for the night. We chose another campground in the Chugach National Forest, it’s a very large part of the Kenia Peninsula. We backed onto Granite Creek where you could fish and we learned do some rafting. A lazy afternoon doing the blog and planning out our route to get to the Denali area by July 23rd for our camp reservations.
That concludes another week in Alaska. We’re heading to Denali NP next.