Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

This is the last destination stop on our 2019 road trip! It is hard to believe that we left Atlanta, GA nine months ago. It has been an absolutely amazing trip and ending it at the balloon fiesta is a great way to celebrate it.

We arrived in Albuquerque on Thursday, October 3rd, a couple days before the balloons were to fly. Charlie is a balloon pilot and wanted time to catch up with his balloonist friends. We did not bring our balloon, since we have been on the road for 9 months.

On Saturday morning the dawn patrol balloons took flight. They are the first balloons to take off each day. It is really neat to see them. Their flames light up the sky, as it is still dark when they launch.

The remaining 500 balloons on the field prepared for their flight and then fog rolled in, which resulted in a cancellation of the morning’s flight.

The weather Saturday evening was perfect for the Balloon Glow and fireworks.

On Sunday, Charlie and I were extremely fortunate as his friend, Daryl, gave us a ride in his balloon. It was a beautiful flight.

After our fantastic flight we met up with Charlie’s sister, her husband and friend at a local restaurant. It was great seeing them, as it had been years. Back on the field we met up with friends and enjoyed another great balloon glow with fireworks.

Immediately following the fireworks the winds picked up, as a front was moving in. It was very windy most of the night. By morning though the winds had settled down over the field and the balloons took flight. Charlie joined Daryl’s chase team. A chase team helps put up the balloon, follows it during flight until it lands and then helps pack it back up. While he was chasing Daryl he saw another balloon crash and burn. He, and the team, drove quickly to the damaged balloon and found no pilot or passenger in the vicinity. Charlie saw a line of fire going back for quite a ways. He ran ½ a mile through the desert, trying to find them and went another ½ mile in an off-road vehicle that picked him up. Eventually, they got word that the pilot and passenger had been found. They both had non life-threatening injuries.

Remnants of the balloon

The winds in Albuquerque can be very tricky for balloonists. The Sandia Mountains frequently shield the balloon field from high winds.  However, once you get away from this protection, out in the desert, the winds can increase significantly. Charlie was clocking Daryl’s balloon at 19 mph over the desert. He can only assume that the balloonist that crashed was also going nearly as fast. The balloon that crashed hit the ground very hard. When it did, the pilot fell out, leaving the passenger and balloon to take flight. When it hit the ground again the passenger got out (either fell or jumped). Thank goodness he/she did as the next time the balloon came down it ignited due to ruptured gas hoses. There were a number of other hard landings and minor injuries that day.

Fortunately, the winds died down in the afternoon, allowing the America’s Challenge Gas Balloons to begin filling with hydrogen. The America’s Challenge is a gas balloon distance race that lasts for days.

Once the balloons are filled with hydrogen that is all of the available lift they will have for their flight. In order to control how high the balloons go they release ballast, which is sand contained in bags, tied to the outside of the basket. If they want to go higher they throw out a scoop or two of sand. When they are ready to land they release a small amount of hydrogen. Running out of sand is like running out of fuel.

In the evening we met up with friends Karen and Gary. We hadn’t seen them for nearly a year, when we last visited them in Hilton Head. We enjoyed a great dinner, while catching up, at the nearby Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen. 

On Tuesday, our final day at the balloon fiesta, we were blessed with beautiful weather. It was the best flight for the balloonists so far.

Below is a gallery of pictures from the fiesta. I hope you enjoy them. Click on the first one to enlarge and start a slideshow.

Later in the afternoon we packed up and drove to the other side of the Sandia Mountains, to visit with our friends Debbie and Terri. We enjoyed great food and lots of wine with them. We had seen them in Palm Springs near the beginning of our road trip, back in February. It was neat to see them now, at the end of our trip.

In the morning we hit the road at 7am and drove 10 hours / 560 miles, to the Grand Casino Hotel & Resort just east of Oklahoma City. They have free overnight RV parking, with power. It was a long drive, as we had to endure strong crosswinds for a couple of hours. Winds were nearly 30 mph at various points. Just west of the city were nasty storms with hail the size of golf balls. We were very nervous that these storms would reach us, but we were very fortunate that they moved north and dissipated.

The next day (yesterday) we drove 12 hours / 730 miles and made it to Cookeville, TN. We could not find any campgrounds with availability in or near Nashville. Hence, the long day. We overnighted in a Walmart parking lot in Cookeville, which was terrible. Turns out it is a major hang-out place for teens/young adults. There were at least 20 carloads of them very close to the RVs. At times they raced their cars in the parking lot. Of course they only raced the ones with very loud exhausts! This went on until after 2am. Back on the road today before 6:30am. We are on the homestretch!!! Our 9 month trip has come to an end. We arrive back at our motorcoach resort today; Mountain Falls Luxury Motorcoach Resort in Lake Toxaway, NC.

I hope you have enjoyed the blog posts from our 2019 Road trip.

Until next time……

Where we camped in Albuquerque:

We camped just above the balloon field, in the VIP East Lot. The location of the lot was great. We had a bird’s eye view of the field and balloons in flight.

Restaurants:

We enjoyed a dinner at the El Pinto Restaurant. It is very close to the balloon field, and is a favorite for both locals and balloonists. We went to this restaurant on a previous trip and really enjoyed it. The wait to get a table was over an hour so we snatched up a couple of seats at the bar. The food and drinks were excellent.

We enjoyed a lunch at The Range Café in Bernalillo. It was very good. In addition to great Southwestern food, they have a bakery and gift shop.

Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen is not far from the balloon field, and was great. We have one in Atlanta and always enjoy it.

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National Parks of southern Utah

September 20– October 2, 2019

Capitol Reef

Charlie and I were both a little under the weather, with colds, when we arrived in Torrey, UT. Neither of us had much energy, so hiking was out of the question. We were happy to discover some great driving options in and around the park.

The first is the popular Scenic Drive road. This paved road is only about 8 miles long. It is the highlight of the park, and very busy, for good reason. The scenery is spectacular!

The scenic drive starts in Fruita, where the visitor center is. Fruita is an anomaly in this desert area. There are about 2,500 orchard trees in the area. Visitors are welcome to pick fruit from many of them, using the honor system for payment. You pick, you weigh, you pay by dropping money in a box. Fruita is also home to the Gifford Homestead, where you can find fresh baked pies and cinnamon rolls early in the morning. They are usually sold out of these by mid-morning. We never seemed to make it there early enough 🙁

After enjoying the Scenic Drive we headed over to Sunset Point. As the sun set behind us the harsh red rocks in our foreground turned to a soft pink while the sky radiated beautiful baby blue and pink tones. It was amazing!

The next day we drove through Cathedral Valley. We began the drive on E Hartnet Rd S, which requires you to forge a river. Fortunately, there had not been rain for awhile. The river was fairly tame and the water level was manageable.

Shortly after crossing the river we spotted this tarantula!

The red rock scenery along Hartnet is spectacular.

This part of the road is gravel and at times a bit bumpy, but manageable for any type of vehicle, as long as you can make it across the river. We came upon a car though that apparently did not make it around the complete desert loop.

After about 3 hours on the dirt road (2 hrs driving and 1 hr for lots of photography stops) we came to the Cathedral Valley Overlook point, where we decided to enjoy lunch. The views were spectacular.

After lunch we headed down into the valley for another 3-4 hour dirt road drive. Unfortunately, much of this road was washboard type, leading to an unpleasant and slow drive. The scenery in the valley is very nice, but we both agreed that we liked the first half of the loop better. Don’t get me wrong though, it is all spectacular! It is amazing to see such enormous red rock sculptures protruding out of the flat desert floor.

In the end we spent 7 hours driving along 70 miles of bumpy dirt roads, and loved it.

For our last day around Capitol Reef we drove just outside the national park and took a few pictures with the drone. As a side note, most of the Cathedral Valley loop road is outside of the national park. We didn’t realize this until after we drove it. Had we realized it earlier we would have taken our drone with us. I think we could have gotten some great shots.

Since we were feeling a little better we took the short hike to Hickman Bridge. It was nearing sunset time and the light was perfect for a picture.

We ended the day, and our visit to Capitol Reef, with sunset along Scenic Drive.

A few final photos from Capitol Reef.

South Caineville Mesa
The Castle

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

Our next destination was Escalante, UT. The drive, along UT-12, is one of the most scenic byways in the United States. The scenery is nothing short of breath-taking. Between Capitol Reef and the small village of Boulder you travel through the Dixie National Forest where expansive views of the colorful Capitol Reef National Park stand out, as well as the Circle Cliffs and the Henry Mountains. South of Boulder, UT-12 twists and turns through the Hogsback, a section of the road where cliffs drop steeply into narrow canyons on both sides of the highway. As you travel further south, through the Escalante canyons, you are blessed with panoramic views of colorful slickrock covering miles and miles of land. It is just gorgeous!

We stopped in Boulder, UT on our way down to Escalante, as we had heard that there was a fabulous restaurant in town called Hell’s Backbone Grill (www.hellsbackbonegrill.com). Boulder is a small village with about 200 residents. The closest major grocery store is about 2 hours away. We found it hard to believe that a restaurant, one that has the highest Zagat ratings in Utah and was selected as a James Beard Award semifinalist in 2017 and 2018, could be found here. Well, let me tell you, if you ever make it to this neck of the woods you must enjoy a meal at this restaurant. Reservations are highly recommended. At a minimum, check out their website.

We enjoyed our breakfast/lunch so much so that we made a dinner reservation for the next day. The owners of the restaurant, Jen Castle and Blake Spalding, published two cookbooks since opening the restaurant 19 years ago. The books are more like stories of why they chose to open a restaurant in this remote location. It highlights their strong commitment to sustainability, environmental ethics, and social and community responsibility. They serve only organic, locally produced, regionally and seasonally appropriate cuisine. They grow many of their own vegetables and fruits in the restaurant’s two gardens and on their six-acre farm. Their grass-fed meat comes from local ranchers. Their books focus on their amazing community; the people and the land. I had to buy both of their books, of course. I’ve already finished one of them. I really enjoyed learning about the people of Boulder. I now have a strong appreciation for them. I can’t wait to try out some of the recipes from the book too.

For our first day in the area of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Park we drove the Burr Trail. This dirt road begins in Boulder, UT and passes through the painted rock country of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Capitol Reef National Park, and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Highlights of this old cattle route include driving through the Long Canyon and great views of the Waterpocket Fold.

Long Canyon Overlook

The Waterpocket Fold is a 100-mile long bend in the earth’s crust, extending from Thousand Lake Mountain in the north to Lake Powell in the south.

We took the short 3 mile 4WD side road to Strike Valley Overlook. We had fun off-roading and really liked the unique red rocks along the path. The views from the overlook were fabulous!

Below is a gallery of other pictures taken along the Burr Trail. Click on the first picture to enlarge and start a slideshow.

Along the Burr Trail is a set of switchbacks, a steep 12% grade. These switchbacks were once the only part of the road referred to as the Burr Trail. It wasn’t until more recently that the entire road became labeled as the Burr Trail.

We ended our day at Hell’s Backbone Grill, which is conveniently located at the start of the Burr trail.

The next day we drove the Hole-in-the-Rock road for 52 miles (round-trip). It was a painfully slow and bumpy drive in the Jeep Wrangler, as the dirt road was one continuous long washboard. Our first stop along this road was at mile 12, to see the Devil’s Garden. This is an area of spectacular rock formations. We spent about an hour roaming the formations.

At mile 26 we arrived at the Peek a Boo and Spooky Slot Canyons. We enjoyed hiking through both of them. They are very different. We started with Peek a Boo , which required that we scramble up a 15 foot wall initially. The canyon was fairly open and did not contain very many obstacles. Upon exiting Peek a Boo we hiked across the desert for half a mile to the Spooky Canyon.

Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyon:

Climbing into the canyon

Spooky was definitely more challenging and is absolutely not recommended for anybody that cannot handle dark tight spaces.

At two different locations in Spooky we had to finagle 10 ft drops. Fortunately, the people ahead of us helped us get down, as we did for the people behind us.

Next to these two canyons is a third one, with no-name. It is a very basic slot canyon. We enjoyed strolling through it. There was only one area where we had to climb up and over some rocks. Charlie got a little creative.

We thoroughly enjoyed our slot canyon hikes, even if the drive there was unpleasant. The views near the slot canyons was gorgeous too.

Along the way, Charlie thought it prudent to disturb this huge ant hill. He wanted to prove to me that it was actually an ant hill. I don’t recall seeing any ant hills like this back in Michigan.

For our last day we hiked to the Lower Calf Creek waterfall. It is a nice canyon hike, 6 miles round-trip.

Lower Calf Creek Falls

Bryce Canyon National Park

On UT-12, just east of UT-63 (which takes you to Bryce Canyon), is the Mossy Cave Trail. We enjoyed this short, but scenic, 1 mile hike along a stream. We were able to get up close to the hoodoos and spires.

After our short Mossy Cave walk we headed into the National Park. We parked at Sunset Point, in the last available parking space. We then took the shuttle bus up to Bryce Point and walked back to Sunset Point, taking in all of the gorgeous views along this 2.5 mile trail. We timed it such that we ended up back at Sunset Point for sunset, of course.

We were very happy to have such a beautiful day for exploring Bryce, as the next day brought winds in excess of 30mph and temps in the 40s. It would not have been pleasant walking along the rim. We hunkered down in the RV and chilled.

Zion National Park

My photography bucket list included capturing the iconic Zion National Park sunset picture along the Virgin River, at Canyon Junction. We were able to do this on our first evening.

I also captured this setting just after sunrise.

The Watchman

Another sunrise picture I captured was of the ‘Towers of the Virgin’, behind the park museum.

The Towers of the Virgin

After getting my sunrise pictures in we headed over to the lodge and enjoyed a nice breakfast, followed by more picture taking at the Court of the Patriarchs.

Court of the Patriarchs

We then hiked up to Angel’s Landing. The Angel’s Landing hike is the most iconic hike in Zion, and possibly the US. It is a 5 mile roundtrip hike with an elevation gain of 1,617 feet. You traverse up 21 switchbacks, named Walter’s Wiggles.

The Wiggles put you on top of the ridge, at Scout Lookout. The views from here are amazing. Hikers often think they have successfully made it to the top of Angel’s Landing once they arrive here. However, they quickly discover that they have the most challenging part of the hike ahead of them.

The final ½ mile of the trail follows the ridge across a saddle and up the hogs back. The trail is steep and only about 4 ½ – 5 feet wide, with 1,000’ drops on either side. There is a chain to hold onto, in most places, but not all. The rock can be slick, as it is covered with sand in spots. If you hold the chain and take one step at a time you can successfully make it to Angel’s Landing and be rewarded with fantastic views.

The narrow ridge leading up to Angel’s Landing. If you can zoom in on the photo you can see people hiking along the hogs back.

At times, it can get very crowded up on top. That’s when you have to be very attentive and careful! People have fallen to their death.

After our hike! Angel’s Landing in the background, on the left.

As you can imagine, we were exhausted after our full day of sightseeing, photographing, and hiking in Zion. We ended our day at the Pizza and Noodles restaurant in Springdale. Their pizza was very good!

We spent another day in Zion driving through the park, along UT-9. We enjoyed lots of ‘Eye Candy,’ including a great view from Canyon Overlook.

Below is a gallery of pictures taken throughout Zion, including another Tarantula and a Mickey Mouse cactus!

We ended the drive at Mt Carmel Junction and had lunch at the Thunderbird restaurant. It was pretty good. The restaurant itself has a lot of interesting history.

After a week and a half enjoying the beautiful national parks of southern Utah we began working our way to the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. More on that later…..

RV Park Info:

Capitol Reef: We stayed at the Thousand Lakes RV Park in Torrey, UT. The view from our RV window was spectacular. The RV park was very clean and they have a great gift shop. Highly recommend this park. They are almost always full though so advance reservations are required. They have a grill on-site. We ate dinner there once, because we were too exhausted to do anything else. Food was average.

View from our RV at Thousand Lakes RV Park, in Torrey, UT

Escalante: We stayed at the Canyons of Escalante RV Park. We liked the location of the campground; walking distance to restaurants and close to the trails that we were interested in hitting. Our site was a little tight for our 40’ four slide motorhome, but we did fit and it worked out fine. The restaurant next door to the campground, Circle D, is pretty good.

Ruby’s Inn RV Park & Campground: One of the nicest campgrounds we have stayed at. We were located in what appeared to be a new section of the park. All of the sites in this area are HUGE. All have grass areas with picnic tables and fire pits. The park is very nice and only a ½ mile from Bryce Canyon National Park.

Zion River RV Resort: Very nice resort located about 20 minutes from Zion National Park. This is a very nice campground with large sites, a great gift shop, and an ice cream parlor. They throw numerous activities for campers. While we were there we enjoyed a cheese and wine event. We found the staff to be great too. Highly recommend this park.

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Glacier National Park

After being gone for 72 days we were looking forward to our return to the United States’ lower 48. We anticipated great cell service, lower gas prices and fabulous grocery stores. Well, that wasn’t exactly the case.

We came across the Canada – US border in a remote area of northern Montana, heading towards the KOA in St. Mary, Montana. We discovered that there is absolutely no cell service all the way down to, and including, St. Mary. Bummer!

While checking into the KOA I asked where I might find some fresh fruit and vegetables. US customs does not allow most fruits and vegetables to come in from Canada so we did not have any. The lady at the KOA office laughed and said the closest grocery store worth visiting was 45 minutes to an hour away. There is a small market in town but she could not recommend it. The thought of driving another couple of hours just for groceries was not appealing so we decided to check out the local market. OMG! I should have taken a photo. It was the saddest store I’ve ever gone in. The fruit and vegetables looked old and near the point of being inedible.  So, we decided to make the drive to Browning, MT. Since we were going to be in St. Mary for 6 nights I figured we had better stock up.

The drive to Browning was interesting. It is along narrow curvy country roads with wild cattle and wild dogs roaming around. We never knew what would be around the next corner. It was getting late and fog was rolling in so I wanted to make our visit in Browning as short as necessary. Driving in fog with cattle roaming the road did not seem appealing to me at all.

The town of Browning has the saddest looking IGA grocery store I’ve ever seen. Fortunately, there is a second grocery store, attached to a casino and gas station, which is run by Native Americans, that is fully stocked and awesome. We stocked up on groceries and then looked for a place to grab a quick bite to eat. We found a drive-thru burger joint that turned out to be pretty good. Next, we decided to see if the liquor store had any good bourbon for Old Fashioned drinks. LOL. I should have taken a photo of the liquor store. It was scary looking. Charlie went in and asked for a basic bourbon, like Woodford Reserve or Knobs Creek. The sales clerk looked at him as if he had come from a different planet. She said we have Jack Daniels. That’s it. Oh well. After dodging wild dogs running across the road we left the town of Browning and headed back to St. Mary.

A cute sign in Browning I thought I’d share with you.

We got up early the next day and headed into Glacier National Park. We drove along the Going-to-the-Sun Road, taking in the beautiful vista views. The road is narrow and windy, but fun to drive.

The view along the Going-to-the-Sun road, between St. Mary and the Logan Visitor Center
You can see the Going-to-the-Sun road. It is the thin brown line in the distance
The area of St. Mary Falls, where remnants of a past fire are still seen

We stopped at the Logan Visitor Center and hiked up to Hidden Lake. Our walk was timed perfectly, as right after I finished taking some photos some low clouds rolled in and covered the area.

The area of Hidden Lake Overlook trail
Hidden Lake Overlook
Hidden Lake Overlook Trail

After our hike we continued driving west, along the going-to-the-sun road. We stopped along the way to take in views of the river with its crystal clear water. 

We stopped at Avalanche Creek and took a hike along ‘The Trail of the Cedars’, and then continued hiking up to Avalanche Lake. Along this trail you pass a very beautiful gorge.

It was not an opportune time of the day to get a good photo of Avalanche Lake, but we did enjoy our hike and the scenery.

Avalanche Lake

Next we decided to take a drive up to Polebridge. This is a tiny village 25 miles north of the West Glacier park entrance. Half of the drive is on a rough dirt road, but the views were nice.

I had read that you should not miss out on visiting the Polebridge Mercantile, as their Huckleberry Bear Claws are delicious. Well, they were right. The claws were fabulous, as were the pecan rolls and cinnamon rolls.

In addition to the Mercantile building there is a tiny saloon and a stage where a band plays nearly every night during the summer. It was definitely worth the drive.

If you go to Polebridge, make sure you have a full tank of gas. This is the ‘gas station’ in Polebridge. Maximum allowed gas fill is 3 gallons at $6.50 per gallon!

We were going to drive on towards Bowman Lake but the mercantile sales clerk advised that the road was not maintained by anybody and she wasn’t aware of its current condition. It was getting late and we needed to drive 2 to 2.5 hrs to get back to St. Mary so we decided to forgo a visit to the lake.

For the next three days we had rain, fog and low clouds so we hunkered down and relaxed. We rarely do that, but felt we needed to as we had been going non-stop for what seemed like forever. Although we did not have any cell service in St. Mary, MT we found the WiFi at the KOA to be very fast. Having that gave us the ability to do stuff on-line and stream some movies. We enjoyed our downtime.

On our final day in St. Mary the clouds finally broke so we explored the Many Glacier area of the park. We hiked 8 miles around the lakes and took boat rides across Swiftcurrent and Josephine Lakes. We enjoyed lunch at the Many Glacier Lodge. It was good to be back outside, enjoying nature.

During our walk we came across this mountain goat skull. Just thought I’d share it with you. 🙂

We left St. Mary the next day and drove over to the West Glacier KOA for a night. Our original plan was to spend a few days there while exploring the western side of Glacier National Park. However, we felt like we had seen most of it during our drive on our first day and we wanted more time in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

The West Glacier KOA Resort is very nice. It is the nicest, outside of a Motorcoach Class-A Resort, we’ve come across. I highly recommend it if you visit Glacier. They have some great Huckleberry Ice Cream too!

After a great week in Glacier we headed over to Coeur d’Alene to visit with some friends that we hadn’t seen for many years. While in Coeur d’Alene we stayed at the Blackwell Island RV Park. It is a great park, and within walking distance to the Cedars Restaurant, which was excellent.

The beautiful Montana countryside

Our next stop is in southern Utah. More on that later.

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Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada

OMG!! Talk about Eye Candy. This place is just gorgeous!

We had great weather for our drive down the Icefields Parkway, from Jasper to Lake Louise. On the way we had to stop for some female big horn sheep. It looks like they were trying to hitch hike a ride with the RV in front of us.

We also spotted some mountain goat. I was surprised at how close to the road these guys were. They are usually high up on the mountain side.

We stopped near the Parker Ridge area and took a hike along the river. I was thrilled to find this beautiful gorge. The water color of many rivers and lakes along the parkway is amazing, and the water is so clear.

Our RV is way in the distance, with Mo (our Jeep)

We arrived at the Lake Louise campground just before some rain moved in. We set up the RV and headed to the visitor center. Lake Louise is a small village. There is not much in the way of restaurants or grocery stores. You have to drive 45 minutes to Banff if your heart is set on shopping and being with the crowds. That, unfortunately, doesn’t mean that Lake Louise is quiet and peaceful. On the contrary. We were woken up countless times in the middle of the night to train horns! What is it with campgrounds almost always being next to train tracks? At least that is what it seems like.

On a couple of occasions we made the trek to Banff, but we took the scenic route, along Bow Valley Parkway. Highlights of the parkway include Morant’s Curve, which would have been really nice if there was an old fashioned passenger train in the picture.

Castle Mountain

And Johnston Canyon. I did not care much for Johnston Canyon, after having been to Maligne Canyon up by Jasper. I found Johnston Canyon to be overcrowded, with very narrow walkways. It is nice, but not nearly as scenic as Maligne. We did enjoy getting out and hiking though. After our hike we stopped by the bistro at the canyon and enjoyed a nice lunch sitting on the patio. Here are a few pictures from Johnston Canyon.

While in Banff we enjoyed walking around the town. There are a ton of great shops and restaurants to explore. We were happy to have stumbled upon the restaurant Saltlik, as their calamari and salmon were excellent.

We explored Yoho National Park, which is just 30 minutes west of Lake Louise. We took a walk around Emerald Lake, just in awe of its beauty.

We also enjoyed Takakkaw Falls, the 2nd tallest waterfall in Canada at 1,250 ft.

We spent a bit of time at Lake Louise; the lake, not the village :-). We took a hike up the Fairmont Overlook Trail and was rewarded with this view:

At the Fairmont we found the best bartender we have ever come across. Nils is very detail oriented and his drinks are exceptional. The Fairview bar has a Brown Butter Old Fashioned on their menu so we decided to try it. We absolutely LOVED it, so much so that I told Nils I was going to make it at home. He was kind enough to give me the recipe. I can’t wait to get home and make it!

Early one morning we did the Agnes Tea House and Little Beehive Hikes at Lake Louise. It was a 1,600 elevation gain and 6 mile trek roundtrip. It was fabulous! Highly recommend it. The day we went to the tea house was apparently delivery day. A helicopter flew over numerous times, dropping off propane tanks and other supplies. It was neat to see.

It is such a joy to reach the tea house, after the long hike up the mountain. We got there early so we didn’t have to wait for a table, unlike these folks who arrived a bit later.

After enjoying some great tea and scones we hiked further up the mountain, along the Little Beehive Trail. The views are amazing.

That’s me on the edge, taking in the beauty of Lake Louise.

(Click on the first photo to enlarge and start a slideshow)

The tea house sits on the tiny, but beautiful, Agnes Lake.

Here’s Charlie taking in the scenery along the hike.

Mirror Lake, along the hike:

You can hike to the top of the mountain, seen in the middle of this picture, by taking the Big Beehive Trail. We stuck with the Little Beehive Trail.

Then of course there is the beautiful Lake Louise.

I loved this statue, along the grounds of the Fairmont.

He’s just taking in the glorious view.

Sunrise on Lake Louise:

While I found Lake Louise beautiful, it was Moraine Lake that I could not get enough of. I’ve never seen anything like it. The view is so beautiful that it was on Canada’s twenty dollar bill at one time. The water color, the mountains, the reflections, oh my!!!

Another angle, shortly after sunrise the next day.

We returned, with our winter gear on, at night to capture the Milky Way over the mountains.

Moraine Lake is beautiful day and night!

We also visited Peyto Lake for a sunrise shot. Turns out, you don’t need to get there until a couple of hours after sunrise. However, I enjoyed watching the shadows fade as the sun worked its way out from behind the eastern mountain range. Charlie is such a good sport, and very patient, with my passion for photography.

Peyto Lake

On our way to Peyto Lake we stopped by Herbert Lake and caught this shot.

I just love mornings on the lake with mist and reflections!

I’ll wrap up this post with a few more pictures taken along the southern end of the Icefields Parkway. This is truly one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited. I guess that is because I just LOVE mountains and lakes.

Bow Lake. You can see the red lodge on the lower right hand side of the mountain range.
The reflections on most of the lakes along the parkway make photographing them a joy.

Well, that wraps up our week long stay in Lake Louise. If I ever return I might just set up a chair at Moraine Lake and camp there. Seriously, it is BEAUTIFUL! If you make it up that way note that in order to get sunrise pictures at Moraine Lake you MUST be there 1 to 1.5 hours before sunrise. We got there at 6am for a 7am sunrise and almost didn’t get a parking spot. Lake Louise is a little better, as their parking lot is bigger. They also fill up though, but not nearly as fast.

The Lake Louise campground was very nice. It sits along the river and is within walking distance to the village. There is no water service at the sites though so we had to dry camp. Surprisingly, we made it through the week without having to drive over to the dump. Fortunately, we did have 30amp power. The trains were unbearable though. If you ever stay here you might want to consider ear plugs.

Our next destination is Glacier National Park. We will be thrilled to be back in the lower 48 of the US. We left it 72 days ago. Wow!

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Jasper, Alberta, Canada

In my last post I mentioned that we had just completed our Alaska trip with Fantasy Tours. We were back on our own, working our way to Jasper. We needed to find an overnight location between Smithers, British Columbia and Jasper, Alberta. We ended up at the Terracana Ranch Resort, just east of McBride.

The resort is beautiful. It is situated on a hill overlooking a river and surrounded by mountains. The RV park was just recently added and we were the only ones staying there. A group of twenty-somethings were staying in cabins next to the RV park.

They were very friendly, but quite the party animals. Every time we walked by they tried to get us to join them for a beer. Eventually they were successful in getting Charlie to do a beer bomb! He can’t remember the last time he had done one. The youngins’ were very proud of him, as he drank the entire can in one try.

The lodge had a game room and a TV room. It was very nice. The resort was a great place to stay for the night. (Click the first picture to begin a slideshow)

In the morning, on our way to Jasper, we stopped by the Mt. Robson Provincial Park. We were lucky enough to see the spectacular Mt. Robson break nearly clear of the clouds.

We arrived at Jasper’s Wapati Campground late in the afternoon and was very happy to find that it was easy to get around with our 40’ motorhome. Our site was very roomy and private. Although the park stated that they were full every night we only had neighbors one out of the five nights we were there.

I don’t know where to begin with regarding Jasper. It is just beautiful! There is so much eye-candy! I’ll apologize in advance for the large number of pictures I’ll be posting.

Let’s see…… well, on our first evening we decided to check out the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, as we heard that they make the best Old Fashioned drinks. On our way there we stopped to admire Elk grazing along the road.

The Old Fashioned drinks were great and we met a couple from New Zealand at the bar. We had a great conversation with them. The view from the bar is stunning.

Back at the campground we found more elk.

Over the next few days we explored the Jasper National Park, including the northern half of the Icefields Parkway. Below are the highlights.

Athabasca Falls:

Sunwapta Falls:

Maligne Canyon

As we pulled into the Maligne Canyon parking lot we spotted this grizzly bear grazing on berries next to the driveway.

The river along Maligne Lake Rd

Moose at Moose Lake. Makes sense, right?

I was thrilled to finally be close to a bull moose. He was kind enough to pose for me.

Mt. Edith Cavell – We headed up to the mountain about an hour and a half before sunset. As we worked our way up the windy road I kept getting glimpses of the soft light resting on the mountain. I was afraid I would miss the opportunity for good photos, but we made it in time.

I enjoyed the scenery of Mt Edith Cavell so much that we returned another day to hike the Meadow trail and grab a few more photos down by Cavell Lake.

Little river along the Mt Edith Cavell Meadows trail.

We found beautiful lake reflections at the Honeymoon Campground, along the Icefields Parkway.

Tangle Falls:

Pyramid Mountain from Patricia Lake:

Valley of Five Lakes: Yes, the water really is that color and that crystal clear!

Various pictures from the parkway:

Sunwapta Pass area:

Great totem pole downtown Jasper:

On our last morning in Jasper I headed into town just before 7am to do laundry (the negative of dry-camping). As I drove the short few miles into town I had to stop for elk crossing the road, as well as a black bear. I just love this town.

Our next stop is beautiful Lake Louise. We’ll be there for a week. More on that later.

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Canada’s Stewart-Cassiar Highway

We departed Haines and headed towards Stewart, British Columbia with overnight stops in Whitehorse, Watson Lake and Dease Lake. The landscape just north of Haines is spectacular. You travel alongside two mountain ranges. The first is within the Tatshenshini-Alsek Park.

The second mountain range is within the Kluane National Park.

Since our route took us back through the village of Haines Junction we just had to stop at the Village Bakery one final time. We stocked up on some frozen lasagna and enjoyed some cinnamon rolls.

Our first overnight stop was at the Pioneer RV Park in Whitehorse. This is the same park we stopped at on our way to Alaska. The temperature was in the low 40s and it was very windy.  The leaves were starting to turn to fall colors and it felt like winter was fast approaching.

We woke the next morning to temps in the 30s. As we drove to the Baby Nugget RV Park near Watson Lake we encountered a few snow showers.  Crazy considering that it is still August!

Leaving Watson Lake we turned onto the Stewart-Cassiar Highway (otherwise labeled as Hwy 37). We had heard many good things about this road and were looking forward to traveling it. As we drove from Watson Lake to Dease Lake we encountered a little more snow. There was a bit of accumulation on the ground, which made a really nice contrast to the bears we spotted along the road.

Charlie and I had no idea that 90% of the Jade in the world market is currently supplied from British Columbia, that is until we came upon the Jade Store in Jade City. All of the Jade for the products in the shop is mined locally. I purchased a small jade bear with a fish in its mouth, as it is reminiscent of our bear-viewing excursion, a highlight of our Alaska trip.   

The last leg of our route was from Dease Lake to Stewart. We had rain and snow most of the way. Hwy 37 is beautiful so I was a little bummed that we didn’t have better weather, especially for the area just north of Stewart, where you drive through a canyon with glaciers on both sides of you. We did spot a bear along the road, which is always a joy.

The purpose of our trip to Stewart was primarily to visit Hyder, Alaska. Hyder is a small village of less than 100 residents.  The only way to get to Hyder is through Stewart. Although you cross over the border between Canada and the United States to get there you will not find a US customs office. You can drive right into Hyder. However, you cannot get out of Hyder without going through Canada Customs. This system seems to work since there is nowhere to go from Hyder, except back into Canada.

Hyder is such a small and remote village that we would most likely had never visited it if we had not been with the Fantasy Tour group. We were very happy that it was included as a destination. We spent 2 nights in the area and during that time we saw nearly a dozen bear and some outstanding glaciers.

The small town of Stewart, BC

The locals say that bears in Hyder are like squirrels in other cities. You can spot them roaming the streets at all times of the day, which we did. We spotted a mom and her 3 cubs crossing a street.

We spotted a bear picking berries right next to a small general store.

The most exciting was watching a black grizzly bear fish for salmon. This particular bear was seen at the wildlife refuge. They put a platform above the river where bears are known to fish for salmon.

We took a drive up to Salmon Glacier and enjoyed some spectacular close-up views of the glaciers.

As we drove to the glacier we came upon a Hoary Marmot. We didn’t know what it was until we asked a local resident. They are a species of marmot that inhabit the mountains of northwest North America.

Our trip leaders let us know about this fantastic fish & chips place, operated out of an old bus. They weren’t wrong. The halibut fish and chips were excellent!

We are so happy that we had the opportunity to visit Hyder. As I mentioned, I don’t think we would have put this small town on our hit list. I’m glad Fantasy Tours did.

From Stewart we drove to Smithers, BC, our final destination of the 62 day Alaska your-way Fantasy Tour. We enjoyed a farewell dinner at Daddio’s, a local family owned restaurant. We were all impressed with the high quality of food and service.

As a side note, I was nervous about joining a group for our Alaska trip. I was afraid that it would hinder my photography opportunities or that we wouldn’t be able to be as free as we would otherwise have been doing the trip on our own. Well, I was wrong. Doing the Fantasy Tour was a great thing. We met some wonderful people, went to places we would not have otherwise gone, got help when things went wrong, and had the ability to modify the trip when we desired, such as when we went to Denali and Valdez a few days ahead of the group.

After 62 days together we bid our farewell in the morning and went on our way. We have 2 more months of travel ahead of us, on our own. Our next major stop is Jasper, Alberta, Canada where we will be dry-camping (no water, sewer or power) for 5 nights at the Jasper national park’s Wapati campground.

If a road trip to Alaska is in your future then I highly suggest that you get yourself “The Milepost” book. It is extremely detailed and informative. I would not want to do the trip without it.

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Haines, Alaska

In order to get to Haines from Valdez you have to go back through Canada. It is a long 675 mile drive. We did it over 2.5 days. The first day we drove from Valdez to Tok. We stayed at the same campground we did on our way into Alaska (the Tok RV Village Campground). The trip was pleasantly uneventful.

The next day we drove from Tok, AK to Deception Bay, Yukon. We had previously stayed here on our way to Alaska. We enjoyed a great home-cooked meal by the park owner, Loren.

Some of the ladies in our group decided to take a lesson in beading.

From Destruction Bay we worked our way on down to Haines, although we stopped in Haines Junction and revisited the Village Bakery. We picked up a cinnamon roll (can you see a theme throughout my posts regarding cinnamon rolls?). We also picked up some of their beef lasagna since we had enjoyed it so much the last time we were there. We put the lasagna in the freezer for future meals.

As we got close to Haines we came upon our group’s Tailgunners, Charlie and Lana. We noticed that their pickup truck was slightly off to the side behind their motorhome, indicating that their tow bar broke. They were aware of it and were in the process of pulling over. We went on ahead until we found a spot and then pulled over, unhooked the Jeep and went back to help them out. Again, I think traveling in a group in these remote areas has proven to be very beneficial.

The truck should be centered behind the motorhome. This is not what you want to see when you look in your rearview camera.

Once we got the truck unhooked they were able to drive separately the rest of the way. Their truck got a few bumps and bruises, but overall, they faired pretty well. They were able to replace the broken bolt in Haines. This is the second person in our group to have a tow bar failure. We are going to make sure that we get ours refurbished after this trip.

After dropping the motorhome off at the Haines Hitch-Up RV Park we drove the Jeep over to the the local cannery and picked up some frozen King Crab Legs, King Salmon and Halibut. I think we will be good on seafood for quite awhile! We then dropped by the Port Chilkoot Distillery. We enjoyed an Old Fashioned drink there. In the evening we drove out to the Chilkat State Park where there are often bear fishing for salmon. We saw a number of fishermen, but no bear.

The following day we took a scenic boat ride from Haines to Juneau, along with a number of other Fantasy Tour participants. We loved the scenery, which included glimpses of Glacier Bay National Park in the distance.

Below is a gallery of landscape photos. Click on the first picture to enlarge and then scroll through the collection.

We passed this scenic lighthouse.

We spotted some Eagles.

Some Oyster Catchers passing by.

Some Porpoise, although they were very hard to catch a photo of. They are very fast and far away.

And a few Humpback Whales. They never came out of the water very much, but they did show off their tails.

And of course Harbor Seals and Sea Birds.

And this adorable Otter which was surprisingly sitting on land.

In Juneau we toured the town and had a fabulous lunch at Twisted Fish. Their Halibut fish tacos are exceptional.

On our last day in Haines I decided to hunker down at the library and work on my photo collection and blog. Charlie visited the Hammer Museum. I guess they have 9,000 different hammers, with 2,000 of them on display. It didn’t take him long to get through the museum, but he said it was interesting.

Haines is a small and quaint town. There are a couple of small food markets, but because Haines is fairly remote the prices are fairly high. I thought about getting a 12 pack of Diet Coke since we prefer American Diet Coke over Canadian but I couldn’t bring myself to pay $10.99 for a 12-pack.

We enjoyed our 3-night stay in Haines and our short visit in Juneau. This was our last stop in Alaska. It is hard to believe that our trip is coming to an end. We left Haines this morning and in less than a week our 62 day Your-Way Alaska Fantasy Tour will conclude. Charlie and I will move onto the last portion of our whirlwind road trip. We’ll be in Jasper in a week, followed by stops in Banff, Glacier, Coeur d’Alene, Bryce, Zion and Albuquerque. Still a lot to see! For the next three weeks we will be in Canada with limited WiFi and no Cell Service so I’m not sure when I’ll get another post done. Maybe we’ll hit a library down the road. Stay tuned 🙂

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Kenai, Palmer and Valdez, Alaska

We stopped one last time at the Wild Honey Bistro in Homer to enjoy a Reindeer Sausage Crepe before heading up the road to Kenai for a three night stay at the Diamond M Ranch Resort.

After setting up the motorhome in Kenai Charlie and I took a drive north along the coastline to the Captain Cook State Recreation Area. Most of the drive was tree-lined, as was the recreation area, so views of Cook Inlet were limited. There are a number of hiking trails and lakes in the recreation area. We just did a drive through, as it was getting late. The next day we took a drive to Cooper Landing via the rustic Skilak Lake Road. This gravel road passes numerous lakes and rivers. It is very forested so there are not a lot of scenic landscapes, but the area is very nice. The lakes are secluded and peaceful, great for spending time on while floating in a kayak or canoe. On the way back from Cooper Landing we stopped at Watson Lake and enjoyed a scenic lunch.

For dinner we joined the Fantasy group for a King Crab leg dinner at the resort. The food was great, as was the setting. We sat outside on their Wildlife Refuge overlook deck and watched some caribou stroll through the field. We spent our last day in Kenai at the library, catching up on my blog posts.

I’ll give a shout out to The Flats Bistro (http://www.theflatsbistro.com/). We went there twice for lunch and found their fish and chips to be fabulous, as were their bacon wrapped dates. We sat on their back porch, which also looks out over the Wildlife Refuge.

Restaurant with a view

From Kenai we headed to Palmer, Alaska. The Fantasy group had a four night stay planned at the Mountain View RV Park and only two nights at our next destination of Valdez. Charlie and I wanted extra time in Valdez so we only stayed one night in Palmer, which was quite sufficient. We spent the one afternoon we had in Palmer at the Independence Mine, an operating gold mine back in the 1930s and early 40s. We strolled around the property for awhile until we found ourselves in the midst of a rain shower. We had wanted to do some sightseeing around Hatcher Pass Summit, just up the road from the mine, but it was a total washout.

In the morning I got my hair cut by Pam at B.Bella in Palmer. She did a fantastic job. After that we headed out for Eagle’s Rest RV Park in Valdez. It was a beautiful drive.

As you approach Glenellen on Alaska Highway 1, otherwise known as Glenn Hwy, you feel as if you are going to run into this spectacular glacier covered mountain.

You pass a number of other glaciers along the way, like the Matanuska Glacier seen below.

Below are photos from Thompson Pass, the summit just before heading down into Valdez.

(Click on the first picture to enlarge and then scroll through them)

With all these glaciers we found no shortage of waterfalls.

We found a river where the water color was a beautiful aqua.

As most people know, Salmon fishing is a huge thing in Alaska. In order to keep the salmon population robust there are a number of salmon fish hatcheries throughout the state. These hatcheries release more than a billion fish each year into Alaskan waters. In the wild only about 10% of fry (baby salmon) survive, compared to 90% of those in the hatcheries. The hatcheries provide a controlled environment until the fry are released and face the same elements as naturally-spawned salmon. If a salmon is born at a hatchery then it will one day return to it to complete its cycle of life. While we were in Valdez we visited the Solomon Gulch Hatchery. We initially visited at low tide and found squawking birds all over the fish. The scene reminded me of two horror movies. The enormous number of salmon swimming about reminded me of the Indiana Jones movie. In particular, the scene with all of the snakes. The squawking birds reminded me of the Alfred Hitchcock movie “The Birds.”  And the stench. Oh the stench. I was less than enamored by the whole scene. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, Charlie had me go back again during high tide. The situation was a little better then, as we could see the fish swimming up the fish ladder. But still, the stench. Anyway, here are a few pictures from our visits to the fish hatchery.

So many salmon!!
And so many birds
Birds and salmon in flight 🙂

A fun activity we did while in Valdez was to canoe on Glacier Lake. This lake is just 10 minutes from town. Charlie’s friend Don Edwards lives in Valdez and offered to lend us his canoe for the day. Joe and Stephanie, co-participants on the Fantasy Tour group joined us, as they had their kayak. It was really neat canoeing around the icebergs. We kept our distance from them, and the glacier itself, for fear of the ice breaking off or of large boulders falling off of them. The week prior three people had died on the lake. They were tourists from Germany. They were all in the same canoe and apparently something happened which tipped their canoe over. The water is so cold that you cannot survive more than a minute or two in it. One of the people had a severe head injury so they suspect they got too close to an iceberg or the glacier and something fell down on him. Very tragic, but the incident scared us enough to stay alert.

We put Moe to good use, hauling the canoe.
Joe and Stephanie
It was really neat canoeing around and through the icebergs.

Prior to going to Valdez I had read that rabbits can be found pretty much everywhere in the small town, just as squirrels are found running around other cities.  Well, it’s true. They can be spotted just about everywhere. They are cute and didn’t bother us a bit.

During our stay we took the Stan Stephens catamaran ride through Prince William Sound to the Meares Glacier. We passed the Columbia Glacier on the way. The Columbia Glacier is a large tidewater glacier, flowing directly into the sea.  It is receding rapidly. Each day a large number of icebergs break away. We passed by many of them. It was kind of eerie and reminded me of Titanic. How could it not, right?

Do you see all of the icebergs in the distance?

Some icebergs were covered with otters and birds, like this one.

The Meares Glacier is also a tidewater glacier, although it is advancing. Its face is about a mile wide, and it is very tall.

With the mountain in the background, and trees in the foreground, you might get some perspective as to the enormous size of the glacier’s face.

The weather was perfect for the boat ride. We even got some good reflections on the area where we had flat water.

We spotted some romantic sea lions.

As well as some adorable otters.

And some harbor seals

And this little guy who decided to pop out of the water for a photoshoot.

We even spotted a couple of puffin floating around.

We passed a large commercial fishing area. This particular boat was pulling in its net. I’m sure they were elated to find it full of fish. Although it would appear to me that they were not paying enough attention to the fact that their boat is nearly under water.

To end our stay we were blessed with a glorious moonrise over a glacier.

We really enjoyed our stay in Valdez. It is an absolutely beautiful area of the country. There’s not a lot to do in the town itself though. It is very small.

We enjoyed catching up with Charlie’s friend Don, as well as meeting his lady friend, Mystie. We’ll be seeing them both again when we get to Albuquerque for the balloon fiesta. Like Charlie, Don is a hot air balloon pilot.

Our next destination, and final stop in Alaska, is Haines. Keep an eye out for that post. I hope to have it done quickly, as we just left Haines this morning.

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Homer, Alaska

OMG!!! I could not wait to get to Homer. Charlie booked a bear sightseeing trip for us out of Homer back in April. Since then I had been anxiously waiting for the trip to materialize. I was so excited about getting close to the grizzly bears and photographing them fishing for salmon along the river in the Katmai National Preserve.

We booked our trip with Beluga Air (http://www.belugaair.com). It is a small family owned business. Wes owns and flies the plane while his wife Angela works the back office. The plane holds 4-5 customers and a bear guide. They did a phenomenal job and we always felt safe; in the air and in the river with the bears.

Wes landed the float plane on a small lake (Crosswind Lake) in the northern part of the Katmai National Preserve, just east of the larger Kukaklek Lake. The bears were prominent in this area.

Our bear guide directed us towards a quiet area of the river, away from the other photographers and fishermen, which can be seen in the photo above. Within the first 5 minutes of reaching the riverbank we saw two bears get into a battle over a salmon. You could hear the roars. It was an awesome sight to see!

We saw a baby bear scratching its back on the mama bear. So cute!

We watched the bears for hours. While we ate lunch on the river bank there were 6 bears very close to us either napping or fishing. This bear got lucky and pulled out a salmon.

There were some fishermen in the river, as this is a highly regarded place to fish for trout. The bears do not want the trout, only the salmon. However, the bear doesn’t know what is on the hook when you pull a fish out of the river so I think it is pretty foolish to fish near the bears. This fisherman thought he’d give it a shot though.

It was an AMAZING experience!!! If you’d like to see more of my grizzly bear pictures, and in full resolution, you can check out my photography website. (http://www.schobelphotography.com).

The scenery to/from Katmai is amazing as well.

After that experience Homer moved to the top of my favorite Alaska destinations! And as if that wasn’t enough, we went Halibut fishing the next day and I caught 2 large Halibut. Unfortunately, the Alaska fishing license only allows you to keep one Halibut 28″ or larger on a commercial vessel on any particular day. So, I had to throw this 31″ guy back into the sea. I cried :-(.

But I did get to keep this one, which produced 10.5 pounds of nice Halibut filets. Yummy!!

Charlie did not catch one fish, nor did most of the guys on our boat. It seemed to be lady’s day, as most ladies went home with a catch.

We stayed at the Heritage RV Park during our 5 night stay in Homer. It is located right on the spit and has great views. When the tide goes out the eagles come in. I could watch for them while looking out the windshield of the motorhome and then go down and snap some photos.

Homer’s Spit
Snacking on a piece of salmon
Giving me the Eagle Eye

We had a great view of the Kachemack Bay State Park mountain range.

Fishing right in front of the RV park was very popular. You can see the fishermen lined up in the photo below.

There are numerous shops and restaurants along the spit. The most notable one is the Salty Dawg. The Salty Dawg started out as one of the first cabins in Homer, built in 1897. It served as home to many different businesses over the years until it became the Salty Dawg saloon in the late 1950s. It is quite unique.

The ceiling and walls are covered with dollar bills that the patrons sign and leave. If you are wondering why they leave the dollar bills, well, I guess it’s just the thing to do if you visit the Salty Dawg. When they fall off the owner collects them and donates them to a local charity.

Along our walk we came upon this most unique, and cute, motorhome. It sits amongst the restaurants and shops on the spit.

We were blessed with beautiful skies the first evening we were in Homer so we found a great place to capture the landscape, looking over the fireweed to the mountains of the Kachemak State Park.

Another thing of interest that we did while in Homer was visit the Kilcher Homestead. Charlie and I had never seen the “Alaska: The Last Frontier” show on the Discovery Channel but a number of people in our group had and they suggested we visit the homestead. We arrived in time to participate in their 10:00am tour. It was led by one of the Kilcher daughters, Stellavera. She took us into the cabin she grew up in and told us all about her childhood, living on the homestead, her parents, her brothers who are on the show, the challenges of growing up the way she and her 7 siblings did, etc. It was quite informative and interesting. It was funny though when she went around the room asking what everybody’s favorite part of the series was. Charlie and I had to fess up that we’d never seen it. It’s hard to believe that the parents, 6 girls and 2 boys lived in this small cabin. Really hard to believe.

As a side note, the singer Jewel is Stellavera’s niece. She grew up on the homestead. She was coming into town and singing with her father, Atz. They were scheduled to perform at a local bar the day after we left. Tickets were only $20. We were sad to miss it.

There were 2 children to a bunk, although that covers only 6 of the 8 kids. Maybe by the time the others were born they moved to a bigger cabin. Not sure.
Running water for the sink, but no bathroom. No toilet. No shower. And this was in the 1950s.
Stellavera talked about how, after 30 years of living this way, her mother divorced her father and married another man from Homer. They traveled around the lower 48 until settling in TN. She finally got her bathroom! Stellavera’s father was a senator and traveled all the time so he stayed in nice hotels, etc. When he came home he liked the simple life of the homestead.

The views from the homestead are amazing!

After a great stay in Homer we headed to the northwest area of the Kenai Peninsula, to the city of Kenai. On the way there we had good views of the largely volcanic Aleutian mountain range.

And we passed some beautiful fields of fireweed.

Other notable activities:

We enjoyed breakfast twice at the Wild Honey Bistro. It was delicious! Both times we got the Deja Vu crepe. The crepe is stuffed with reindeer breakfast sausage, green apples, caramelized onions, scrambled egg and white cheddar.

We had heard from numerous people that the cinnamon buns at The Two Sisters bakery were fabulous so of course we had to try them. We headed up there late in the afternoon one day, only to find that they were sold out of them. We went back on Saturday morning, only to discover that the cafe was closed, as were numerous other places, due to the Salmon Music Festival being held in Ninilchik Alaska. So, we never got to taste the famous buns.

One evening we went to dinner at Patti’s, on the spit. We both got the grilled Seafood Platter. It was OK. Nothing to write home about.

We toured the Pratt Museum, which we found fairly boring.

On our way to the Kilcher Homestead we stopped by a cute general store in Fritz Creek. They had hot cinnamon rolls so of course we had to have one. It was pretty good. I can only assume it was not nearly as good as the Two Sisters’ bun would have been.

If you like bagels, check out “The Bagel Shop” on East End Rd. Their organic bagels are made on-site daily and are excellent, as is their soup.

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to the Alaska Islands & Ocean Visitor Center, just down the street from Homer’s visitor center. The displays and movies are very well done. We highly suggest you check it out if you go to Homer.

That about sums up our stay in Homer. We have memories from our stay there to cherish forever.

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Seward, Alaska

We spent 4 nights at the Stoney Creek RV Park in Seward, a beautiful area at the tip of the Kenai Fjords National Park. The main feature of this national park is the 700-square mile Harding Icefield. Nearly 40 glaciers flow from this icefield.

Shortly after parking the motorhome we ventured into town. We took a tour of the local aquarium. I thought it was a little over-priced considering they do not have a lot of exhibits. However, the exhibits they do have are very well done.

We enjoyed dinner at The Cookery with Dom and Kathleen, a couple from the Fantasy tour group. It was fabulous! The Halibut was cooked to perfection and was beautifully presented. Highly recommend this restaurant!

It rained all day the next day so we hunkered down and got some stuff done around the RV. The following day we went on an all-day glacier boat tour with Major Marine. We loved it! The crew was great, as was the scenery and wildlife. The captain made sure we had adequate time to view the wildlife once somebody spotted something. We spent nearly an hour stopped at the Northwestern Glacier in the Kenai Fjords National Park. We enjoyed watching and hearing the glacier calving and breaking off into the water.

The wildlife was plentiful along our way. We spotted lots of Otter.

A lot of Orca whales.

And Sea lions that looked like they had had a very hard day. LOL.

And a beautiful eagle.

And a Fin whale, which is rare to see. This type of whale can be as large as 68 ft long and over 100,000 lbs. This particular one was huge!

We saw lots of puffins on the boat tour and in Seward. I love puffins!

Horned Puffin
Tufted Puffin

We came across a busy sea bird ‘condo’ where babies were being watched over closely by their parents.

Spotted this little guy too.

Charlie enjoyed chatting with the captain and having a front row seat.

On another day we decided to join a small group and hike the Exit Glacier. The Exit Glacier is the only part of the huge Kenai Fjords National Park that is accessible by vehicle. As you approach the glacier you see posts noting where the glacier once terminated at a particular year. It is amazing to see how much it has receded over time.

It was a strenuous hike and a long day, but I’m glad we did it. We hiked 7 miles with nearly a 2,000 mile elevation gain. Much of the elevation and distance was on the ice field where we had to wear crampons. The ice feels like shards of glass melded together. It is very abrasive to the touch. Our guides made sure we were cautious and did not get too close to the crevices. It was pretty cool looking down some of them though.

We had perfect weather for the hike. At the base we were in t-shirts. On the glacier we had sweaters and jackets on. The scenery was spectacular from the glacier.

These pictures, each with a number of hikers in them, might give you a little perspective of the size of the glacier. Click on the first picture to enlarge. In the center of it you’ll see half a dozen people.

The hike to the glacier offered up some beautiful scenery as well, especially with the purple fireweed.

We really enjoyed Seward and hope to return one day.

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