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.
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.
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.