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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