I thought I would get this done in one post but I realized quickly that it would take a couple! This is part II focusing on our trip in Alaska (Summer 2010). If you want to read a bit about the first part of the trip (Anchorage to Denali National Park to Seward), read this post: http://www.sqlskills.com/blogs/kimberly/post/Where-in-the-World-summary-and-other-photography-related-stuff!.aspx.
As for the last few days of this part of our trip we ended up in Homer, AK. The drive from Seward to Homer isn't as stunning when it's not along the coasts (the first half is but the 2nd half – not so much!) but there are a few really beautiful spots along the way. This is the Ninilchik lighthouse about 40 miles north of Homer on the Kenai Peninsula:
However, by the time we got to Homer, it was raining…again. We had beautiful weather for the day we did the Kenai Fjords Tour and I feared that the weather was gone. Everyone with whom we spoke said that this summer's weather had been about the worst they can remember. Even our Kenai Fjords tour captain said it was the first day in roughly 60 where he had seen sun on the Aialik Glacier. So, we thought we were doomed to have rain and nasty weather for the rest of the trip.
Amazingly (and luckily), we were wrong. The sun came back out and after we settled in at the Land's End Resort on the Homer Spit the kids were on the beach – for hours! As expected, we completely lost track of time and around 10pm we realized that it was so late (and still light out) that it was time to get ready for bed! Our next day included heading out to Katmai National Park to view bears and we wanted to make sure we weren't tired. However, we weren't scheduled to take off until late afternoon so we knew it wasn't going to be a problem.
As for the Land's End Resort – this was our favorite place to stay of our entire trip and we will go back there. The beach front lodges allowed for separate bedrooms for everyone and we had a washer/dryer in the lodge (which was very helpful 8 days into the trip!) as well as a fully stocked kitchen/fridge, etc. The prices of the lodges were more than reasonable given their quality and we could not beat the location and the views! We would DEFINITELY recommend it to anyone and it will be a place that we return to again and again (we hope!!).
In Homer itself, there are all sorts of places to visit but a "must-stop" is at Boardwalk Bakery to see Jackie and have some of her famous pastries! If you get there early enough there are all sorts of choices! And, you'll love Jackie. There's also the Salty Dawg Saloon where you'll have to deface a dollar and post it on the walls. There must be thousands in there! Above all however, you MUST visit the folks at K-Bay Air. They're located right next door to the Boardwalk Bakery and their trips out to Katmai National Park with Michael and co CANNOT BE MISSED!!! If you don't believe me – check out their numerous fantastic reviews on TripAdvisor here: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g31009-d1173531-Reviews-K_Bay_Air_Bear_Viewing-Homer_Alaska.html. Even the flight-seeing was spectacular as we flew over glaciers, mountains, volcanos, stunning bays, little towns and all sorts of different waterways.
Here are a few pics on the way out the Katmai National Park (KNP):
The Homer Spit:
Mountains and glaciers and bays – oh my!
This is Fourpeaked Glacier:
This is the river delta at Halo Bay (south of Fourpeaked Glacier) and it's where we were about to spend 3.5 hours watching bears. If you look closely you can see at least a few bears (yes, those spots are bears!!) in this pic!
Finally, we landed on the beach (with large tires setup for this kind of landing) and we walked in about 1/2 mile to where the river delta has lots of salmon. We were lucky with the salmon as well as it was a late season and we got there when they were really running. We proceeded to find a female with a single cub and then we watched her fish. We started calling her "Mean Momma" after she continued to leave her cub and wander off hunting. At points we estimated that she was 1/4-1/2 mile away from her little guy – who was often standing up and crying. She also fished – and caught – 5 salmon in front of us and each time the cub would wander over to get food. She would turn away and keep eating. It wasn't until the 4th or 5th salmon when she actually fed the little guy. However, by the end of the day the cub had eaten and been nursed so we're not so sure of her moniker. Below are the pictures of "Mean Momma" and her cub. At one point we thought a large eagle was sizing the little guy up for it's own potential dinner (ok, not really but it certainly was close and stayed close to that cub for quite some time!).
This is "Mean Momma"
Here she is really haming it up!
She was pretty good at fishing!
But she really didn't want to share:
And she often left the cub to fend for himself:
But, in the end, she nursed the little guy:
And, at the very end of the day she was heading straight for us and I snapped this one:
And, since I'm sure a few of you are wondering – how close were we? What kind of rifle did our guide have… first and foremost, NO RIFLE… no barriers! Just a real understanding of behaviors. While Grizzly attacks can happen there have never been documented attacks on groups of 6 or more and our group was prepped with information to help us react positively and not invite an attack. I was truly impressed with Michael and co. from K-Bay Air and not ONCE did I feel threatened or scared. This is somewhat amazing given that "Mean Momma" was probably only 30+ feet away in this shot (above) and she seems to be heading straight for me. But, she was so focused on salmon and I didn't have any! Just to give you a bit better perspective – here are two shots that Michael (from K-Bay) took of us:
The entire day was wonderful and I will never forget it! We took it easy the following day and just hung out on the beach and wandered about the spit! What a wonderful place – thanks Homer!!
And, after another day we drove up to ANC to get the kids on a flight back down to Seattle. Ironically, when we first told the kids about the trip we were very hesitant about how they'd react to flying "unaccompanied" and so we told them that we could make other arrangements, etc. if they were nervous, etc. And, even after we told them about the bears, the helicopter and all of our planned tours – what was the first thing they told their friends? "We get to fly back without parents!!"
In the end, I think their memories will be of the animals and the stunning scenery. I know mine are!
Next, after the kids were safely on their way back to Seattle – Paul and I headed to ANC to meet with our group going to Russia. That will have ot be another post for another day!
Thanks for reading,