Tuesday, June 9, 2009


Second day in Homer, first day was fishing.  We camped on the Spit that day (a peninsula that runs out from Homer). Took a two hour nap and woke up with a hangover. Had to wash all of our clothes, coats, gloves, rain pants, and take two showers to get the stink off, then fell back into bed.

Got up later than we wanted, but felt better! Went Tidepooling, where Sandy had an issue with her camera, involving saltwater. May have to buy a new one…….. Went and saw “The Time Bandit” (from Discovery’s “Deadliest Catch”).

 Got to the Exit Glacier in the evening, but still got the hike in. We were able to get right up and touch the ice, got pictures. Oh, and we saw a Grizzly Bear!
 We stopped and watched this bear along side the road, and he worked his way right up along side Sandy’s door! He was about 5 feet away from the camper door, just eating weeds along the road.  He must have been 3 or 4 years old, not a real big guy yet. They stay with the mother until they are 2 years old, but this one was out of the house. Sandy thinks this one topped the Eagles. Oh, he was so cute………..!  

Set up camp just outside Exit Glacier National Park, at a trail head parking lot. BBQed some Halibut tonight, good stuff. I tried to attract some more bears with the BBQ fish, but no one showed up for dinner. Fixed a new drink that we learned on the 26 Glacier Cruise, The Klondike Bear, Hot Chocolate, half a shot of Baileys, half a shot of Irish Whiskey.  That goes down so smooooooooth……..

Got to Seward in time for a Geocache. Then went on the Kenai Fjords Cruise.  Saw whales (humpback), killer whales (Orcas), lots of different birds, more Glaciers. It was a 6 hour boat ride, but good information. After that we explored where they are fishing at the mouth of a small river. They are snagging the fish and coming out with limits. Sandy wants to try this, if we can find the time.

Then went up stream to a fish weir, where they are counting the fish as they swim upstream. This weir is like a fence across the stream, and only one little gate is open. The fish are all jumping, trying to get over the fence, only to get knocked back, some on the rocky shore, flopping around until they get back in the water, to try again. Back across the road before the weir, there is a traffic jam, fish all lined up in the water, waiting their turn to get up stream. Some had wounds from fish hooks down at the mouth of the river. The ones who make it through the gate end up in an elevator where they raise it up every 15 minutes to net the fish, count them, then release them on the high side of the fence. It’s like a little pond on the high side, and the fish are all resting before the next leg of their journey. You can see them packed in there just marking time in the current. I got to net the last one and release him in the pond. Very interesting! When the Salmon start up the river from salt water to fresh, their body changes as they mature sexually. The males get a real pronounced hook in their nose, and the female get rounder with eggs. The further up the stream they will change color to a bright red. They are not good to eat when this happens, their meat is all mushy. The fish spawn and then die. I hear the streams all skink with dead fish for a long time after that. The bears come along and just eat the heads and throw the rest away, they say the brains have the most fat and that is what the bears want to put on weight for winter. They are going to limit the amount of fish that can spawn so as not to put to much pressure on the up stream ecosystem. Remaining fish will be sold off to cannery for research funding. They had a whole tank of Coho Salmon fry that they will release soon. Coho are not native to this area, but a great sport fish that they are establishing. The fry are one year old fish about 4” long. Most Salmon go to sea for two years before coming back to die. Coho are ferocious eaters and will grow to full length (24” +) within one year, to come back to spawn.

Getting to bed early tonight, have a big hike tomorrow.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Homer and Halibut fishing

We checked out the Eagles this morning, they were all down on the beach dining on fish carcasses that had washed up. A leisurely drive to Homer got us in for Lunch. We explored the town, bought a tripod at Radio Shack, and got our stuff packed for the allnighter.  We had reservations with Alaska Coastal Marine for a two day trip.

We checked in at the boat and stowed our stuff in a bunk. Had a little safety briefing and off we went, three and a half hour run, about 50 miles down and around the Kenai Peninsula, about half way to Seward. It got pretty rough when we went around the Peninsula into open water. I won't tell you about bunch of Oil Rig guys who were on the boat with us, well maybe I will.  Nice guys, but the young ones were filing up with greasy KFC and beer when we started out.  After we hit the rough water, they were chumming over the side.  When we got set up for fishing it wasn't too bad, but windy and cold. It was a big boat, but there were 31 of us fishing and because we didn't want lines going under the boat we were all on one side, about 3 foot apart. We had about 3 coats on, ski gloves, and rain pants to cut the wind, it was tolerable. We started fishing at 7pm and fished all night until about 9am.

We didn't get anything before 3am, well Sandy got a starfish. We watched the sunset about 1am, but we could see the skyline all night long, it wasn't real black. About 3am the sun started lighting up the horizon, and the fish started biting! All during the night we had 3 deck hands baiting our hooks and helping out, but now we had the second Captain doing it by himself, although only about half of us die-hards were fishing. This poor guy was running his ass off, after a few hours he woke up the first Captain to help. Sandy and I got 20 to 30 pound fish and got our limit of 8 by 7am (limit of 2 per day, but we couldn't tell time at that late hour). One guy got two 100 pound fish!  Halibut can get up into the 300# range (but anything over 100# isn't too good to eat). They had a 4’X4’X4’ box on deck where they put the fish., by morning when they would throw a fish in, it would be flopping all around and the lid would be bouncing off.  It turned out to be a good day at sea.

Come to find out, this was the first overnight trip for this boat this year, so I think they were still figuring out where the big ones were. Homer is having a Halibut derby during the summer and they pay out for the biggest each month,  then a grand prize at the end, 186# was the record so far this year, last year was 347#.

One guy pulled up about a 6 foot Ling Cod, they couldn't keep it because it was not in season, but if it happed to jump in the boat, then it was OK. So they opened the door and tried to reel him in. He got half way in the boat and then spit out this smaller (18 inch) Grey Cod that the guy had hooked. So this Ling Cod had grabbed on and came up for the ride. Wild times!

The crew was good. Two kids had hired on with this trip, they worked hard but I don’t know if they made the cut. The first mate was a girl! And she was good. I told the Captain later that she deserved a raise. She was always right in the action and on the trip home she filleted a majority of the fish.. Now, I don’t know how they do it, but sharp knives on a rolling, fish slimy deck just doesn't sound safe to me! But no one cut off a finger that day.

It was a great trip!  And those nice Alaska coats we bought on the way up worked great!  But boy did they smell like fish guts today!!  But they washed up great and we sill ware them today!

Sorry for the lack of pictures on this trip, but somebody dropped the camera in a tide pool, and when we found it two hours later,,,,,,,,, it was toast.  You know, there just isn't a Best Buy on every corner in Alaska!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Sleeping with the Eagles tonight

Ninilchik, AK, Deep Creek State Rec Area: Lat 60.046915, Lon -151.670732

We pulled into this State Recreation Area about 9pm. Oh, did I tell you that we went to bed last night at midnight and it was still light out? Not bright light, but you could walk all around without a flashlight! So anyway, this campground is a little better than most State Camps we’ve seen (which were narrow parking slots that you paid $10 for), we have the Cook Inlet on one side, a small river and meadow on the opposite side, a tall bluff with someone’s house made to look like a Lighthouse on the end, very picturesque!

Looking out over Cook Inlet we can see Mount Redoubt Volcano with a steam plume going on. We were able to camp at the end, near the river and bluff towering over us. In the river, meadow,and soaring above the bluff are at least a dozen Eagles (I counted 12, but may be more). Sandy was in heaven, ran the batteries down on both cameras! These were adults and juvy’s, again dog-fighting, soaring, diving, bathing in the river, perched on stumps, looking all majestic. Our fishing guide said he has watched these guys, and to him they are pretty clumsy, and not much better than Vultures, and they hang out at garbage dumps. I can see where he gets this opinion. The juvy’s are all molted browns and do look like a Vulture. These guys in the meadow next to us look fat, like turkeys, and I hear they eat scraps from the fish cannery in town. These guys look well fed, and so far all I’ve seen them do is play!

Their nest is about three foot in diameter. We’ve seen
several nests with the mother sitting. Did you know that President Washington wanted the National bird
to be the Turkey? One place on the river we saw about 8 Eagles, on the bank and in the air, about half
were juveniles. An Eagle does not get the white head and tail feathers until they are about 4 years old.
I saw several Eagles dog-fighting and one pair of juveniles with their talons locked together wings spread out in a slow spiral heading for the river. After their game of Chicken, they released and climbed out to
continue dog-fighting.

Sandy dragged me outside for a walk on the beach. I can see my breath! The weather has turned, in just an hour. It looks like a stormy night on the water……. The Eagles are down on the beach, near the water line as the tide is coming in, the Seagulls are harassing one but leaves the pack alone.

It’s 11pm and it looks like 7pm in Dallas, Eagles still soaring, bathing in the river… Don’t they have a nest to go to? All in all, a good day. I think Sandy is going to sleep with the Eagles tonight…….

It’s midnight and we are getting ready for bed, although it’s still light out. The parking lot is starting to fill up and guys are walking towards the river like Zombies, all dressed in green. What the hell is going on? So, we got dressed and followed them, must be some Alaskan Clan meeting……. They are lining up along the river, some are in it; the green dress are waders. Then the tide comes in and the water in the river reverses course and flows up, and these guys are all working rods like fly fishing, but not, they are using Salmon eggs and casting up to let it drift down, then repeating. OK, mystery solved, time for bed. The next morning the midnight crew had left but a new day shift showed up. I talked with a few guys and it was determined that the Kings have not arrived in force yet.
It was a beautiful day........

Thursday, June 4, 2009


We got off the Cruise ship in Whittier.  Why Whittier, there is nothing there!?  There is one hotel right off the dock, but you can't stay there, it is for the cruise ship and town employees only.  That's ok, there is not much else here, but we do come back for some really cool excursions!  We had a coupon for a buy one get one, shuttle into Anchorage.  So the reason ALL the Cruise ships stop here is so they would not have to spend another two days going around the peninsula to Anchorage, it's cheaper to bus you into town from here.

We got to Anchorage and picked up our RV rental we had booked for 4 weeks.  Great Alaskan Holidays is a great place to rent your RV from.  All units are 2 years old or newer!  We picked up a 31' Winnebago Class C, (I think all their units are Winnebago's) complete with generator, all the manuals if you have to trouble shoot, a few basic tools, good instruction video. On the road, no problems. Camped half way to Whittier, just pulled off the road in a nice secluded spot.  Oh, after this trip, I was informed we MUST get a generator.  Well, we did, for about a year, then we upgraded from a fifth-wheel to a '08 Winnebago Tour.  So this Alaskan trip was pretty expensive..........

The next day, our Milepost book, pointed us to Portage Glacier, "Take the 5.5 mile spur road to Begich-Boggs Visitor center. To take the hike, take the road toward Whittier, it branches off to the left just before the Visitors Center. Stop at the pullout just beyond the first toll free tunnel.  Take a short 1 mile hike to Byron Glacier". 

Very nice Visitor Center, nice folks, got the whole story on the three Glaciers we could see there. Hiked part way up to Byron, could go all the way up and touch it, but we did not have on good water proof shoes at the time. Windy down at the Vis Center, but once on the trail we were sheltered, and quickly got hot!

On our way to Whittier we had to go through a tunnel.  We went through this just yesterday on the way to Anchorage, but now we get to drive it ourselves. Cost us $12 for round trip through the tunnel, what a deal! This tunnel is a one way train track 2.5 miles long, north bound cars are on the hour, for 15 minutes, then 15 minutes for a train; south bound cars are on the half hour for 15 minutes, then 15 for a train. The tracks are built up like a RR crossing, but still a little squirrelly driving on them.

We got to Whittier and boarded another Cruise!  A 26 Glacier Cruise

The Glacier Cruise was worth it! Fast boat, went way out, we saw Sea Otter, Harbor Seals, one Whale,
Eagles, and oh yea- 26 Glaciers. We got up real close as they were Caving, a little concerned as the boat went through the ice burgs (Titanic style). We had a Forest Service Guide on board to give us the whole history of the Glaciers, all the flowers and animals in the area. Very informative!