Day 31 – Another National Park

bearBy now you know that I am a big supporter of National Parks, Monuments, anything.  I particularly like the big natural spaces set aside, these seem most representative of the west, but I am beginning to really appreciate the history set aside in the east.  Alaska is unique all in itself.  There are so many wide open spaces, carved from the mountains, isolated by the weather, lack of roads, desolateness of the area.  Add that to it’s remoteness from the Lower 48 and you can find space anywhere to breathe, really breathe.

It’s the end of the season in Alaska, the tourists are slim, the stores are closing, the rain has come and the temperatures are dropping. Even the rangers at the Visitor’s Center are talking about where they are headed next.  The place has an emptiness about it, as does the community of Seward.  It feels like everyone is holding their breath, waiting for the harshness of winter to set in.

Kenai Fjords is the National Park on the outskirts of town, it’s purpose is to preserve and protect the Harding icefields and glaciers.  Fjords are the water valleys created by the melting glaciers, and they are definitely melting.  Photographs tell the story best, the retreating of the ice over the course of the last 100 years.  Exit Glacier is the easiest to get to by land, it is beautiful and serene, the blue glaze from the captured sunlight in the ice is spectacular, seen even in the small pieces that have calved off the main glacier.  Easily one of the most peaceful places I have been.

Back in to Seward, we went by the Sea Life Center where we took our grandson earlier in the week, window-shopped the local stores in the rain, and drove out to the ends of the roads.  First on to the east side of the bay, then the road on the west side, here was where I encountered my third bear in the wild EVER.  The two times before, I had seen them crossing roads, this time, he was sitting in a tree.  It was raining a little and we had seen a cluster of people gathered, so we stopped to see what they were looking at.  What appeared to be a mild mannered black bear was sitting about 30 feet up in a tree, trying to get comfortable on his perch.  To be able to see such a creature in the wild is a rare treat.  I know it happens a lot in Alaska, but not to me, I was thrilled.

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Day 33 – Just for the Halibut

fishHomer, Alaska, the Halibut Capital of the World.  Me, five men, a fishing boat and some bait.  Early Saturday morning, we got up early, just for the halibut.  My step-son arranged with his father-in-law for us to go out on a halibut boat, the Alaskan Dream, with Captain Verne and his buddy, Don, Jeff, Lil Rich and Big Rich and me.  The rest of them were buddies from work, they were kind enough to include Big and I in the day.

The drive from Kenai to Homer was uneventful, we left the dock a little after 8 in the morning on our way to “Compass Rose.”  Verne’s honey hole.  The place where the fish were hiding.  The rain was just spitting, the wind was creating some wave action, but nothing serious.  We were on our way.  We made a couple of stops before we caught the turn of the tide and the fish started biting.  Lil’ Rich had explained halibut fishing before we went out, he said it was like reeling up a barn door, and he was right.

Techniques in fishing are as wide and varied as the kinds of fish you want to catch.  In halibut fishing, you drop your bait (ours was small fish – I don’t remember the kind and squid) to the bottom hoping to bonk the halibut on the head.  Your bait just bounces along the bottom hoping to attract their attention.  Halibut are a lazy fish, so you have to be close.

My first fish on, I was still dropping my line when he hit, I probably continued to drop another 50 feet because I didn’t recognize I had a fish on.  Capt. Verne played the Fish On song for me as I started to reel him in.  It took a while, it’s not that he was very big, I’m just not very strong and I wasn’t going to ask for help.  By the time I got him on the boat, I was pretty pleased with myself.  I had caught a fish.  First fish for me in a very long time, first halibut ever!

By the end of the day, we had caught 9, all pretty good size, good enough to create a nice freezer package and have some to eat fresh.  The Captain and his crew filleted them right there at the dock and we packed the cooler full.  We had a blast, Jeff caught the biggest fish, I caught the most and we laughed all day long.  The stories told were outrageous, just what you would expect on an Alaskan fishing trip, I can’t wait to do it again.

 

Day 35 – Grandkids

kidsWe are so fortunate that we have the family that we do. We drove out of Anchorage today down to the city of Kenai to be greeted by two of the sweetest little faces.  We have a total of three grandchildren, two in Alaska and one in Idaho.  I wouldn’t trade a single one.  I am fortunate enough to have been married in to their lives, the two in Alaska, when I married Rich; I got Jacob when Kayla got married.  I am so lucky.

Payten is just over a year old; she is crawling and kind of walking; her favorite toy is her purple turtle.  She is super sweet, her facial expressions are the best.  Whenever Grandpa asks her for a kiss, she wrinkles up her nose and says “nooooo”, but she says it so dang cute, with a little New Jersey twang.  Grandpa just laughs. It took her a minute to warm up to us, but now she crawls all over us.

Austin is 3 ½; we have known him well since he was born.  Austin came to live with us when he was about six weeks old.  For the first few months he moved back and forth between our son’s house and ours.  When he was six months old, he moved in to our house with his mom for the next nine months.  We got to know him well.  As we sat at dinner that first night, he looked over and said “I love you Grandma.”  I love that kid, he is so dang sweet.

I think the most generous thing anyone can do is open up their home to you.  We’ve been staying with Rich and Brittany for the week, interrupting their routine, throwing off the kids’ schedule, we’ve got our own room, but anytime you have family in your house, I know it’s not easy.  Of course, this gives us great access to the grandkids, and that is why we are here, to get to know them, to make sure they know us.

I love our family, those that I’m currently with and all the others.  But for this week, I’m going to love on those babies and enjoy every one of those hugs and kisses I can coax out of them this week.

Day 36 – Alaska by midnight

texasToday is the start of our vacation….we often get days away, in between events, but during the season…and it’s not the end of the season yet, getting a real vacation is hard to come by.  We planned this trip to Alaska to see our grandkids.  It’s been a year since we saw the little ones and we just couldn’t wait anymore.

We have the truck parked near Dallas so our friends could help us out with watching the cat.  So this morning we got up early and headed out to do some quick errands.  They say that everything is bigger in Texas, so I guess we shouldn’t have been surprised when everything was over the top…everywhere we went.

First stop was a boot repair shop just outside of Wylie, the place looked like it hasn’t seen paint in the last 15 years, probably longer.  I told Big, I had to go in with him.  The place was just as I expected, it was over the top.  I swear if anyone moved anything in the place, the roof was caving in.  Next stop, the WalMart, always a treat, if I could avoid that store, I would, but I needed to pick up some cat food to make sure Callie was handled ok.  Standing in line, I watched one clerk watch another one with the MOST disgusted look on her face before she took over the register, wow! was all I could think.

The next stop was the Starbucks, Big and I both have an affinity for vanilla lattes, but we don’t speak Starbuck.  I can never remember how to order a large –you know the biggest – that’s what large used to stand or, so we ended up with tiny little Frappacinos, because we didn’t know how to order blended lattes.  Someday I might learn how to order, but I have to learn the language first.

Up to this point, I was just kind of in awe at all that I was seeing, and then we hit the McDonald’s drive-thru, always a treat.  The girl who took our order was interesting, she noticed the mud on our Jeep and said “You went mudding with out me?”  We smiled, told her we got the mud in Georgia, she looked back at us and said, and I sh** you not…”that was just incredibly and horribly wong”  Yep, wong! “Next time, you have to take me!”  We smiled and moved to the next window.

I was so happy to get to the airport and get on the plane…let’s hope Alaska is a little less over the top.