Troutbirder II

Troutbirder II
Click on Mark Twain to jump to Troutbirders book review blog

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Alaska Diary - Finis

June 28, 2000. Anchorage Alaska. Returning to Anchorage from the Kenai Peninsula, we follow the Turnagin Arm of the Cook Inlet. An interesting stop is made at the Portage Glacier before we arrive in the city. Here we spend 4 days camping in the front yeard of some friends. They graciously give us the grand tour of Anchorage with museum visits, restaurants, shopping expeditions et. all. A highlight for the guys was to tour Elmendorf Air Force base, where our host teaches night classes. In the days before 9/11, security restrictions were  quite minimal, as we pretty much can go anyplace. Another visit takes us to the main seaplane and private airport. There are literally thousands of planes as this is the main mode of transportation throughout about 95 percent of the state.

On our return trip to the "lower forty-eight" we retrace some ground seeing even more wildlife. Then we take a new route which bring us to Jasper National Park and Lake Louise in Canada.  From there we head south for some fun stops in my favorite fishing grounds in Montana. That's, however, another story

When we finally return to Minnesota, somewhat exhausted, but exhilerated, at our epic journey, the odometer had turned  over 9,000 miles on this trip. Troutbirder quotes General McArthur by saying "I shall return." Mrs. T agrees adding the caveat "we will do the inland passage cruise thing... but only when we're old." It's on our list of "to do's" but not quite yet!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Alaska Diary: Homer - Part XII

Day 18: Tuesday, Jun 27, 2000
Heading toward our destination southwest across the Kenai Peninsula we crossed the Russian River, where there are a number of giant National Forest Campgrounds with campsites all full and with people lined shoulder to shoulder along the river catching salmon. Not my idea of camping/flyfishing. So we move on.
And then there was Homer.  No, not he of the ancient Greeks and Trojan War, but of fishing - The Halibut Fishing Capitol of the World.  

Homer is on the shore of Kachemak Bay, part of Cook Inlet. Its most distinguishing feature is the Homer Spit, a narrow 4.5 mi  long gravel bar that extends into the bay, on which is located the Homer Harbor. Halibut and salmon sport fishing, along with tourism, commercial fishing, and logging are the dominant industries.  I checked out a Halibut Charter at $200 per person per day and you had to have four people to head out. My three land loving non fishing traveling companions didn't seem very enthusiastic ....  So much for catching the big one in Alaska.  I ordered Halibut for dinner that night in a very fine restaurant on the Spit...:)
That afternoon we had visited the home of friends of our friends Gary and Rosie. Gary had grown up in Winona, Minnesota and so had Jack.  Jack and his son Gary were commercial fisherman and as we sat along with Jacks wife Linda  in their gorgeous  log home the men  regaled us with stories of their work. It was all reminiscent of a later program on cable TV called Deadliest Catch. Jack built his own log home, did his own stained glass windows and much of the furniture.  My most fond  memory of the house was the bedroom view, thru a huge window, of the town, the bay and across the water of a series of mountain peaks
Later we head back to our campground and meander through Anchor Point Recreation Area - the most northwesterly point you can reach by car from the lower forty-eight.   We hike the beach and see countless eagles, and wildflowers, a smoking volcano in the distance knowing that this point was halfway on our journey.  Tomorrow on to Anchorage for four days  and then turning south to head for home....


Monday, April 20, 2015

Alaska Diary: On To Cook Inlet & Homer - Part XI

And so reluctantly  closing up our Palomino pop-up camper we left Seward and headed southwest further down the Kenai Peninsula toward the Cook Inlet and eventually the famous fishing town of Homer. I've run out of superlatives to describe the scenery and of course the photos hardly grasp the grandeur. Still take a look....
And mile after mile...... all breath taking.
As you may know Alaska has a Inuit (Eskimo) and Athabasca Indian heritage.   The first people who would permanently stay in the Indian hunting and fishing camp  were Russian colonists who moved there from Kodiak Island in 1847 before the Alaska Purchase. The village is known today as Ninilichek .  The Russian influence is quite evident in the Orthodox Church
In a totally irreverent and irrelevant conclusion to todays post my files came up with this picture taken of what a local Alaskan described to me as a Alaska pipeline "pig"
or  "reamer" . It is sent on its way thru the pipeline to clear out sludge and other matter which might block the flow of precious oil to the lower forty eight.
The newer models don't weigh a ton but still
I couldn't help but reflect upon the fact that I'm due for a colonoscopy later this week.   Ouch!......;)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Alaska Diary - Seward Part X

Day 13: Thursday, June 22, 2000
We head onto the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska's vacationland. The Turnagin Arm is a large but shallow inlet dominated by high tides. Very interesting. Our goal is Seward, a major tourist stop for the inland passage cruise trade to Alaska. As we enter the city looking across the harbor , we can see one of these giant ships, which is so large it almost seems to tower over the city.
After setting up camp, we have a nice dinner at the Resurrection Roadhouse restaurant in the Windsong Lodge. A visit to the Exit Glacier reveals a sad truth - glaciers are in drastic retreat here as they are all around the world. A marker near the parking lot reveals the extent of the glacier at the time the lot was built. Now it is a 2 mile walk to reach the base of the glacier. Global warming indeed.

The next day we have a leisurely walk about town and then head to the Kenai Fjords Tour Company to meet a teaching collegue of mine, CJ. He grew up in Seward, graduated from Luther college in Iowa and had just finished his first year teaching math and coaching basketball in Bluff Country. His summer job, since high school, has been as a deck hand on tour boats. We have time for a chat and then he presented us with 4 compliementary tickets, worth hundreds of dollars, for an afternoon glacier cruise with an on board salmon dinner. How neat
It's a beautiful 70 degree sunny day, but we are advised that temperatures on deck will be much chillier due to the ice cold water in Resurrection Bay. On board ,we have a table by a window on middle level. After a delicious dinner most people head out on the deck. Once the boat reaches speed though, most return inside due to the wind chill. We the hardy Minnesotans stick it out as we are dressed for it and used to it!

The visit to the Aialik Glacier is amazing as we watch it calve off ice bergs. The sea life is astounding with humpback whales, porpoises, rare Stellar sea lions and myriads of sea birds including our favorite, rows of puffins lined up along the cliffs. There is even a sea grotto, which is very remindful of a previous visit to the Isle Of Capri in the Mediterranean (minus about 50 degress in air temperature). Come on along!
Rare Stellar seals

Not being the most alert of wildlife photographers I did manage to catch the tail of a mighty 60 ton humpback whale.

Many restaurants in Alaska have posters of a Puffin with a red slash thru it - "No Puffin"

Was it Nelly the Loch Ness Monster visiting Alaska? Nope... just a school of passing porpoises.

The glacier calves off an iceberg. The sound is that of a cannon. People jump back from the railing. We are actually more than several thousand yards away from the face of the glacier. It's so big I misjudged the distance to be much much closer.
What a day!
Next: On to Homer

Sunday, April 12, 2015

A New Book Review on Troutbirder II

A new book review on Troutbirder II.  Click on Mark Twain above picture with his friend Troutbirder.  (photo taken in Dubuque, Iowa astride the Mississippi....:)

Friday, April 10, 2015

Alaska Diary -Kenai Peninsula - Part IX

We leave Denali, in our little pop-up headed through Anchorange, where after a week on the Kenai peninisula, we will stay with some friends of our friends from Winona, Minnesota. The mountains seem all around us, although our view of Mount McKinley is obscured again by cloud cover. The ladies stop in a supermarket in Anchorage to stock up on groceries. The guys are informed that their will be a summer solstice "celebration" that night. This apparently is a big custom throughout Alaska and the world for that matter. On the the Chugach mountain above Anchorage young people gather on the longest day of the year in wild revelry, according to our grocery shopping reporters. Mmmmm? Mary Jane and nude dancing?
Later that evening, the campground has a lovely view and loons and wolves are heard beyond the campfire. Since this is bear country, we are instructed by the ranger to leave the food and cosmetics in the SUV and not the camper. The summer solstice dinner consists of shrimp and crackers for a first course, then Mrs. T comes up with tin-foil wrapped salmon grilled over the fire, corn, and cake for dessert. And champagne. Mmmm good.

I wonder if the Neo-Druids at Stonehenge near Salisbury England celebrate this solar event like this?
It was at about this point that your two, somewhat staid, stick in the mud husbands, were informed that it was their duty to continue the festivities all night. It was an Alaskan custom, we were told. Plus, it would be light out all night long. Unfortunately, the two midwestern men, clinging to their conservative ways, rebelled and broke up the party by trudging off to bed, at the ungodly early hour of 1 a.m. in the morning.
P.S. early the next day before heading off to the Kenai we talked to the local Ranger who informed us the ladies has jumped the gun by one day on the "solstice celebration".  Would you believe they wanted to do it again the next night.......:)

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Alaska Diary - Denali National Park - Part VIII

The summer solstice, Tuesday, June 20, 2000:
We were aboard one of the first buses to leave the Visitor Center for an eight hour ride into Denali National Park.  It's buses only on this gravel road.  Our bus driver provided excellent commentary but little was really neccesary as this vast expanse of wilderness spoke for itself. Actually much of it simply defies description.

Everybody, of course, had cameras. But some were loaded down with backpack camping equipment. The bus driver explained that these intrepid souls would be dropped off at anyplace of their choosing along the route. They will be picked up on their return by any passing bus provided, there is room. I have always considered myself somewhat of an adventurer, having wilderness camped in the Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness and hiked many a trail, flyfishing remote parts of Montana. I shook my head admiringly at these young adverturers, thinking of the vast untamed space all around us.

The bus driver laid out a few rules and said he would stop whenever anyone wished. If you spotted some wildlife, with the driver being 12 o'clock you would shout out the animals position, he would stop so everyone could quickly orient toward the picture target . I was the first to call out "Grizzly bear at 2 o'clock." And pulled out my little point & shoot.....

She was slowly coming down a gully to a small creek, which was still partially covered with ice. It was already a warm mornning for Alaska, in about the low seventies. We watched her mosey on down the creek bed till she dropped down out of sight. An ice water bath perhaps felt good.
It was a good beginning for animal watching in Denali. It's just not the same seeing these animals roaming free as opposed to behind bars at a zoo. Later, we saw another grizzly with two cubs, caribou, a golden eagle, willow ptarmigan, magpies, moose and lots of Dall sheep

We brought sack lunches with us and stopped midday for a picnic with a view.

A visitor joined us for lunch. He was a horny.... oops I mean hoary marmot.

Later, another creature, a hoary Barbot, err I meant horny Barbot, joined the festivities

It was the landscape that most impressed us all. This is near or above the arctic tree line. It seems you can see forever. Vast mountains ranges and huge watersheds fill the space. If any word besides the obvious cliches comes to mind it would be forbidding. Human beings and doings seem so insignificant here. It is nature in the raw.
A bus comes round the bend.

Picture this valley during the spring runoff. Permafrost lies beneath.

The Zebra mountains.
Next: On To Anchorage

Friday, April 3, 2015

Alaska Diary: To Denali N. P. - Part VII

Day 10: Monday, June 19, 2000 We left Fairbanks at 6:45 a.m. and drove a gorgeous highway south to McKinley View RV Park, a few miles outside Denali. We got the camper set up and immediately headed off into the park to the Visitor's Center. It was quite crowded with lots of young people wearing backpacks. Our goal was to get tickets for a bus tour into the park We took the 8 hour trip for the next morning. The eleven hour trip would have  included an overnight stay at a lodge at the end of a 90 mile gravel road. There was also a much shorter ride available that afternoon. That accomplished we watched a slide show introduction to the park and then boarded a bus to see a dog show demonstration.

These are actually working sled dogs. They provide mobility for the rangers on patrol of this vast park in the winter season. There was a short demonstration on a gravel track as a few of the dogs were chosen to make this run. Do the dogs love their work? Your better believe it, when you hear them bark and yowl to be chosen. "Take me, pick me" they seem to sayThen after we wandered about a bit looking at the dogs kennels, harnesses and sleds, we took a brief ride up to the entry point for the wilderness road. To prevent traffic jams, risks to people and wildlife and preserve the pristine nature of this wilderness, it's buses only on the road. This definitely isn't Yellowstone. It works well enough, although years of experience taking my basketball players to games on school buses, left me less than a little thrilled from the comfort side of it.

No cars are allowed past the bridge. As we headed back out of the park to our campground, we saw several moose along the roadside and a "drunken forest." Due to heaving in the perma frost. all the conifers were tipped crazily in all directions. In the same forest was a herd of caribou another first for all of us. They were all standing pretty straight, however.

Next: Into the Denali wilderness by bus