Editor’s Note: Sherri Fries is an i Love Dogs Ambassador who has agreed to share with our readers her family’s summer adventure traveling from Virginia to the Northwest. Her first post took us through Canada to Fairbanks, Alaska where she competed with border collie teammates Cleo and Wiki Wiki in AKC agility trials. In her second post, she shares their experiences on the Kenai Peninsula.
We spent the last week touring the scenic Kenai Peninsula. In Seward we visited Kenai Fjords National Park. It is a gem of a park known for its rich sea life and accessible glaciers. We took two all-day boat tours where we saw and heard glaciers calving. They’re tremendously loud and sound like thunder as they fall. The glaciers are so massive it’s hard to judge the size or amount of the ice falling off them. According to our boat captain, one chunk was about 25 stories tall. The ice falls create huge waves that rock the floating ice and the harbor seals on the ice. We were also lucky enough to see transient orca whales; sea otters floating on their backs in the frigid water; tufted and horned puffins, auks, cormorants, kittywinks, common murs and many other birds that lay their eggs in the rocky islands; humpback whales and their calves; the endangered Stellar Sea Lion; fishing bald eagles; and moon and lion jelly fish. The latter are yellow with long trailing tentacles. Dall porpoise also swam alongside the boat. We took a walk to Exit Glacier and felt the chilly wind blowing off it. All the park’s white and blue glaciers are part of the huge Harding Icefield.
Homer and Seward are home to halibut and salmon fishing. Each afternoon charter fishing boats pulled in to unload huge halibut weighing more than 100 pounds, and measuring 4-5 feet long. The fish are cleaned right on the docks and the waste is hauled out into the bay for the sealife to eat. There were thousands of pounds of fish on the dock each night.
On the drive across the peninsula to Homer we went through beautiful glacier-carved valleys full of furs and purple fireweed. Along the Kenai and Russian Rivers fishermen lined the banks in waders for “combat fishing,” trying to haul in salmon. Other fishermen floated down the chilly water in rafts. Arctic Terns struggled against strong wind as they flew around a lake. Eagles and gulls flew along the river looking for fish. And we saw a wolf and moose in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. The peninsula’s grocery stores are full of fishing gear and RVs line the parking lots, loaded with nets and poles.
Homer is a small scenic town with a rocky spit with fishermen and a few floating otters in the Katchemak Bay. There’s an informative Islands and Ocean Center with exhibits on the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge that stretches along the Aleutian Island Chain. The Pratt Museum is full of exhibits on local wildlife and the people who populate the area. There was a good model with a light bulb for the sun that showed why it’s so sunny here in the summer. It’s nearly 11pm as I write this and it’s not dark–just less light than the usual daylight hours we’re used to.
In Anchorage we visited the Alaska Native Heritage Center which features exhibits on the state’s native people. There are five traditional village settings, song and dance performances, and two high school students performed games from the Eskimo Olympics. Included was the knuckle hop in which the athlete assumes a push-up position using his knuckles, then hops along landing only on his toes and knuckles. Ouch. It’s used for hunting seals. There’s a balancing kick ball game where the man balances on one foot and hand then kicks high above his head at a hanging ball. They didn’t perform the ear wrestling where string is tied around the two contestants ears and they pull away from each other, wrestling. That’s to train men to be tough during winter hunting when frostbite occurs on ears.
We visited Earthquake Park with displays on the 1964 trembler of 9.2 that lasted five minutes and destroyed sections of Anchorage, Seward and Homer. In Anchorage some land fell 8-10′, and parts of the ocean floor rose 50′. Tsunamis destroyed sections of Seward and other coastal areas. On a clear day active volcanoes that are part of the Ring of Fire can be seen across the Cook Inlet from the Kenai Peninsula. We saw a number of moose and calves at Earthquake Park, too.
We’ve seen beautiful beaded clothing and carved decorative artwork in Anchorage’s museums. There are waterproof hunting jackets made from seal stomachs, and huge flexible sea canoes made from wood and seal skins. There are huge gold nuggets collected from around the state. We’re going to try our hand at gold panning in one of the local streams. If we don’t find gold, there are always big red salmon to watch as they try making their way up the streams to breed. We stood on a bridge watching them the other day as they struggled against the current and past the fishermen.