We had decided to drive down to the bottom of the Kenai (pronounced KEEN-eye) – Peninsula today to the southernmost town of Homer. We woke to a beautiful clear day and set off immediately after we had breakfast. A staff person had told John that it only took an hour to drive to Homer, which I knew was ludicrous as it is 81 miles to the town and 90 to the end of the road (130 km and 145 km). There were geocaches all along the highway but we decided to ignore them all except one at Anchor Point because Anchor Point is the most westerly place in North America that you reach by road and we wanted to get the cache as our ‘furthest west’ one.
There is a huge grassland reserve not far south of Kenai where Caribou come to give birth and rear their young in the summer. We saw not a single one, buy we got our first look at the mountain range we would get peeks of through the trees all the way to Homer. The mountains are part of the Aleutian Range across Cook Inlet from the Kenai Peninsula. All of the most prominent ones we could see are volcanoes. (The town of Homer is the last red dot on the map that has no name beside it.)
Mt. Redoubt – last erupted 2009 Iliamna Volcano – last erupted 1876 (pronounced Ill-ee-am-na) St. Augustine. It is the furthest distance south and is actually an island in the Cook Inlet, not a part of the mountain range. Last erupted 2006. It is not uncommon to see some of these volcanoes let of steam as they are all still active. Note the boat. Due to the long shallow shore, boats are launched and retracted by skidders with a trailer. This is a very low tide, but they do the same thing at high tide. The signs are faded so you can’t see the pictures of the mountains under their names. The entire Aleutian Island chain is volcanoes.
Just north of Homer is the Baycrest Overlook. From here you can see the Aleutian range across Cook Inlet and you get a good view of the Kachemak Bay, which is considered one of the world’s richest marine estuaries. Fishing is king here, in a big way. Kachemak Bay also has the second highest tides in North America after the Canadian Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick.The Homer Garden Club plants and maintains these lovely large planters at the viewpoint. Home is also home to many artists of various disciplines – from painting to antler carving to sculpture.One of the unique features of Homer is the Spit. This narrow 4.5 mile long piece of land extends out into Kachemak Bay and became a commercial port in 1930 when the railway ran a line along it to export coal. Today it is a tourist mecca with a ferry terminal, a hotel, a couple of campgrounds and many, many shops. Cars lined the entire ‘street’ and motorhomes and campers were packed like sardines into the available spots. It was crazy busy.This is the width of most of the Spit; wide enough for two lanes of traffic and a bike trail. Near the end it widens enough for buildings and parking but I don’t think it was ever more than 500′ wide. This chainsaw carving is of a dip-netter. Dip-netting is the first fishing done each season. Fishermen (and women and kids) stand in the water with these long-handled big nets and wait for a fish to swim into it. They are catching a small silver fish, called variously hooligan, eulachon, candlefish or smelt. When the net collects some it is dumped on the shore, and they set the net out for another one.The shore was lined with people fishing. They were catching some too. A fellow walked up with a big, ugly-looking wide-mouthed one.After we found the geocache hidden at the little Land’s End Park we headed back to Kenai.
Me, being me, looked around at all the people and cars and structures and thought (well, I actually said, to John), “Talk about denial. Alaska is an earthquake zone, there are five active volcanoes just across the inlet, and you’re on a spit of land barely 10′ above the water which is not a great place to be in the event of a tsunami.” People are so strange. In the event of a disaster occurring there is no way at all that all those people will be able to reach safety. That one two lane road will be gridlocked within minutes – despite the fact it is ‘tsunami evacuation route’. Hope really does spring eternal in the human breast. These folks must have felt that, since they live so close to the ocean they needed their own lighthouse. Cool. I want one. Back in Kenai we did a little drive around Old Town and spotted some of the heritage buildings. Alaska used to be Russian territory so there are many places with Russian names and many communities that still have Russian Orothodox churches.
It was now 5 pm and our quick ‘1 hour’ drive to Homer was complete. Time for dinner and blog writing. Tomorrow we are off to Seward (pronounced Sue-ward) which is 169 km (105 miles) on the other side of the peninsula.