The Center of the Kenai Universe is Fred Meyer

July 27, 2014

The last half of July has been crazy in Soldotna with so many people coming here to fish. Every lot, every RV park, every campground is full of RV’s and one big grocery store has found a way to make sure everyone is happy. The Fred Meyer grocery store in Soldotna allows RV’s to park overnight in their lot. They even provide a free dump station, trash bins and a fresh water source to keep those RV’s chugging along. And while you are waiting in line to use the dump station you might need to use the rest room yourself so there are port-a-potties lined up along the road where you are waiting. So did they do this to be nice or to make a lot of friends who will spend a lot of money in their store?  The answer is easy, but it certainly is a big hit as on any given night in July they have 40 to 50 RV’s in their parking lot.

Throughout the northwest, Fred Meyer is a one stop shop with groceries, clothes, hardware, auto supplies, etc. It’s very similar to a Walmart Superstore and it is owned by Kroger. So like King Soopers, also owned by Kroger they have their own gas station and our King Soopers card works here too giving us a discount on fuel just like in Colorado. With the price of diesel in Soldotna is at $4.40 that alone buys our patronage!

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RVs pack the Fred Meyer parking lot.

RVs pack the Fred Meyer parking lot.

Ive waited in this line for 30-45 minutes during the hight of the Div Net season.

These RVs are waiting in line to use the dump station.  Cliff has waited in this dump line for 30-45 minutes.

Cliff has chatted with many of the employees in the store and found out that most of their produce is shipped up by boat from Seattle with only a limited amount being trucked up. Which explains the hit or miss in the fresh food area. They believe that each RV owner is spending on average about $1,000 in the store. Perhaps they are a big business because they are providing what people want? Yes, we shop, pump and dump at Fred Meyer!

Cliff and Cyndy

 

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Salmon

July 24, 2014

Dave and 3 of his Alaskan buddies joined the crowd fishing for red salmon and they were successful! Cliff joined Dave for the cleaning, filleting and packing of the salmon and learned a lot in the process.

There are five main types of Pacific salmon and salmon quality is usually judged by the oil content of the fish (which contributes to the flavor) and the redness of the meat. These oils are rich in Omega 3 fatty acids.

King salmon is the top of the line with deep, rich red color and full flavor, the largest of the five Pacific Salmon species. We purchased King salmon fillets in a fish market for $24 a pound in Valdez a month ago. Alaska is trying to increase the numbers of King salmon so fisherman cannot keep them. They must be released or pay a large fine if the game warden catches you.

Next in line for best tasting is the Sockeye salmon which the locals here call the Red salmon because the males turn a brilliant red color when spawning. This is the fish that drives the huge crowds who go dip netting. Red salmon tend to run during the last two weeks of July and the dip net season for them co-insides with these last two weeks.

A Red Salmon ready to be filleted.

Just for the record the last three types of Pacific salmon in order of taste are Pink salmon or Humpies, Coho or Silver salmon and finally Chum or Dog salmon.

It took us all morning to fillet and vacuum pack the salmon. Yes, We did have salmon for dinner!

He first separates the fillet from the top of the back.

He first separates the fillet from the top of the back.

I'll sell you this fillet for only $24.

Yummy!

The finished product.

The finished product.

Cliff and Cyndy

Whittier

July 21, 2014

We had been waiting for the perfect weather day for our trip to Whittier and it turned out to be yesterday.  It took us about 2 hours to get there and we were trying to hit it just right for the tunnel as the traffic flow is one direction on the hour and the other direction on the half hour. We were thinking tunnel like we have in the Colorado mountains but that was not quite right!

We took this picture near the west entrance to the Whittier tunnel.

We took this picture near the west entrance to the Whittier tunnel.  Notice the chunks of ice floating in the lake.

The tunnel is 2 1/2 miles long and at times, we thought we could reach out and touch the sides. You drive on top of the train tracks and are warned to put up the top on your convertible and wear your helmet if you are on a motorcycle. We asked why and discovered that sometimes rocks and chunks of the ceiling fall. The tunnel is closed every evening at 10:30pm so if you have gone to Anchorage for an evening out, best get back by 10:30 or spend the night in your car!

You  buy your ticket for the tunnel here before waiting for your turn to drive through the tunnel.

You buy your ticket for the tunnel here before waiting for your turn to drive through the tunnel

Once through the tunnel you see the beautiful blue harbor surrounded by more mountains and glaciers with streams cascading down. It is a natural deep harbor that does not freeze and was originally built as a military base during WWII. Most of the 182 residents of Whittier live in a 14 story high rise as there just isn’t enough land for individual homes. 

Alaskan Marine Ferry in the foreground and the condominiums in the background.

Alaskan Marine Ferry in the foreground and the condominiums in the background.

We ate lunch at a little seafood restaurant overlooking the harbor. We toured both sides of the community and then made the 2pm tunnel. Another unique and beautiful village in Alaska!

The shops on the harbor left the old Army barracks in the background.

The shops on the harbor left the old Army barracks in the background.

Cliff and Cyndy

 

 

Fishing in Kenai

July 18, 2014

We had errands on Friday that took us out to the town of Kenai. We shopped at Three Bears (cool warehouse like store) and Walmart and then headed out to old town Kenai to look at an RV park we had heard about. We quickly decided this RV park was not for us but it did have an awesome view of the mouth of the Kenai River. The RV park was packed with RVs as is every RV park in the area because this is fishing season.

Tightly packed side by side

Tightly packed side by side

Alaskans are the only ones that are allowed to fish using dip nets and they line the banks of the river when the fish are coming in. We have heard this called “combat fishing” and it sure looks like it! With hundreds of people standing so close together we were puzzled how anyone catches salmon.

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Happy Fishing!

Cyndy and Cliff

 

Seldovia

July 15, 2014

We met at Dave and Rochelle’s house and packed our things into the boat and truck and off we went to Homer. It is a beautiful drive hugging the coast with lots of moose sightings and views of Mt. Redoubt. Maybe we are just getting better at spotting the moose because all of a sudden, we are seeing them everywhere.

The day was sunny and mild, short sleeves in the sun and a light jacket on the boat. We filled the boat with gas, paid our launch fees and proceeded down the ramp. The tide was out and everyone was talking about it being really low at -4 and somehow the logic of all of the numbers eluded me so just take my word for it, really low.

Getting read to back the boat down the ramp and into the bay.

Getting ready to back the boat down the ramp and into the bay.

Homer is an interesting place with that mix of tourists and the businesses that cater to the tourists and the real people who live and work in such a vacation playground. The marina is huge with lots of boats in slips – many are working boats with all of the fishing apparatus needed and a few look like they are pleasure boats, well maintained by their owners. The Coast Guard has a couple of ships tied up in the marina and they are all business. There are ferries heading to other villages as well as the ships that specialize in salvage and repairs. Just motoring out of the marina was a pleasure.

We hit the open water and headed for the small village of Seldovia. The water was smooth and the color changed about every half an hour from dark navy to teal and shades of gray. I think those glaciers in the distance may have something to do with the colors in the water. We saw sea otters galore, just cruising along on their backs almost waving to us. Some were alone and some were in groups, a few had babies with them. It is hard to resist such cuteness and we slowed for each one to observe and get pictures. We saw the tail of a whale but he did not come up to show us the rest of his body. And birds, lots of birds in areas where there is fishing.

Dave built the boat and it was not a kit that he just put together, he made every panel, every weld was his. Rochelle said the only piece he did not make was the windows. It is remarkable and a tribute to “the Renaissance Man” as we have been calling Dave. And of course, Dave has fished and explored these waters for 40 years so he knows where everything is. He knew the exact place in the big old ocean to turn for Seldovia and there we were, ready to explore and find lunch. Well, slight delay as Rochelle hiked up the hill to the harbormaster’s office to find out where a visitor could park their boat.

Ok, remember that low tide comment. It is still low tide when we got to Seldovia and the village is way up on the side of the mountain and we are way down on the water. Yup, a climb and we have that wheelchair issue again. In Valdez the wheelchair was attached to a rope and winched up the ramp but in Seldovia, Cliff and Dave had to try to pull/push me up the ramp. Okay, long story short – we all made it up and back down again and there may be some sore muscles today. Thanks guys!

We found lunch at a The Tide Pool and sat out on the deck enjoying hamburgers and salads. It was a glorious day and here are a few pictures.

A view from Homer looking towards Seldovia

A view from Homer looking towards Seldovia

The village of Seldovia

The village of Seldovia

We parked in their harbor and had lunch in town.

Seldovia Marina

Sea Otter with a white head and its feet sticking up.

sea otter

Cyndy and Cliff

Fishing

July 11, 2014

We have been in the Sterling/Soldotna for one month and it has been exciting. We have plans for side trips on the Kenai Peninsula before we head out in mid-August. Our plan is to visit Talkeetna, Denali and Fairbanks before we drive back down the Alaskan Highway. We will be heading to northern Idaho as we will be volunteering at the Dvorshak Dam in the visitor center and the campground until the middle of November.

Today was the opening day for “dip  netting.” Alaskans are allowed to use large nets to catch red salmon for personal consumption. The season is only open for just a couple of days once a year. Today we only saw only a couple of hundred people fishing, but starting tomorrow thousands of Alaskans will converge on these rivers.

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More wildlife spottings!  This moose calf seemed to be all alone but there were actually two calves. Mom was not seen but she had them trained well because they finally laid down in some deep grass to hide.

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Cliff and Cyndy

 

 

Happy 4th of July Weekend

No fireworks this year! Cliff took this picture out the back window of the trailer at 10:00pm and it is completely light outside.

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We had dinner with Dave and Rochelle and we asked about firework displays. They laughed and said most community displays weren’t held until Christmas or New Year’s. However, I did hear fireworks at midnight so someone was up and trying to have a fireworks display!

Cliff is not having any trouble adjusting to the light at night and he manages to head to bed about 10:00 every night. Boy, not so with me! I cannot make myself go to bed when it is bright light outside and if I do get to bed before midnight, I am awake again at 3:30/4:00 when the sun comes up. We are so messed up!

The week has been a good one with helping around the Community Center and more exploring in the area. We took a drive out to Kenai one day and found a store called Three Bears (very similar to Costco or Sams Club). Cliff got to see a bull moose in the yard at Dave and Rochelle’s.

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We found ourselves out at a campground called Captain Cook at the end of the road out of Kenai. The view of Mt. Redoubt was great.

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We headed out to Swanson Lake to visit with a family that we met at the Community Center. They have been camping in that spot for almost 10 years on the 4th of July and they arrive a week early to reserve the spots they need. It was easy to see why as they were camped right on the banks of the lake and it was beautiful. There are several lakes in the area and the adventurous will travel for miles using a canoe or kayak with a short portage in between the lakes.

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We came across fireweed on our drive, the first of the season. So pretty but it does mean fall is coming!

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Cliff and Cyndy