Summer 2017 RVing Recap: Week 5

Day 29: It was late when we pulled off from the Turnagain Arm the night before. Alaska has very liberal camping laws. Basically, as long as there is no signage that states “No overnight parking” you are welcome to camp there. It’s a very RV friendly state. I woke up, opened the shade to the window above our headboard and this is what we saw…

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It was a perfectly clear day to go out and explore! We had passed a point along the water the night before that we knew we wanted to return to, Beluga Point! It was the first stop on our itinerary today!

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This amazing 180 degree view point on the Turnagain Arm is named for the beluga whales that are known to ride in the bore tides. A bore tide can be six to ten feet high as it rushes in. This is the most northerly bore tide in the world and the only one that is bordered by mountains, so it is described as “the most unique and geologically dramatic bore tide in the world.” We were right in the window where it was expected to come in, so we were hopeful to catch it!

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That’s me in my element. Camera in hand, so much beauty around me to capture.

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We enjoyed the hike around the rocks and the view was incredible, but no tide. We decided to continue along the Turnagain Arm, since we would be along the water for a long stretch of the way.

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There are random waterfalls everywhere along the mountains! We stopped at a few for some photos.

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Although there were hardly any services along this route, there was this one little place, The Turnagain Arm Pit BBQ, and the smell of the meat smoking and BBQ lured us in! We sat outside on a patio overlooking the water and had the most delicious pulled pork sandwiches with corn bread for lunch!

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The tide continued to move out further and we were hopeful to see a wall of water rushing in.

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Unfortunately, we did not get a show, although the views never disappointed us! It was a gorgeous day to drive around Alaska! As we curved along the Cook Inlet we turned onto the Kenai Peninsula, the southernmost part of Alaska that you can drive to and our adventure for the next week!

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And just like that, our sunny day turned stormy and cold again! The weather here is all over the place. And I love it.

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The drive was amazing. These images are from Moose Pass, in two different perspectives. The above photo was taken by me with my Canon while standing on that curved pedestrian path, which you can see in the aerial photo below that we shot with the drone.

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And for something new, here is a short video loop of this gorgeous area:

Then we were back on the road through snow-capped mountains until we came to a fork in the road where we could continue straight to Seward, or turn right and head toward the Homer Spit. We planned on doing both, but Homer was our first destination.

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We passed through an area I would like to spend more time in when we return to Alaska some day – Cooper Landing. Outdoor activities such as white water rafting and fly fishing bring people here. It was very crowded, as it was the weekend, and I think a lot of Anchorage residents come here to escape the bustle of the city and have a quiet weekend in the outdoors. We passed through with intentions of stopping for the night in Soldotna further ahead, but it was too commercialized for us (picture McDonald’s and Taco Bell on the corner of the RV park – not what we came to Alaska for). So we went a bit further to Kenai and found a park with farms and open space around us.

We had a family team clean up when we parked. The RV gets so dirty fast and it takes all of us to keep it clean! The boys “de-bugged” the windows and us girls washed the dishes (I miss my dishwasher so much), and cleaned the floors.

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We make a good team! Charlotte “helped” by crawling around and throwing all the toys back out of the toy box that we kept trying to clean up.

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Real life, y’all. The chores don’t end just because we’re on vacation!

Then we went out exploring in the truck! We drove up to Nikiski, and then to the Captain Cook State Recreation Area. It’s the end of the line….the road dies past the recreation area and turns into a rough dirt pipeline road. At this point, we were on the opposite side of the water from where we were this morning.

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There was a spot where we could drive all the way down onto the beach – so that made Adam’s day!

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Then we made the journey back to Kenai with plans to continue on to Homer the following day!

Day 30: We packed up this morning and hit the road, following the water south through Kalifornsky, Ninilchik, and then down to Anchor Point, where we planned to stay for a while. The views from our RV space on a cliff overlooking the water at the Baycrest RV Park were gorgeous, they had good wi-fi (finally!), and we were just 5 minutes from downtown Homer. RV park jackpot!

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We decided to check out Homer and then head down to the spit for dinner!

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It was so cold and windy, but we still managed to get out to check out Bishop’s Beach.

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And then we went down onto the spit, which I immediately fell in love with! It’s essentially a very picturesque pier, but a strip of land. Cute shops, lots of great eateries, gorgeous views, a marina, and bald eagles taking guard over everything!

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We had a seafood dinner at The Harbor Grill, overlooking the marina, and then we took a walk down to the boats to see them up close. This marina has the acclaim of being the home to the commercial crab fishing vessel Time Bandit. It is featured on the Discovery Channel series The Deadliest Catch.

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We made plans for exploring the spit some more on another day and drove back to mainland Homer to explore and drive East End Road. From here, there are three visible glaciers, seen across the bay at Halibut Cove: Grewingk, Portlock, and Dixon Glacier. Homer’s glaciers are alpine glaciers, unique in that they form in mountain valleys and create their own moraine lake.

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Day 31: Today we backtracked on the road we just took from Kenai so we could see some of the towns along the way that were too difficult to explore in the RV. We drove all the way to Kasilof and had lunch at this little place called Rocky’s Cafe. The service was friendly, the food was good, and we were able to view a moose eating grass out our window through much of the meal (and multiple people stop their cars to get out and walk right up to him for photos!).

Our next stop was the old Russian village of Ninilchik. The native Alaskan people and immigrants from Russia settled here in 1847. There is an old Russian Orthodox Church on the mountain here overlooking the village that I had read about and wanted to photograph.

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We drove down to the very tiny village on the water, with its own fishing boat marina and some original buildings.

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We’ve never seen as many Eagles in the wild as we have in the area around Homer, Alaska!

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This boat stood out because it was also the name of my grandmother!

We continued our exploration all the way back down through all the little towns until we ended up all the way back on the spit!

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Day 31 chalkboard: Kachemak Bay

Day 32: Today we spent the whole day in Homer. I always feel like you need to park and really walk through a place to get to know it. I’m so glad we included this area in our trip itinerary because it definitely made the top 5 list of our Alaskan destinations!

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We had lunch at Captain Pattie’s and then we went browsing through some of the gift shops.

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The infamous Salty Dawg Saloon is here on the spit. People sign dollar bills and tack them up on the walls when they visit. It’s your typical hole-in-wall bar!

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We walked past a bakery and an ice cream shop making homemade waffle cones. The smell was so amazing, we were lead by our noses directly into Flagship Creamery!

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On our way back to the RV that night we stopped at the lookout point near Anchor Point for our chalkboard photo as a storm blew through.

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That’s when Charlotte said she was DONE for the night!

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Day 33: We left Homer this morning and returned north up to Soldotna, where we took a right and retraced our steps back toward Moose Pass. On our drive back through Cooper Landing, I was casually looking out the window at all the fishermen in tiny boats and canoes in this small section of the river, and I noticed that a bunch of them had their phones out and pointed in the same direction. On the shore, no more than 20 feet from them was a large black bear, just starring at them like he was posing for the photos! The amount of wildlife we have seen on this trip has been unbelievable!

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When we arrived in Seward, we had planned on camping on the Seward Waterfront Park. What we didn’t expect was that apparently every person in the entire state of Alaska would appear to be in Seward for the upcoming 4th of July events! The waterfront is first come, first serve, and so even though it was only June 29th, a lot of people come and park their campers here so they can have a good spot for the Independence Day festivities. The big event is the Mount Marathon Race, a 3.1 mile run up to the top of mountain with an elevation gain of 3,022 feet, and then back down to the finish line on a steep and slippery slope. It’s pretty common for the runners to cross the finish line injured and bloody and it has become quite the spectator sport!

We tried several other RV parks until we finally found one that had availability! We didn’t realize what a tricky road we would endure to get there, though! First we had to drive practically into this waterfall along the side of the road…

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Then we had to follow this scary, wet road along the bay with no guard rails and two way traffic…

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And then we had to journey into the deep, mud and mosquito ridden forest…

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I suppose this is the reason behind the low reviews for Miller’s Landing on Lowell Point – it wasn’t easy access for RV camping! All of this, and we would only be staying one night because it is all they had available. If you are RVing to Seward, keep in mind there are very few RV park options, and if you plan to be here around a busy holiday such as Independence Day, be sure to make reservations.

We did manage to get out for a bit after we got settled. After Homer, I expected the same touristy scene at Seward, but they are actually quite different. There isn’t much of a main strip here or much to do in the town. The beauty is in the surrounding mountains and glaciers. It is also a point from which you enter Kenai Fjords National Park. I have heard that some cruise ship excursions only allow a trip to either Homer OR Seward, so if you are trying to decide between the two, it’s mostly a matter of what you are looking for. For the nature enthusiast, Seward would probably be a better choice, but seeing these areas requires a bigger time commitment because most of the national park can only be accessed by plane or boat. If you only have a portion of your day, I would pick Homer without question.

We had dinner at the Seward Brewing Company and it was quite delicious! Then we walked up and down the small main street area for a bit.

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The Resurrection Bay wraps around Seward and is gorgeous! The water has an alpine blue to it when the sun hits it, making it look like the Caribbean.

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Mile 0 of the Iditarod Trail, also known historically as the Seward-to-Nome Trail, refers to a thousand-plus mile historic and contemporary trail system in the US state of Alaska.

Before we headed back to the motorhome, we took a quick detour over to the only area of Kenai Fjords National Park accessible by vehicle (the others can only be reached by boat or plane). This is the site of Exit Glacier, a site we planned to visit in detail the next day!

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Day 34: Today was a busy day! We started out by moving the RV before our 11am check out at Miller’s Landing. We drove directly to the Seward Waterfront and while it was still full, there was some parking spaces in the baseball field next to it that they were allowing RV overflow, so we decided it was as good a place as any for us to stay for our last night.

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With our motorhome safely parked for the day, we headed over to the Alaska Sealife Center.

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It’s not very big so all of the attractions can be seen in just a few hours, but they have a variety of exhibits, art, and marine life from the area to view and interact with.

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We left the Sealife Center after lunch and decided our next adventure would be to hike Exit Glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park!

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Exit Glacier is a glacier derived from the Harding Icefield in the Kenai Mountains of Alaska. As we started along the trail to the glacier, there were posts indicating where the glacier was located during different points over the last hundred years, showing the recession of it. The rapid retreat of the glacier highlights the effects of climate change, the most notable being from 2013 to 2014 when it retreated approximately 187 feet. Park scientists continue to monitor and record is accelerating recession.

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We stopped for a snack break before continuing on, and I had a moment while watching my five year old. She sat there with her granola bar, quietly watching the glacier. She was taking it all in and so peaceful. When she finished her snack, she bounced up and eagerly asked us to continue on the strenuous last portion that would take us directly up to the glacier so we could touch it. This is the kid who was asking to be carried at the mall just six months ago because she was too tired and couldn’t take it anymore. And here she is, doing a hike that some adults wouldn’t tackle and rocking out! It’s moments like these when I know that travel as a family is one of the best gifts we could ever give our kids.

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We pushed through until we made it! Chalkboard photo – Exit Glacier!

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It is so hard to tell the scale of it from the photos. Below is a picture of just the tiny base of the glacier with people next to it so you can hopefully see the grandeur of it.

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And then it was time to make the journey back, paving our own trail as we went!

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Day 35: We packed up to leave Seward today, feeling like we had seen it all. But before we left, we walked over to the visitor center so the kids could earn their badges for Kenai Fjords National Park.

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We walked around the nearby Seward marina after the visitor center. We attempted to take a nice photo, but this is as good as we get this morning, I guess.

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And then we were northbound out of Seward and up off of the Kenai Peninsula towards Whittier. I had not done much research on Whittier so we had no idea what to expect. We were pleasantly surprised when we pulled into Williwaw campground to this.

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We decided to drive around to get acquainted with the area and that’s when we came to a long line of cars in front of a mountain. We passed through a toll booth and were told the toll was to proceed through the mountain to Whittier on the other side.

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What we didn’t know was that this tunnel – the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel – is the longest highway tunnel in North America at 13,300 feet (about 2.5 miles).  It was the first designed for -40 Fahrenheit temperatures and 150 mph winds. It’s a single lane road for both directions of traffic and railroad tracks, so there is a bit of a wait as the traffic alternates. While we waited, the Alaskan Railroad made it’s way through the tunnel.

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And then it was our turn to make our way through Maynard Mountain. It was dark, cold, and only about 16 feet wide, so it definitely activates the claustrophobia in a person. I felt like it was hard to breathe as we went through it! At a speed of 25 miles an hour, it takes about 10 minutes to pass completely through the tunnel. 

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When we got to the other side, we were treated with the beauty of Prince William Sound.

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Whittier is so small, that is is often called the town under one roof. It appears to be mostly a cruise port where people get off and then board the railroad to do scenic tours and visit neighboring cities. There are about 4 restaurants and a gift shop on the one strip along the marina.

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There is an excellent view of a glacier from this side of the mountain.

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And then it was time to go back through the tunnel to our RV in the Williwaw campground on the other side. We planned on staying another day or two to take in this beautiful area! Week 6 was completely up in the air, but we planned to make the most out of our last week in Alaska!

Week 5 on the map:

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And zoomed out for perspective:

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