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Road trip to Homer

Discussion in 'United States' started by Pleistohorse, 9 May 2020.

  1. Pleistohorse

    Pleistohorse Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    30 Jan 2013
    Posts:
    757
    Location:
    Alaska
    Good morning everyone! 0722 hours local here in Knik Alaska. It’s about 42F. Overcast skies. Projected to reach the low 60’s today.

    From my front drive, I look East and see the Chugach Mountains across the Knik Arm. Specifically Eklutna Mountain. The face of the mountain is an abrupt scoured sloping ridge. The Knik Arm, at the point where I’m looking, is a wide shallow Fjord, evidence of a time when the Matanuska and Knik Glaciers were one giant sheet of ice flowing into the Pacific Ocean. Here now though is the point where to Knit River merges into the northern reaches of the Cook Inlet of the Pacific Ocean. Tidal action evident on the rise and fall of the waters each day.

    My side of the Kink Arm, the northwestern shores, is a series of gradually rises from the glacier silt and tidal mud of the flats onto the wide flat plain of the Matanuska-Susitna Valley. Eklutna Mountain, eight miles east of me, is a 35 mile drive along the roads through the valley and over the low Palmer Flats across the Matanuska and Knik Rivers.

    From there we will hug the mountains along the eastern shore of the Knik Arm, through the forested Anchorage Bowl and then along the Turnagain Arm, south through another Fjord cut between Chugach and Kenai Mountains. At the very southern point, we will cross the braided rivers marking the Portage Valley and up and over Turnagain Pass and onto the Kenai Penninsula.

    We will come down on the wide flats that boarder the western edge of the mountains that run right now in my view. Across the boreal forests following the track of the Kenai River, through the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, we will turn south across the Kenai Delta and ride the southeastern shore of the Cook Inlet down to Homer.

    Homer. Just across the water and 187 miles south of where I stand. In Homer, we will sail out on Kachemak Bay, pursuing Halibut and King Salmon with my brother in law’s family.

    My brother in law’s wife is Inupiat from northwestern Alaska, born and raised above the Arctic Circle and as much as they can in this modern age, they practice the sustenance lifestyle critical to their culture. Receiving from the land and sea it’s gifts. Riding with me to Homer will be my two nieces and nephew...my native guides across a land that’s been theirs for 10,000 years.

    We will stop along the way to marvel at geological wonders and view the splendid natural beauty of our state and record, for you, what we see.

    Here in 2020, I had hope to take a grand tour of the United States and Canada...my native and beloved countries. I was born in Maine, just across the boarder from my maternal homeland in New Brunswick. Just ashore a different ocean that gazed eastward toward my paternal homeland of Ireland, and the city of Sligo on western shores, were 40 years before my birth, my grandparents stood and looked west. And west they went and so did I. I find myself now as far across the continent from that place as the roads can take me.

    All through my planning last year, I felt an urgency in 2020. I thought that this summer was summer it had to happen. No secret the indulgence of my country. An election approaching, fated to be close. Fated to disappoint one way or another half my countrymen and dash the dreams we perceive to hold for ourselves. For my part...it’s the reaction to the disappoint rather than the reality if it’s course that is most damaging. But I am a bit ashamed that even in my lament, I can’t help but rally for my side.

    I wonder if it just the perspective of someone who now lives looking back, as the road ahead is known. When I was younger, I can remember the day, I was struck once with question as to when I would no longer anticipate what was to come, but linger on what had been. I can’t say that day was the day it happened...but it was near to then. The passing of a generation. When we reach an age where we find our world is occupied by an army from the future...waiting us out. Our hope has to be for them.

    There was an urgency toward 2020. But North America for me now has been reduced to a small part of Alaska, between the mountains and the sea. And today we drive to Homer.

    Alaska, isolating ourselves from the outside and mutually distant from our neighbor, is mostly open. So today anticipating a couple zoos, a couple protected areas, and our hearts full of adventure...one wayward Yankee, a lady from Texas, and three native Alaskans with the rhythms of this Great Land running through their veins...hit the road.
    We will keep you posted.

    *forgive any typos, when it comes to journaling in my phone...I’m all thumbs.
     
  2. Pleistohorse

    Pleistohorse Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    30 Jan 2013
    Posts:
    757
    Location:
    Alaska
    Wow! That went from maudlin to prescient pretty damn quickly...2020 indeed. If the anxiety and frustration I’ve been feeling is anything like the generational anxiety and frustration fueling my countrymen’s cry...we have to do better, after so long. We have to listen to each other and hear what is being said...not what we believe is being said or worse, maybe, what we want to hear. I still believe in America. I still dream of her magnificent potential. It’s a wonderful country, full of wonderful people, and if nothing else...it’s home.

    We did make it to Homer. We saw many mammals and birds along the way. If you were of a mind too, you could whip out a map and trace the route from Knik Alaska to the Musk Ox Farm in Palmer. Then across the Matanuska River to lowlands at the foot of Lazy Mountain, in between the Matanuska and Knik Rivers; an area locally known as The Butte. Named after a small eroded mountain rising from the surrounding farmland. A quick stop at the Reindeer Farm and then back across the rivers to Reflections Lake in the Palmer Hay Flats State Game Refuge.

    From there to Anchorage. We purchased fishing licenses and restocked our provisions at The Sportsman’s Warehouse along the Old Seward Highway and then Drove on past Potter Marsh in the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge and down to Bird Point, in the Chugach National Forest along the Turnagain Arm. A quick lunch in Girdwood and then to Portage, where we visited the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center.

    Then it was on south, across the Placer River (where we saw our first Moose of the day) and up and over Turnagain Pass. Turn right at Kenai Lake and down to Copper Landing. Kenai Lake here becomes Kenai River, prime bear country, but we didn’t see any. Across the burned region of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge (still early for the explosive growth of new vegetation which is going to make for prime Moose viewing this summer).

    I once worked with a gentleman who served on the Alaska State Game Board and I asked him if the goal was to grow the Moose population (halt the perceived decline) on the Kenai...if it would be better to let the Forest burn freely rather than to shoot the Wolves. He said it would, but that a burning forest didn’t win many votes, no matter the science behind the concept. That was sometime around 2012...a year which didn’t live up to expectations. Certainly.

    I think beyond the optics...two other factors drive America’s wildfire policies beyond the obvious goal of saving human lives. One, liability regarding private property. Let a forest burn and lose control of it... Two, humankind’s need to dominate nature. It is a great crusade, a government funded campaign to squelch the course of the forest’s natural transition, rooted in a time when the technology to fight the fires overlapped the commercial usage of the woodlands...right at the point Disney environmentalism and popular Conservation came of age. The Optics.

    Well, anyway we didn’t see any more Moose, until we passed through the small city of Soldotna and then down into Homer. We briefly toured the dock areas along the Homer Spit and identified many seabirds and observed a few Sea Otters. We would see many more the next day.

    Back to the hotel, we grilled out in the parking lot with the kids and invited any hotel guest (all Alaskans either searching for migrating shorebirds along the Kachemak Bay or preparing to fish its waters) walking by to join us. I left my brother in-law out in the parking lot at about midnight and went up to try to get some sleep. To him going out on the water is like Christmas was to me when I was a boy; he’ll barely wait for dawn (such as it is in late spring Alaska), let alone pancakes...my phone rang at 0345...it was time to go fishing.

    We waited for an hour for the local 24 hour shop to open...thank you Covid-19...and then on to the docks. To the otters, the gulls, the Northwestern Crows (not found in Alaska north of Portage), and to that great and majestic scavenging emblem of my country...Homer is one of the best places in Alaska to observe the Bald Eagle.

    Mammals seen thus far:

    Moose
    Dall Sheep
    American Red Squirrel
    Feral European Rabbit (domestic)
    North American Porcupine
    Sea Otter.

    Domestic/Semi-Domestic Animals seen from the roads:

    Musk Ox
    Reindeer
    Plains Bison
    Horse
    Goat
    Cattle (a mix of dairy and hardy north country beef animals)
    Alpaca

    AWCC:

    Caribou
    Wood Bison
    Wapiti
    Sitka Black-tailed Deer
    Moose
    Red Fox
    Grey Wolf
    Coyote
    American Black Bear
    Brown Bear
    North American Porcupine

    Birds to be named later (many species ranging in size from the Rufous Hummingbird to the Trumpeter Swan).

    More to come....
     
    Last edited: 5 Jun 2020
  3. Pleistohorse

    Pleistohorse Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    30 Jan 2013
    Posts:
    757
    Location:
    Alaska
  4. TeaLovingDave

    TeaLovingDave Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    16 May 2010
    Posts:
    14,536
    Location:
    Wilds of Northumberland
    If I recall my classical literature, the true way to pull off a Homer-style roadtrip is to walk inland with an oar over your shoulder, until someone asks what you are carrying :p
     
    Coelacanth18 and Pleistohorse like this.