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2018 Kasilof RV Park Summer Blog

Kasilof RV Park 2018 Summer Blog

 

Welcome to a summary of our 11th Wonderful Summer at the Kasilof RV Park.

As in past years I have used some of our great animal summer visitors as speakers for the happenings at the Park and again this year I was going to use our ornery little Sammy Squirrel.

 HOWEVER, he immediately got into trouble opening up a bag on the picnic table, then dumping the peanut jar from the bag off the table on to the floor, opening the lid and then ate the remaining peanuts in the jar.

Kim Brooks just loves to leave cookie crumbs along the deck railing for him! We love her cookies too so we don’t complain too much.

2017/2018 was a cold winter at the Park and we had a lot of frozen pipes when we got back. Fortunately, we only had one broken line on campsite 16. (Note that John Brooks did all the work while I supervised! It’s sure nice to have help!)

We didn’t get all the lines thawed until the 5th of June, but did manage to get them open before other campers started showing up. Although we put anti-freeze in all the campsite lines, we finally determined that our old compressor was just not putting out enough air to fully blow out most of the water. We finally bought a new Husky compressor with a 20 gallon air tank. Hopefully we will not have that problem this fall!

This was another very poor year for Sockeye (red) fishing in the Kenai River.   In fact it was the worst salmon season on the Kenai in the 21 years that I have been fishing it.  We barely caught a third of the reds we normally catch for the summer.  Fish & Game managed to reach in their excuse bucket again and pick out the cause for the poor showing of reds.   It seems that the ‘Brown Blob’ occurred in the Gulf of Alaska.  A biologist for F&G suggested that the warming of the ocean in the Gulf of Alaska during 2014 might have killed much of the food that the young sockeye salmon need to survive and grow prior to coming back to the Cook Inlet in 2018.   Thus there was a very poor showing of Red salmon this year in the Kenai.   F&G reduced the daily limit of reds from 3 to 1 per person and then shut down red fishing in the Kenai on the 4th of August through the 24th of August.   At that time, they stated that a big run of red salmon had entered the Kenai and that they had reached the minimum required number to assure future Kenai red salmon so they raised the daily limit of reds to 3 again.   It was strange because all we could catch after August 24th were Pinks and Silvers!

Maybe they can’t tell the difference between Pinks and Reds?   

 

AND it was a banner year for fishing in the Kasilof River. ????   John Brooks caught his first King of the season in the Kasilof in early June and the Sockeye (Red) fishing was the best the Kasilof has ever had.

 

IS SOMETHING FISHY IN F&G LAND?  

 

Cody and Nelson came up in early June and Cody took a photo of Nelson and I fishing in for Reds in the Kasilof.   Nelson caught his first Red that day.  

 

It was the first Red of the season and large for Reds in June on the Kasilof.   

 

Nelson and Cody continued to fish on the Kasilof and had good success.  The Reds continued to be large for the first run on the Kasilof River.   

Of course they had to share their success with a beer in the Kenai River Brewery in Soldotna.

 

 

We had more fun with Nelson while they were here such as eating crab with the help of pair of scissors. 

“Come-on, Alaska crabs are not that tough!” 

 

Jan and I also gave him a lunch bucket that he could use when he becomes a Math teacher. The lunch bucket from the Kenai River Brewery had three beers in it.  We thought he might need those after teaching math to high school boys.

 

However, our family visitors never get away without doing something to help improve the Kasilof RV Park. We do that because eventually the Park is for their pleasure and future.  Nelson and Cody helped us by trimming up some of the overgrowth of trees around the north end of the park. The trees had grown under the electric lines to the point where they could cause a problem so the boys topped off the trees and hauled the limbs down over the back of the hill.

4th of July Celebration

 

The 4th is always a celebration for us at the Park and for the past two years we have had a potluck dinner for all our visitors in the Park.  Cody and Nelson stayed for the celebration and Cody cooked his special recipe for brats. Sister Sally and her husband Bob also came.

Most of the campers in the Park came plus our friends the Pierce’s who were former campers.

 

 

  

 

 

It was a fun afternoon and a nice 4th of July celebration.

 

 

MOOSE in the PARK

It’s always interesting to see moose in the park and the campers especially always enjoy seeing them, particularly the mothers and their babies. This year was no exception; however, for some reason the mothers were bringing them at dusk or after dark to eat the new tree leaves. We would find many large and small moose tracks in the mornings, but rarely see the moose during the day. 

The one exception this year was the momma, I call ‘Bear Scar’. I call her that because she has a scar on her left side along her ribs that ‘may’ have been made by a bear. We have another photo of her taken in 2010 that is hanging in our camper.   She has been coming into the park for eight years showing off her babies to us.

This year was no exception although she hadn’t had her baby yet. However, she did come into the park this year followed by last year’s young male (he has horn nubs). She was pregnant with another calf and wanted him to quit following her around before the baby was born. She chased him through the Park and along the front,  clear to the south end.  He finally he left. 

 Kim Brooks saw her walk through the Park later with a calf.   Then we saw her and the calf tracks several times later.

The hill behind the lodge where we have the DJS Folly pole was becoming over grown with bushes and weeds. It was a favorite spot for the moose to eat the young leaves and branches off the scrub bushes. During the summer, we cut down the bushes and weeds because it was becoming an eyesore. We wanted toplant grass on the hill.

A couple of weeks later ‘Bear Scar’ momma was standing on the cleaned hill looking at us on the porch like she was asking ‘what happened to all my food?’

 

Nephew Ryan Pyle arrived on the 8th of July and brought his daughter, Ainsley and his step daughter, Ella (she wouldn’t let us take a photo of her) for a visit with him.   He took them to all the fun places on the Peninsula, Homer and Seward. They had a great time and then flew back home to Kansas before fishing season started.

 

Each year Ryan treats us with a Pad Thai dinner.  Sally and Bob came out for the feast. Bob just loves Ryan’s Pad Thai so it is a yearly feast for us.

Cary had arrived the day before as a surprise because we hadn’t expected him to come up this year.

Debbie had just arrived with her cousin, Scott Farber so they got to enjoy the feast also.

 

 

 

Kim Brooks and Jan had gone to the local wood shop to learn how to carve wooden bowls from Burch tree wood blocks in June.

They had so much fun and the bowls turned out so well that Jan took  Debbie to learn how to turn a bowl also.

 

Kim and Jan had also made dishes out of grey clay with fiber. They made them in the shape of Rhubarb Leaves. Jan had made one for Debbie also. When Debbie came to fish, the three of them finished the dishes painting them to look like Rhubarb leaves with flowers laying on them.

 

SOCKEYE (Reds) FISHING TIME

The Reds had started coming into the river in the third week of July and Ryan, Cary and I had gone to the Kenai to see if they were coming up the river yet.  We each did catch two and then on Friday the group including Debbie and Scott went to the river and caught 11. Todd arrived on the 21st and we caught 10 Reds that day.

On Sunday, the weather was warm and the river was high and running fast.  It had been a warm, wet spring and the grass along the river was shoulder high as is shown by Debbie fishing in the rocks beyond the grass.

Scott had already caught his limit showing 3 fingers in the air as he worked his way back to the cleaning area with his fish where Debbie and Ryan were cleaning their limits.

Todd, Cary and I were also fishing on the Kenai and managed to catch 7 more Reds.   On Monday, the 23rd John and Cary each caught three on the Kenai. Debbie, Scott, Todd, Ryan, Jan and I flew over across the inlet to Crescent Lake on a Talon Air Tour and caught 3 Reds each. That was the best day of Red fishing with a total of 24 Reds caught.

 

 

TALON AIR TOUR TO CRESCENT LAKE & WOLVERINE CREEK

Debbie, Skip and Scott had taken the tour in 2016 and were so excited and happy about it that Jan, Todd and I took it again in 2017. We were also enthused about it so we wanted to go again this year. We added Ryan to the group and drove out to Mackey Lake for our flight over to Crescent Lake at the base of Mount Redoubt. The only problem with the trip was the weather.                IT RAINED ALL DAY! Other than the rain, it was a great trip with lots of bears, plenty of fish and lots of fun.

The trip over to the lake was in Talon’s 12 passenger and two dogs pontoon airplane. The dogs were the owners (the pilot’s) Brittany Spaniels that loved to fly and run on the lake bogs.  Of course Scott made up with them as soon as they entered the airplane and then they went to sleep.

They flew us across the Cook Inlet toward Mt. Redoubt, then up the river on the north side until we approached Crescent Lake.  We landed on the water and taxied up to a bog where the boats were stored.  The bogs around the lake are large patches of water plants and bushes that have grown so thick that they float on the surface of the water.  People can walk on them without falling through and the dogs had a ball running around on them. 

Talon guides had pulled their boats up onto the edge of the bogs and store their boats until the airplane lands.  Then they walk across to the boats and bring them over to the pontoons on the plane so they can load the passengers.  The boats are owned by Talon and provided to the guides to give touring and fishing assistance to each of the people onboard.  Each guide provides his own fishing gear for 4 guests and equipment and receives a part of the tour payment from Talon for each person.

In our case since there were six of us, they put Scott, Debbie, Todd and Ryan with a guide in one boat and Jan and I and two other young men with a guide in the other boat.  We were then taken across the lake to Wolverine Creek, a falls (very steep rapids) from Wolverine Lake which is fed by a glacier on the side of Mt. Redoubt. The lake is on the next level of land several hundred feet above Crescent Lake.

The Red salmon come out of Cook Inlet, swim up the river to Crescent Lake then rest at the base of Wolverine Creek before swimming up the falls to the lake to spawn.  There are usually several schools of Red salmon swimming around in the water resting before making the climb up to the next lake.  The abundance of salmon in the shallow water draw a lot of bears and a lot of people wanting to watch and photograph the bears as well to catch the salmon, us included.

There are generally a lot of boats in the small area at the base of the falls wanting to view the bears.  The guides have come up with a plan to help with the problem.  Each of the boats are in a line pointing at the falls for fishing and watching.  Each boat is allowed 30 minutes to catch their limits of Red salmon and watch the bears.  Then it is required to move off to other areas or to get in the back of the line to start again. There were two other boats in front of us and we were in the lead boat of the two from Talon Air.  The fishing had been slow as we approached and there had been no sign of bears.  Then as the boats in front of us started catching fish, the black bears started coming down to the falls.  

As we moved forward toward the falls, we began hooking Red salmon.  Then as the fishing really got busy with lots of splashing and fish being caught, a huge brown bear came out of the trees and crossed the rapids making its presence known. The black bears quickly moved out and other brown bears began to come down to the falls. In the mean time, we were all catching Reds and had several in the boat.

Every one in our boat had caught their limit of Red salmon except me.  The guide told me to hit a special spot in the water with my hook.  I did and hooked the final fish in our boat.  The guide noticed it was a nice large one and told us that we would use it as our lunch.

We rotated out of line and let our second boat come to the front.  Ryan immediately hooked another large Red and fought it to the boat. 

 

 

 

The brown bears were really getting excited and were out in the water looking for fish. 

 

 Scott caught the last fish for their boat and

 

as they moved out of the line another brown momma and her baby moved down to the big rock from up the hill.

 

 

  She moved 

 

along the shore with the young one (notice him peeking out by the tree) as we went along the shore in the boat to a bog where the guide could cook lunch.

 

The guide was really set up to cook for his guests.  He started by filleting the salmon leaving the skin on one side.  Then he set up his small grill with a pan for the two fillets.  He oiled the meat first and then used a little sea salt and sprinkled seasoning over the fillets.  He even had an umbrella to cover the grill while the fish was cooking. It was really raining.  When the salmon had cooked for about 10 minutes and was still very moist, he cut the fillets in bite sized pieces and gave a bite to each of us in the boat, then cut up the other fillet and gave the bites to each of our group in the boat parked beside us.

 

 

Of course they had to show off all the Red salmon that they had caught on their boat.  We had caught the same number of fish so we had to show our fish to them.

 

 

When lunch was done, our guide took us on a scenic boat tour of the area including another beautiful falls flowing down from the level above.  This falls did not have a lake above it so there were no Red salmon climbing it to spawn. 

By then it was time to head back to the airplane for the trip back to Mackey Lake.  On the trip back, the pilot flew over the very interesting Redoubt glacier.  Although it was still raining with heavy cloud cover we could still see all the deep ice crevices and huge area of ice and snow. 

Although the airplane trip is expensive, the combination of watching the bears and fishing for salmon plus the flight across the Cook Inlet was worth it and we will probably do it again.

 

The Red salmon fishing was pretty much done after our trip across the Inlet.  Although the group still tried to fish on the Kenai, most of the Red salmon had already swam up river to spawn in Skilak and Kenai lakes.   We were only catching one or two Reds a day.                (Jan, Debbie and Scott on Pierce’s dock)

Fish & Game reduced the limit to one per person per day due to the small number of Reds in the river. Then on the 4th of August they closed the Red fishing on the Kenai completely because they only had three quarters of the minimum number of Reds in the river to spawn for the future.

 

 

 

SILVER FISHING

The first run of Coho (Silvers) salmon also started coming up the Kenai in large numbers in late August.  In even years (such as 2018), huge numbers of Pink salmon also enter the Kenai.  This year a huge number of salmon entered the Kenai the third week of August.

On the 24th of August, Fish and Game declared that a huge number of Reds had entered the Kenai River, which allowed them to reach the minimum limit to replenish the Red salmon for the future (??).  Do to the (so called) large number of Reds in the river,  F&G increased the Red limit for fishermen in the Kenai back up to the normal three per day.   Unfortunately, there weren’t many Reds in the river.   It’s funny, but we caught only one Red after they increased the limit back to 3,  but we caught a LOT of Pinks and some Silvers.

Although the Red fishing was poor this year, we still had a great time and lots of fun fishing and working together.

Pink salmon are fun to catch! They will hit almost anything, even a bright silver bare hook and are really feisty fun to catch. Unfortunately, their meat tends to be rather soft and has less flavor than the Reds, so we much prefer to catch the Reds for food.

Coho (Silver) salmon are larger than Pinks and Reds and their meat is slightly more oily than Reds. Many people prefer Silvers to the Reds for food.

Sliver fishing is more like catfish fishing in a pond or river. You bait your hook with salmon eggs or a lure, throw your line with a sinker and bait into the river and sit there waiting for a fish to hit the bait.

 

A Visit from the Luthi Girls 

My first wife, Lindy was very close to her mother’s family, the Luthi’s from Lamont, Kansas. We would often go down to Lamont for Holidays, especially Thanksgiving and often Christmas while I was still in college. We kept up the visits whenever we could, even after we moved to California, Ohio and the East Coast. Beside Elva, Lindy’s mother, there were three Luthi sons with grandkids totaling 8 girls and three boys. The entire family was very close. And they continued to be close to me after Lindy’s passing.

 

 

Soon after Jan and I married and purchased the RV Park in Alaska some of the Luthi girls wanted to come to Alaska for a vacation. This summer they got their chance and we had a great time with them. (left to right from the top) Jill and Janette Luthi, sisters; (botom) Laurie Wilson and Allison Luthi.

 

Unfortunately, we were in a rainy spell in Alaska and they never did get to see the beautiful mountains across the Cook Inlet. However, we took them Homer for the day and a fun time on the Spit.The rain had stopped and the sky had cleared over Kachemak Bay and the Spit, the mountains and 

glaciers were visible from the hill above Homer.  

After a great seafood lunch at Captain Mike’s the girls had to visit all the stores on the Spit including a rest stop along the way and a few curiosities.

 

 

We all eventually gathered at the Salty Dog Saloon for a photo opt and a beer before heading back to the Park for the night.

 

 

Back at the Park we relaxed for the evening, had dinner and then played a game of Mexican Train.

 

 

The nest day was a trip to Seward where we spent most of the afternoon at the Sea Life Center. Again it was a really rainy day, which is not unusual for Seward.

But we toured the beautiful seaside town in the Van and stopped at the Seward Falls to take a photo of the girls holding the Madison Kansas newspaper (near where the Luthi family lives) that they found at the Seward Sea Life Center (small world)!

On the final day of their visit, we toured our local area with a trip to Soldotna. We had a waffle breakfast at Whistle Stop Hill in the Alaska Train Caboose (fun!, fun!) and then toured the Kenai River area before driving on down to Kenai and the Visitor’s Center there.

It is always great fun to have family and friends visit us in Alaska. Alaska is so beautiful even when it is rainy. The summers are cool, but not cold. The flowers and trees are spectacular in their color, growth and quantity. And the scenery is spectacular! We just love to show it off!

 

END OF SUMMER

 

As August was coming to a close, we had our last group come in to celebrate their parents Wedding Anniversary. Arlene and Galen Gordon (at the top of the photo) have been celebrating their anniversary at the park every year for the past six years. They live in Homer and love to fish for trout.  So each year they have been spending their anniversary at the Park and fishing for trout at Johnson Lake.   This year, their entire family came with them to celebrate their 60th Wedding Anniversary.

And as every year, the end of the fishing season means canning time. Kim and Jan were filling the cans with salmon and heating them prior to putting on the lids.

 

John and I were in the back room sealing the cans with lids prior to cooking them in the pressure cooker. There were only 83 cans this year, less than half of our normal year.

 

 

Kim Brooks at the Kenai airport (AP).       

 

 

Sally, Bob, Jan (w/camera) & I at AP.

 

 

 

 

And, as always the end of the summer arrives and we have to wish all our great Alaska friends goodbye for another year. It was a rainy year and the fishing wasn’t great, but we had a lot of fun and

 

 

WE WILL BE BACK AGAIN NEXT YEAR!

Hope you come too!

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Salmon Fishing

King (Chinook) Salmon

King salmon enter the Cook Inlet in late April as the water begins to warm.  The king fishery starts in the salt water out of Homer and continues up the Kenai Peninsula coastline in early May. They swim up the shore line and enter the Kasilof and Kenai rivers to spawn.  Fishing for Kings in the Kenai river is accomplished entirely by boat.  The size and strength of the fish preclude bank fishing.  There have been slot limits for the length of fish taken in the early run, but your guide will know all the regulations.  We know several of the better fishing guides on the Kenai and Kasilof rivers and can make arrangements with them for your fishing trip.  Peak times are always busy so let us know early in order to get a date.

We had a good day on the Kenai in late July 2006 when we caught two Kings (48 and 52 pounds), a Red, a Pink and two Silvers.  The four of us were fishing in our own small river boat without a guide.  It was very crowded- there were approximately fifty other boats in the lower river below Eagle Rock.  We were very lucky to land both Kings with all the boats around us.

Kenai Kings are generally large in the 40 to 80 pound range.  These two Kings weighed 48 and 55 pounds.  The one on the left took 45 minutes to land in the boat and we traveled almost three miles down river before it wore out.

 

The Kasilof river King salmon include both native and hatchery fish.  The first run of Kings in the Kasilof are usually under 30 pounds and can be fished from the bank.  Although sometimes landing a feisty 30 pound King from the bank can require a lengthy run down the bank trying to wear the fish out! In 2008, native Kings could only be kept on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday although hatchery Kings could be kept every day.
Also there was a two fish daily limit on the Kasilof.  Be sure to read the Fish & Game regulations this year.  The Kasilof river is restricted to drift boat fishing only due to the shallow water and many rocks. We will be glad to tell you the best places to fish on the Kasilof river and will contact guides to take you on a trip down the lower river in a drift boat to fish for Kings if you prefer.

Red (Sockeye) Salmon

In mid-June, the first run of Red salmon swim into the Kenai river and quickly head upstream to the confluence of the Russian river. There they will stop and stay in about a three mile stretch of the Kenai until some unknown signal happens telling them to swim up to the Russian lakes to spawn. This is really the first chance to catch the delicious Red salmon of the year and thousands of people from all over the world gather in this out of the way spot on the Kenai river to enjoy ‘COMBAT FISHING’.

This is the river ferry located on the north side of the river. Fishermen gather here to cross to the south side of the river where most of the salmon are laying in wait before swimming up the Russian river.

On the south side of the river, you will have to find a gap in the people fishing in order to catch the wild salmon.  You may be between an Oriental, a German, a Dane, a lower 48-er or another Alaskan.  Whoever is next to you, you can be sure that you will be hung up in their fishing line more than once.  Usually everyone is congenial and having a good time.

It is hard to catch your limit though as most of the fish either break your line or are released in the tangle with other people.  Add to this a few brown bear that think that this place is their fishing ground and they also enjoy what fish you catch.
This fishing frenzy usually lasts for about two weeks before the salmon get that signal that it’s time to swim up the Russian river to spawn.

Mid-July starts the second run of the Reds in the Kenai river.  The thrill of catching a 10+ pound Red salmon from the bank of a swift river is enough to get your heart pounding! The Reds are so strong that many a line and fishing pole have been broken by a fighting fish.

The season on Reds starts out with a limit of three fish a day, but normally when the minimum number of spawning fish up the river is reached, Fish & Game will raise the limit to six fish per day.  Be sure to read the regulations for the limits and locations where you can fish.  A beautiful large Red salmon is a thrill for any fisherman.

The Red salmon start entering the Kasilof river in late June.  Although they are not as large as the second run Kenai fish, they are still fun to catch especially in the swift, shallower water of the Kasilof.  Also the river is not as crowded as the Kenai and there you might also catch a large Rainbow, Cutthroat trout, a Dolly Varden or even a King.  Fishing for Reds on the Kasilof is much different than fishing on the Kenai as the fish are less concentrated at the edge of the river.

Down near the mouth of the Kasilof are primary locations for Alaskans to obtain their annual subsistence salmon both by hand netting and set netting. The Kenai mouth is also a hand netting location.  You can stand at the edge of Scout Park on the bluff in the city of Kenai and watch the locals netting the Reds on the beach below. 

The Silver salmon start entering the Kenai Peninsula rivers and creeks around the first of August.  These fish are usually caught with bait or lures and therefore are generally fished from a boat on the Kasilof and Kenai rivers.  The Silvers normally bite best it the very early morning or late evening as they are very sensitive to light.  The Silver Salmon Derby in Seward is a huge event with prizes amounting up to tens of thousands of dollars.  Generally fishing is done from boats in Resurrection Bay although at certain times the Silvers can be caught from the shore.
Catching my first red salmon was a thrill of a lifetime and hooked me on fishing in Alaska.  Fighting a 10 to 12 pounds salmon with a fly pole in a river that is running 12 knots is to me the ultimate in sport fishing.  Add to that enjoyment of eating a fresh wild native red salmon convinced me that the Kenai Peninsula was going to be my summer home.  It gives us great pleasure to provide our visitors with a beautiful place to stay while they are enjoying our great and wonderful state.

See more on the salmon prime fishing times and places.

Fishing on the Kasilof River
Kasilof King
Kenai Reds
Neal shows off his catch
A good catch of reds
Salmon fishing in the shallows

Combat Fishing
A great catch of reds on the rack
Fishing from the bank
Tom holds up his catch
Reeling one in from the bank
Cary with his catch
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Our Drive – Alaska to the Lower 48

It’s the middle of September and this year’s salmon have all entered the river. Crooked Creek is full of red salmon fighting for a place to lay their eggs. The salmon eggs will hatch before the creek freezes and the young will head back down to the deep holes in the Kasilof River to spend the winter. They will stay in the river for a year then head out into Cook Inlet and the Pacific Ocean. In a few years, they will be back again to spawn in the same place they were born, their life cycle complete.

We began to close down the Kasilof RV Park for the winter. The kitchen screens are covered, time to take down the flags, put away the picnic tables and the flower pots for another year. We will turn off the water and blow out the lines. Fill them with RV antifreeze and lock up the buildings until the 2009 summer season. We are taking our 5th Wheel back down to the lower 48 states this year so we can use it during the winter. The birch trees are turning gold and are beautiful against the dark green of the spruce. We will take you on a tour of our trip back from Alaska.

Here is a good example of the colors and we can begin to see the terminal dust (new snow line) lowering from the top of the mountains. These small lakes (Tern Lakes) are at the crossroads of the Sterling Highway (1) which takes you down the Kenai Peninsula and the Seward Highway (3) which leads to the city and port of Seward. The lakes are nesting grounds for ducks and terns during the summer months. We turn onto Highway 3 and take the beautiful drive over the Kenai Mountains to Anchorage.

From Anchorage, we drive to the town of Palmer and then over the Chugash Mountains to Glen Allen and Tok. The Tazalina Glacier is a beautiful sight surrounded by the fall colors. Here again we see the terminal dust making it’s way down from the peaks of the Chugash mountains and soon this area will be covered with snow.

After Glen Allen, we travel just above the famous Copper River Basin to Tok and the Alaska/Canadian Highway (Alcan). It has become cloudy and we are getting a few drops of rain. The low clouds have almost covered Mt. Sandford off in the distance. This road which we snowbirds call the ‘Tok Cutoff’ is a shortcut to the Alcan Highway eliminating the long drive up the Parks Highway to Fairbanks to reach the Alcan.

As we head south of Tok on the Alcan, the sky off in the distance near the Canadian border begins to clear and promises a beautiful day for our trip through the Yukon. We pass by the US border without stopping and several miles on to the Canadian border entrance. The guard is friendly and has a few questions where we are going and if we are carrying guns, animals, liquor and cigarettes. Satisfied with our answers, we are on our way into the Yukon.

Further on we were rewarded with a beautiful view of Swan Lake nestled below the St. Elias Mountains. The Trumpeter Swans fly north to Alaska in the summer to their nesting grounds. In the fall, they again fly south with their young stopping along the way at their favorite lakes. There are several swans on the far side of the lake and can just be seen as tiny white specks.

On toward Watson Lake near the top of British Columbia (BC) where we will leave the Alcan Highway and travel the Cassiar Highway down the western side of BC to the Yellowhead Highway east of Prince Rupert. We had not traveled that route for some time as it was very poor in the past although the fall colors have always been spectacular. We were very pleasantly surprised as the road was in good shape this year and the fall colors were spectacular.

We stopped at Jade City 75 miles south of the Alcan Highway to see all the beautiful jewelry and sculptures made from the local Jade mines. We made arrangements with the owners to carry a few of the Jade items in our store at the Kasilof RV Park. Beyond Jade City, we reach the first stretch of gravel road. In the past, these 20 mile stretches have be almost impassable due to the constant travel by lumber trucks. This year the road had been recently graded and was excellent. We came over a hill and below us was Deese Lake and the town by the same name.

Below Deese Lake, the road continues to wind through the coastal mountains with the gold and green colors. The Cassiar Highway continues to live up to it’s spectacular fall scenery. The road is narrow and the traffic is light. Although not a fast route through BC, it certainly is one worthy of the time taken to drive it.

Further south lies Natadesleen Lake, a long narrow lake beside the Cassiar Highway. Below Iskut, a series of rivers run along side the highway almost all the way to Kitwanga where the Cassiar ends at Highway 16, known as the Yellowhead Highway.

We had decided to visit the beautiful National Parks of Canada, Jasper and Banff on our way back down to the lower 48 states. We traveled the Yellowhead highway across BC through Prince George into the Providence of Alberta and the town of Jasper. The beautiful scene greeted us at the entrance of Jasper National Park.

After a stop over at the beautiful ski village of Jasper, we traveled south on Highway 93, called the Icefield Parkway. The scenery was again spectacular with beautiful mountains, fall colors, a winding river along side and views of glaciers flowing out of the mountain ice-fields.
The parkway travels 135 miles of fabulous scenery between Jasper and Lake Louise. There are many glaciers flowing out of the Columbia Icefield.

 

We stopped at city of Lake Louise and pulled the 5th Wheel up the winding mountain road to the lake (large RV’s were not recommended although buses were traveling it). We were greeted by the huge Fairmont Resort Hotel at the edge of the lake.

The view from the hotel is the reason that Lake Louise is so popular. The glacier nestled in the V of the mountains feeds this beautiful lake. The lake is a dusty green caused by the suspended glacier flour (the finely ground rocks and minerals from the glacier). From Lake Louise, Highway 16 continues to Calgary, Alberta. There we picked up the Interstate 2 which will take us down to the Montana border of Interstate 15.

It was a beautiful and spectacular trip from Alaska to the lower 48 and we highly recommend it for a future trip for you.

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Our Drive Up to Alaska

From Great Falls we drove up the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains to the border of Canada.  After answering the border guard’s questions we were on our way to Alaska!

We stayed the night on the outskirts of McLeod, Alberta. The next day was a long one, on the side roads west of the freeways past Calgary (we had decided to visit Banff and Jasper in the fall due to the snowy weather, see our Trip from Alaska) and on to Whitecort west of Edmonton.

The next afternoon, we reached the start of the Alaska/Canadian Highway (Alcan) in Dawson Creek, British Columbia.

North on the Alcan for 332 miles to reach the top of Steamboat Mountain, we had left the plains of Canada and entered the Canadian Rockies. Steamboat is the highest pass that we encountered and it was the first mountain that we climbed. The Canadian Rockies are not like the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. The peaks aren’t as high and they are spread over a longer area. Once you pass over the first mountain, you are up high making your way through the mountains with beautiful, clear, sparkling streams, forests and lots of wild animals.

 

The first animals we encountered up high were the bighorn sheep.  It wasn’t long before we started seeing lots of Caribou. 

They looked pretty scrawny and rough with their winter coats shedding and their horns were just spikes. There were open areas along the road in many places where the new spring grass was growing and the Caribou were concentrating there.

One group of about ten decided to run down the middle of the road ahead of us. We of course just followed along with them waiting for them to move off the road. We probably saw thirty Caribou in different groups through a section of about 50 miles.

As we got down lower in elevation, the grass along the road became more plentiful and we began to see large numbers of buffalo. This is a wild herd that I would see every year when I used to drive to and from Alaska. They are free to roam the area although they seem to stay close to the highway where the grass is always plentiful.

We had seen several moose also on this part of the drive, but hadn’t been able to get photos of them. After a comment that we had seen everything but a bear, a few miles on we saw this black bear standing along the side of the road waiting for his photo opportunity.

 

Nestled in the mountains is this beautiful lake called Muncho Lake. It is a bright green from the copper and iron in the soil.

We filled with gas at a Lodge near the far end of the lake since we still had 177 miles to get to Watson Lake (the nearest town).

We stopped at Laird Hot springs. This is the lower hot spring that is much lower in temperature and used more often. The hot spring is in the lower foreground where the blue ripples are. There is a large number of people in the water at the other end—the further away from the hot spring, the cooler the water. The warmer (about 120 degrees) upper spring is more remote and less popular.
Watson Lake was our stop that evening. Don’t miss the visitor center and their film about the construction of the Alcan Highway.

The Sign Post Forest is in the center of town and was started by one of the American Servicemen building the highway in 1942. He made up a sign identifying his hometown in the lower 48 and hung it on a post in the town park. It caught on and other visitors added their signs to it. There are now over 54,000 signs in the park. Jan found a sign that says, ‘Jan Lake 4 km’ right in the front of the park sign at the end of the boardwalk.

 

Back on the road again, our next stop was across the Nisutlin River from the small village of Tinglit Indians called, ‘Teslin’. There is a neat little museum there that highlights the life of the local celebrity, George Johnson. He was Tinglit Indian that became a very well known photographer who used his proceeds to provide a taxi service for the town.

We left our camper outside of Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, to make a side trip to Skagway. We took the White Pass & Yukon Route railroad. On the way one of the stops was at Emerald Lake. The minerals in the water cause the unique colors in the lake water.

White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad

 

Fraser, BC hosts the Canadian Customs and is the first train stop from Alaska.  The inside of the parlor cars had been restored to their vintage condition except the seats had been upgraded and the restrooms were modern. The train is used strictly for sightseeing now. It was fabulous trip and we highly recommend it to any traveling the Inside Passage or driving down from Whitehorse.

The train route from Skagway climbs 3,000 feet from sea level to the summit of White Pass in just 20 miles, a grade of almost 3.9 percent. Thirty-five thousand men constructed the roadbed and tracks starting in May 1889. During World War II, the railroad was instrumental in carrying supplies and men to build the Alaska/Canadian Highway.

The scenery was absolutely magnificent, with breathtaking views occurring over and over again.

 

Sawtooth Mountain was one of the more beautiful and interesting of the mountaintops seen from the train as we proceeded through the range to White Pass summit.

 

Further down the mountain, just beyond the Skagway river delta, we got our first view of the Skagway Harbor. Although they are hard to see in this small photo, there are three cruise ships in the harbor.

Skagway

As we got into Skagway, we were greeted by the Skagway tour bus. Started in the early 1900’s the buses have been renovated and are now again hauling tourists around Skagway to see the city sights.

The downtown area of Skagway has been restored to the era of the gold rush days and is a very popular cruise stop.

The brothels in Skagway had a Can-Can show every day for the gold rush miners. Prior to the shows, the girls would come out on the second floor porch or hang their mesh hose covered leg out the window to attract the men on the street. Now the Eagles Club recreates those shows four times a day with a story about the notorious Soapy Smith who ran a bar/gambling hall/brothel with the intent of scamming the miners.

 

We also enjoyed the old gold rush cemetery outside of town which has a monument to the Hero of Skagway, Frank Reid. Seems like he and the notorious hoodlum Soapy Smith got into a gun fight over Smith stealing a miner’s gold. Reid killed Smith with a shot through the heart but was fatally wounded himself, dying a few days later.

We left Skagway that afternoon, after a very special trip, back to our campground where the truck and camper were parked.

Dawson City

Leaving Whitehorse we traveled off the Alcan to visit the Klondike gold fields in Dawson City. The Yukon River was very pretty as it meandered through the valley. As we proceeded up toward Dawson City, the river increased in size and the road moved away from the river. Soon we began to see smaller spruce trees and more alpine type vegetation. It didn’t seem that the area was getting that much colder, but we were obviously traveling north toward the Arctic Circle. We arrived in Dawson City in mid-afternoon and stayed in the RV Park right in the town.

 

Dawson City has also been restored to the gold rush days, like the Palace Grand Theatre, a restoration of the original Opera house.

Almost all the buildings on Main Street have been beautifully restored. Many of them hadn’t opened for the summer yet when we were there or were closed for the day by the time we were walking around that evening.

The sign to the left of these two buildings indicated that it was typical of what happened in northern climates where the ground freezes and thaws every year. If the buildings don’t have adequate foundations to a depth below the freeze line, they will eventually lean or sink. (Try as I might I couldn’t straighten them back up).

Top of World Highway

The next morning we were first in line to take the free ferry across the Yukon River to the start of the Top of the World Highway. The river was high and running swift.

 

It didn’t take to long to reach the Top of the World Hiway and from up there, I could have sworn that we were in fact there. The road climbed right up to the tops of the mountains and ran along to the tops. The road was in pretty good shape with some broken spots. The snow had mostly melted although there were banks along the road occasionally.

Looking back down into the Yukon valley below you could realize how high we had climbed and in fact, this road was at the top of the local world. There were no guardrails on the side of the road and the shoulders were very narrow. There were some places along the road where it wasn’t wide enough for two vehicles to pass. Fortunately by leaving early there was very little traffic on the road.  It was an interesting drive with beautiful scenery and we were glad we did it.

On to Alaska

We reached the Alaskan border, a very lonely outpost for the custom officers and families that lived there. The closest town, Dawson City is 65 miles away on the Canadian side although you have to travel the Top of the World Highway or you could drive 122 miles to Tok on the American side. However, the roads on the American side were mostly gravel and had not been well maintained.

We then proceeded to Chicken, The story of how chicken got it’s name is pretty funny. The townspeople decided that they would name it after a local game bird called a Ptarmigan. Unfortunately none of them knew how to spell it… so they ended up calling it ‘Chicken.’ (One of our favorite books ‘Tisha, about a school teacher going to teach in Alaska, is set in Chicken- we highly recommend it!)

The people of Chicken are still having fun with their name. The four stall outhouse erected away and down wind of the business district is called ‘Chicken Poop’. There are other buildings in the area that are also decorated with chicks and chickens, but not quite as funny.

On our way out of Chicken, we had to stop in the Post Office where they postmark the cards and add chicken tracks. The Post Office was a neat small log cabin that serviced the local area.

After the trip to Dawson City and Chicken, we came back to the Alcan Highway just 12 miles east of Tok at Tetlin Junction. From there over to Glen Allen was another rough ride with lots of patchy roads. From Glen Allen the next day, it was a short drive to Anchorage and down to the Kenai Penninsula.

We so enjoyed our journey from the lower 48 through Canada and on to Alaska. Our side trips made it truly extraordinary. We hope you have found some inspiration for your own trip here. 
 
 

 

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Fishing & Clamming

landing 40 lb. King SalmonThe Kenai Peninsula is considered one of the premier salmon fishing sites of the world.  It boasts two major salmon rivers. One of which, the Kenai, holds the world record for the largest King Salmon (98 pounds) rod caught by a fisherman. It has two runs of the delicious Sockeye (Red) salmon, a Coho (Silver) salmon run and in even years millions of pink salmon. Then there is the Kasilof River with it’s early runs of Kings, both natural and hatchery, followed by a growing Sockeye (Red) salmon run and a big Coho (Silver) salmon run. In addition, King salmon can be caught on Deep Creek, Ninilichik Creek and Anchor River on Memorial weekend and the following two weekends, then Coho (Silver) salmon in the fall.

Early May also starts the entrance of Kings into the Kenai River and the guide boats fill the lower river. Combat fishing at the Russian River starts around the end of June bringing in fishermen and women from all over the world for the annual event (more detail in the fishing section). 

The middle of July brings the second run of Reds into the Kenai with the big males up to 12 pounds.  For two weeks, the river is full of reds and the banks are lined with fishermen.

Starting the 1st of August the Coho (silver) salmon enter all the rivers and creeks on the peninsula and the annual Silver Salmon derby starts in Seward.  Is it any wonder that the Kenai Peninsula is considered: ‘THE SALMON FISHING CAPITAL OF THE WORLD’

A large halibut from the Cook InletThe Kenai Peninsula also boasts the ‘HALIBUT FISHING CAPITAL OF THE WORLD’ in Homer, Alaska.   The Cook Inlet is salt water and provides easy access to some of the largest Halibut in the world.  Guides with large boats can take fishermen and women on daily trips to the fishing grounds from Ninilichik to Homer.  Some guides offer both Halibut and King salmon fishing on the same trip.

ClammingThe beaches of the Cook Inlet also offer the fun of digging for the famous and delicious Alaskan Razor Clams.  The beaches at Coho, Ninilichik, Deep Creek, Clam Gulch and Whiskey Creek are always crowded at the low tides with people digging for the elusive clams.  Come and enjoy the fun and then having the pleasure of eating the fresh clam strips, clam fritters and delicious chowder.

Rafting on Johnson LakeAnd don’t let us forget the fun for the entire family of fishing for Rainbow trout in Johnson Lake.  Each year the Alaska Fish and Game stock Johnson Lake with Rainbows.  They are a delight to catch and good to eat.

IT IS EASY TO SEE WHY SUMMERS IN ALASKA ARE A FISHERMAN’S PARADISE

 

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Russian River Sockeye Fishing

In early June, the first run of Sockeye (Red) salmon come into the Kenai River to head to the confluence of the Kenai and the Russian Rivers. Thousands of these salmon will congregate in about two miles of the Kenai river waiting for some signal to enter the Russian river and make their way up the river to the Russian Lake where they will spawn and die.

Fishermen and women from all over the world know of this annual event and gather on the banks of the Kenai to participate. So many in fact that they line up elbow to elbow to catch these tasty, elusive salmon and it has become known as ‘Combat Fishing’. The National Parks have built a park and a Ferry at this confluence of the rivers and each year during this event, ferry anxious fishermen across the river to catch these tasty salmon.

Russian Lake
Russian River Falls

Combat Fishing
Russian River
Russian River Ferry
Combat Fishing
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Old Russian Orthodox Churches

On the Sterling Highway south of Kasilof RV Park is the small village of old Ninilichik. This was originally a Russian fishing village and today is still predominately associated with fishing. There is a small boat harbor built for the commercial salmon ships.

On the bluff above the village stands the Russian Orthodox Church and cemetery. The church was built in the 1800s and has been in use since. From the top of the bluff you have a beautiful view of the Alaska Range of mountains including Redoubt and Ilimana, both dormant volcanoes. Cook Inlet with it’s huge salmon runs and Halibut populations extend both directions.
Russian Orthodox Cemetary

In the city of Kenai is another old Russian Orthodox Church. It was originally built in the 1800s and rebuilt again after a fire destroyed it. The church is also still in use and unlike the church in Ninilichik, the Kenai church has certain times that the priest will open the church to the public and give lectures on it’s history and function. There are still several Russian communities on the Kenai Peninsula including a large one east of Homer.

Ninilichik Villiage
Ninilichik Beach

 

Ninilichik Russian Church
Russian Orthodox Church
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Russian Orthodox Church interior
Kenai Russian Priest
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Homer Spit

Seventy miles south of the Kasilof RV Park lies the town of Homer, the self-proclaimed ‘Halibut Fishing Capital of the World’. As you arrive at the Homer Overlook, be sure to stop and see the beautiful views of the Kachemak Bay, the Kenai Mountains with the many glaciers and down in the distance is the famous Homer Spit sticking out into the bay.

At the end of the Spit is the Lands End Hotel which states it is the ‘Roads End’ of the most westerly continuous road in North America. From there you can drive on a continuous highway all the way to the tip of Key West Florida.

The Spit has a large boat harbor for the local commercial fishing fleet, the Halibut fishing fleet, the Coast Guard, Cruise Boats and the Alaska Ferry terminal. There was a large cannery at the end of the boat harbor until it burned. Now it is a processing plant for shipping fish to other Peninsula canneries. The Spit has many shops and restaurants including several Alaska Native Art and Crafts outlets.

One of the highlights of the Spit is the Salty Dawg Saloon. Originally it was the lighthouse on the Spit, but when the lighthouse was moved to the bluff, the log cabin was added to the base and was turned into a local watering hole (bar) for the fishermen. Over time it has become a must stop for all tourist that visit the Spit to place a dollar bill with their name on it plus other unmentionables on the walls and ceilings.

Overlooking Homer boat harbor
Inside the Salty Dog
Husbands while wives shop
Lunch on the boardwalk
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Seward Sea Life Center and Exit Glacier

On the other side of the Kenai Peninsula, 110 miles from the Kasilof RV Park, is the town of Seward. It is a beautiful seaside town nestled in the Kenai Mountains with a year round open harbor. It is the terminus of the Alaska Railroad and many cruise ship lines. One of it’s main attractions is the Alaska Sea Life Center which was built with some of the funds recovered from the Exxon Valdez disaster.

At the time of the oil spill, the center was primarily a sea life research center for the Alaska Fish and Game. When the disaster occurred, many of the water fowl, and sea animals that were coated with oil were rescued and brought to the center for cleaning and recovery.

In addition to educational displays the sea life in the Resurrection Bay, it has aquariums of the local Alaskan sea inhabitants, birds and animals.

 

Also just outside the city of Seward, the Harding Ice Field has a glacier outlet which is accessable by automobile. The glacier got it’s name from the early explorers of the ice field. It was the only accessable exit from the Harding Ice Field close to a town so it became known as ‘Exit Glacier’. It is unique in that you can walk right up to the edge of the glacier and down to the face where the melted water is released.

Every 4th of July, Seward holds an annual race to the 3,000 foot top of Mt. Marathon which rises from sea level on the edge of town.  Starting downtown, the foot race is a climb and descent on Mt. Marathon, complete with cliffs, scree fields, waterfalls, and a spectacular view.  This annual event draws runners from around the world.

 

Alaska Sea Life Center
Exit Glacier
Runner Ending Mt. Marathon Race
Runners climbing to the top
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Kenai Fjords Boat Cruises

There are several Seward companies offering day long and half day boat cruises to the Kenai Fjords National Park. These include visits to the glaciers flowing out of the Harding Ice Field into Resurrection Bay. The boats commonly go up to the face of the glaciers such as this one at Holgate Glacier although they stay far enough away from the face to assure that ice calving from the face of the glacier doesn’t hit the boat.
The tours include watching the many animal and bird nesting areas in the bay. There is always an interest in whale watching and the bay hosts many species of whale in the summer months. Shown on the right is a male Orca whale that was spotted on one of the tours feeding with it’s pod of female and young whales. Many sperm whales are also normally seen. The boats also tour the sea lion and various bird rookeries.

Kasilof V Park can make reservations with many different tour companies to visit the Kenai Fjords National Park. We can explain the differences in the tours for you.

 

 

Girls at the “Gate”
Sealions relax in the sun
Eagle Pair
Puffin Rookery
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