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TODD’S VISIT

Todd & Dave fishing for Halibut
Todd & Dave fishing for Halibut

Todd came up to Alaska to go fishing and we did; however, I got him to help build the extension to the deck while he was here.  As you saw last time, he did a lot of the work in building the deck with me standing by helping some of the time.  His trip didn’t start off that great as he was supposed to arrive on Thursday and we had a Halibut trip planned for Saturday.  His flight from KC to Denver was sent to Pueblo because of thunder storms in Denver.  By the time he actually arrived in Denver, his flight to Anchorage had already left, s0-0-0-0 the next available flight required a flight to Phoenix (?????), then a flight to Seattle where he caught a flight to Anchorage, a day later!!!!!! What happened to the days when we could book a flight and expect to arrive at the destination at least on the same day?  You didn’t sit with your knees under your chin and the plane wasn’t stuffed with people.

Our catch
Our catch

Anyway, we were able to postpone the Halibut trip (it helps to be good friends with the Captain) and we went Halibut fishing the next day.  A beautiful day, cool, no rain, calm seas and lots of fish.  We didn’t catch anything huge, but we did catch lots and had a blast.  Jan and I went with Todd and Dave  with Captain Don and his grandson, Hunter.  We caught a lot of small sharks and enough nice Halibut to send a picture along to you to envy!  Above Dave is reeling one in and Todd is grinning at his exertions.  Next is our total catch for the day.  Lots of good Halibut fillets.

Putting up the Railings
Putting up the Railings

We  were putting on the final touches to the deck extension by screwing in the railing boards.  You saw the entire construction process in last nights blog and here we are finishing off the deck by me holding on while Todd was screwing in the board in the proper place.  At this point we still had to finish off the front steps, but we had completed most of the main deck and walkway.

Final Finish to the Deck
Final Finish to the Deck

Todd decided what the finished deck needed were a couple of sentinels to watch over who came into the kitchen deck.  So he talked us into placing the bear and the eagle at each corner to keep out the rif-raf.  Of course, then we had to put in the totem to keep the two of them company.  It turned out to be a great addition to the RV Park and one that will get a lot of use in the future.

Todd at the Russian River
Todd at the Russian River

Todd wanted to go Red fishing and we tried fishing on the Kenai, but the fish had all passed though.  We heard that they were catching Reds up on the Kenai at the confluence of the Russian River so we took a drive to the Russian River Ferry Landing to see if we could catch some too.  WE DID!  There wasn’t a crowd and the three of us had a blast catching and releasing big Red salmon.  Here you see Todd bringing in a nice Red while the Ferry is in the background taking a load of fishermen back to the campground.

Todd with Large, Mature Red Male
Todd with Large, Mature Red Male

We caught several Reds that hadn’t turned to their mature colors of Red and Green before they spawn then die.   We kept several of them for smoking.  Todd and I both caught several large Red males that had matured and were ready to mate and spawn.  Here Todd is showing off one of the big ones he caught.  It’s colors are beautiful with a bright crimson body, a dark green head, fins and tail.  We modeled the sign on our van, Grace to

Park Symbol
Park Symbol

match this.  I had heard that the flesh of the Reds after they had matured turned mushy and strong flavored.  NOT TRUE!  The flesh had lost some of it’s bright red color, but it was still firm and when we smoked it, we couldn’t tell the difference between it and any other salmon that we caught.

Brown Bear at the Russian
Brown Bear at the Russian

Although it is difficult to see in this photo, a brown bear was visiting the area and enjoying the salmon as well.  Here Jan is fishing while up the river beyond the Ferry is a group of people that were fishing and their boat at the tip of the trees.  Just beyond the rear of the boat is a brown bear that was enjoying the catch of the people that had been in the boat.  It didn’t bother any of them other than to enjoy their fish and then wandered into the woods, later to appear on the other side of them at the edge of the water trying to catch his own salmon.

Todd's Final Job
Todd's Final Job

Which brings us to Todd’s final job while he was here with us this summer.

It seems that while Dave and Shirley were with us earlier, he really wanted to see a Brown Bear.  We never saw one.  However, after he left, Todd and Jan found the droppings of a Brown Bear on the road to the west of us.  So to satisfy Dave, Todd went down to the road and picked up the droppings of the Brown Bear and we sent it to Dave so he would have something to show other than a photo of a Brown Bear.  Wasn’t that nice of Todd ?

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COOPER’S VISIT

Shirley & Dave enjoying the campfire
Shirley & Dave enjoying the campfire

The Cooper’s arrived the day after the Stromgrens left.  We drove to Seward to pick them up as they were getting off the enormous cruise boat that brought them up the Inside Passage to Alaska.  They had a wonderful trip with lots of great memories.  We were intent on improving on that while they were visiting.  Dave is Jan’s cousin and Shirley is a friend since grade school.  I actually attended grade school with both Shirley and Jan through the 4th grade.

Here we are the first evening enjoying the sunset around our new fire pit.

Shirley was cold!
Shirley was cold!

Shirley wasn’t acclimated to the Alaska cooler weather yet and even though we were sitting around the fire, she was wrapped up in a blanket with only her face visible.  It is difficult to transfer from the Kansas heat and humidity to Alaska climate.  Shirley had also hurt her knee on the cruise and wasn’t able to get around a lot so it was difficult for her to stir up the heat to keep herself warm.

Dave's red catch
Dave's red catch

It didn’t take Dave any time to go fishing.  Fortunately, another big school of red salmon had entered the Kenai river the day before and there were plenty of reds to learn how to catch them.  Dave caught on quickly snagging two legally in the mouth the first day.  Kevin, Jan, Dave and I were fishing every day with the new school in the river so there were plenty of fish being caught by all of us.  For the next three days in a row,  we all limited out with three each giving us a lot of fish to process for freezing and smoking.  Dave also got a lesson in cleaning and filleting salmon.

Pulling out cottonwoods
Pulling out cottonwoods

Of course he had to earn his keep by helping around the park, and work he did.  He drove the truck and the 4-wheeler while I tied chains and ropes around the cottonwood saplings that had grown up all over the park.  We cleared quite an area between our Park Model and the RV pad next to us.

Riding the cart
Riding the cart

We loaded our little utility cart with the saplings and took them down to the dump below the back of the lot.  Dave had to ride on the cart to keep the saplings from falling off.  It worked!

Cutting concrete tubes
Cutting concrete tubes

Dave also helped me level off the area in front of the kitchen for the future deck extension.  Here he is cutting concrete tubes that will hold the 4×4 support posts for the deck and then we dug holes for them in the area where we were building the deck.

Fishing for Halibut
Fishing for Halibut

It wasn’t only work while Dave and Shirley were here.  Todd came for a visit a few days after they arrived and we had to go on a Halibut trip with our Captain Don of Alaska Trophy Charters.  Jan and I filled out the charter and we had a great time and caught a lot of fish.  Here Dave is reeling in another one while Todd is looking on and grinning at Dave’s effort.

Our Halibut catch
Our Halibut catch

It was a good day!   We caught a lot of fish and although we didn’t catch any whoppers, we did get a lot of good fillets off these beauties.  Each of us caught plenty of fish including a lot of small sharks that begin to come in the Inlet to feed on the salmon scraps.

Momma moose
Momma moose

They were anxious to see the local wildlife including moose and bears.  Fortunately we didn’t see any bears but we did find evidence of one and Dave got a trophy to remind him of it in the future.  This momma moose was standing along the road eating and we stopped to take a picture of her.  She was happy to pose for us for quite some time before moving on to other forage.  Later we also saw a momma and two young calves along the beach road, but we didn’t get any photos of them.

Homer's Salty Dawg Saloon
Homer's Salty Dawg Saloon

As with all our first time guests, we had to take them down to Homer to see the mountains and the sights.  Unfortunately, the trip down was foggy and we couldn’t see the mountains across the Cook Inlet.  We were hoping that the fog would burn off and they would become visible on the trip back.  We did stop at the tractor pull at Deep Creek and Dave being an old farm boy was fascinated with the tractors putting in the charter Halibut boats and pulling them back out of the water.

Eagle on top of Salty Dawg Saloon
Eagle on top of Salty Dawg Saloon

Dave collects photos and carvings of eagles and sure enough there was one sitting on top of the Salty Dawg Saloon just for his visit.   It’s obvious from the photo that this is a common roost for the eagles and the gulls noting the white coating on the roof tiles.

Inside the Salty Dawg Saloon
Inside the Salty Dawg Saloon

Inside the saloon, we had to sample their drinks to make sure that they were up to our standards.  It was a cool, foggy day outside and the wind was blowing off the Kachemak Bay which it often does, so we had Cocoa with a shot of  Amaretto in it.  It sure warmed us up!

The Cooper dollar
The Cooper dollar

Looking at all the dollars with previous visitor’s names on them inspired Dave and Shirley to add their on in the only bare spot that they could find.  He did eventually pin the other side of the dollar so you could see the name on it.

Kenai Moutains across from Homer Spit
Kenai Moutains across from Homer Spit

The fog never did clear so you could see the mountains across Cook Inlet.  However, while we were in sampling the fare at the Salty Dawg, the peaks of the Kenai Mountains across Kachemak Bay south of Homer began to clear enough to see the outline of them and some of the glaciers flowing down between them.  The fog still hung tight over the water and it never did clear as we  drove back north.  We stopped at Bob and Linda Steinke’s cabin beyond Ninilchik and the fog had cleared enough there to view Mt. Redoubt and some of the northern Alaska range.

We had a great time with the Cooper’s as we always seem to do.  We took them back to the airport in Anchorage on the 8th of August, nine fun filled days

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Mt. Redoubt Volcano

We are heading back up to Alaska on the 18th of May for the summer season.  We have guests for Memorial Day weekend so we will have lots of work to do to get the park ready.  As usual, I will try to keep you informed of what is happening as the summer progresses.  Lots to do this summer as we have to build a new office and complete the interior of the lodge.  I also want to extend the deck area and build a campground fire pit.  I hope to also do some fishing!!

Mt. Redoubt with steam and ask cloud
Mt. Redoubt with steam and ash cloud

I am sure that most of you know that Mt. Redoubt (55 miles across the Cook Inlet from us) has erupted again this year and is sending steam and ash into the air on a regular basis. Our neighbor Paul Elkins has been kind enough to keep us updated with pictures of the eruption.  This photo taken from the same spot as the previous photo in the February blog this time showing the steam and ash rising from the volcano.

Backside of Mt. Redoubt at sunset
Backside of Mt. Redoubt at sunset

The Alaska Volcano Observatory published this photo in their May update.  It’s a beautiful photo of the steam and ash rising out of the cauldron on the rear side of Mt. Redoubt.
So far the ash deposit on the Peninsula has been moderate as the prevailing winds have been carrying most of it north and west.  The volcano is currently building a dome in the cauldron and the seismic activity has decreased significantly.  It is still steaming and expected to continue this summer.  A violent eruption is not expected.  We are anxious to get up there and see it for ourselves.

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Palo Duro Canyon, South Texas

Texas – Jan. 28 thru Feb. 18

We drove south out of San Antonio heading for Corpus Christie and Jan’s friends from Colorado.  We stayed in an RV Park in Fulton which is about 15 miles east of Corpus.  Nice park, but crowded with winter residents.  The next morning we drove to Port Aranus to visit Marla and Jim Miles out on Mustang Island.  They own two RV parking sites in a very nice, windy park just off the beach.  They took us on a tour of South Corpus and the north end of Padre Island.  If you are ever in Rockport, TX, dinner at Charlote Plummer’s is a seafood delight!

Next day we drove south to the Rio Grande Valley, our warm winter designation.  We stayed at a park in La Feria for a few days and toured the area around Harlingen and the south Texas Coast.  Port Mansifield was interesting from the standpoint of a remote Gulf Coast town.  It was very remote and was primarily a salt water fishing town.  The area is mostly produce crop farming although as you got closer to the coast line the real southern Texas land became visible, prickly pear cactus and Mesquite bush.  I doubt that goats could even survive on it.  Further south we reached Port Isabel and could see South Padre Island from our restaurant on the bay.  Looked promising for further exploration.

Our next stop for a few days was Breeze Lake Campground east of Brownsville.  The campground was nice with a beautiful lake; however, it was overcrowded with campers parked almost on top of each other (mostly short term campers).  We spent the next day touring South Padre Island and drove north on the Island to the end of the road (about 10 miles).   The upper end of the road was mainly for surf fishing and sun bathing.  The lower part of the Island is very built up with beautiful high rise hotels and condos along the ocean and a lot of tourists.  We did enjoy a great shrimp dinner on the south end of the Island and again a delicious seafood buffet on the Island with our friends Ronnie and Nancy Miller.

With a two night stop in Mission, TX just west of McAllen, we spent one day on a trip to Progresso, Mexico.  It was way overcrowded, too many hawkers on the crowded walkways and the military guarding the border with machine guns including 50 caliber guns in sand bag revetments.  With all that’s going on with the drug wars along the borders, it wasn’t a good place to be.  We left Misson for Falcon Lake the next day with the intent of staying a week there.  However, that was curtailed by a blooming bush called the ‘Weezak’.  I usually don’t have problems with alergies, but the pollen of the thousands of blooming ‘Wezaks’ did me in.   My sinus swelled up like a balloon and I was coughing constantly.  I couldn’t sleep at night and had to set upright to get any rest.  Falcon Lake was beautiful and was formed by damming the Rio Grande river.  The border between US and Mexico is in the middle of the lake causing a lot of border patrols through the State campground.  The campground was very nice with full hookups available and ample room.  Too bad I couldn’t have enjoyed it.

After three nights, I couldn’t handle it anymore and we move on to Zapata to a campground where Earl and Opal Moss, Hoxie friends of Jan’s were staying. The campground is located at the upper end of Falcon Lake and is very popular with boaters and fishermen.  We stayed in the park for five nights and toured the local area.  The weather was nice and warm in south Texas and that is about all the good I can say about it.

We drove north on Highway 83 back toward home.  Highway 83 goes all the way from Harlingen, TX north through Oklahoma, Kansas (just 20 miles west of Hoxie), Nebraska, South and North Dakota and into Canada.  Its mostly two lane roads, but we like to travel those instead of the freeways when we are not in a hurry.  You get to see a lot more country and what the towns are like that way.

The first night on the road we found that there were not a lot of campground oportunties along Highway 83 so we found a campground about 20 miles west in the city of San Angelo.  I must say that the Spring Creek Campground there was the most beautiful and pleasant campground of the entire trip .  It was a privately owned campground in the middle of a huge city park along a large lake just south of the city.  Our camp site was at the edge of the lake and although the sites were closely spaced, the scenery was beautiful.  I could have stayed for several days there and except for the cooler climate would be a nice winter camping area.

The next day we drove on north to Canyon, TX with the intent of spending a day in the Palo Duro Canyon.  It was well worth the trip.

Palo Duro Canyon from the Lodge and Gift Shop just under the rim.
Palo Duro Canyon from the Lodge and Gift Shop just under the rim.

The canyon is a Texas State Park just below Amarillo, TX.  They call it the Grand Canyon of Texas and I must admit is was really grand.  What was so unusual was the terrain leading to the canyon.  A few miles west of the entrance is the Texas Panhandle plateau, almost flat ground as far as the eye can see.  Then as you travel east all of a sudden this gorgeous multi-colored canyon opens up below you.  We stopped at a view point on the plateau and just below us on the side of the cliff was a large stone gift shop, informative center (all about the canyon) and a lodge for guests.  The view above was from the parking lot.

But the best still waited for us as the road lead us off the side of the rim and down into the canyon itself.  The state has built a 16 mile drive at the base of the canyon so you can really enjoy the beauty and the colors of it.

The various colors of the sediment layers were beautiful
The various colors of the sediment layers were beautiful

There were at least four RV campgrounds on the floor of the canyon some with full hookups and most with separated pads each with a shelter, a campfire pit and some with charcoal grills.  Very nice camping facilities.  Each of the campgrounds also had toilets and showers.

Stone cabins with full utilities
Stone cabins with full utilities

There were even some stone cabins called “Cow cabins”, some with water, fireplace, restroom and even airconditioning.  These could be rented although they didn’t have maid service!  We were there in the off season which is usually from April to October so there were almost no one camping except for a few campground hosts.  As we drove into one of the campgrounds we saw a young doe eating nuts below a tree in one of the vacant campsites.  We watched her for quite awhile and took pictures of her and then as we were driving on by a herd of wild turkey walked out of the woods and went to the deer, then over to the truck expecting a handout.

Multi-colored hills    sculpted by erosion
Multi-colored hills sculpted by erosion

The variety of sediment through the millinea has provided unusual colors as the wind and water eroded the canyon walls.  There are layers of greys and white which were ash layers deposited when the Rocky Mountains were still volcanic.  The floor of the canyon is mostly sparse grass, junipers, cactus, mesquite and cottonwoods along the creek that runs down through the canyon.  The creek which often turns into a flood has over time eroded the canyon.

A side canyon with      orange brown colors
A side canyon with orange brown colors

The continuing beauty of the canyon almost takes your breath away at times.  There are also all kinds of trails through out the various side canyons and the canyon floor.  You can walk, ride bikes and on some of the trails ride horses.  Horses are available for rent.  Several of the most photographed parts of the canyon including the pinicle and castle were too far off the road for us to do in one day.  But it does make you want to return sometime and stay for awhile to enjoy the entire canyon.  It’s only a day away from Hoxie!

The bright oranges, browns, violets continue through the canyon
The bright oranges, browns, violets continue through the canyon

This is just sample of the beauty that does exist in Texas.  If you ever get a chance to visit this area don’t pass up a day in Palo Duro Canyon.

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