There were so many great photos taken during their visit with us this summer that I can’t insert them into the narrative that Marissa wrote because there would be more photos than words so I have decided to change the format. This time I will just publish the words and then I will go through their visit with the photos and comment on them individually. This was their first visit to Alaska and we tried to jam as much as possible into the seven days that they were here. We didn’t get to see it all, but we did a good job as you will see!
Here’s Marissa’s journal that she wrote while she was here:
July 19, 2009
Numero Uno: El Journal de Stromgren Familia
Hola amigos, chicos, ninos, ninas, abuelos (grandparents), I think that just about covers all bases. Marissa here, writing to you all on our 3rd lovely and adventurous little Alaskan escapade. I’m the 3rd to take over the journal after Travis, Jacob and Jordan, so here goes…The following rendition was inspired by the 3 stooges AKA Post boys, and has been modified due in part by our Alaskan countryside:
*Please sing the following to the tune of SpongeBob
Marissa: Are you ready weird family?
Weird Family: Aye Aye Captain
Marissa: I can’t hear you….
Weird Family: Aye Aye Captain!
Marissa: Ooooooo who lives in a RV up in the vast Alaskan country?
Weird Family: Gram and Gramp Kasilof RV Park Keepers!
Marissa: Gracious, Alaskan, and Smelly are they!
Weird Family: Gram and Gramp Kasilof RV Park Keepers!
Marissa: If fishing, wildlife, and sights are something you wish…
Weird Family: Gram and Gramp Kasilof RV Park Keepers!
Marissa: Then fly to Alaska and begin to smell like a fish!
Weird Family: Gram and Gramp Kasilof RV Park Keepers!
Weird Family: Gram and Gramp Kasilof RV Park Keepers! Gram and Gramp Kasilof RV Park Keepers! Gram and Gramp Kasilof RV Park Keepers!
Marissa: Gram and Gramp.…. Kasilof RV Park Keepers! Ha-ha!
Time on my hands? Yes, it is raining outside and I am in between loads of laundry (Missa moo cow wears several hats, AKA Marissa the maid and toilet paper switcher outer). Alrighty, so let’s get you all caught up on our experiences thus far. We left Thursday the 16th around 4:30 a.m. from the Stromgren household. We flew from KC, to Minneapolis, to Portland, and up onto Anchorage. Gram and Gramp Kasilof RV Park Keepers (Yes, that is in fact their new title) graciously picked us up and we drove onto the thriving metropolis of Kasilof.
On the way we stopped for several Kodak moments, mainly because Mom is carrying around the little Jesus figure from the Church. Jesus is a miniature doll version the Church gives to families to take on vacations; the families are told its because Jesus likes to be adventurous, however, in reality he’s ensuring they follow the righteous path… With our Paparazzi-like skills we will have a plethora of pictures to share in the near future! We made a pit stop for pizza and beer (root beer for the minors) at the most adorable little brewery in Soldotna. Upon arriving to the Kasilof RV Park, the exhausted Stromgren familia hit the hay and visions of grizzly bears, mountain lions, and redneck campers danced in their heads.
Numero Dos: Day 2, The Failed Fishing Shenanigans
The Stromgrens awoke refreshed and anxious to catch their little fishies; almost everyone awoke rejuvenated, Kyra (the almost 48 –year-old) woke up nearly unable to walk with her bad knee. She claimed she must have sprained it while sleeping….must have been a very active nightmare… Kevin, Jon, Ryan, Craig, Marissa, Caleb, and Miranda went into town to obtain their fishing licenses (notice Kyra was not present…more info to come in a bit). The first hotspot we attempted was donned, Morgan’s Landing. Contrary to popular belief, Morgan has not and probably will never land ANYTHING. The area has a small platform to fish on, but some incompetent designer placed giant trees in the water in front of the platform, making the act of bringing a fish up to the platform nearly impossible. We had a brief run-into with a family from Texas, and when we asked how their day of fishing was we were told by the tiny Texan Tot, “I cast my line out there and ain’t catch nuffin (yes he said it like NU-FIN).” Oh how we love the smarties from Texas (Kristina aside)! *Please note Brandon was down the river a ways and stepped into a hole, or tripped, he won’t really admit, and got loaded with water in his waders (Spelling?). Frustrated and wet (only Brandon) we moved onto spot #2 (the name escapes me), only to discover there were too many fisherpeople already in place. We headed back to the Kasilof RV Park (sorry I enjoy using the full title) for some tasty eats and to rest up before attempting another fishing venture at night. While waiting Marissa, Brandon, and Miranda went on a little 4wheeler ride. With Marissa navigating, the 3 troopers cautiously navigated through local trails and construction sites (According to the two backseat drivers, Marissa drove slower than a snail on a mission). Later on after dinner the Stromgren familia, (minus Kyra) and Kevin went out to Crooked Creek with high hopes of landing some big ones. We fished for about an hour and a half, standing out in the water and battling the currents, but sadly we came up short. However, the troops did gain valuable fishing skills from guider Kevin, one of which was the act of patience. ☺
Back to the Kasilof RV Park to catch some beauty rest, and to prepare for the adventures with Cap’n Don which would await them the next morning.
Numero Tres: Deep Sea Fishing with Scallywag Cap’n Don
The Stromgren familia, geared up and multi-layered with the finest in latest fishing fashion, headed on over to Cap’n Don’s home to meet up with him for their day at sea. Not sure what exactly has been mentioned on previous trips by relatives concerning Cap’n Don, with the exception of his butt crack of course….but it must be said he is a bundle of an ‘ol Irishman, full of tales from his time spent on sea from the utmost southern Virgin Seas, to the Alaskan bays and inlands. One might say he resembles Jolly ‘ol Saint Nick, due to his rosy cheeks, and jolly personality. He also may have studied under Ghandi because of his endless patience with novice fisherpeople, such as the Stromgrens. None the less, the crew headed out to the Alaskan blue sea in his crusty but ironclad boat, and ventured about 12 miles off the coastline. The first spot the crew stopped at was not so lucky, so they moved on out a bit farther and SHAZAM the fish, they just kept on ‘acomin. A total of 12 (and by 12 I technically mean 15 but keep it on the down low) were round up and are currently being filleted and processed next door in the café Kasilof. Miranda caught 2, one of which we kept, and then poor little Boonda caught a case of the ol’ sea pukes and had to spend the rest of the day looking green and feeling blue in the co-captain seat. Caleb caught on, and by the end of the day he was a smashing young fisherman who would drop the line only to immediately catch a fish and then start the process all over again. Brandon, AKA Beeber the pro-little-fisherman was in heaven all day. Casting out, battling the reel in, and ooooing and awing over his catches. Craig, the multi-handed helper ran about all 5 lines assisting others when the battle with the fish became too much to handle. He rarely was able to work his own pole because the others kept him busy by screaming “Dad!” “Craig!” “Oh holy s*** this is a HUGE ONE!” (sorry miniature Jesus, we strayed from the path). Craig won the award this deep sea fishing trip for the Most Awkward and Unusual Catch of the Day, by reeling in a 100 something lb. Stingray. Congrats go to Craig! Marissa, (yes everyone I am not as high maintenance as you all think) caught 7 total, and was incredibly irritated because only 1 was large enough to keep. This brings us up to speed with the exception of Kyra, last but certainly not least. Before I hand it off to mi Madre so she can tell her tale of using a Fake ID in order to obtain her fishing license, I have to say my experience thus far in Alaska has proven to be not only memorable, but refreshing. The country is beautiful, from wildflowers, to snow-peaked mountains, to green wet inlands, it is nothing short of breathtaking. The people are friendly, and things just seem to take place on their own natural time. Life seems simple and relaxed for the people up here. Fishing, hunting, spending time with friends and family, these are the things they live for. Time is slowed and beauty is all around. Now that I’ve shared my poignantly spun version of our vaca so far, I must pass the torch onto another.
Kyra (who has been spending one-on-one time with little Jesus confessing her sins) now has the floor:
Wow, how can I even begin to follow the wonderfully written day by day adventures of the Stromgren family in Alaska!
I do really feel that having the miniature Jesus from our church with us on this trip has kept us safe from bears and getting arrested for using fake ID’s to get fishing licenses!
As Marissa said, we were all loaded in Jesus’ van AKA “Grace” wearing the proper and attractive fishing gear on our way to meet Cap’n Don, when I realized that I didn’t have a fishing license or any ID in my fishing outfit! Kevin and Craig told me to use Marissa’s driver’s license and just write her name and make up a fake number on the license. The problem with that plan was soon discovered. The lady in the store was filling each license out herself! I was waiting in line sweating it out wondering how I was going to pull this one off, passing as a redheaded 22 year old! This is how I know that Jesus was with me…. I just pulled my hat down really low, hid my wrinkled hands and he took care of the rest! I passed as my daughter!!!!!!! Now, the Alaskan Fishing authorities may wonder why Marissa got 2 fishing licenses for the same day, but I’m just glad I didn’t get arrested!!!! End of this story, with more to follow soon……..
Numero Quatro and Cinco! Fish Processing Days
Hey hey again everyone! So I got some feedback from the peanut gallery in major suspense on whether or not Kyra was dragged away by the local Alaskan authorities for using Marissa’s ID……truth be told it worked like a charm. So the result of our little fishing venture with cap’n Don: we caught our full limit. GO STROMGRENS, THE NOVICE FISHERPEOPLE! So then the task of processing was a load of clean fun. By the end of two days of processing wonderfully smelling fish, we ended up with about 115lbs. of Halibut total. The 115 lb also included Brandon and Kevin’s Sunday catches with Cap’n Don, in which they each snagged a few more. I combined the 4th and 5th days because the troops did odd jobs around the house; we didn’t really travel long distances or battle mountain lions, so the details are nothing short of non-adventurous. The fire pit is coming along at quite the rapid pace due to the valiant efforts by the men in the family. I know we all can hardly wait for the end result, so we can warm our little toesies and cheeks by the fireside while singing tunes to the Post boys’ guitars. If we’re lucky maybe they can even bust out some Johnny Cash and sport the glorious mountain teeth…..we will wait and hold our breath! Sunday night Kevin, Ryan, Craig, and Caleb (under the talented guidance of the Pyle men) headed out to Ryan’s secret fishing spot with high hopes of snatching some Reds. And AHA! Believe it or not Mr. Caleb reeled in 3 right off the bat, Kevin came in short, not bringing in any, and Ryan drove in headfirst into the cold currents to save his pole when it got ripped out of his hands by a salmon. Poor Ryan learned how to water ski while being pulled down the Kenai River by a giant Red Salmon….(he already lost one pole earlier this week so the unlucky lad was determined not to lose another). Today (Tuesday) Gram and Gramp Kasilof RV Park Keepers and the Stromgren 6 headed out around 7:15 a.m. for a Fjord Cruise Ship 8 hour tour in Seward…..we drove the 2 hours to get there only to find out the tour had been canceled because of 15/20 ft. seas and rains. Apparently Alaskan Fjord Customer Service Reps. Have not received proper training in notifying customers when cancellations occur. Craig was not too happy ☹, but we came to the mutual conclusion we’d rather stay alive than to be swallowed by giant ocean waves. Alas, we made up for the mishap by visiting the Seward aquatic museum and by sharing a fantastic tasty lunch at a local hotspot eatery in Seward. And now I must leave you all because the dinner bell is a’ringing and my stomach is making incredibly awkward noises that I hope are sounds of hunger and not the result of our lunch today…..Love to you all. Chat again soon!!!
So now I will just show the photos with some explanation of WHAT’S HAPPENING!
It was the afternoon of the 16th of July, we had just let Paul, Jerod, Jordan and Brett off at the airport earlier and now were waiting for the arrival of our next family members. Welcome to Craig and Kyra, their daughters Marissa and Miranda and sons, Caleb and Brandon. Oh, and less I forget, their Jesus figure that travels with members of their church to new places to experience new things and keep their members on the straight and narrow. He had a major challenge on this trip! We picked them up in the ‘Amazing Grace’ and headed south to the Kenai Peninsula and all it’s wonderful scenes and adventures.
The ride from Anchorage to Kasilof is listed in the top 25 most scenic highways in the U.S. and we had to stop many places along the road for Kodak moments as the kids like to call them. Here we were at a pull-out along the beautiful Turnagain Arm. The tide was in and the water was rushing along to fill the inlet with salt water. The silvers and pinks were coming in, but we didn’t get to see and beluga whales.
We had to stop in Soldotna at Jon’s favorite pizza/brewery for dinner. The pizza is great as is the beer. As Marissa wrote, ‘It’s the most adorable little brewery in Soldotna!’
We finally made it to our home in Alaska, the Kasilof RV Park and thus required a photos of Jesus communicating with our mascot. Thus ended a long and tiring day for the Stromgrens leaving Kansas City early in the morning and arriving in Kasilof Alaska almost 20 hours later. Needless to say everyone was quick to get some sleep to prepare for all the exciting things that were happening the next day.
Now rather that take you through a day-by-day of what was happening, I am again going to deviate and show the events that occurred during their seven day visit.
Salmon – Late July is the prime time for catching Sockeye (Red) Salmon. Of course all of the kids were eager to catch some salmon. The first attempts were less than successful with snarled reels and boots full of water. However, after several attempts Kevin and Ryan managed to show Caleb and Craig how to catch them, Caleb showing all of them up catching his limit of three. Brandon had been unable to go with them that night so Kevin took him fishing the next night and Brandon was thrilled to catch his own red salmon.
Caleb showed them how again the next day reeling in a red at the River Terrace where the family was visiting Tom and Sally Curry. River Terrace is one of the premier red fishing spots on the peninsula and my sister Sally and her husband, Tom have their 5th wheel there.
Brandon was satisfied catching reds so he also had to test out fishing for trout in Johnson lake across from the campground. The lake freezes every year so the Fish and Game stock it with Rainbows each spring. This year the lake froze solid and most of the previous year’s fish died. Therefore, the trout are rather small. Brandon caught one of the monsters, but I don’t think he really planned to eat it. We were feeding him good!
Halibut fishing – It was the day for the Stromgren’s trip with Captain Don Halibut fishing. Craig is all ready and waiting for the boat to be launched into the Cook Inlet anxious to catch his share of the big fish.
Brandon caught his first one and it wasn’t a monster, but was a good eating twenty-five pounder. This was just first of many that he pulled up to the boat.
Kyra not to outdone pulled in a big one for herself. She was mighty pleased with her catch and the days trip. The seas were fairly calm although the sky was cloudy and there was haze and clouds covering the beautiful mountains of the Alaska range on the west side of the Cook Inlet. The mountains were visible although they were just dark silhoulettes against a backdrop of clouds.
Marissa also had good luck and caught several although she had a hard time catching one big enough to keep. She finally caught one big enough to land in the fish well for later eating. Although there weren’t any pictures of Caleb catching his Halibut (?), rumor has it that he more than caught his share, but managed to avoid the camera all day until the final Halibut were hoisted on the rack at Captain Don’s.
Then there was Miranda who started off the trip the night before getting all dolled up in her latest rain suit fashion. The next morning she was ready to go and was really excited when she caught her first Halibut. But then the Green Goblens got her and she had to talk to Ralph over the side of the boat a lot. They say you really don’t turn green when you get sea sick. Do you want to bet?
All in all, they had a GOOD day with lots of fish, good weather and a fun Captain. By the way, Craig did also catch Halibut including helping reel in many for the rest of the family. He also got honors for the most unusual fish of the day with a very large skate.
FUN TIME –
We just got our new 4-wheeler when the Post boys brought Grace and the trailer up from Kansas and Nebraska. The kids had a good time driving it around the park and around the neighborhood on the side roads. The kids complained that Marissa drove too slow, but we didn’t think so!
A big part of our fun can be found around the dinner table. This time was not lacking in the amount of time in that pursuit either. We had some great rousing dinners with fabulous food and sometimes too much wine for a whole week.
All the kids who visit have to take the rafts out on Johnson Lake either to fish or to just row around. The Stromgrens were no exception and like the others, they all get stuck in the lily pads which form a large area at the edge of the lake. Caleb pulled the large raft over to an area where the lilies were not as thick, but the girls still had to row their way through them to open water.
Caleb and Craig are ready to dig the elusive razor clams. The normal gear is boots, waterproof pants and coat, heavy gloves, a clam shooter, shovel and buckets.
Next comes the search for the tell-tail dimple in the sand which indicates a clam below, then the digging begins. Those with shooters cover the dimple and push the round barrel in to the sand. Then holding their finger over the hole in the handle to create a suction, pulls the sand and hopefully the clam out of the hole.
Brandon got one although it was hardly worth the effort it took to pull all that sand and water out of the hole.
Caleb got a better one after some effort. It will be a tasty treat after some cleaning and cooking.
Kyra got a nice big one, but somehow the clam got a little busted up during the process of digging it out of the sand. That’s alright because after some serious cleaning of the sand out of the broken shell, we will still get some good eating out of it. We didn’t stay that long as they just wanted the experience of clamming and we were going to Homer that afternoon. So after about a dozen of them, we gave the clams to my sister and nephew, Nelson who stayed and got a batch to eat for dinner.
One of the things we ask the family members when they visit us is to help us with the multitude of jobs that we need to do to make the RV Park a better place. The park is intended to be a family place where they can all come to visit and eventually will own a share of it. There were a lot of jobs needed to be done this year as there were a lot of improvement projects going on at the park. As you saw on the ‘Construction of the Fire Pit’, Craig, Caleb and Brandon had a big part in helping to develop and build it. The layout of the blocks was primarily Craig and the boys helped me fill and finish off the concrete blocks with concrete. Then they hauled gravel to fill in the fire pit floor. Here they are helping by adding gravel to the side of the Kitchen/Shop to keep the rain from splattering the side of the building. It was their idea to add the bigger rocks along the edge of the matting. Good idea and we have added it to other areas as well.
Who is that holding a broom? Is it the maid? No, it’s Kyra doing her share of household duties to help us out. As Marissa said in her narrative, each of the girls helped clean the Lodge, the bathrooms and the laundry. Plus they helped the dinners by making deserts and doing dishes.
Miranda also collected the quarters out of the washers and dryers in the laundry, then she and the boys counted them and rolled them to be sold to the guests for doing their laundry. All of the family helped collect the trash each day and hauled it to the dumpsters over by the river.
TRIP TO HOMER –
One of the required sightseeing tours that we take all the relatives is the trip down to the end of the highway in Homer, ‘Lands End’. The Stromgrens were no exception and they spent the afternoon driving down to Homer, ‘The Halibut Fishing Capital of the World!’. The afternoon was partially cloudy so not all of the beautiful mountains on the other side of the Cook Inlet nor the Kenai Mountains across Kachemak Bay were clearly visible. However, they were able to see the mountains and the glaciers. They were at the Homer Overlook on the bluff above the town of Homer and the Homer Spit.
They ate at the Mexican seafood restaurant then walked the boardwalk along the harbor. They had to look at all the shops across the road and look through all the gift shops. They stopped at the Spit Snagging Hole where people can fish for salmon. Unfortunately there was a lot of fishing going on, but no catching.
No trip to Homer is complete without a photo in front of the Salty Dawg Saloon, the old time watering hole for the fishermen. They did get a chance to walk through the saloon and saw all the dollar bills tacked to the walls and the ceiling; however, they weren’t allowed to stay because the kids were not of legal age. They had a fun afternoon touring the city of Homer, known as ‘A small drinking town with a fishing problem!’
We had reservations for a boat tour of the Kenai Fjords National Park a day before they left. We got up to a rainy sky and in rained all the way to Seward. As we got closer, the wind also came up stronger and was blowing hard by the time I dropped them off at the tour building. The tour had been cancelled because of wind and high waves (10 to 15 feet). We obviously would not have wanted to participate in that so we opted to tour the city of Seward and spend some time at the Alaska Sea Life Center, an aquarium and sea life rehabilitation facility. It was used extensively during the EXXON Valdez disaster to clean the oil off of the sea animals and birds. The state later used funds from the lawsuit to build the aquarium and research center.
Even the Jesus figure got in the act by sitting on the seals head in the main section of the aquarium.
The rain never let up that day and we stopped for a great seafood lunch on the wharf, then started back to Kasilof. We considered stopping at Exit Glacier so the kids could see a glacier up close, but it was raining so hard and the glacier is a long walk from the parking area so we decided to head back to the RV Park.
With the long drive back to Anchorage the next day, we ended the Stromgren visit to Alaska. We had a great time with them as we know they did too. I am including some more of the many photos that were taken during their trip without words to go along with them.