Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Jello Plans

We had a concept of spending one last long weekend camping with the Alaska Contingent, but the best laid plans assumed that an early start would snag a couple sites at a new, very popular state park. We were early, but available sites there weren't, so we continued to another spot they'd mentioned and sent a SPOT message since there wasn't any cell connectivity.

When they didn't show up, we went in search of cell phone connectivity. Along the way, we also searched for some geocaches "for BJ" who'd decided she was going to take a crack the summer geocaching promotion after all.

When we finally made contact, we discovered that they'd had some other issues come up so we made some new plans on the fly.

We found a basic, but very comfortable RV Park in Cantwell because it had rained all night and it was cool. I wanted to make sure our batteries were totally topped off before we got to our reservations in Denali since we'd be living on batteries for four days in a wooded campground there. With a place to park and charge taken care of, we headed out to explore Denali Highway.

Denali Highway is 125 miles of gravel from Cantwell on the west to Paxson on the east. I'd planned for us to drive it six years ago when we were up here, but those plans were waylaid by the dog munching incident, so this was our chance to explore. We found beaver ponds, complete with swans that swam out of sight before we could get a picture.

We found some interesting creeks and rivers,

one notably larger than the others. Along the way, we also found a number of geocaches, moving BJ (and I) further in our quest of completing the annual geocaching summer promotion.

We honestly hadn't expected to go as far as we did, and our snacks were dwindling when we spotted this sign. Once again, our (my) geocaching habit brought us to a place we might not have found otherwise.

The Alpine Creek Lodge is located just about midway between Cantwell & Paxson and is open year around. They have an incredible view, especially on this beautiful day. So much for the rain, cool, and overcast that was forecast.

The central portion of the lodge is given to a family style dining arrangement.

The doors are decorated with musher's bibs, including this one signed by Jeff King.

Outside, hanging on the shed was an assortment of traps, waiting for winter to be put back to use. The hamburgers that we had were excellent as was the conversation with the gal running the cafe.

We went just a couple miles further to get to the midpoint of the highway where we found a thermometer on the milepost sign. It said 72, but felt warmer.

When we got back to Cantwell, we were glad we'd decided to spring for an RV Park. Not because we were concerned about lack of sun for the solar panel, but because we could use the air conditioner!

It wasn't what we'd planned, but it really was an excellent weekend to kick off our southbound (eventually) journey.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Only in Alaska??

As we wandered around the Kenai, greater Anchorage, and "the valley," these were some of the things that caught my eye. Let's start with trees growing between the coupled freight cars. Don't think these are going anywhere soon.

Of course, there are lots of glaciers, even glaciers that can been seen without a boat ride.

Where there are glaciers, there might be bears although we haven't seen any since we left Canada. That said, there was a black bear wandering around the neighborhood yesterday but he stayed a block away so we never saw him.

I don't think I've ever seen a sign like this before. The stairs were blocked off and you were required to walk down a cobble "ramp" to access the beach.

The Bear Paw Festival in Eagle River was happening while we were moochdocking with family. In spite of attending before the weekend, there were still significant crowds, but it was the food vendor menus that confirmed we were in Alaska.

Land or sea, take your choice.

Some of the shirts were interesting. Clearly, folks on the Russian River can't read.

This shirt may be lots more accurate than you would think.

The taste (or at least the vendor's taste) in art is a bit different.

Signage that I've never seen anywhere else. I spent nearly three hours on that particular road and didn't see any of the listed items except for a camp with a four-wheeler near where I turned around.

This was my favorite sign. I think we need to get one for the neighborhood!

Alaska is the only place that I've seen a cache sporting a moose rack!

I did do some geocaching one day, hoping to complete some geoart that looked like a dog sled. I successfully found over half of them, finding both the coordinates and the hints to be highly accurate. Unfortunately, the hint for this one was 6' high in a large spruce tree. I ended up with two more similar cases before I decided to call it quits.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

It Makes Me Wonder

While we were in Homer, BJ noted that there was a cache a couple hundred feet away from where we were 'camping' at the Fishing Hole parking lot.

I hadn't paid any attention to it because I'd logged it four years ago when Spencer was introducing me to geocaching. It was the second geocache I ever logged.

When I looked at the cache description, the latest log entry said that finder had dropped a trackable in the cache, BUT the cache inventory didn't list it. That was enough to get me off my keister to walk over to the red building to see what we might find.

Sure enough, the Travel Bug was there, but when I looked it up, it was shown as still in a cache in California. This TB intrigued me for several reasons. Not only had the person who dropped it in this cache not logged the TB properly, they'd also inappropriately listed the TB's actual code in their cache log entry. The name, Sgt Mike's Tag, and its goal (To get as far away from Kansas as possible) led me to look closer at its history.

The TB's namesake gave the TB to someone to take to Arizona without first dipping it where ever he was at the time, so the travel history starts in the Yuma, Arizona area where it never goes far for bit over a year before it stops traveling at all until this year when someone else grabbed it, took it to Vancouver, Canada and then back to California where the most recent person picked it up without logging it and dropped it in Homer.

After making some log entries to get the TB to the right place, we decided to move it to a location that didn't attract a lot of traffic, but did seem to have a notable number of international visitors and most of the cache visitors seemed to be more experienced, in hopes that this one would finally get moved in the direction that the TB owner desired.

End result? It got picked up, taken to Ohio, and dropped in a new cache under a shrub in a park.

There's lots I wonder about, but I really wonder about what happened to Sgt. Mike. Seems he wasn't a fan of Kansas, but I wonder where he went and if he survived. His last finds were in Kansas in May of 2015. I hope he's safe and healthy.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Seen Around Seward

Our home for the week that we were in Seward was the town's Resurrection campground. It's essentially a parking lot, but one row faces the bay, and the price is cheap.

For most of the week that we were there, we had "reserved signs" on either side of us. The neighbors showed up for 3 days over the holiday but had paid for much longer periods just to insure they had a space. Nearly every space in town that had room for an RV had one parked there.

The town has a large marina with a mixture of private pleasure boats, tour boats, and fishing boats - both commercial and charter.

In addition, during the summer, they host a cruise ship nearly every day.

The town has a mixture of architecture including a number of building that are over 100 years old. Brown & Hawkins started as a business buying and storing gold.

There are a lot of interesting murals in town. There was a document describing some of them but there wasn't any sort of organized tour of them.

The sun was setting but very obscured by smoke from the Swan Lake fire. Some days the wind would blow the smoke out, other days it would blow it in to town.

Another mural, this one on the Senior Center celebrating the Mount Marathon race.

As usual, there was unusual rust to be found.

One morning we drove around to the other side of Resurrection Bay to the town's shipyard where a number of boats were "on the hard." I liked the name of this one.

The collection of used pilot houses caught my eye,

and then around the corner was a new one. They all seemed to be waiting for someone to come along with a vision.

Of course, we did some geocaching. While there were geocaches in the downtown area, there were also some in the woods. There's a trailhead here somewhere...

And once you got past the brush of the roadside, the spruce forest opened up some. I still don't understand why the locals insist on using bison tubes in the forest, but at least I found this one!

We did a lot of window shopping as we wandered the town, and sometimes something would catch our eye. This one looked like a geocache to me.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Seward Celebrates

Seward gets serious about their 4th of July celebration. Because it stays light so late, the 4th of July celebration starts with fireworks at 12:05 AM. Even then, it's certainly not dark.

We only had to walk about 100 feet from our trailer to have this view from the beach. A number of boats were out to watch as well, but had to move when the fog moved in. Between the fog and the smoke from the Swan Lake fire, I didn't have any luck getting any sharp pictures.

For over 100 years, the Mount Marathon 5K race has been an integral part of their 4th of July celebration. The youth race was cancelled because of air quality, and adult entrants (it's very tough to get one  of the 700 adult bibs) were allowed to withdraw and hold their spot for next year if they chose. Even so, there were lots of people in the race.

The first (of two) wave of the women's race started at 11 a.m. Billed as the world's toughest 5K race, they start downtown, headed for the racer's trailhead, and then race to the peak of the mountain at 3,022 feet, and then run back to town. The fastest runners finish in less than one hour.

I rather thought that the hospital was appropriately placed, just a couple hundred yards from the runner's trailhead.

A couple days after the race we walked out to check out the trailhead area. The runners trail (up) started with a very tight and low tunnel through the brush. The route down was the face of an avalanche chute.

It doesn't look like much, but like all photos, you can click on it to get a larger version. In this case, a large enough version to read the notes about the various sections in case you think this is something you'd like to do with your family and friends.

There are lots of videos about the race. I liked this one, narrated by in part by Fred Moore, a man who ran it for the 50th time this year.

While the women were running up the mountain and back, we visited some essential vendors. Unlike so many places, they still allow homecooked food here. An excellent pulled pork sandwich with chips and a drink for $10 as a fund raiser (for the Boys & Girls Club as I recall).

The Methodist chuch had pie with ice cream and coffee for $5 while the Catholic church was advertising their chicken dinner. I think it was the VFW that had ribs. 

53 minutes and 24 seconds after she started, local gal Hannah Lafluer crossed the finish line in 1st place.

At 1 p.m. the parade started. We just lucked into a spot in front of the fire station because there was a low wall to sit on. Turns out it was a great spot for the parade as well as watching the upper part of the mountain.

The Seward Igloo of Pioneers of Alaska had a place of honor in the parade.

Petro Marine had several restored trucks in the parade,

and Smokey the Bear was there as well. There weren't any horses or marching bands or cheerleaders in the parade, but SeaTow had a boat in the parade.

At 2 p.m., the men's race started. We were a bit late getting back from the trailer where I'd gone to get the binoculars, so this picture is taken from a different position after the race turned west and headed towards the mountain.

During the parade a few women came through, and after the men's race started there was still an occasional racer come through from the women's race. Just to complete the race was amazing to see. It's worth looking at a larger version of this picture to see the amount of mud on her back. That was quite common to see with both the women and the men.

Unlike some years where there might be snow or mud, this year the mountain was dry so you could watch the progress, especially on the downhill, indicated by the clouds of dust in the avalanche chutes.

Max King of Bend, Oregon was the men's 1st place finisher in 43 minutes 39 seconds. His time to the top was about 34 minutes.

We hadn't planned to be in Seward for the 4th, but knew we'd need to snag a spot early. We ended up spending a wonderful week in Seward and especially enjoyed the small town vibe.