The Kenai Peninsula
We left Anchorage, heading south towards the Kenai Peninsula, land of glaciers, fjords, and the place where Alaskans go to fish. Everywhere we stopped here there were people fishing, all vying for the best positions along the rivers and harbours.
Our first destination was Homer, at the very bottom of the peninsula. It is a small fishing town, made touristy along the spit which is dotted with restaurants, gift shops, and charter companies.
We camped by the beach along the spit and were excited to finally have a sunset! It still didn’t get completely dark but seeing the sun actually sink below the horizon was a pretty great moment.
Luke got a fishing licence for the day and joined the ranks at the fishing hole along the spit. About 5 years ago they raised some salmon here and now they are returning to spawn, only to find it’s a bit of a cruel trick as they swim into a lagoon of waiting baited hooks. Luke had a limit of 6 salmon, but after 3 big ones our little freezer was full so he called it a day.
It was pretty amazing to watch the frenzy that ensued as the tide came in and the waiting fish poured into the lagoon. Men and women side by side getting lines tangled as they pulled huge fish up onto the gravel. Luke unintentionally caught a seagull, he wasn’t even using bait, but it got quite tangled in his line. It flew away to annoy another day but not without much pecking and scratching before being freed.
There is still evidence of the Russians who lived in this part of Alaska before it was sold to the United States. We came across this old orthodox church and explored the little village nearby. I’m not sure if many Russians stayed on in Alaska after the purchase, but in the 60’s a new group of immigrants who had fled Russia in the early 1900’s found their way to the Kenai Peninsula and still live in isolated communities keeping their traditional ways alive.
Our next stop was Seward, another little port town on the edge of the Kenai Fjords National Park. We were lucky with our time here and had beautiful sunny days to explore the park.
There are many glaciers in the area but Exit Glacier is the most accessible, an easy walk takes you up next to it. We decided to hike to the top to see the massive Harding Icefield. It was a 4 mile hike where we gained 3000 feet elevation. The hike started in thick trees where we tried to keep up a lively conversation so as not to surprise any bears. We then passed through opens meadows of blue lupines and yellow buttercups, and finally were trudging through patches of snow to reach the top.
We were both pretty sweaty by the time we reached the end of the trail, and I needed more than a few breaks, but the view made it all worthwhile. Looking out over the massive roof of ice that had carved the valley so far below it did feel like we were on the top of the world.
On the other side of the icefield lies the fjords, and we decided to splurge a little and treated ourselves to a day cruise. We left Seward harbour in the morning and headed out to see 2 tidewater glaciers and hopefully some wildlife. Our captain did not disappoint and we had an amazing day.
We found a pod of Orcas which were incredible to watch, all rising in unison, with playful babies. Even the boat crew stopped what they were doing to watch as they rarely see Killer Whales.
The tidewater glaciers were pretty incredible, we heard one creak and crack as part of it calved into the sea.
And then we came across this very active Humpback whale. Apparently there is no known cause for why whales breach, probably just because they like to. We watched this one leap out of the water at least 10 times.
Besides these big creatures we also saw sea otters and sea lions, and I finally saw puffins. It was a trip worth taking and we were both pretty happy at the end of the day.
We spent 10 days on the Kenai Peninsula and could have stayed longer. So far it’s been our favourite place in Alaska. As we have been nearing the end of our North America travel plans we finally made a decision about where to go next. We decided against a northern winter and have booked flights to South America instead! We don’t leave until October so have plenty of time to finish exploring Alaska and B.C.