States visited: 49!

visited 49 states (98%)
Create your own visited map of The United States
Miles driven so far -
LOOP 1 (Aug 2009 - Aug 2010): 29,000
LOOP 2 (May - August 2012): 10,800

Highest altitude with camper: 11,158ft (I-70, CO)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Majority in Seldovia, minority in Katmai National Park

Yet another early morning waking to an alarm clock; we were less than impressed!  As yesterday, the taxi came to collect the Daves in hopes of a day viewing the wandering bears on Katmai National Park with Bald Mountain Air Service.  Karen and I kept receiving texts letting us know that a final decision had yet to be made.  Eventually, around 10ish, it was confirmed that they’d be leaving albeit considerably later than intended.

In the meantime, we had roused the kids and packed up for a day trip to Seldovia.  Karen bravely drove the RV into town (we x-nayed the walk in favor of driving as time was pressing!).  We hopped aboard the Rainbow Connection boat at 10:30am and discovered we’d actually reserved a small charter tour – the excitement of the unknown on vacation…….you never quite know what you’re signing up for!  There was a small number of people aboard, a couple of crew members, Ginger (who immediately showed the kids the private cabin bunk area and a box of toys to keep them entertained), Victoria (originally from Oxford, England who’d been crewing for years and wound up in Alaska 15 years ago after crewing for a ship which came into Valdez) plus a trainee, Jill (from Minnesota, in Homer for her first summer with a couple of friends, who Becca discovered had also been homeschooled).  We love chatting with people and discovering their back stories!

Unfortunately the weather was not fantastic which meant for some dreary photos.  Regardless, we stopped at some neat rocks and islands.  We saw at least seven different species of birds on one rock, nesting in the crevices.  One particular species spend their time floating on the water surface away from predators.  We spotted a lone puffin swimming along, distinctive by its bright orange beak.  Interestingly puffins spend their entire lives at sea, coming ashore only to raise their young.  They often gorge themselves so heavily on small fish that they’re unable to actually take off!  We watched this particular puffin and sure enough, it was having a terrible time raising itself off the water.  When I told Dave later, he said, “Oh, it’s Jake of the bird world!” (Despite Jake’s svelte size, the boy eats and eats!)

On route to Seldovia, we passed a couple of smaller privately owned islands with single houses.

Throughout the day, we were excited to have plenty of otter viewing opportunities.  The crew referred to large numbers of otters floating together as a ‘raft of otters’.  Many had babies with them.  My photo taking ability was limited by my knowledge (I don’t frequent photo forums!) and the fact that I only had the ‘point and shoot’.

Around 1pm, we disembarked in Seldovia which used to be a major port, larger than Homer – not the case anymore.  During the winter months, the population is less than 300, swelling to about 1,500 in the summer.  According to AAG, it is ‘home to 305 friendly people and a few old crabs!’

The crew had highlighted various spots which would be worth a look.  We started out at the Historic Boardwalk.  Seldovia is another location effected by the 1964 earthquake when the majority of the boardwalk disappeared.  All of the houses were quite eclectic with quirky objects out front.  We looked out on the bridge over the Seldovia Slough.

Ginger had pointed us in the direction of a Bookstore Café for a snack.  It was quite out of the way and not at all obvious, so I doubt we would've come across it without direction.  The deck looked over the Slough, had benches and tables made from cut logs, and hanging pottery pieces.  The store was tiny, poky, and filled to absolute capacity!  It was wonderful; the kids immediately found the puzzles activity table.  We took hot chocolates, coffees, and cookies to enjoy outside (in the rain!).  Nate caught a rainbow fish!

From here, our path took us past a number of the chainsaw sculptures the island is famous for.  They really were incredible with amazing amounts of detail.

Hidden away up the hill was another Russian Orthodox Church.  It was really the most major thing mentioned when reading about Seldovia, yet there were no signs and had we not located it on the map, we would have missed it entirely!

We checked out the most recent chainsaw sculptures completed over the Memorial Day invitational, spotted more otters in the bay, and then continued our walk to Inside Beach. 

The kids had a blast climbing over all the rocks while Karen had a few deep breath moments as the little ones teetered on the slippery rocks extremely close to the water’s edge and all the tide-pools.  The views were certainly very pretty; we could see that with blue skies it would be an inviting destination.

On our way back to the boat, the kids stopped at the playground and we found more chainsaw sculptures.  I think the sculptures saved the day really as they were something specific to look out for.

Our return trip was uneventful and brought us back into Homer not long after 5pm……just in time for a pre-dinner ice cream…..because isn’t that what everyone needs in the freezing cold temperatures?!

The Daves eventually called around 10pm requesting pick-up.  As our four were already in bed, I joined Karen and we all went out in the Scarani’s RV to The Salty Dawg for a beer. 

Unfortunately there’s a ‘no kids after 8pm’ rule, so there was a kid trade-off!  We spotted the Rambling Rose, from The Deadliest Catch, in Homer Harbor by the pub.

Karen and I listened to their tales of the day.  They hadn’t seen as many bears as they’d hoped but still more than ever before.  Likely due to the previous days cancellation, two seaplanes were filled with a total of 23 people.  Dave thought that perhaps the group was too large and deterred bears from coming closer.  I was perfectly thrilled to know they did not have any up close and personal confrontations (inspecting the pictures later, we clearly have a very different definition of 'close'!)!  Their first sighting upon landing was probably the most impressive, but everything about the day was wonderful including the flight with glacier views.

For much of the day, they monitored a group of bears which were on the far side of the river so a little harder to see. Incredibly, they saw four wolves throughout the day, which was a somewhat unexpected, though pleasant, surprise.

Apparently the bears follow each others' tracks exactly, creating extremely defined paw prints on the well-trodden path.

I do think this could be considered a close encounter!

Toward the end of the day, a female bear stood on her hind legs to get a better view of their departure – what an incredible sight.

On the flight back, Dave requested the front seat to ensure wonderful views of the glaciers below.

Poor starving boys that they were, Dave drove into Homer for dinner from the only place open that late: McDonalds!  Dave was glad to munch down on a Big McKinley (more meat than a Big Mac apparently!).

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