Before leaving Seward in morning, we had a short pow wow to decide if we could make it to Homer in one day. You guessed it. There is no way we would make it to Homer in one day and decided to try and get as far as Sterling. ...70 miles or so. Our goal was to make it the Hidden Lakes Campground in the Kenai National Wildlife Reserve a few miles off of Skilak Road near Sterling. Skilak Road is gravel, and Liz wasn't to thrilled to be driving on another dirt road. We assured her she would only have to drive 3 1/2 miles on the gravel road.
The Hidden Lakes Campground is one of the most pleasant campgrounds we have stayed in. Of course the fee of $5.00 (with the Golden Access Pass) made it even more pleasant. The drive on the gravel road in was tolerable, but once in the campground all the roads were paved.
Wednesday morning we decided we would drive back towards Copper Landing and check out some of the rafting companies. The Kenai River looks spectacular and rafting would be a good way to see some of it. The whole area is teeming with fisherman. We found a trip that we all thought would be fun and booked it for Friday evening.
There are lots of hikes in the area and we hiked 2.8 miles one way up to Russian Falls. The "falls" are not falls but more like cascades. The river runs really fast and the salmon were jumping up the river. It is hard to get pictures of the salmon jumping but watching is really interesting. It is amazing to see them jump high to get over a rapid and then wiggle up the river a a few yards to rest.
While we were watching the salmon someone yelled "bear". I thought they were referring to a bear in the woods and for me to hold on to Sadie but the bear was in the water.
He was a young grizzly looking for lunch and not being very successful. He paced back and forth in the river looking for salmon. He would duck his head under water and come up empty and then walk around some more. He was completely oblivious to his audience. He entertained us for a long while, and I think he finally went away hungry. We never saw him catch a fish. This was quite a thrill for me to actually see a grizzly in the wild hunting. It is going to be hard to top this experience.
Later in the afternoon we took another short hike on the Hidden Lake Trail to Skilak Lake .
Friday we drove towards Soldotna to see the chainsaw festival. Artists from all over the country gather to make huge logs into works of art.
All the animals on the carousel are carved.
We headed up to Morgan's Landing and talked with some fishermen. They confirmed what the biologist at the fish weir had told us: the salmon run has been really poor this year.
We met friends for lunch in Soldotna and then headed back to camp to get ready for our raft trip. We also checked out Fred Meyers Store because they have a RV dump and water. What a zoo! they allow RVers to park overnight and it was obvious many take advantage of the free parking. The line to the dump was pretty long.
That evening we headed out for our rafting trip. Bill, Liz, and Nancy are modeling all of the equipment the guide handed out: Rubber boots, rubber rain coat, rubber coveralls, and PFD. He assured us no one has ever gone overboard and that the gear was just a precaution.
Cody, our guide. He had to work pretty hard the first part of the trip because the wind was against us.
We saw lots of bald eagles. Cody told us that Alaska had the most bald eagle population in the US. They are everywhere. Also saw some ducklings.
The scenery was gorgeous.
We even encountered a few riffles.
This is known as the combat zone. When the salmon are running heavy, the fishermen are only arm's length apart. The salmon run has not been good so there aren't as many fishermen this year competing for a space.
Some of the beautiful scenery along our route
Saturday, we hiked a few more trails. The first was Bear Mountain trail which climbed several hundred feet in less than a mile but provided some great views of Skilat Lake .
We also hiked the Kenai River trail which was suppose to follow the river through the canyon and beyond. The trail followed the canyon but then dropped down and went away from the river.
Views from the vista point .
After a busy day of hiking we drove into Cooper Landing and stopped at Gwen's Roadhouse for chowder and pie. Gwen's is one of the original roadhouses dating back to the 1950's. It is an old log building with a floor that slants slightly. The salmon chowder and apple walnut pie were delicious.
Tomorrow (Sunday) we will head for Homer. There aren't any threaded faucets in the campground so we will have to go to Fred Meyers for water. I hope our theory that traveling early on Sunday morning will yield less traffic and short lines at the dump. The Sterling Highway is the only road to Homer so it gets very busy going both ways.