Alaska: Part Two - The Kenai Peninsula

We left Talkeetna, AK Friday morning and made our way back to Anchorage, only to leave immediately after to go down to Hope, a small town on the northern end of the Kenai Peninsula along the Turnagain Arm. Hope is nestled just below the Chugatch Mountains with a population of around 1,000 or so on a good day. There's only one road in and out of town, and even though it's not that far from Anchorage as the crow flies, it takes quite a while to get to. The lack of access makes it a little more mysterious, and it seems like it's mostly cottages and campers here for the summer weekends. 

Upon arriving, we set up our camp down on the mud flats along the water. Because we're so far north, we need to keep the tides in mind whenever setting up our tents along the ocean. The mud flats are just high enough for us to stay dry, and they still give us easy access to the water and the breathtaking views that come with it. The town is buried between hills and mountains on both sides which, in combination with the water boundary at sunset, made for a unbelievable picturesque evening. 

Mud flat campsite in Hope at sunset

After setting up our camp we grabbed dinner at the only cafe in tow, The Seaview, which I found to be significantly overpriced for the quantity and quality of food. It's not that the food was bad in any way. Quite the contrary actually. But it's evident that they can get away with higher prices when it's the only spot in town. Following dinner we moved next door to the adjoining bar and listened to a live "bluegrassy-Enya" combination band, three women who were most definitely hippies 35 years ago, jamming away on their banjos and drums. The music, despite my description, was great, and it created a fun atmosphere in this middle-of-nowhere spot. 

View from the top of Point Hope

In the morning we knocked out a fun, but steep, hike, making it up Point Hope and all 3,000 vertical feet over 1.8 miles of trail. It was a bit more treacherous than we anticipated, with a lot of unsettled rock and dirt sliding out from below our feet, but per usual in Alaska, the view at the top made it completely worth it. I continue to be amazed at the scenery of this state. 

After our hike our friend Ellen headed back toward Anchorage to catch a flight back to the Lower 48. The rest of us continued south through the Kenai Peninsula, skirting the Cook Inlet the entire way. This was a really amazing drive, as the road south to Homer, AK runs along the water with mountain views on both your right and left. Alaska has more National Parks than any other state in the Union, but frankly it seems like the entire state could be as it's all a playground to anyone fond of the outdoors. 

We finally arrived in Homer, a town very far south on the peninsula, and made camp for the night in the woods at a cabin owned by a friend of Meghan's. With no running water, we had to resort to nature for all of our bathroom needs, all the while hoping no bear or moose decided to join us mid-act. 

We headed to the downtown area of Homer, a descent size town known for its halibut fishing and glacier views along the water. Unfortunately due to rain, the skyline was a little cloudy and fogged in, but we could still make out the outlines of the mountains in the distance. A fishing town, Homer clearly has its youth adopting the local trade early as we saw countless fishermen of al ages out along the beach hoping for a bite from something. 

The Spit, the main outlet into the bay where all of the fishing charters leave from, is also filled with small arts and crafts and souvenir shops from local artists. Most of the shops have the usual trinkets like key chains and bumper stickers, but many of the local shops had everything from fishbone jewelry to hand-knit sweaters for tourists and locals to pick up and take home to family and friends. Homer, so far, is definitely the most well-rounded community I've seen outside of Anchorage, providing a little bit of everything for everyone. 

Kid fishing along the Spit in Homer, AK

Once we headed back to our cabin for the night, the three of us decided to stay in for the evening, drink, and enjoy everyone's company for one last night as Sunday night Beth will make her way back down south.

Sunday morning we packed up our things and made our way to a local coffee shop for some breakfast burritos and caffeine, two of my favorite things, to jumpstart our day. My friend Meghan lived in Homer for a couple of months last year so she knows most of the local hotspots and go-to places for each meal. Meghan and I are both coffee snobs to some extent, so a rich cup of black coffee in the morning is somewhat of an even for me, especially if it's a memorable cup. One of the the things I'm looking forward to most over the coming year is the morning traditions, like coffee and pastries, in other countries. It's one of my favorite times of the day, and I'm curious to see if other countries cherish a good Cup-o-Joe as much as Americans do. 

After breakfast we headed out of town a bit to a trail which Meghan's home from last year was located on. From the trail head we hiked down to the water below, through some farmland (which is rare to see in Alaska) and along a canyon. This particular piece of land actually belongs to the Kilcher family, which if you're a fan of Alaskan reality T.V., you may have heard of before. The Kilcher's are the featured family on Alaska: The Last Frontier on the Discovery channel. Alaska is small enough in population that if you know someone who lives here permanently, chances are they know at least on person who knows someone on an Alaskan reality show. Though the state is nearly half the size of the Lower 48, it feels like a very small community (this may possibly be because there are less than a million people who live here, too...). It turns out that the cabin Meghan lived in a for a few months, and the trail it lied on, were on the Kilcher property, so as we hiked to and from the water, we came across multiple family members from the show and saw a few moments that will be on the coming season of the show. I'm somewhat of a closeted reality T.V. junking, so this was a pretty cool thing to witness once I realized where we were. I digress.

Following our hike we made our way back across the Kenai Peninsula toward Anchorage. Beth's flight was very late on Sunday night so we got dinner with Meghan's paretns in Anchorage upon our return. After some unpacking, showers, and a little relaxation, Beth took off and said goodbye to Alaska. For the next couple of days I'll be in Anchorage, taking some time to catch up on some things I've been missing while out in the woods. This weekend we head to Prince William Sounds for the holiday weekend with some family friends of mine from Michigan, along with a few of their friends as well. It's sure to be a fun weekend filled with kayaking to glaciers and some waterfall hikes, if we're lucky!

View of the Kachemak Bay from the end of our hike in Homer