Beaches and Sunsets and Eagles, Oh My! The Kenai, Part 2 8

We bid farewell to Seward and headed toward the west coast of the Peninsula. We had hoped to spend some time camping right on the Russian River with its gorgeous green waters and fantastic salmon fishing, but we visited near the peak of salmon season and this part of the Kenai was jam-packed with campers and with fishermen. In fact, there is a term to describe salmon fishing from the bank here: combat fishing! People are often standing less than 20′ apart, with hooks and occasional tempers flying. We ended up camping at Morgan’s Landing in Sterling with the Snowmads. Josh and Marie, the Ardent Campers, were nearby and Eric and Josh did a bit of fishing with varying success. We did a fun day-trip to Homer with the Snows, stopping along the way for some stunning views of Mt. Iliamna. In Homer, we met up with Josh & Marie at Homer Brewing Co. and then headed down to the Harbor where we saw eagles and a cute little sea otter. It was a great afternoon!

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We all headed off to different destinations, with Eric and I headed to the village of Ninilchik. Our first stop was at Ninilchik View, a nice State Park on a bluff overlooking the village. We arrived to find the unmistakable orange Perky Mog, snagged the spot right beside them, and had a nice evening catching up. The next day we explored and visited the Russian Orthodox Church. The church was built in 1901, and sits high on a bluff above the village. I don’t know if this custom is unique to Ninilchik, but the graves are covered to varying degrees with rounded rocks from the beach. They’re visible on newer, tended graves but in the older part of the cemetery the stones make mowing impossible, resulting in riotous growth of wildflowers in the summer. It was beautiful and very peaceful.

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The campground was also a riot of wildflowers, beautiful in the evening light.

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The following day we moved down the hill to Deep Creek, another beautiful State Campground. Deep Creek is directly on the shore of Cook’s Inlet, and this ocean girl felt right at home. We spent an absolutely idyllic week here – one of my favorites of the trip. Our months on the road have been jam-packed with driving, socializing and fun activities, and being on the water here was so relaxing and restorative. There’s a reason that beaches are such popular vacation destinations, and Alaska beaches are no different. The shooshing of waves, the “nikking” sounds of rolling pebbles, and the constant rhythm of the tide are hypnotically soothing. Behind us was a beautiful freshwater marsh with bright yellow-green grasses blowing in the soft breeze, and ducks and shorebirds dozing and feeding. The marsh and hills behind it were also the backdrop to some beautiful moonrises.

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Everywhere you look at Deep Creek there are bald eagles. There’s quite a bit of recreational fishing in this area, and carcasses are tossed overboard where they eventually wash up on the beach. Eagles take ready advantage of this and were so plentiful that I eventually stopped taking more pictures of them. (!)

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Those last 3 pictures are proof that even eagles have awkward juvenile and teenage years.

But the real stars here were the sea and the snow-capped mountains. We could look out of our windshield across the beach and Cook’s Inlet to the Chigmit Mountains, part of the largely volcanic Aleutian Range. Mt. Iliamna, dormant since the 1800’s, was directly across from us and dominated our view.

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Completing our stunning vista was Mt. Redoubt, the highest peak in the Aleutian Range and an active stratovolcano with a steaming fumarole! How awesome is that?? In fact, during our stay on July 28 a 6.3 magnitude earthquake shook much of southern Alaska and was centered 44 miles south of Mt. Redoubt. Unfortunately, Eric & I were driving on a section of unpaved road and never felt a thing. My first sizeable earthquake and I didn’t even feel it! The sun sets right on Redoubts shoulder and provided us with lots and lots of beautiful sunsets. There are only a few places we’ve stayed that just can’t seem to do a bad sunset, and Deep Creek was one of them. And because we weren’t too far from summer solstice, they just went on and on. We spent some spectacular evenings watching long, beautiful sunsets and chatting with Brad & Oksana from Perky Mog and with Nikki & Jason Wynn. Pretty spectacular!

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I was constantly drawn to the water and happily spent hours beachcombing and watching the sea otters. The tidal range here is large – about 17 feet! During the 6 or so hours of a rising or falling tide you can pick a spot and easily watch the water rise or fall around it. The back-and-forth tug is ceaseless and it’s a little exhausting to wonder how many millions of gallons of water are rushing by in any given second! In my wanderings I found a few pieces of tumbled beach glass and all manner of organic treasures, but among the more unusual items on this beach are large slabs of coal that are revealed at low tide. I had no idea what they were, but Ben of His & Hers Alaska solved the mystery for us. Along the cliffs that flank the beach are tall sandstone bluffs, and on one side you can see the actual coal seam about 20′ up the bluff. As the bluffs erode, slabs of coal tumble down into the surf. Ben & Rebecca were at Deep Creek for a few days so that they could go clam-digging, and they made us a tasty clam dinner too!

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We left Deep Creek rested and refreshed, ready to charge back into the Alaskan adventure!

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