Tag Archives: fishing

No Place Like Home-r

After weeks of suffering from daily-grind-itis, it was high time for us to get out of town for the weekend.  Since the weather has been turning spring-ish, John hooked up our little trailer, loaded our fishing gear, and we took off Friday after work on the 5 hour drive to Homer, the artsy-hippie-fishing town on the southern tip of the Kenai Peninsula.

Driving

The drive to Homer goes by fairly quickly.  In all, it’s amazingly scenic, and there is plenty of wildlife to look out for.  We spotted a half dozen moose on the way down, but no bears, even though they should be waking up from their winter nap.

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Arriving in Homer is a great finale to a nice drive.  When the little fishing village first comes into sight, you are high up on the bluff above Kachemak Bay, with the town laid out below.  The long stretch of the Homer Spit, a long, beachy peninsula, shoots into sight across the bay.

 

Staying

We spent Friday and Saturday night parked at the Driftwood Inn.  They provided both RV parking and hotel rooms.  Other amenities included bathrooms, showers, a laundry room, a small playground, and a fish cleaning counter.  The best part was the location: high on a bluff with a stellar view of the confluence of Kachemak Bay and the Cook Inlet.  A few short trails led down the bluff to the beach.

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Fishing

Over the last week, John picked up a couple of shore-casting rods so we could fish from the beach.  I still have no idea what I’m doing when it comes to fishing, so I just let him choose my gear for me.  After breakfast on Saturday, we drove down the Homer Spit.   It’s lined with cutesy little gift shops and charter fishing businesses.  We parked at the very end, I fed the baby and put him down for a nap in the trailer, and we set out to try our luck with our new set-ups.

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The morning was chilly.  The thermometer on the truck said it was in the forties, but the breeze created a significant windchill.  My hands went numb almost instantly.  I let John get set up and test the waters, literally, and played with Si on the beach.  The view from the spit made the cold tolerable.  The beach was a mix of sand and millions of perfectly round, flat rocks; a stone-skippers dream.  Out across the water, the other side of the bay was a panorama of jagged, snow-capped mountains.

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After awhile, John seemed to have the new fishing method figured out, so I gave it a try.  Shore-casting rods are heavy and in the range of nine-feet long, and casting requires flicking the rod to send the rig flying hundreds of feet off the shore.  The problem is that flicking is a light and quick movement, and the rods are…not.  John didn’t have too much of problem reconciling that issue, but my casts were a bit less than impressive.  It didn’t take long for John to start reeling in Alaska Walleye, a kind of pollock, with long spotted bodies, big, round eyes, and similarly shaped mouths.  I tossed out my pathetic cast, felt a light tug, and pulled in…a little purple starfish.  A few casts later, and I felt like I was getting the hang of it.  I felt a bit harder resistance on my line, and reeled in a bit bigger of a starfish.

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We stayed on the spit for two or three hours.  Our final tally was seven Walleye for John, and three starfish and two lost rigs for me.  I am completely clueless about what qualities make a person good at fishing, but I don’t have them.  However, to be fair, John was fully focused on fishing for those several hours, while I part-time fished, and part-time kids-line-untangled, rock-hunted, baby-carried, photo-took, snack-delivered, water-out-of-boots-dumped and lost-hook-searched.

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Eating

We usually pack our cooler to the brim for camping; eggs, bacon, sausage, steaks, chicken, fruits and veggies, it all comes.  For this weekend though, we suspected all that planning would go to waste since we’d heard so many good things about all of the options for eating out in Homer.  We kept the cooler empty for fish.

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On the drive down Friday night, we stopped at St. Elias Brewing Co. in Soldotna.  We had been there before, last summer after fishing on the Kenai River, and knew we wouldn’t leave disappointed.  I knew full well this weekend would be a huge gluten-bomb to the system, so I just rolled with it and ordered pizza.  John had Pesto Chicken, Si had Pepperoni, and I had Chicken with Pineapple.  I think we all liked John’s the best.  We also filled up our Hydroflask growler that I bought John for Christmas with their Dos Lobos amber ale before getting back on the road.

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Our next four meals were all within walking distance of the Driftwood Inn.  Saturday morning we ate at Maura’s Cafe.  It was amazing.  Si had Blueberry Crepes, crepes stuffed with farmer’s cheese and topped with a generous serving of blueberries with a chicken and apple sausage on the side.  I ordered the Root Veggie Hash, which was a pile of potatoes, yams, and arugula topped with fried eggs and the same chicken sausage.  John asked for the Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict, and it really gave my own recipe a run for the money.  The salmon was cold smoked, and the sauce was topped with capers.  My recipe has definitely been suffering from a caper-deficiency.  Their poached eggs were truly a thing of beauty, and I vowed find out what their secret was.

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For lunch, we went to the Two Sister’s Bakery.  I usually just say no to bakeries to avoid the temptation, but everyone I’d talked to about Homer had mentioned it, and I’d already fallen off the gluten-free wagon.  John had a turkey sandwich on foccacia stuffed with almost every kind of veggie – kale, zucchini, roasted red peppers, grilled onions.  I had Hungarian Mushroom Soup with a salad, and I ordered Si some veggie soup that came with two giant hunks of bread.  He only the ate the bread, of course, so I had vegetable soup along with my soup and salad.  Si likes to talk a big talk about our nutritional lifestyle, “Oh, I can’t eat that.  We only eat protein.”  But put him in a sugar/gluten/dairy situation and he’ll destroy it like nobody’s business.

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Dinner that night was AJ’s Steakhouse.  I saw a poster advertising the live music from the previous Saturday night, and, as it turned out, we were a week late to see Nikos Kilcher, Jewel’s brother, play.  Instead, our dinner was accompanied by a woman with a beautiful voice, a guitar, and jeans and Sorels; true Alaskan style.  We thought about steaks, but decided there was something sacrilegious about having beef in the “Halibut Capital of the World”.  So, I had the halibut.  It was a bit overcooked, but had decent flavor.  John ordered scallops, and had no complaints.  Ever since the scallops I made him a few months ago, he’s been a fan.  I usually let Si get whatever he wants when we go out to prevent any foods from acquiring a forbidden allure, but was still disappointed when he ordered PB&J.  I mean, seriously, kid?!

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Sunday morning, we went back to Maura’s Cafe.  I had been expecting them to be closed for Easter Sunday, so it was a pleasant surprise.  This time, we both had omelets.  John’s had shaved ham and brie, and mine had shrimp, rice noodles, and sweet and spicy Thai sauce.  Both were excellent.  Si had just scrambled eggs and the good ol’ chicken sausage, since he had just eyed my eggs over his blueberry crepes the breakfast before.  All breakfasts were delicious once again.  I remembered to ask about the poached eggs.  Apparently, a bit of vinegar in the water helps keep the egg together.  Who knew?  Well, probably everyone, but it was news to me.

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Overall, it was a fabulous weekend.  A new destination, a check off the Alaska list, some much needed R&R, and a whole set of plans for future return trips.  There’s no place like Homer!

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2014 Checklist and New Year’s Day in Photos

We may be living in the last frontier, but we are still far removed from frontier living.  In lieu of resolutions for the new year, I instead made a checklist of things I’d like to accomplish in 2014, all centered around sustainable, local living:

1. Grow a garden – Last spring, John did some strategic Craigslisting, and traded a jackhammer he no longer needed for piles of redwood 2×12’s, which we made into planter boxes.  We lined the bottoms with gopher wire, filled them with dirt, and fertilized with worm castings.  I collected packets of heirloom seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.  Spring just finished melting off the last of winter and…we decided to move to Alaska, so we had to scrap the whole project.  I’m looking forward to sweet redemption this year.

2. Shoot something and eat it – I grew up around hunting, but still have managed to know almost nothing about it.  Tags? Licenses? Permits?  I don’t even know where to start.  I’ve fired a 9mm and a .45 in a shooting range, and an M-16 with blanks, but that was about 10 years ago.  Despite the obstacles of ignorance and inexperience, I’m sure it can be done.  I should probably start making some local friends.

Once I navigate the legalities and subtleties of the hunting part, I’ll be thrilled to get on to the eating part.  I picked up a copy of “Cooking Alaskan” at a thrift store, and have perused such timeless recipes such as “Baked Seal Hindquarter”, “Moose Tongue Stew”, and “Ptarmigan and Dumplings”.  The only question now is which magical meat will end up in my pan?

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3. Catch more fish – This at least I have a start on, having caught my first Sockeye salmon last July.  I know I’ve barely scratched the surface of Alaskan fishing with those outings, however.  There is still charter fishing, fly fishing, and ice fishing among other fishing venues that I continue to know next to nothing about.  Again, friends in the know would be quite a boon.

4. Can – This should easy if my garden is remotely successful.  Anything that can be done in the kitchen is well within my comfort zone.  I tried to make blackberry jam once, and it completely bombed, but I came up quite short of the recipe’s called for amount of blackberries.  I’ll call that one a fluke.

5. Make soap – I bought a book on soapmaking in high school, undoubtably linked to the timing of Fight Club coming out on VHS.  I’ve dragged the book with me everywhere.  It’s time to make that dream a reality.

6. Go berry picking – For this kind of expedition to be fruitful (terrible pun intended), I not only need to make friends, but make friends that really like me.  The locations of berry picking spots in Alaska aren’t something that can be Googled.  They seem to be filed less in the category of ‘public information” and more so in ‘highly classified’.

To add some check marks to my list, I’ll need to put in some concentrated effort on planning, learning, and networking. It’s a good thing I gave myself the whole year.  Meanwhile, here is a photo recap of our New Year’s Day.

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John and Silas enjoyed some more downhill action…

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while Skye and I explored 4 miles of trails.  Here is what we saw:Image

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Autumn in Alaska

While California is still sweltering in 90 degree heat, fall has descended on Alaska.  I’ve been informed many, many times over that we moved during the most unusual and spectacular summer the 49th state has seen in a long time, so I assume the summer/fall contrast isn’t so obvious every year.  But for this year, the mostly sunny days have given way to almost two solid weeks of cloudy skies and rain.  Fortunately, autumn is my favorite season, so I’m not particularly heartbroken to have to throw on another layer for the days that only see temperatures in the 50s.

The strangest part has been getting back into the school year with the feel of summer entirely evaporated.  Every other year, as both a student and a teacher, the first few weeks to a month or so of school have always been accompanied by reminders that it’s still technically the summer season.  I have no complaints, though. This perpetual drizzle reminds me that I may as well be inside, attempting to enrich the lives of youth, rather than being teased by the typical sunshine out of my classroom window, suggesting that there are more invigorating things to be accomplished instead.  Luckily, there have been a few breaks in the weather that we’ve taken full advantage of.

ImageClouds still loomed, but John found some respite from the rain outside of Seward last week.

ImageNot bad for a Monday. Rock fish, halibut, and coho.

ImageSure wish we could claim all these halibut, but alas… Our freezer got heavier that day nonetheless.

ImageA nice break from the rain last Friday.  The full rainbow was too big for my camera.

ImageNot certain that these will give you super powers.  Found on a hike outside of Palmer.

ImageTime for this kid to get some camo.

ImageMy berry ID skills are about one step above “Everything Is Poisonous!”

ImageCaught in his natural state: Moving.

ImagePleased that green is the overwhelming late-summer color.

ImageThese stairs went on for about a quarter mile.  Calves were quivering by the time we made it back down.

ImageLast rose in a field of rose hips.

ImageOn top of the world!

ImageFelt very confident about eating these…

Image…not so much about these, though they do look delicious.

ImageForaging for a well deserved snack.  This little hiker trooped on for 3 miles without so much as a whimper.

ImageYellow with purple polka dots. Impressive.

ImageThe sun is out!…and our hike is over.  Ah, Murphy, your laws rule my life.

ImageJust another beautiful day in Alaska.

Alaskan Idealism: Project Progress

Now that we’ve been in Alaska for almost 6 weeks, the regular, annoying, logistical issues involved in relocating are starting to iron themselves out.  Settling into our new residence, finding our way around, and getting started working are mostly concerns of the past.  It’s been a busy time, so really exploring what Alaska has to offer in our immediate area hasn’t been as much of a priority as I’d hoped, especially considering that summer here is almost over, and it sounds like “autumn” as I’ve known it may not exactly exist.

The necessities of day-to-day living have most certainly intruded on my vision of Alaskan living.  We’ve run into two separate couples (one pair including the fabulous Vanessa Runs) who, each knowing their time in Alaska was limited, were really able to live it up, visiting Denali National Park, Fairbanks, Seward, and Homer among other destinations.  If we make it to all of those places in the next year, I’ll consider myself fulfilled.

Fishing

Despite the reality check, John and I have made some positive progress.  Two weekends in a row took us down to the Kenai Peninsula for fishing during the Sockeye salmon run.  The first weekend was my first legitimate attempt at fishing of any kind, and did not end up successfully.  John, however, came home with 9 salmon.  Our freezer and bellies are very happy and full.

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The next weekend was a small haul by seasoned Alaskan standards, but I couldn’t have been more excited.  John caught a Sockeye and a trout, and I came home with two Sockeyes.  Standing out in the Kenai River in my waders, I felt that first real tug on my line, started backing up to the shore, and immediately tripped and fell over into the river, mostly defeating the purpose of my waders.  I hung on to my pole though, and after satisfyingly long struggle, with the assistance of John and our net, got my first catch up to the shore.

ImageSince then, we’ve had grilled salmon, baked salmon, pan-fried salmon, smoked salmon, salmon roe, and salmon-head soup.  Lunch today was Chipotle Salmon Wraps with Bacon.  Are we salmoned-out?  Nope.  But I’m certainly not disappointed about John’s charter fishing trip coming up tomorrow that could yield halibut, rock fish, yellow-eye, and…more salmon.  But Coho this time.

Car Repairs

A new and unexpected project that was recently created for us is the issue of vehicle maintenance.

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More appropriate mugs would say, “I Drove the Alaska Hiway…and lived!  My car…not so much.”

So far our tally is as follows:

John’s truck:

New clutch – $$$

Replaced fan clutch – $$

My SUV:

Rear brake pads and resurfaced rotors – $$

Four spark plugs and coils – $$

Squeaking front brakes – TBD

Boat trailer:

Lost brake/turn light cover and wires – TBD

Broken winch in need of welding – TBD

Moral of the story: the cost of driving to Alaska includes more than gas.

Knitting

My Central Park Hoodie was not finished before crossing the border into Alaska.  But it’s done now!

ImageSince finishing, I’ve done a really cute baby hat, and am 2/3 of the way through a sweater for Si.  Turns out knitting projects do not need to take multiple years each.

Settling

Since moving to Alaska, we’ve already moved. We readjusted to our new surroundings over the first month with relatives in Anchorage (thanks Scott and Jaime!), but have since set out on our own.  We headed out of town to Wasilla, because, after all, we didn’t move to Alaska to live in the city.  The commute is significant, but on my way to work I have views of glaciers and mountain ranges, cross two big rivers (the Knik and the Matanuska), and have to keep my eye out for moose (6 have been hit since July 1st).  It’s not unpleasant.  And after living in San Diego County, there is zero traffic by comparison.

Overall, Alaskan life is moving along nicely.  Next up: first day of school with students, preparing for winter, the DMV, and getting ready for baby #2.

ImageWaiting for our table at Moose’s Tooth in Anchorage, which never has no wait. Not never.