The flight up was pretty uneventful. We stayed overnight at a hotel in Anchorage (the Puffin Inn, which was reasonably priced and reportedly is where lots of locals stay), and then on Sunday morning we drove our rental car along Turnagain Arm down to Soldatna. It is indeed as people commented, verrrry scenic. Dropped the rental car off at the airport in Kenai and rode the rest of the way down here to Ninilchik in my parents' truck with them and the dogs. (An elderly yellow lab and two smalldogs). We actually did see the eclipse; it was overcast, but thinly enough that we could see the sun through the clouds, so we were able to look at it directly.
Monday we took a trip down to Homer. We poked around the marine life visitor center thingy, then had lunch with our friend Thomas's parents (which was enjoyable but the service took FOR EVER), and then drove out onto the spit. Poked around the docks and all the little shops there, which were closed and deserted on Monday but by tomorrow will be thronging with tourists. Saw some nice scrimshaw and sculpture. It was foggy as we were driving in, but cleared up by the afternoon, so we were able to see across the bay to the mountains and ice fields. Oh! And that morning we stopped at one of the beaches (which is the furthest west points you can drive on contiguous paved roads) and saw, like, two dozen bald eagles. So that was pretty cool.
On Tuesday we got bundled up and went four-wheeling on the beach. This is a lot of fun. We have pictures and Jerry looks totally like a native. This time we saw, no exaggeration, about a hundred bald eagles. (It was a spot where some fisherman had dumped a bunch of fish guts, so they were all there scavenging.) They're much more majestic creatures when they're flying than when they're eating dead fish bits. We saw lots of other critters, including many moose; kung_fu_monkey has been keeping track of what all we saw and blogging more regularly than I have. Driving along the beach is really cool. I would feel bad about leaving tracks elsewhere, but along the beach it'll all be washed away in six hours.
Wednesday we drove up to Soldotna for errands and then out Funny River Road for sightseeing, because my parents had never driven on it. Stopped at the wildlife refuge headquarters, saw a stuffed lynx and pictures of an orcaduck. (Just some kind of duck, but it had feathers that totally looked like orca fins.) In the evening we went for a drive along Oil Well Road, which goes out a long way up into nowhereland. Nine moose and a porcupine spotted.
Yesterday we took a look at the little Russian Orthodox church in Ninilchik and bought Jerry a hoodie at the charming little gay-run coffee shop across the highway. (There is So. Much. COFFEE! in Alaska. Seriously, it is everywhere.) And then we went four-wheeling again. It turned out that the first time we didn't go nearly as far as we could have, so this time we kept going and went ALLLL the way down to the serious waterfalls. We found a guy who had a homemade float rig and was dredging for gold. And saw lots of sea-formed coal cobbles and interesting erosion going on -- it's very much a "geology in action" kind of beach. It was threatening rain when we started, but then the sun came out and it was lovely. On the way back, we actually had a tailwind that was matching our speed so we drove along in sun and calm.
We have eaten lots of very good fish on this trip, salmon and halibut. Dinner on Sunday was smoked salmon, Jarlsburg, crackers, and apples, and I felt terribly European while eating. Much relaxing and playing around with dogs and cat as well. Some helping clean things up and move things around. Plan is that we'll be getting the cat when my parents come through Colorado later this summer, so trying to make friends with him, because he's kinda spooky. We played a couple rounds of Fluxx with my parents, and cooked dinner, and have just generally been sight-seeing and relaxing.
It's very pretty up here. I couldn't live here long-term -- the lack of sunlight would do me in -- but it's great to visit. The pace is relaxed, and people interact with their neighbors a lot. It's very, very weird to have the sun come up before six AM and not set until after 10 pm. It also makes me realize how much I unconsciously judge time by sun angles and light levels, because it sort of perpetually feels like about 4 in the afternoon to me.
And the one significant thing for work that has come up while I've been away got handled by someone else. Woot!
So yeah, all in all, it's been a very successful vacation. I would recommend it.
Now we're packed up, and this evening we're off to Kenai to fly across the inlet for our red-eye home tonight. I predict a lot of napping tomorrow.