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Anchorage, AK: Alaska Native Art

The Alaska Native Medical Center’s Auxiliary Heritage Collection is the story of life.  This permanent art collection housed in Anchorage conveys the cultural and artistic diversity of the Alaska Natives. It is a stunning model of joining art and architecture to create a place of healing. To borrow from the Center’s Craft Shop brochure, “This is a collection of Native art that grew from the heart.  From the hearts of the artists who produced it and those of the people who recognized the importance of preserving it.”

Because there is such a wide range of mediums and subjects in the Heritage Collection, we thought a slide show of some of the works would best serve to impart an understanding of the quality and variety of Alaska Native art and craft. We are grateful to the artists and to the volunteers for not only sharing their story of life in Alaska but also for touching our hearts.

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Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula

Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula

Our “bearfooting” continued in Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula- home to Cooper Landing, Seward, Homer, Soldotna and Kenai which make up 45% of the state’s population.  This south central, Gulf coast peninsula is comprised of high mountains and broad river valleys. The climate is maritime- rain & fog with mild temperature fluctuations. This variable terrain and climate provide an outstanding habitat for a wide assortment of plants and animals.  Our digital cameras really got a workout!

Cooper Landing is a thickly forested wilderness community on the startling blue Kenai River.  We were fortunate and camped at the Kenai Princess Campground Imagewhich provided us with all the services of their Lodge!  We were truly pampered during our stay there.  Hiking above the river was a feast for the eyes as the spruce, birch, alder and aspen densely populate the river’s banks along with wildflowers.  Surrounding the Lodge were gorgeous plantings of wildflowers and annuals. Training our binoculars to the mountains revealed Dall sheep and Mountain goats- although truth be told, they appeared as moving white dots, but we were assured by the staff that is what we were viewing.Image

Seward is framed by the Kenai Mountains on one side and Resurrection Bay on the other making it a picturesque seaport. Our not to miss experiences in Seward were the Exit Glacier & the Alaska Sea Life Center.Image

Named by explorers because of its suitable “exit” from the Harding Ice Fields, Exit Glacier is a fabulous example of how our climate has changed. Driving up to Exit Glacier in the Kenai Fjords National Park, signs are posted to show how far the glacier has retreated in the last few hundred years. The most drastic retreat has been in the last 75 years.  The rangers at this wonderful park were very informative and maintain an amazing 1.5 mile uphill, trail to the very edge of the glacier. Image

Something wonderful did come out of the Valdez oil spill- the Alaska Sea Life Center, a $56 million marine life and rehabilitation center that is the only cold- water marine science facility in the western hemisphere. Many of their resident animals are temporary, as the Center rescues abandoned, sick or injured animals from all over the coast of Alaska. Large aquariums display the many aquatic cold water habitants of Alaska’s waters, and a 21-foot deep exhibit with tall windows allows us humans to marvel at the speed and grace of puffins and other seabirds as well as rehabilitating harbor seals as they dive and glide underwater.Image

On our departure from Seward, we got our opportunity to see some Trumpeter Swans again.  This time we stopped and were able to capture their beauty and grace. John was even able to get a photo of their mating dance!Image

Homer

Homer is affectionately known as, “the quaint little drinking village with a fishing problem.”  And, although they had enough pubs & fishing boats to live up to that name, it is also an artists’ colony with 8 galleries. While there, we dined at a delightful, organic restaurant, the Sourdough Express Restaurant & Bakery.  Not only were the seafood cakes and Kodiak brownies delicious, the owner and staff were so welcoming that they made our dinner there memorable.Image

Exploring the overlook above the Kachemak Bay in Homer, we discovered the Wynn Nature Center, a non-profit dedicated to preserving the Bay’s natural habitat and to educating people to appreciate the native plants and wildlife.  Comprised of about 26 acres, we spent a wonderful couple of hours wandering their trails, marveling at the preserved beauty of this coastal regionImage.

Homer was also home to the largest number of seaplanes we have seen in Alaska.  On the clearest day, we ventured down to the lake to watch them take off and land.  One friendly pilot let Joy take his picture with his pride and joy.Image

While in Homer, we found ourselves camping next to a couple from Port Charlotte, FL. -talk about a small world. Karl & Annette were enjoying their second trip to Alaska in an RV and generously shared some great tips and information with us.Image

Soldotna & Kenai

On the western Kenai Peninsula, Soldotna & Kenai stretch along the Sterling Highway and the Kenai River.  There are numerous unobstructed views of Mount Redoubt across the Cook Inlet. While we couldn’t see Russia from this coast, we did get to see a few of the historic buildings left by the Russians!Image

These towns get extremely busy during fishing season. We found ourselves here at the beginning of the Red Salmon run.  Dipping for “Reds” with huge nets is an activity limited to Alaskan residents.  This is considered “subsistence fishing” vs “recreational fishing.”  It was quite the spectacle as we watched the residents dip netting off of the beach while the drift netters and the recreational boaters floated by at the mouth of the Kenai all vying for the salmon. ImageImage

One gregarious Alaskan, Carolyn, told us how the state government uses sonar to record the number of Reds coming up the river- the day before they recorded over 250,000!  She also shared the card each resident is required to turn in recording their catch at the end of the Run. The head of the household is permitted to keep 25 fish and 10 additional fish for each dependent.  The Run varies day to day and usually lasts between 7 to 10 days

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As a welcome gift to Soldotna, we were graciously given two canned jars of red salmon from Karen Dorcas, a local resident artist, who Joy became acquainted with while they were both participating in an online jewelry making class!  Thanks to Karen’s local knowledge, we were able to easily access the beaches, parks, fishing walks, historical sites and even the local Cariboo herd in Kenai. Thank you, Karen!ImageImageImage

                                          

Categories: Airstream, Alaska, art, hiking, National Park, Uncategorized, wildlife | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Oh, Canada

“Beautiful British Columbia”

We crossed the border into British Columbia at Sumas, Washington.  Having heard many stories that it could take up to an hour to get through Customs, we were pleasantly surprised that we went through in 15 minutes!  (Note all the cameras in the photo of the US Customs.)

Waiting to sing “Oh, Canada”

Cameras Everywhere

Silver Manatee Waiting in Line

Emory Provincial Park was our first stop and turned out to be our favorite Provincial Park on this leg of our journey. The park was just so welcoming with its lush vegetation and meandering location on the Fraser River.  It was also the beginning of what is known as the Gold Rush Trail in Canada and the site of a major Chinese community during the building of the railroad through British Columbia.

Entrance: Emory Creek Provincial Park BC

Heading north from Emory Provincial Park on Highways 97  & 29 towards the Alaskan Highway,  proved to be a feast for our eyes as the road traversed through some bustling towns, mountains, farmlands and lakes as well as rivers around every bend.  A major attraction was Hells Gate, an abrupt narrowing of  the Fraser River, located immediately downstream from the southern Fraser Canyon. The towering rock walls of the Fraser River plunge toward each other forcing the waters through a passage only 115 ft. wide.  One of the last rivers we crossed before reaching Fort St. John and the Alaskan Highway was the Peace River!

Peace River Valley, BC

Once again, we were amazed by the generosity of the people we have been meeting on our trip.  On one stop near Williams Lake, a fellow RV’er from an island off of Vancouver, BC, knocked on our door and his opening words were, “Welcome to Canada! He presented us with a plate of smoked salmon, lemon slices, cream cheese and crackers!  It was salmon that he had just caught and smoked on his fishing trip further up in Northern BC.

Northern British Columbia & The Yukon: Larger than Life!

Welcome to the Yukon!

Once we began traveling on the Alaskan Highway, an engineering feat of World War II, this sign was our constant companion!

Beware: Rocky Road Ahead!

The closer we got to Alaska, the rougher the road and small red flags were also added as a caution to stay alert. The towns with services, supplies and gas stations became further apart, but the wildlife began appearing along the roadside.  We also became aware of a special type of graffiti- rock art.  Travelers stop along the highway and leave messages created out of river rock!  We could not resist and left a message of our own.

Yukon Graffiti

The 250 miles from Fort St. John to Fort Nelson were mostly moderate in grade and passed through the heart of oil country. The road climbed to the community of Pink Mountain, the highest point on this stretch and then descended to the lowest point- Ft. Nelson, one of the historic Hudson Bay Trading Posts.

Pink Mountain Road House

The next stretch to the Alaskan border traveled through river valleys and low mountain passes and was the most scenic part of the highway with Summit Lake, the highest point and Muncho Lake, the most beautiful with its blue green waters.  Along this portion of the Alcan we saw Black bears, Stone sheep, moose, bison, deer, cariboo and Trumpeter swans. And, not to be overlooked, are the chain saw carvings in Chetwynd and the Signpost Forest in Watson Lake started in 1942 by a homesick GI while working on the Alaskan Highway.

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Categories: Airstream, British Columbia, travel in the Northwest, Uncategorized, wildlife, Yukon | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Mount Vernon, Washington

Historic Downtown Mt, Vernon, WA

Mt. Vernon, Washington was our base for 9 days while we regrouped and prepared for the next part of our journey: Canada & Alaska.  Only 50 miles from the Canadian border, Mt. Vernon is located between the San Juan Islands in the Puget Sound to the west and the Cascade Mountains to the east.

Mt. Vernon proved to be a terrific site for everything we needed to accomplish.  In addition to the post office and banking facilities, the historic downtown was lined with boutiques, antique shops and quaint restaurants. Around every turn, were colorful pots of flowering plants.

 

And, in between our chores & the rain showers, on a bright, clear day  we worked in a day of sightseeing to Deception Pass and Whidbey Island. From the deck where we had lunch, we had a fantastic view of snowcapped Mt. Rainer and the cruising boats in the harbor.

Deception Pass

 

 

Snowcapped Mt. Ranier

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Vancouver, Washington: “A Family Affair”

Jenn, Cynthia, Kevin, John & Joy

Following Washington’s scenic route 14 to the end of the Columbia River Gorge brought us directly into Vancouver for our visit with our nephew, Kevin Ross and his wife, Cynthia.  When we made plans with them to meet at the Silver Manatee prior to going out to dinner, we were happily surprised  to learn their daughter, Jenn, was also able to join us.  Not only was it exciting to see the three of them after so many years, following our visit and dinner, we were able to go visit Jenn’s baby boy, Angello, at the NICU at the hospital.  We can only thank Kevin and his family for being so flexible and  making time for such a memorable visit. What wonderful memories we now have of Kevin, Cynthia, Jenn and Angello.  It was truly a “Family Affair.”

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