We are back in Anchorage again doing our usual chores. This time I’m writing from our favorite coffee shop, Black Cup, where we came our first day in Anchorage. I am sitting a couple tables over from where we sat our first time here and I can so clearly remember that visit. Then I was researching what to do in Denali and we were mapping out a rough trajectory for our time in Alaska. I was excited but a bit overwhelmed trying to shape the summer and make sure we had the best time possible. The weather was overcast and cool, just like today, and I was worried that we’d have a tough time planning around Alaska’s fickle summer weather. Today I am in a much different place mentally, reflecting back on the summer here and planning our last few weeks in Alaska and Canada before heading home. I am feeling content and not struggling with thoughts of ‘Did we make the most of our time? Could we have done more amazing things? Did we miss out on epic adventures?’ It has taken me a long time to get to this place, to stop worrying about missing out and relax a little. I’ll probably feel differently tomorrow or next week, and return to wishing we had done more backpacking trips, bigger hikes, more remote destinations. For now I’m enjoying feeling satisfied and thinking of home.
The last week felt like we were back to being exclusively tourists after a couple weeks of having guests and adopting the role of tour guide (which we also very much enjoyed). We visited lots of museums and ventured into new territory on the Kenai Peninsula, finally making it all the way to Homer. We both enjoyed the Alaska Native Heritage Center a lot, and I surprisingly enjoyed the Alaska Aviation Museum (of course David did). I like museums so much more than I used to. I now have to read everything in the museum and seek out informational signs outside historic buildings and on trails. Having so much time and mental space not occupied by work or life obligations helps a lot!
Looking back at our photographs from the last few days and seeing all the food photographs also makes me appreciate how well we’ve been eating on this trip. We upgraded our batteries to lithium earlier this summer and the extra energy has dramatically changed how we cook. We used to closely monitor how much we used the stove, stopping stir fry’s earlier than we’d like or eating things not quite hot. Now we make pancakes in the morning, tea throughout the day, jam in the evening, all without even checking the battery levels. We grilled and pan-fried salmon that we were gifted (again). While in Soldotna we planned to visit the local museum and decided to make lunch in the parking lot first. We were the only vehicle there besides a large camper that looked to be relatively permanent and belong to a summer host for the museum. A woman was walking around with her dog and eventually approached our van and knocked on the window. When we opened the door she asked if we were just hanging out or what we were up to, and we explained we were going to head into the museum soon after something to eat. The woman informed us the museum had closed early for the season due to Covid and a reduced number of visitors, but said we were welcome to finish our lunch and still walk around to see the historic buildings from the outside. Somehow we got to chatting and half an hour later she was offering us three salmon fillets! Around this time another car pulled up and a woman and a very friendly golden retriever joined us. This woman is on the board for the museum and had stopped by to check-up on things. She apologized for the early closure and offered to open the buildings for us and show us around, which turned into lots more chatting and a private visit to the museum. How kind and generous people can be!
While on the Kenai Peninsula, we stopped at several beaches and small towns. Highlights include finding lots of great rocks, camping on a sandy beach for the first time, seeing several eagles, and visiting a couple of the Russian Orthodox churches in the area. Best of all was stopping at Clam Gulch Lodge to visit a former co-worker, Gary, and his wife Pam. We were too busy chatting to take any photos but the lodge is located right on the coast with views of several volcanoes that are part of the Ring of Fire. Gary was an integral part of my initial desire to spend the summer in Alaska, as he gave me a tour of Anchorage on my first visit back in 2013 on a work trip. He generously picked me up from the airport and took me to several parks and viewpoints, where I saw many moose and was overcome by the mountain views right in town.
We ended our time on the peninsula with a couple days in Homer. We took a ferry to Seldovia, a fascinating spot you can read more about here. We camped at two different campgrounds on the Homer Spit, which is a narrow piece of land that sticks out 4.5 miles into the Kachemak Bay. Homer is a big destination for fishing and starts to shut down after the season is over. Most businesses on the Spit seem to close just after Labor Day, so were were glad to sneak in our visit just in time. Fall comes early here and we are already starting to feel like winter isn’t that far away, as evidenced by all the layers I had to wear on the Spit in the evening to try and stay warm! Our next stop is Denali (again) to see the fall foliage on the tundra and hopefully some Northern Lights, our last big bucket list item for Alaska.