This Summer’s Alaska Adventure

I wrote a ton on Facebook during our trip to Alaska in July – but the Facebook outage last week reminded me that Facebook is not forever – and it was important to “own my own content.” Really, I need to practice what I preach more.

I’ve decided to copy the stories and experiences I shared from our trip into the blog here – along with a photo dump of awesome images we captured along the way.

Alaska is a magical place. I could live there – but it would be far away from my kids and my parents – and as they age, and I age – I’m not sure I could handle that distance.

Day 1 – July 9 was 100% airport & travel – the drive from Anchorage to Homer was over 4 hours, but beautiful scenery. The view of the bay and the mountains is so breathtaking – I just cant describe it.

Day 2 – July 10 was 1/2 day halibut fishing – it was a long day on the water, but it was incredible. Saw a raft of female otters a ways from the boat – not close enough to photograph well. Groups of otters are always female, men are usually alone or in bachelor groups of just a few. Our deck hands on the boat, Olivia and Patrick, were amazing help and had a wealth of information to share. Some types of fish caught were grey cod, spiny dogfish, sculpin, and halibut. We had about 20 people on the charter, plus crew. Highly recommend the afternoon trip on the Spirit from Alaska Ocean Marine.

Day 3 – July 11 we went for a drive – didn’t really see anything interesting – 1 moose and some eagles in the distance. We had lunch in Kenai at a place called Louies. It is in a dive hotel but had over 1,000 5* reviews. Really nice people and food – incredibly busy. One thing we’ve found on the Kenai Peninsula is that they are hurting for hospitality help (esp. restaurants) and the wait times are long if you want to eat out. We’re VERY glad we have a vacation rental that has a nice kitchen so we can make our own meals. We had some of our halibut for dinner tonight – it was FABULOUS – we’ve portioned and frozen enough for bout 15 other meals – plus the guys are going halibut and salmon fishing 3 more times before we head home on 7/17. We’ll definitely have a bunch of fish in the freezer when we get home. It’s incredibly expensive to ship it, so we’re going to freeze ourselves and pack in a cooler with dry ice – then duct tape it shut and check it like luggage as we head home. (this plan didnt pan out – read on as to why) My plan is to do some more exploring and photography on the days they’re fishing this week. More flowers and scenery incoming – prepare yourself 🙂. Alaska is amazing, and breathtaking, and wonderful. It’s light until 11pm, and only dark until about 5am. Our rental has blackout shades in my bedroom so it’s not affecting my insomnia too much. We’ve seen a few moose along the roads – nothing we can capture photos of so far. Hopefully soon. I could live here – Todd is not wild about the lack of sunshine 2/3 of the year 😉 – Aerik is already trying to figure out how to come fish next summer – he might be hooked. More info on our trip in a few days!

July 13 – Day 5

The boys tagged out today on their fishing trip! Cod, halibut and rockfish! About 3x more fish than the last trip- and 2 more trips to go!

These are the fish for the boat, not just my guys – 2 halibut limit, 2 cod limit and 4 rockfish I believe!!!

July 14 – Day 6

Not a lot of photos to dump over the last few days – its been very rainy until today – and today the boys are fishing while I pack us up to move from our vacation rental in Homer up to Kasilof. They’re salmon fishing on the Kenai river tomorrow – Friday is a mellow day – and Saturday we fly home. The guys caught their limit in Halibut, Yelloweye, Rockfish and Cod yesterday (7/13). We’re going to end up coming home with A LOT of fish LOL. The halibut we had for dinner the other night was absolutely phenomenal. We had the cheek pieces and a few ends of filets we didn’t freeze. The cheeks have a different texture – very much like crab. All of it was very mild and no fishy taste AT ALL. The first batch we caught we processed and froze ourselves – yesterday it was so much fish we left it with a processor on the Homer Spit and they will vacuum seal and freeze it for us – we pick it up this afternoon. Because we’re moving up to Kasilof – we’ll have to process what they catch today ourselves. Crossing my fingers for a not-too-stinky ~1-hr ride to the new rental when they get off the water today. Getting all this fish home is an exercise in patience if you’re not willing to pay $300+ to have the processor ship it all. You can check it as baggage in a sealed cooler or box with gel ice or dry ice. This seems like the easiest way, but it’s a long day of travel home – 24 hours in the special box with Dry Ice or Gel Packs is 100% doable according to everything I’ve read, though. I was kind of sad my wildlife cruise was cancelled for today – yesterday the guys said they saw otter, Orca, Whales (not sure what kind), seals, a puffin, and other types of birds on their trip yesterday. Yesterday while the guys fished I drove around a bit – saw one moose and some black rabbits. I thought the black rabbits were some sort of variation of a hare native to the Kenai Peninsula, but from what I can tell – they were once domestic rabbits that were let go. There are a few reports of people seeing them here and there from Seward and Valdez across to Homer. Alas, no exciting devil bunny Monty Python stories here, just the age old tale of irresponsible pet owners. Our next rental in Kasilof doesn’t have WiFi and I’m a tad worried our cell coverage wont extend very well. We have T-Mobile and they have no towers in AK – so we’re at the mercy of the partnerships they have with GCI in the state. You’ll know its an issue if you hear echos of Aerik complaining down in the lower 48. Hopefully another dump on Friday or Saturday – we have a 3 hr layover in Seattle on the way back so it might be a good time to upload more photos 🙂.

July 16 – Day 8 – Alaska you were grand – but I’m ready for a night in my own bed

July 17 – Day 9 – on our way home

Well, we’re on a plane, headed back to reality and I’m finally able to get some notes down on our last few days.I have a lot to share – but in this post I’m going to talk about the Helenka B – a ship that is docked in Homer. I was sitting at a picnic table watching the boats while Todd and Aerik were fishing on Wednesday and decided to start looking up the names of various large-ish ships docked there to see if there was anything interesting they were known for. The first ship I picked was the Helenka B, pictured below. She’s owned by a Homer based company now called “Alaska Coastal Freight” and is a cargo ship, able to carry 500,000 lbs of cargo for whoever hires her and now can land along certain non-harbor coastal areas as she has a bow oriented loading ramp.But this old ship began her life in WWII as a minesweeper vessel that launched in August of 1944. Her original name was the USS Surfbird. She was originally outfitted with a 50 cal gun, 2 40mm gun mounts, 6 single 20mm gun mounts, a Hedggehog depth charge thrower, 4 k-guns (depth charge projectiles) and 2 depth charge tracks.She earned 13 battle stars during her time with the US Navy, 3 in WWII, 2 in Korea, and 8 during the Vietnam war.She had a brief role in the 1954 movie, the Caine Mutiny as the “USS Jones.”She was decommissioned in 1970 and purchased and refitted to be a freight hauler. Many of the sailors who served on her decks were interested in what happened to her, they eventually tracked her down in Homer where she’s been working for quite a long time. When she was decommissioned and repurposed to haul freight – the bow was removed and a landing craft ramp was added, and her deck house was removed and reconstructed. Unless someone had told you they were the same ship, as you can see from the photos below – you’d never know.I thought this was a fun little story to share because you just never know what you’ll find if you do a little bit of digging 🙂

Source material:

Here are some final notes on our trip to Alaska and a photo dump. I have a few other photos I’ll share but I want to write stories to go along with them.

Last Wednesday while the guys were fishing I got to drive around Homer and take some photographs. It was the first really sunny day, that was even remotely appropriate for flower and close-up scenes.
Most of these were taken from a pull off wayside area along the Sterling highway as you come into Homer. They had all kinds of gardens there that were curated, but these were all taken of the wildflowers growing just beyond the fence. There was a wide variety including lupine daisies what I think is yarrow and a few other really pretty flowers.

It was low tide, so pictures of the bay don’t always come out really nice there’s pretty extreme tides in Homer and when the tide is out it’s just looks like mud.

I also included some photos from the boys fishing trip those days (Tuesday & Wednesday). If you see halibut in the photos, it was Tuesday. You are not allowed to harvest halibut on Wednesdays. Aerik caught the biggest Yelloweye the captain he was with had ever seen, it was a monster- The big orange fish you see in my photos! All in all we’re shipping home around 80 pounds of fish, halibut, rockfish, yelloweye, and I think some cod. We processed some of it ourselves as the processors ran out of room and weren’t processing any more fish.

The Yelloweye is a really interesting fish it’s very dense and white and flaky, it reminded me a bit of crab meat. All of the guides say this is the best eating. – we haven’t tried it yet. (Update: We tried it – its not nearly as good as the Halibut – I suspect the big ass fish they caught (the orange ones in the images below) were older fish and not as good to eat – but that’s a guess.

All of our fish (including the stuff we processed) will arrive on Wednesday via FedEx overnight from Coal Point Trading, a fish processor in Homer. Funnily enough, this business is owned by the Hillstrands, part of the family made famous as captains of the Time Bandit on Deadliest Catch. They are actually from Homer.

One thing we did not realize was the complications of getting 100 pounds of fish home from south central Alaska. It has to be frozen completely solid, packed in an insulated box, and surrounded with gel pack ice or dry ice. Gel packs are hard to get frozen solid in your regular freezer in a short (few day) time frames and are hard to find. You cannot buy dry ice anywhere in Homer or on the Kenai peninsula. Most businesses don’t sell it in an effort to support the fish processors and if the fish processors have it, they don’t sell it to the public so you ship your fish with them. It cost us a lot of money to ship our fish home. Because we traveled for over 36 hours between driving to Anchorage overnighting and a full day of flying & driving home, we were not confident that we could get it home in a completely frozen state. That being said, I feel like it was worth shipping it as we didn’t have to hassle with it at the airport and I was not stressed about whether or not it thawed during the trip.