This was the first “summer” weekend I planned, and I planned it for a couple weeks – and it failed before I even made it to sundown of the first day.
I had today (Friday) off for a scheduled flex Friday, and after prepping the pup for longer drives, I saw the opportunity to stretch the legs, get back into geocaching (my GPS based hobby), see a bit of Alaska I haven’t seen, and break out the camping gear. This weekend was the Hobo CITO event. CITO is a geocaching term for “cache in trash out”, an opportunity for cachers to give back a little by doing some clean-up. This weekend, there would be 7 events starting in Homer (210 miles from Anchorage) tonight and stopping at points heading north to do clean up duty until a final event at Girdwood (just 30 miles from Anchorage); including camp outs in Homer and Soldatna.
We’re back home now, making it to Homer and back. It was a pretty interesting day, though disappointing. Probably best thing to do is tell you how the day went, and fill in the goods:
5:30 AM: Auggie and I crawl out of bed; having packed the camping gear up last weekend all I really needed to do was to go through a few things and fold some laundry before we could hit the road. Goal is to leave by 6:30am.
7:00 AM: We haven’t left yet, turns out I had more to do this morning than I thought, though I haven’t really jumped on anything too hard. Goal now is to leave at 8AM.
8:30 AM: I realize I need to have a bit of breakfast, since Auggie finally ate his. He was reluctant, and I was insistent it would be late before his dinner. But I still had some last minute things to grab … somehow I filled the car for a three day trip. Auggie knew we were going somewhere because he was quite excited to sit in the car.
9:45am: Our first stop about 30 miles in, to grab some coffee and check to fix the barrier keeping the pup in the back. All’s good back there … which is important to know at this point.
10:30am: Stop at Cooper Crossing, cutting through the mountains and river streams towards Soldotna. Daddy had to get rid of the coffee he drank. Checking on the pup, it’s time to see the first major set-back. You know that reluctant breakfast at 8:30? It’s now all over the back of the car. Seems his stomach wasn’t in favor of hitting the road so quickly. The real problem is that I could only clean so much – Cooper Crossing isn’t really a place one can do a carpet shampoo. Soldatna is another 40 miles, so we would have to make due.
11:30am: Soldotna, supermarket, a bottle of spot remover for carpets and a bottle of smell neutralizer … because the smell is starting to waft. It’s raining a bit here, so we start to become a bit miserable in the parking lot. No place to put the put but to leash him to the car while I clean half-in and half-out of the rain. By this point as well, a water bottle had popped open so the stains spread not just to a small area but across half the back carpet and the big dog sleeping pillow.
12:30pm: We take a bit of a walk while we are stopped, I grab lunch, and we head out again.
1:00pm: Clam Gulch, AK … no that is not a made up name. It’s where the highway hits the coast, and I spot for the first time a view I didn’t expect. The Aleutian Mountains. I can see them from Anchorage, but didn’t know they were so close to the Kenai peninsular. Right across the way is Mt Redoubt, a volcano that erupted in 1989 and nearly stopped all airline traffic in the Pacific because of it’s ash cloud. Right next to it was Iliamna. A more volcano that never really has had much of an eruption, but nearly shows steam continuously Steam like today:
1:30pm: Another leg stretcher down the coast where there were great views of the nearby volcanoes. But as it turned out, there was a view of a further away volcano. Pavlof is a volcano that has been fairly dormant over the years, but had started up a bit the last few days. I thought there might be a chance I could see something from it, but it would be over a hundred miles away and the reports before today suggested that the only think anyone seen is a bit of an ash cloud going down it’s side. I didn’t know it – but the Pavlof errupted shooting a cloud of ash about 15,000ft up into the air. Anddddd ….
2:30PM: I get to Homer, finally. I drive around a bit to get a feel for the place. I was expecting something like Seward, a small fishing town with some bits of tourist stuff, but this didn’t seem like more than that. For one thing, its bigger and more spread out. It’s a town of 5000 and stretches about 10 miles along the hillside of the cook inlet. Homer is probably more known for the famous people from there than anything – including Tom Bodette (of Motel 6 “Leave the Light On” fame) and the Time Bandit Crab Boat captain & crew (of “Deadliest Catch” fame) including the Salty Dog, the bar used in the Deadliest Catch wrap-up shows. Homer is also a pretty … hmm, how do I say this without sounding judgmental … hmmm … well, it’s full of hippies! No seriously. Lots of tie dye, dread lock, cotton skits, funky outfits, and bright colors everywhere. Kind of a harsh contrast to the sharp edge fishing community that also is there. It’s the kind of place that seems like it would take a bit to figure out, even for a small town. Too bad, I just couldn’t stay.
3:30PM: I found the campground that we would use tonight. Unlike the rest of the trip, the sun was out in Homer and the temp was supposed to be around 50°F – the car was starting to smell like Auggie’s returned breakfast, and I was aching to set up camp. I got to the gate, and people were there shooing me away. They said the campground wasn’t open yet. Not knowing what to do, I wandered back into town. The wind was kicking up, and the wet air made it alot cooler feeling than that heat in the stinky car.
4:30PM: A decision had to be made, I was in a glowingly smelly car, I had a dog that was feeling better but getting itchy from the ride and only short trips out, and I didn’t know where I was going to sleep that night … and if anything, it wouldn’t be in a car that smelt like dog sick. So I made the call to start heading back to see what happens.
5:30PM: The news from Anchorage led with the heartbreaking announcement. Anchorage was getting snow, inches of snow, and it was enough to stick to a lot of things. I was pulling back into Soldotna, and the wet rain of the morning was turning into thicker than rain drops rain. I didn’t think I was going to camp here either, and decided to push on.
6:00PM: Leg stretcher, and celebrating 40,000 miles in the RAV4. Pup is hungry, but I dare not feed him risking the rough ride from here to Anchorage.
7:15PM: First sign or full snow, coming down hard enough in Cooper Crossing that visibility is getting iffy.
7:45PM: Crossing over Turnagain Pass, the highest point on the road and leading to all downhill to Turnagain Arm, and the snow is coming down enough to call it enough that they would put driving restrictions up on the slope. Not white-out, but have to slow down because visibility is less than one can react.
7:55PM: 10 minutes later, and now there is enough snow on the roads to slow down considerably. I have to let cars pass that seem to have their winter tires on … jackasses.
8:15PM: At Sea Level going around Turnagain Arm, and the snow is heavy! I see cars parked for other folks either out hiking or kayaking or hunting, and they have 3 to 5 inches on them hard. Pup is really getting cranky, too tired to sleep, to bored with sitting in the car.
9:00PM: Back in Anchorage, where the snow is flying pretty hard. Enough for a couple inches on things. It’s strange, because its still quite bright out at this time, but snowy — and it seems like it should be mid-day seeing snowfall like this.
So the day was a bit of a failure, but this is the first of three straight 3-day weekends. So, we will try again next weekend, maybe something closer to home. Fingers crossed it really is summer.