Although it was overcast most of the day the clouds were high enough
that we could see most of the scenery on our trip today between Kasilof and Homer.
This stretch of the Sterling Hwy. is very beautiful, too.
I loved all the meadows full of purplish-blue lupines, white cow
parsnip, and cream-colored Indian paintbrush along the roadway but
wasnít able to get a good photo of them while we were driving. Jim
commented that some red flowers were needed to brighten things up a bit
. . .
This is the least-blurry meadow photo I got while
we were driving today.
We were still unable to see the volcanoes across Cook Inlet to the west but the
mountains and glaciers across Kachemak Bay to the south and east were clearly
visible. It didnít start raining until we were on our way home late in
the afternoon. Temps ranged from the upper 40s F. in the morning to the low 50s in the
I had a pretty long list of things I wanted to see and do today, knowing
full well that we wouldnít have the time or energy to do all of them. We
accomplished quite a bit from the time we left the Kasilof RV Park a little
before 10 AM until we got back at 5 PM.
The distance from our campground to the middle of Homer was about 60
miles each way, plus we drove another 30-35 miles in town, out and back
on Homer Spit, and out and back on part of the
dead-end road east of town toward Kachemak.
Here's the AAA map
section of the Kenai Peninsula again, this time with our route between
Kasilof and Homer highlighted in yellow:
If you're interested in a more detailed map of this section of the
Sterling Hwy. check out this Milepost
Alaska has some very photogenic old Russian Orthodox churches and
cemeteries. I'm fascinated with them because of their unique
architecture, icons, history, and beliefs -- it's a new cultural
learning experience for me.
I knew that an interesting church was on our route today
so our first stop was the c. 1900 Holy Transfiguration of Our Lord Russian Orthodox Church in Ninilchik
at MM 134.6:
The Milepost reports that this is one of the most popular tourist sites on the Kenai Peninsula.
You can't see it from the road but there are signs marking the short
road to it. There is a separate parking area for big RVs, if you're traveling in one. (We
were just in our truck today.)
Like other Russian Orthodox churches we've seen and read about, this one
is also open to the public for services or to just look inside:
Sign next to the door, welcoming visitors inside
Another couple talks with the priest in the small
We walked to the bluff over the inlet, went inside the church, and
wandered through the wildflower-and-weed-strewn cemetery.
Jim commented that this is what cemeteries should look like, not mown and manicured.
Note the distinctive Russian Orthodox crosses with
the slanted cross at the bottom.
We had a good view of both Cook Inlet and the old town of Ninilchik from the
We headed south on the Sterling Hwy. and descended to the
Ninilchik River, where few people were fishing today. At MM 135.1 we
turned at the sign for the short road leading to the old village of
This is the
original town site that was settled in the early 1800s. Several of the
homes date from the late 1800s. Others are obviously newer. I don't know
the age of the house below but it caught my eye:
Visitors can get out and take a walking tour of the old village for
close-up views of the old Russian school, houses, and food cache.
original Russian missionaries settled here with the region's Dena'ina
Indians. Fur traders followed. Employees of the Russian American Fur
Company who married locally and didn't want to return to Russia
continued to live here. Descendents of some of the original settlers and
Native Alaskan residents still live in the area.
We were in somewhat of a hurry to get to Homer so we did a quick drive-through and
missed most of the historic buildings. This is another place I'd like to
come back to and spend more time wandering around.
Note that there is a "new" Ninilchik nearby, right on the highway. Its
population is about 1,000 people. It is a popular destination for salmon
and halibut fishermen.
SCENIC OVERLOOK #1
I mentioned earlier
that this is a scenic stretch of the Sterling Hwy. Not only are there
lots of meadows full of flowers along the way, there are also several
pull-outs overlooking the coast or within a short walking distance.
More lupines and cow parsnips at a scenic overlook;
path through a meadow
to the bluff overlooking Cook Inlet is barely
visible to the left.
We stopped at a scenic overlook (shown above) at MM 142.5 that is supposed to have one
of the best views of Mt. Illamna and Mt. Redoubt, two of the five 10,000+-foot peaks
that have active volcanoes. They are in the Aleutian Chain. We havenít
had a decent view of any of these mountains because of low clouds.
I could just barely see the four peaks on Illamna above the clouds after
Cody and I walked out a grassy path through a meadow to a bluff about 250
feet above Cook Inlet. This view is more to the south:
Continuing south, we drove through the town of Anchor Point, North Americaís most westerly
highway point. The town got its name from the large anchor that Capt. John
Cook lost when he first explored the area in 1778, looking for the
Northwest Passage. The anchor came from one of his ships, the
Discovery or the Resolution.
The Anchor River is popular with sports fishermen looking for salmon,
steelhead, dolly varden, and rainbows. It's also a good place for
beachcombing, camping, golf, and hiking.
There is another
small historic Russian community of Old Believers nine miles inland on
North Fork Road. Nikolaevsk is populated by descendents of settlers
who fled from the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. The town has another one
of Alaska's picturesque Russian Orthodox churches and a cafe that serves
authentic Russian fare. Unfortunately, we didn't have time to visit
Between Anchor Point and Homer the Sterling Hwy. climbs to about 800 feet above Cook
Inlet. There are intermittent views of the water
from the road and several smaller roads that lead to the edge of the
bluffs. Some of them are on private property, others through the State
Recreation Areas along the highway.
SCENIC OVERLOOK #2: BAY CREST
On the last hill before the descent to Homer we stopped at a large, very
attractive rest area at MM 196.6 with magnificent 180-degree views overlooking Kachemak
Bay, mountains and glaciers to the east, Homer Spit to the south, Cook
Inlet to the west, and scenic bluffs to the north.
View south to Kachemak Bay
Appropriately, this is called Bay Crest Overlook.
Several people were watching eagles soar
above us, using binoculars and taking photos with long camera lenses:
Jim stood watching them circle for several minutes while I checked out
the lovely beds full of flowers and a plot of vegetables destined for the
local food pantry.
Benches and telescopes are provided for visitors. It's a lovely introduction to the Homer
Columbines bloom in the foreground; there are spotting
scopes in the background.
A Gold Rush Centennial sign describes an ill-fated
expedition of gold miners from New York that began here in late fall
1898 and ended rather badly by the time they reached the northern part
of the peninsula during the winter:
Talk about bad timing and ignorance,
to be hauling equipment over the Kenai Mountains by wheelbarrow in Alaska during the
After enjoying the expansive views, soaring eagles, and colorful flowers
for several minutes, Cody, Jim, and I piled back into the truck and headed downhill
for an interesting day of sightseeing in Homer.
We aimed first for Homer Spit, the narrow strip of land you can see in
the next photo. It stretches for almost five miles out into the Bay and is loaded
with campgrounds, shops, fishing-related businesses, and large and small
Continued on the next page . . .
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the ultra Lab
© 2012 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil