Our July 4th holiday has been interesting but quiet today since Cooper
Landing isn't a location where itís loudly celebrated.
Alaska residents definitely value their freedom, however, perhaps more
than the majority of folks in some other states. It's a place known for
its tough, independent people who would rather be self-sufficient than
have the government take care of them. (See quote above. 'Nuf said.)
We enjoyed our scenic bike ride to the Russian River Falls this
Although we didn't see any bears fishing for salmon this time we did have
the overlook to ourselves for almost half an hour while we watched birds
watching the fish struggle up the falls, hoping to snare a dead or dying
one for breakfast.
Mama Grizzly Bear carries a salmon from the river
into the woods
as a gull watches to see if she drops it!
We were rooting for the salmon to win.
They have a mighty life struggle
and these intimidating waterfalls -- plus human, ursine, and
avian anglers -- are their last major obstacles before they reach
their spawning grounds a little bit farther upstream.
SUMMER (?) IN ALASKA
Itís probably good that we werenít able to make camping reservations in
Seward until tomorrow because the place was absolutely mobbed today.
Thousands of visitors and Alaska residents, many from Anchorage, descend
on the small town every year for the festivities. The population swells
from about 2,500 residents to 30,000 or 40,000 people for the holiday
celebration, depending on which online source you believe. One draw is the very
popular Mt. Marathon foot race. It's less than four miles long but quite
a challenge on the rough, steep mountainside course. There are arts,
crafts, and food vendors, a fireworks show, a parade, musical
entertainment, and other activities.
The celebration in Seward reminds us of all the people who go to the
little town of Silverton, CO from Durango for the 4th. We
donít particularly like the crowds there, either. So today we quietly
celebrated the freedom we have by choosing some of our preferred
Glacial blue Kenai Lake can be seen from both the Seward and Sterling
This looks like a lake but it's the broad Kenai
River a few miles downstream from the lake. (7-3-12)
It was partly sunny (yes!) when we got up this morning but turned cloudy
by afternoon. We've had a lot of
clouds lately and some rain. It was 48 F. outside and 55 F. inside the Cameo
when we got up Ė brr. Over the years we've gotten used to such cool
temperatures when we sleep. Here's why.
When we have electricity we keep the camper warmer inside overnight with one or
both of our little electric space heaters. Our furnace is gas, not
electric. We rarely use it because it's just not efficient.
We also have a very efficient propane Mr. Heater space heater. When we boondock
(dry camp/no hookups) we let the interior get cooler overnight because
itís not real safe to have it on for 8-9 hours. We do have two CO
monitors but I donít trust them totally. If one of us gets up about 5-6
AM to go to the bathroom and itís cold inside, weíll turn on the propane
heater at its lowest setting.
This is "summer" in Alaska! Most of the Lower 48 is sweltering in
high heat right now. We'll take this kind of weather any day --
more rain than we prefer but
not too hot, not too cold. It got up to about 60 F. this afternoon.
FAREWELL TO THE RUSSIAN RIVER
I mentioned in a
previous entry the dilemma we faced re: where
to stay tonight in the camper. Briefly, we originally had reservations
through tonight at the USFS Russian River Campground but when we arrived
we couldn't maneuver into the long but narrow site we reserved.
We were able to use a very nice double site for the first two nights
but someone had the site reserved for only today/tonight:
Our spacious alternate campsite at Russian River
In this campground we did not have the option of sitting there
waiting to see if the folks actually show up. As long as they didn't
cancel (and as of noon today, they didn't), we had to vacate the site by
noon. They can come in at any time during the 24 hours they reserved and
if they don't show up, the site will sit empty. Someone already
paid for it so the Forest Service isn't losing any money.
We checked several times with the campground operators to see if any
other suitable sites opened up for tonight. Nope.
So we left at noon today for a great boondocking site down the road
that we found yesterday during a search of fifteen miles along the Sterling
and Seward Highways. It's on our way to Seward, where we have reservations for a
campsite at the Seward Military Resort for tomorrow through Sunday morning.
Above and below: Jim checks
out an interpretive panel about eagles at the turnout
we chose for tonight's stay near MM 42 on the Sterling Hwy. The
cottonwood trees in the
watershed are excellent habitat for bald eagles. (7-3-12)
On yesterday's drive in just the truck we
found several suitable places to boondock along the Sterling Highway, which is
quieter than the Seward Highway because of all the traffic coming and
going to Seward for the holiday.
The one we liked best is near MM 42
between Cooper Landing and the Tern Lake Jct. with the Seward Hwy.
Compared to the other pull-offs we saw this one is farther off the road,
paved, and has great mountain views:
We also looked at sites in the USFS Quartz Creek Campground located at about MM 44 on
the Sterling Hwy. Jim had originally tried to get a site there this week
but itís full. We confirmed with Ron, the CG host, that itís fine for
RVs to park in the turnouts along the highway. He agreed that the one at
MM 42 is a gem.
While we were out we drove back a little road to the Tern Lake picnic
area to look at the lake, the birds, and an interpretive sign about how
tough it is to be a salmon.
Outlet at Tern Lake (7-3-12)
This is a good place to watch all kinds of wildlife, including birds.
Marsh at the edge of the lake (7-3-12)
There is also a nice viewing area right at the Tern Lake Junction with
the Sterling and Seward Highways. The parking area was full of other vehicles so we didn't stop there.
However, we did pick up two hitch-hikers there.
We never pick
up hitch-hikers we don't know but we made an exception yesterday.
I'd already met these folks at Lower Russian Lake a few hours earlier.
When I was at the trail intersection by the lake yesterday morning two young French
couples with backpacks came down the trail from Upper Russian Lake and
we talked for several minutes.
The foursome was hiking the Resurrection Trail north from
Seward and wanted to know how far it was to the Russian River
Campground at Cooper Landing.
Their original plan was to hike all 72 miles of the trail from Seward to
Hope. However, after seeing how long it took to get this far they said
they were going to try to hitch rides back to
Seward instead of continuing on to Hope.
Because the trail from Seward was in such poor condition this summer it
took them longer to hike than expected and they were running out of
When Jim and I drove out of the campground yesterday afternoon we saw
them eating lunch at the entrance station. Since we made several stops, this couple
beat us to Tern Lake Jct. The two couples had split up
and hitched rides in different vehicles. I don't know where the other
two hikers were at this point.
Tern Lake (7-3-12; note all the remaining
snow up to ~ 3,000 feet)
I recognized the couple so Jim asked if they wanted a ride Ė but we told
them we were going only 4-5 miles down the Seward Highway, not all the
way to Seward. Weíd already found several suitable turnouts for tonight
on the Sterling Hwy. and didnít feel the need to look much farther.
They were OK with that. In fact, they must have felt pretty desperate
for a ride because they had to ride in the bed of the truck. Cody was in
the back seat and there wasn't room for them there.
Tern Lake (7-3-12)
We stopped about five miles down the road at the first pull off we found
and the couple got out. We hope they found another ride OK.
The good thing for them was all the traffic heading south to
Seward for the holiday festivities. That
was another good reason to park along the Sterling Hwy. instead of
the Seward Hwy. tonight, when lots of those people will be heading back
to Anchorage (the fireworks display was last night, not tonight). With
that in mind, we didn't continue any further south hunting for places
to park tonight.
We checked out one more campground along the Kenai River on the way
back to the Russian River Campground yesterday afternoon. It's the
Cooper Creek CG, also run by the National Forest Service. Some sites are
on the creek and some are on the Kenai River:
Kenai River at Quartz Creek CG (7-3-12)
We had a quiet evening to ourselves inside the camper; it was cool and a
little rainy, not conducive to sitting outside. Because it was cloudy it was
almost "dark" by the time we went to bed.
What a concept! This close to the summer solstice it's usually still
light until about 11 PM.
A SCENIC SPOT TO BOONDOCK
On the way out of the
campground at lunchtime today we stopped at the dump station to empty
our gray and black tanks so we wouldn't be hauling so much weight down
the road. We made sure we had enough fresh water for at least
We drove about ten miles east on the Sterling Hwy. to our chosen turnout
near MM 42. We were in luck Ė no one was there so we had first dibs on
where to park. We pulled to the far end of the pull-off parallel to the
grass and at least 100 feet from the road.
We have a great view of a string of snow-capped mountains to the south
of the road. I took the remaining photos this afternoon:
Thereís a creek below us but we canít see it. There arenít any trails to
it, just lots of nice trees and shrubs on the slope. It looks like a good place for
moose to browse, as evidenced by the moose-poo in the grass nearby.
There are some pretty flowers in front of the truck and plenty of room
to walk Cody:
While we had the place to ourselves we walked Cody around, admired the
fine scenery, and watched several bald eagles. You can see one in the
There was more traffic on the road all afternoon and evening than we
expected. Not very many people drove into the parking area, though. The
ones who did, kept us entertained.
A couple in a pick-up with two dogs stopped to rest for a couple hours,
then left. A group of four rental cars
pulled in at once. At least one couple got out from each, all dressed in
similar attire. Then they all pulled out binoculars and spent the next
10 minutes looking in every direction:
They left as quickly as they came. A few more individual vehicles came
in briefly to read the interpretive signs, scanned the scenery, and
About 5 PM a small rental C-class motorhome came in and parked very
close behind us. A couple with three kids got out and appeared to be
staying for the night. I wondered why someone would crowd
right behind us like that when they had a whole big parking area to use
. . . and about 30 minutes later they moved to the other end of the
About an hour later, however, a Class A motorhome parked about 15 feet
behind us. A smaller C-class is with them. So now there are four of us
lined up here:
The second group has about eight people total. They were out playing
some sort of ball game in the parking area, then went inside for a late
I joked with Jim earlier that weíd probably have company tonight. We
can't expect to have a great place like this to ourselves, especially
when so many people are traveling during a holiday week.
It's all good. We're probably safer having several RVs here and groups
of rabble-rousers are less likely to show up later with fireworks and
booze. [It was quiet all night.]
It was pretty chilly this evening at the overlook, with
some wind and a little bit of light rain. The clouds
are low over the mountains this evening, probably dumping some more snow
on the peaks.
This is "summer" in
Our view from the front of the camper
Jim took a nap after we got here and watched a movie on his computer
tonight. We've both been reading about Seward and doing things on the
internet. We have four Verizon bars on our phone and a great MiFi
personal online connection.
Itís ironic that this area out in the
"middle of nowhere" has better phone/MiFi service than the campground at
JBER in Anchorage! Jim hasnít had TV reception down here near Cooper
Landing for the last three days, though.
I've also been spending time learning to operate my new Sony Cyber-shot
camera. I like the pictures it takes and I love the longer optical zoom
(16x) and higher pixel count (16). It takes longer to open and
close the lens than the Canon PowerShot A1200 but it has a quicker response
time between photos. It's a decent camera for a relatively low price
(about $150 at Sam's Club and Amazon).
View from my desk window
There are some downsides, however. Jim thinks I should have gotten a
much better digital SLR with interchangeable lenses. I'm already
regretting that I didn't. Maybe we'll keep this one for "everyday" use
and get an SLR with a super zoom lens for close-ups.
I donít care for the Sony Play Memories software that came with the
camera to download the pictures to
my computer (I can't just put the memory card in my PC). I much prefer the Nikon Transfer program
I've been using with an old Nikon Coolpix and Canon cameras; it's
fast and intuitive. The Sony software was difficult for both of us to
get used to and itís excruciatingly slow.
Itís much easier to take the 8G memory card out of the Sony camera and
put it in the Canon camera to download photos to the Nikon software!
(Sounds more complicated than it is.)
Lupines and dwarf dogwood (bunchberries) at Russian
River CG (7-3-12)
Itís also a hassle to keep the Sony battery charged up. This is the
first digital camera I've had that uses a proprietary battery and not
AAs that can be quickly and easily replaced on a hike or ride. It
charges fast but I have to remember to take it out to charge and put it
back in when I want to use the camera. During our bike ride this morning
I had to go back to the camper to get the battery Ė I remembered the
camera, but forgot the battery. Oops.
That wasted 15 minutes. Jim made me a checklist similar to the one he
uses so I wonít forget it next time. Now I have to remember to look at
that list before I go on a hike or bike ride!
In the morning we'll
head south to Seward. It's a short drive of only about 40 miles so we
won't be in a big hurry.
Next entry: six days in Seward -- definitely
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the ultra Lab
© 2012 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil