2012  HIKING, CYCLING,

& RV TRAVEL ADVENTURES

 

   
 
Runtrails' Web Journal
 
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   CELEBRATING INDEPENDENCE DAY OUR WAY

WEDNESDAY, JULY 4

 
"Those who desire to give up freedom in order to gain security
will not have, nor do they deserve, either one."
 
~ Benjamin Franklin
 
 

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 morning. 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!  (7-2-12)

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.

Go, fish!

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 activities.

 
Glacial blue Kenai Lake can be seen from both the Seward and Sterling Highways.  (7-3-12)


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   (7-3-12)

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
Kenai River 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)


Marsh at the edge of the lake  (7-3-12)

This is a good place to watch all kinds of wildlife, including birds.

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. 

AU REVOIR!

Hitch-hikers?

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 vacation time.

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 two nights.

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: 

 
Alpine milkvetch


Prickly roses

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 photo below:

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:

 

Birders!

They left as quickly as they came. A few more individual vehicles came in briefly to read the interpretive signs, scanned the scenery, and left.

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 pull-off.

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 supper:

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.]

CHILLIN' OUT

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 Alaska!

 
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 no folly

Happy trails,

Sue
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, and Cody the ultra Lab

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© 2012 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil

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