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Homer

August 10, 2013

Alaska – Sunday, July 28

I was able to quickly pack up this morning, and Tula and I headed right out. We continued driving toward Homer, and stopped in a little Russian village called Ninilchik along the way. We took a short walk around part of the town – there wasn’t much to it – and walked around the Russian Orthodox church, and the cemetery, which looked kind of overgrown even though it wasn’t a real old one. There are several small Russian communities in the area – Russia isn’t all that far away as the crow flies! As I was driving, I kept passing through areas of fog – the way it moved almost made it seem like smoke, but there was no burning smell. Then I came to the approach of Homer, and a pulloff high on a hill lets people look down on the town. Homer sits right on the water – in fact, Homer Spit is on a very narrow strip of land that juts way out into the ocean. But the ocean was completely covered by a low-lying layer of fog. It seemed like I was looking down on clouds. I asked someone about this later, and she said it’s been a common occurrence this summer because although it’s been a little warmer than usual, the temperature of the ocean is still only in the mid-40s, so when the cold air by the water meets the warmer-than-usual air above, it often creates a thick layer of fog. The pulloff had some telescopes for people to look across the bays to the surrounding mountains, and there were also a couple of big healthy-looking vegetable gardens – with signs in them asking people not to pick anything, because the garden bounty was destined for the Homer Food Pantry, which was going to be my donation-of-the-day tomorrow, which is the last donation for Alaska.

I headed into town and passed the Driftwood Inn, where we had stayed last time, and it was a charming little place with small rooms that were paneled and decorated like a ship captain’s quarters. After camping for 11 days, I was ready for a motel stay and a little extra time to clean up and do some computer work. They had a small room available and it was a wonderfully cozy place to get caught up a bit. But first, Tula and I ventured out to the Homer Spit. We walked a couple miles along the beach, and Tula was enjoying the foggy day – running in and out of the waves, even though it was salt water. There was a nice Seafarer’s Memorial, and a bell off to the side with the inscription “This bell tolls for all the souls set free upon the sea.” I’ve now been to a lot of waterfront places, and there are many memorials to those who have lost their lives at sea, and it still continues to happen. It’s a reminder that no matter how much technology there is, or how smart humans think they are, Mother Nature still has the upper hand.

Then we walked up and down the row of shops – old wooden buildings along boardwalks, some of which are on stilts, and many of them are just open for the summer. Homer calls itself either the “halibut fishing capital of the world” or “a quaint little drinking town with a fishing problem”, and the town is full of little fishing charter businesses. It seems like nearly everyone goes out fishing for halibut or salmon. When the charters come back in, the guide cleans the fish right on tables in town, and there are freezer services to take care of freezing and shipping the fresh-caught fish home. Halibut are really weird looking fish – flat and white, with both of its eyes on one side of its head, and just kind of a blank face on the other side. They come in all different sizes, and the guides seem to be able to clean and fillet them with only a few cuts here and there with their knives. And halibut is on all the menus around town, as part of fish and chip dinners, halibut burgers or halibut chowder. I went to a fish and chip place and ordered a dinner to go, and took it back to the motel and did some computer work.

Then, toward evening, we headed out for another walk along the spit. I walked past a bay, and there were numerous sea planes tied up by docks, instead of boats. There were about a half dozen campgrounds along the spit, and I’m guessing most of the people who stay there are in Homer for the fishing. I’m kind of glad I’m not camping tonight, because all the campgrounds were exposed to the wind and weather on the spit, and the campsites were all so close to each other that all the RVs seemed to practically be touching each other. I saw a couple eagles flying overhead – I’ve seen them here and there, but haven’t been able to get any good pictures of them. One campground I passed had a big dumpster that was for fish cleaning waste only, and there were fish-cleaning tables set up by them. Lots of gulls were hovering nearby for juicy morsels, and the eagles probably wanted some of that bounty too. Tula kind of liked the smells around the fish dumpster too – yuck! I wandered over to where the people were cleaning fish, and saw one lady cleaning red salmon with one of the Alaskan ulu knives. The red salmon was literally blood red, and she was wearing a garbage bag pulled over her clothes as a makeshift apron. She told me it had only taken about 6 hours to get all their fish today – she had some pink salmon too. She had a big pile of roe on her table and when I commented on it, she told me if I had a use for it, I could have it – I politely declined! After we had finished our evening walk, I stopped at the local grocery for a few things and headed back to my cozy little room for some more computer work.

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