This morning we took off in the truck to meander through and photograph some of the places Gene took us last night. We visited Ninilchik’s Russian Orthodox Church and adjacent cemetery, noting how many of the gravesites were new, and how high a percentage of the folks buried there died at very young ages, even in recent years.
We also wandered through the tiny village of Old Ninilchik, situated on the shores of both the Ninilchik River and Cook Inlet. The village contains a tiny marina which can only be entered or departed at high tide – otherwise the outlet to Cook Inlet is a very shallow stream.
Leaving the Ninilchik area we headed south on the Sterling Highway toward the city of Homer, taking a 14-mile detour through the Village of Nikolaevsk, a Russian orthodox community of folks who continue many traditions from “the old country”.
Finally we arrived at Homer, a city of 5,500 residents at the southwest end of the Kenai Peninsula. The city consists of “downtown” on the hill above Kachemak Bay, surrounded by gorgeous snow-capped volcanoes and peaks of the Alaska Range, and the Homer Spit, a 4 ½ mile strip extending into the bay, with restaurants, shops, hotels, campgrounds and a marina, including a small deep-water dock with room for one cruise ship (which arrives once every two weeks in summer). We had lunch at Captain Pattie’s on the beach and both had halibut, which we noted tasted fresher and more delicious than any we’ve purchased in Seattle, ever.
We enjoyed the Pratt Museum, an art, culture and natural history museum at which we spent more time than expected given its’ small size – but it had terrific exhibits, including an informative video about the Exxon Valdez oil spill 21 years ago, which seemed timely given what’s going on in the Gulf of Mexico at the moment. We visited other shops and galleries, and drove through the East End Road residential area.
At 5:45 we met Lea Miner, niece of our very good friends Phebe and Jim Richards, at the “Cups Café”, a super fun, artsy restaurant on the hill, for dinner. Lea has lived in Homer year-round for 10 years. The food was creative and delicious, including fabulously fresh seafood, and we had a lively conversation with Lea who was enthusiastic and gracious in satisfying our curiosity about year-round life in Alaska. She grew up in Boston and has very happily settled into life in Homer, including the long, cold winters, and loves the beauty, remoteness, outdoor emphasis and life in the lovely town at the end of the Kenai Peninsula. What an enjoyable evening! And we made one mistake: we were so absorbed in the conversation we forgot to take a photo of the 3 of us together, despite having our camera with us!
We both concluded Homer is our favorite Alaskan town so far, and though the Spit is quite touristy, it has a real downtown that’s appealing and accessible.
The volcanoes of Mounts Redoubt, Iliamna, Augustine, and Douglas, adjoined by the mountains of the Alaska Range and numerous glaciers provide exceptional scenery, and proximity to the water provides mild winters by Alaskan standards. We’d also note that summers are “chilly” to our taste – averaging 60 degree high temps in July and August, and colder the rest of the year. Today was sunny and 53.