Monday, June 21, 2010

Where’s the Fish? – Alaska Adventure 2010

June 18-20:  Our latest travels south on the Seward and west on the Sterling Highway were all about FISH.  This is wonderful news to me (Nancy) since I could eat it every day, at least once.Just a friendly fishy. Here's lookin at you kid.  Along the way we passed through Coopers Landing where the drizzle and 40ish temps weren’t forestalling any of the anglers.  One fishing boat filled with fully-outfitted fisherpeople after another was pushing off the landings. We could see them floating away as we traveled down the river. Good to see so many people doing what excites them. 

But the best, most unique viewing was a few miles west, where the Russian and Kenai Rivers converge.  Yes, some of you reading this already know what I mean:  Combat Fishing.  There they were. Lined up as far as we could see, standing about knee deep in the river.  Each person held a fishing pole that they were, I hope, expertly casting for those coveted salmon. Couldn’t see how far down the river the people extended, but there was a whole bunch.  What a sight!  Looks as though a lot of people would get hooked rather than the fish.  We didn’t have time to get a photo since the parking spots along the road for miles were taken with the vehicles paying a minimum of $10 to park for a limit of 24-hours. It was fun to get a glimpse of the scene but we had to keep moving since no one was leaving.  No way, Jose!

Our destination for today was Soldotna.  We weren’t sure if the fishing and/or the Summer Solstice Weekend crowd might take every camping site around, so we steered into the Fred Meyer store where they have special accommodations just for rvers in their lot.  From there we thought we could take the Jeep and look at campgrounds and the Elks Lodge in town.  Did I mention it was a Friday?   Well, as it turns out, Fred’s is a great spot. We parked on the outer edge next to trees and out of the way, as others were already doing.  It was so convenient to everything, we stayed for the three nights allowed.  

In the Soldotna Visitors Center a helpful young man gave us restaurant recommendations, directions and fish information, everything we needed.  That evening we had a delicious halibut dinner at Buckets, two blocks from our parking location, along the Sterling Highway. 

Speaking of buckets, that’s how it was raining the next day when we decided to take a short trip about ten miles north up the Kenai Spur to the harbor city of Kenai.  By the time we reached the Visitors Center in Kenai, it had let up enough that I could take a short walk around the Market Day booths. I wanted to see if the rumors about the great vegetables grown by the farmers in the area was true. Items for sale at the Kenai Market Days There aren’t many fresh vegetables yet, but a very nice lady had her home-grown dried herbs for sale.  She recommended the tarragon and basil for our fresh fish dishes.  (They, in fact, have already been included in a dish at this writing.) There were booths of art and herbal lotions and bone and wood carvings to please many tastes.  This sign at a plant display caught my eye. I was curious but didn’t stop to ask:  What is Lamium anyway?  Probably something I should know by now and will soon learn from one of you.

Despite the clouds we took a drive to find a viewing location for the Kenai Harbor and Cook Inlet, but the weather didn’t contribute anything.  So we stopped in an interesting looking section of the boat docks, just to poke around.  Many fishing boats seemed to be in a retired state.  Kenai fishing boat, June 2010But who knows, maybe those wooden stantions and weeds surrounding them are the usual setup. There were slowdowns lately in fishing businesses since a stop was in place on King salmon fishing in certain areas of the Kenai River. As I understand it, this is to do with making sure that the salmon population is high enough. The issue is quite controversial with the various entities involved  in the fishing industry in the community.   A river guide knocked on our door to ask if we were interested in a charter for this coming week. He had cancellations since people heard that the fishing was down. But, hopefully, now that those parts of the river are opened up again, businesses will get back to normal. 

And that brings us to more fish for us. We made an inquiry about purchasing some of the local catch at the fish processing centers we saw around Soldotna.Echo Fish Processing Center, Soldotna, AK The answer is: Yes, they are open to those of us who don’t catch anything ourselves too.   So we found the Echo Fish Processing Center, one that our young man at the visitors center mentioned.  We couldn’t have had more fun buying fish. Our salesperson was patient with all our questions and generous with all kinds of samples.Friendly salesperson at fish processing center in Soldotna, AK  She dished up honey-smoked king salmon and sockeye salmon, cracked pepper salmon and who knows what else.  Let’s just say, we weren’t hungry for  lunch.  After choosing three kinds of salmon and some halibut as our purchases, we were anticipating good eats in the coming days.  We’ll probably stop by for more fish and maybe some of their King crab on our way out of the Kenai Peninsula. In fact, last night I made a smoked salmon, broccoli pasta meal that was pretty tasty. 

As does happen with us every now and then, today we had one of our “lock-down” days.  Jerry made one of his huge pots of excellent chili, after shopping for his specific ingredients at Fred Meyer. I caught up on blog posts and other to-do’s.  Since we have good Verizon coverage, the day’s special ingredient was talking with each one of our children, Krissy, Jenny and Tim.  Now we’re ready for another trip in the morning.  See you down the Kenai Peninsula.

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