Kenai Adventure, Part 4

On July 18, 2010 · 2 Comments

The visit to the Alaska‘s Kenai Peninsula is winding down and I will be making my way back home slowly over the next couple of days. Those of you who follow the Twelve Mile Circle for its odd geography can rejoice. I’ll return to a regular schedule of useless trivia that only we enjoy unless something totally unusual happens over the coming hours. Those of you who enjoy the travelogues, well, there’s always the next trip.

Captain Cook State Recreation Area at Low Tide

I know someone asked me about the amazing tides in coastal Alaska — I seem to have misplaced the message so please accept my apologies, anonymous reader whoever you may be, for the outstanding tip. It made for an interesting visit to Captain Cook State Recreation Area which is as far northwest as one can travel on the Kenai Peninsula using paved roads. The City of Anchorage is just up the inlet from here where Turnagain Arm splits away. Someone standing here in 1778 would have seen Captain James Cook sailing past on his third expedition, on what is now known as Cook Inlet, as he searched for the famed Northwest Passage.

I took this photograph at nearly low tide. Notice that the tidal area extends nearly to the outer edge of the image. This entire muddy flat filled with water only a few hours later. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: "The highest tides in the world can be found in Canada at the Bay of Fundy, which separates New Brunswick from Nova Scotia… Anchorage, Alaska, comes in at a close second with tidal ranges up to 12.2 meters (40 feet)."

I’ll have to content myself with "second best" which is still rather spectacular.

United States Highway Farthest West

A town has to stake its fame on anything imaginable in these rural lands. It’s all about differentiation. Everyone seems to be searching for that magic hook that might bring a few more tourist dollars during tough economic times. I get a sense that tourism is way down here. Its the height of summer, the salmon are running, and vacancies still abound. Anchor Point plays the game too: they bill themselves as the westernmost point of the United States and/or North American highway system.

Well, maybe.

I guess it depends on how one defines "highway." Does the Alaska Marine Highway, an extensive system of ferries extending all the way to the Aleutian Islands count? If so, extend that westernmost claim to Unalaska/Dutch Harbor. If the claim requires pavement I guess Anchor Point is a good as any other claimant as any at least until Alaska builds a long-planned route to Nome.

View Larger Map

I saw a number of photos on the Intertubes of a marker that commemorates the spot in Anchor Point. I couldn’t find the marker but I also didn’t look very hard as I drove through a town, passing in the blink of an eye. Nonetheless if one wants to see the actual spot, it’s really a couple of miles north of town. I created a waypoint on my GPS prior to the journey and took my photo when I hit the appropriate point while driving along.

Spit of Homer Alaska

The Homer Spit provides another prominent geographic feature. "Homer Spit" sounds like something out of the Simpsons but actually its a sandbar jutting more than four miles into Kachemak Bay. Wikipedia claims that "the Spit features the longest road into ocean waters in the entire world, taking up 10–15 minutes to cover by car." I don’t know if it’s actually true but I’ll concede that it’s definitely an odd site to be set below the otherwise hilly terrain.

It seemed out of place for other reasons too. The large concentration of beach shacks hawking t-shirts, beachwear, alcohol, sugary snacks and such seemed more reminiscent of the familiar boardwalk scene down in the Lower 48 than the wilds of Alaska. There was even an entire shop devoted to selling every item that could be imprinted with the logo of the Time Bandit, one of the ships featured on the Deadliest Catch television reality show. Time Bandit use Homer as its home port, and I certainly can’t fault the captain for trying to make a few bucks during his 15 minutes. It’s a lot easier than pulling crabs during harsh winter storms.

If someone stuck a Ferris Wheel at the tip of the spit it would become a miniature version of Santa Monica or maybe coastal New Jersey. It didn’t seem like Alaska to me so I didn’t spent a lot of time there despite my fascination with the extended sandbar as a geographic oddity.

Iditarod Start

The Iditarod is more than an annual dogsled race. It’s also more than the heroic delivery of Diphtheria serum to Nome in 1925, the event commemorated by the modern Iditarod. The Iditarod is actually an historic trail used to transport goods into the remote Alaskan interior. Seward is one of the northernmost ice free ports in North America and is a natural starting point for supply routes. Mile Zero of the Iditarod, the 1910 Seward to Nome Route, began here and extended for 938 miles to Nome. It didn’t last long. Airplanes replaced it within a couple of decades.

Really? Well, it actually started about fifty miles north of here. The railroad did began in Seward and the trailhead extended from there. See what I mean about grabbing any hook?

Other Parts of the Kenai Advanture

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3 – Wildlife


On July 18, 2010 · 2 Comments

2 Responses to “Kenai Adventure, Part 4”

  1. David says:

    When I traveled to Alaska in 2007, I met up with a friend who lived in Homer. She later married a man whose last name is Simpson. Surprisingly the obvious joke did not occur to me until years after the fact.

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