July 22, 2012
Homer was our southernmost spot in Alaska and today we started our journey northward. The target destinations were the towns of Kenai and Soldatna, located further up the coast of Cook Inlet. We know the entire Kenai peninsula is popular with local Alaska campers, so we head out on a Sunday to hopefully take advantage of the vacating weekenders. But even good plans are sometimes inadequate.
As it turns out, we did not have the best timing. About 4 days before, the Sockeye (or red) salmon run started on the Kenai river. Word spread fast and about half the population of the entire state beat us here by a day or two.
We had originally planned on staying in Kenai, but after checking out three campgrounds, the best option we were offered was space in the “overflow” area. That means you get to park in a field with no services while paying nearly full price (which ain’t cheap when the fish are running).
Plan B. We headed over to the large city campground in Soldatna which did not accept reservations. It’s also a popular place for fishing since its right on the Kenai river, but we hoped at least a few of the campers in the 160+ sites would have needed to get home for work on Monday.
When we reached the gate, the attendant informed us that they were also sending people to overflow areas both in and outside the park, but we could drive around and look for a spot since they couldn’t really keep up with that site status due the number of people coming and going. As it turns out, we got lucky and found two adjacent campsites away from the river. No services here either, but it’s only $17 and we get to watch people fish.
It’s been a trying day (did I mention its raining again), so I suggest we head out to one of the three local breweries. Only one has food and the other two are closed on Sunday, so that makes the decision easy and we end up at the St. Elias Brewing Company. As expected, its crowded. I guess there were lots of fishermen who’d already bagged their daily limit. We have to wait for about 30 minutes to get a table and once we do the service turns out to be somewhat shy of good, but the overall experience turns out to be worth the hassle. Another day saved by good beer and pizza*.
* Technically, Reen did not have pizza. She had something called a bacon ranch sandwich which could best be described as a BLT made inside a folded pizza crust. Ya just can’t keep that woman away from bacon. Anyway it was delicious.