When we left Seward, our plan was to go to Skilak Lake in Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. At the very last minute, because the weather was going to be so beautiful in Homer, we changed our minds. In fact, we were in Cooper Landing at the time. It turned out to be a good decision as, at 1PM, a wildfire started (Card Street Fire) and within two days all camping in KNWR was closed. At 1PM, we were just pulling into our campsite in Mariner Park in Homer. (We would spend the next week waiting and watching the fire’s progression – from a very safe distance in Homer).
Homer is a great town with a split personality. There is The Spit, very touristy, often windy, mostly crowded; and the town, a cheaper, more laid back, less crowded, everyday area. We stayed at Mariner Park, the public campground just barely on the spit where, for $15 one may get a beachfront campsite with no hook-ups. One could spend $80 a night for full hookups further down the spit at a private park but, with our solar panels filling up our batteries each day by noon, we didn’t see the need. Homer also has some pretty good Verizon 3G service. Since there are no cruise ships, the service doesn’t bog down like it did in Haines and Seward. We were able to stream Netflix and caught a few episodes of “Orange is the New Black.”
We ate out a few times and ended up more impressed with the restaurants in town than the ones on the spit. On the spit, the prices were twice as high and, while the service was good, the food we had was just okay. In town, there are many great local restaurants. Our two of choice: Cosmic Kitchen and Two Sisters Bakery. We highly recommend both.
We did a lot of wandering in Homer and the area around it. We were completely entranced by the fact that the views were amazing for miles and the land was cheap. Yes, we actually looked at locations and properties for sale. Compared to Seward, Homer land was a bargain, even if one had an amazing view.
We headed out to the head of Kachemak Bay. The Kilcher’s drive their cattle out there every spring and there are three of the Russian Old Believers villages there. To get there, take East End Road about 19 miles, onto the gravel road, through the ROB town of Voznesenka, past the Voznesenka school and down to the switchbacks, a dirt four wheel drive trail that takes one down to the head of the bay. The road is very steep, rutted, potholed, and probably undrive-able in the mud, especially coming back up. But, it is drive-able with two wheel drive if you don’t care about your clearance. Once at the bottom, there is a sweeping view of the head of Katchemak Bay and a beach road one can drive about a mile up to the head. We couldn’t (or wouldn’t) go any further; there is a road into Kachemak Selo (another ROB town) but it is marked “NO TRESSPASSING” and “PRIVATE ROAD.” They really don’t like outsiders in their town. (A great article on the Russian Old Believers can be found here). The views along the drive to and back are stunning and it is wonderfully quiet at the head of Kachemak Bay – a great place for a picnic or just to watch the tide come in and out.
We also drove up to Nikolaevsk, the first Russian Old Believer town established. This is another beautiful drive through rolling hills with amazing pastoral views. There is a restaurant/gift shop there, and an RV Park. We have heard though, that the old Russian lady who runs it can be alternately sweet as pie or a raging bull, depending on how much money you spend. We decided to take a pass. The Church of St. Nicholas is worth a stop. The town is building a new, bigger church behind the old one.
If you find yourself lunching (or dinnering) in Old Town, and want to relax on the beach after, there is Bishop’s Beach, a three mile long public beach with trails, picnic tables, and grills. One can drive part of the way down the beach, park, and set up for the day (unfortunately, no camping, but a B or a truck camper could make it – watch for soft sand areas).
We also spent a lot of time at the small boat harbor. It is probably one of the largest we have ever seen – hundreds of boats from 18′ skiffs to 118′ crab boats such as “Time Bandit” from “The Deadliest Catch.” If you ever wanted to see as many possible examples of perfect Alaska boats, this is the place to do it – monos and cats, aluminum, wood, and fiberglass, open and pilot, custom and common – they are all here. We got good looks at some aluminum catamarans, our future boat of choice for cruising Alaska waters. In the lower 48, you might find an occasional power catamaran, and you might, rarely, see a larger aluminum boat. In Alaska, they are almost as common as tourists. Wandering around, we were in boat heaven, which explains why we went a few times. It would take hours to days to actually see all the boats. But, if you want to get some exercise, it is a great way to burn your calories.
We liked Homer so much that we kept extending our stay “just one more day.” It didn’t hurt that the weather was wonderful – sunny and in the 70’s – nor that we had a beach front site with neighbors that were pretty cool. But, after 5 nights, our tanks were full and there were people waiting to snag a beach front site. Reluctantly, we pulled away and headed North.