Sometimes you just have to throw caution to the wind and go with your gut.
With superb late summer weather forecast for the next four days, temps in the 70s, blue skies and balmy breezes, there was no way I was sitting home.
I headed for unknown (to me) territory – and I took Jerry, along with the two dachshunds, with me. YES, I really did!
Jer does not handle change, uncertainty or “winging it” nearly as well as he did before his TBI. A change in plans can cause him to become anxious and anxiety can make him … cranky.
A relatively minor blip can have him ready to blow his stack (so to speak) and results in me sometimes taking looong walks to give us both time to regain our composure.
And yet, I found myself inviting him along on a 4-5 day camping trip far from home; to an area where I’d never been, to a campground I had only vague information about and wasn’t sure either of us would like.
What if we arrived after a long day of driving, only to be disappointed? What if he didn’t want to stay? What if I didn’t want to stay? Tension and stress can be multiplied by a factor of LOTS in a 27’ motorhome. Fingers crossed.
I felt like I was living on the edge even inviting him to join me for this trip, and second thoughts almost had me changing our destination to a closer campground where I was in more familiar territory. I’m fine with “camping surprises”, but Jerry … not so much.
Still … I had heard so many good things about Nikiski and the Captain Cook State Recreation Area located 16 miles beyond this small, beachside Alaskan town. It was on my bucket list – go to Nikiski. Go BEYOND Nikiski!
Yes, literally at the very end of the road, after driving for several additional miles into deeper and deeper woods within the Caption Cook State Recreation Area and coming to a sign warning “END OF ROAD”, this is where we finally set welcome eyes on the small brown sign stating “Discovery Campground and Picnic Area – turn left.“
I looked dubiously at the pot hole cratered, narrow dirt road, looked sideways at Jer, gulped, and plastered a smile on my face. “Well, we made it this far”.
The entrance to the campground wasn’t promising; there was no way to avoid a series of massive potholes along the entire visible length, so we moved along at a snail’s pace, the RV creaking back and forth. Still, the woods were lovely and we caught enticing glimpses of Cook Inlet gleaming through the branches, so we journeyed slowly onward. Such intrepid souls!
If we’d been expecting to camp within easy walking distance to the ocean (we were, darn it), it was not to be, but we did have a killer view.
Once I had set up camp, we took the pups and explored the many intersecting trails that meandered through the trees and bushes (there was a lot of devil’s club and pushka, so we were careful to stay near the center of the paths) leading to the bluffs above Cook Inlet.
If you aren’t familiar with “pushka” (and I’m not sure I’m spelling it correctly); this is the native Alaskan term for cow parsnip. Nasty stuff … the sap can irritate and even blister the skin, especially when exposed to sunlight.
The views along the bluffs at the near edge of the campground were beautiful – and only a minute’s stroll from camp. We made regular pilgrimages along these paths during the day to peer down at the changing tides.
We did manage to find our way down to the beach on Saturday. It was a bit of a hike – back out the entrance road and then down the road to the day-use area – but it was worth the efforts.
We spent a couple of hours walking the beach and looking for agates. I brought home a few small specimens, but we were mostly just meandering and enjoying the scenery.
Low tide here seems to me the more intriguing; the shore is boulder-strewn, even at high tide – you can easily visualize how the gigantic slabs of gneiss (pronounced “nice”), granite and similar rock had been wrested from the cliff wall during raging storms.
At low tide, you can also see where the boulders – some bigger than large trucks – have been rolled far out into the inlet by the tides and restless ocean waves. There they lie, waiting for another vicious storm to continue rolling them along the ocean shore like pebbles in a stream.
The long walk to the beach, along with our rock hunting and following along at the end of dogs leashes as Baxter and Ronni investigated wonderful new sights and smells, eventually wore us out.
After sitting for a bit on a really uniquely patterned augen gneiss boulder, we cautiously eyed the steep dirt path we’d seen kids scampering up and down … it really was steep. Almost more climbing than walking. But it led directly up the bluff to the campground. Did we dare??
On the other hand, the alternative was to walk half a mile back down the beach and then up the road and around to the campground.
That was enough adventuring for us! All in all, we spent three warm, peaceful days at this campground, basking in very reasonable temperatures in the low 70s with a mild off shore breeze and warm sunshine.
On Sunday, along with everyone else in the Kenai, we reluctantly packed up to head towards home. I trust you’ll note I didn’t say we’d actually GO home … 😉