“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” I don’t recall who wrote that, but it is apt for this story.
Having enjoyed an unprecedented three days of sunshine and relatively stress free camping, my dear hubby woke up Sunday morning a tad bit on the “wrong side of the bed.”
The cheerful smile and helpful disposition I’d been so appreciative of through most of our trip had vanished like the mist, leaving a somewhat querulous and cranky personage in its place.
Such is life with a TBI survivor. Switches sometimes turn on or off randomly. It really had been a lovely three days – a longer stretch than I had honestly expected, so no complaints. But now it was time to appease, keep things running along as smoothly as possible, and head for home.
Having slowly and carefully departed from Captain Cook State Rec Area by way of the same crater-pocked roads we had entered on, we were both relieved to finally return to decent roads ahead. Hopefully, smooth traveling would lead to … umm, smooth traveling. 😉
The drive back to Kenai was smooth and uneventful, and gave me the opportunity of stopping by the Pen-Dog training building between Kenai and Soldotna to turn in my entry form for a Barn Hunt Trial coming up there at the end of the month.
Yep! Another trip to the Kenai Peninsula is in the works. Rhonda is going to be so pleased! She loves bounding up, over and under straw bales in search of rats!
But back to my current travels for now …
My plan, such as any existed, was to head towards home after departing Soldotna. I knew I *could* drive the remaining miles back to Wasilla before nightfall, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to. Jerry and Baxter both prefer to stop and stretch their legs quite regularly and there are several nice campgrounds between Soldotna and home. Fingers crossed.
Besides, this stretch of the Kenai peninsula was a beautiful drive even on a bad day. This was far from a bad day – it was sunny and warm, with brilliant green hills and sparkling streams and rivers abounding. Jer seemed content to enjoy the view, so I was decidedly in no rush.
The only section of the drive I can’t call beautiful, although awe-inspiring in its own way, was the fire zone from last summer’s huge Swan Lake wildfire.
Even with the charred, black remains of thousands, perhaps millions of spruce trees spearing the clear sky as far as one could see, and the cris-crossing burnt trunks and stumps of birch, willow and cottonwood trees still laying haphazardly where they died and fell … renewal of the forest has already begun.
The roadside has been, I believe, hydro-seeded with grass to stem erosion, but the brilliant pink of the aptly named Fireweed flowers needed no help from mankind.
These hardy plants with their tall stalks of vivid color abound in even the most devastated and scarred landscape. This is almost always the first sign of returning plant life after a fire and it soothes the soul to drive through this ruined landscape and see Fireweed thriving everywhere.
I had driven through this area late last summer while the fire was still raging and saw the smoking remains first-hand. The forest will recover, stronger and more diverse than ever, but it’s going to take time.
Once past the fire zone, my eyes were drawn to the many sparkling lakes, rivers and creeks so abundant to the area around Cooper’s Landing. The conflux of the Kenai and Russian rivers are a mecca for fishermen this time of year – both two and four-legged.
The salmon are running, so catching sight of brown bear wading through the rivers in search of dinner is not at all uncommon. I didn’t take my eyes off the narrow, guard-rail edged road to search the stream beds myself, but there have been plentiful sightings over the past few weeks.
When I’m in the area, I often opt to spend a night at South Cooper Creek Campground in Cooper’s Landing. It’s a quiet, woodsy, National campground with widely spaced, private campsites and since it’s across the highway from the Kenai River (no river views), there are literally always sites available for unscheduled stops.
I was again toying with this idea as we neared Cooper’s Landing. Although I enjoy staying at the south loop, it’s the North Cooper Creek loop of the campground I’ve longed for years to find a spot at – always in vain.
The sites in the north loop are right on the Kenai River and are much coveted by fishermen as well as regular campers. I have never so much as seen an empty site in this campground even when it isn’t the height of fishing season.
BUT … at the back of my mind was the thought, “It’s Sunday afternoon and check-out was only an hour ago. Lots of folks head home on Sunday. Maybe …”
So, going with my gut, I flipped on my left turn blinker, slowed, and turned my rig ponderously into the North Cooper Creek Campground entrance. What the heck, it only takes five minutes to drive through and then we can go on over to the south loop.
I was therefore flummoxed, nearly speechless, when the very first site we came to was empty and marked as available. Right on the banks of the Kenai River. Oh, happy happenstance! I wanted it! I wanted it badly!
The easiest option, I knew, was to pull past it and back in. Not ideal, since backing in would have my big dinette window facing away from the river, but it was a warm day, and with the screen door open, we’d still have a pretty view. Besides, we could take our chairs and sit right on the river bank!
I looked it over and concluded it was wide enough and I wouldn’t brush any overhanging tree limbs.
This is when my day started to go seriously awry. My hubby says, “You should pull in nose first. We’ll have a better view.”
I looked at the angle of the campsite driveway (obviously meant to be backed into), the ditch on the right side and the width of the main road.
“I think I’ll back in …” says I, thinking about the turn radius of a 27’ motorhome.
“It’ll be fine. There’s plenty of room. I’ll guide you in,” says Jerry, hopping out and assuming the “I’m in charge of this operation” pose. Sigh.
Against my instincts and better judgement, and probably thinking (at the time) it would be easier to let him have his way – I gave in. I should’ve had someone video us. 😣
I won’t go into gory details, but at one point, he had me straddling that ditch with no idea how to back me out. Words were exchanged.
Happily, for our marriage, the RV eventually settled into her nose-in destination without any actual damage done and even better, we were pretty much dead level. I promptly went for a loooong walk.
It would have been so simple to just back in. Still, all in all, it was a lovely campsite.
Once we were finally settled into our campsite, walked the dogs and took a short, refreshing nap, peace was negotiated and we sat out by the picnic table, enjoying watching colorful river rafting tours and fishermen pass by.
A couple of fishermen opted to pull their float up on the little island in front of our camp site and we were able to watch them land a nice fish!
Eventually, we settled in for the evening. By then, we really didn’t feel like making dinner, so munched sandwiches and chips. Hey, at least we were talking to each other again. 😉
I had a nice time picked a bowl full of bright red, wild raspberries along a narrow path near the river after dinner (keeping up a running conversation with myself all the while in case a bear might have similar snacking ideas in mind). I also had my “Hike & Strike” walking stick with me.
The raspberries made a nice topping over vanilla ice cream later in the evening.
The next morning, Jer offered to guide me back out of our hard-earned riverside campsite. I had a better idea, suggesting that Jerry take up a post in the roadway, making sure no one turned into the one-way campground entrance, blocking my escape.
I then calmly backed out facing the wrong direction, picked up my hubby and booked out the fortunately still empty entrance gate. Perhaps not technically correct, but SO much simpler.