Another day, another camping spot. This weekend, although we are at this location for a PSD (Performance Scent Dog) Trial, Camp Maranatha is a beautiful backdrop for the trial, and is also home to a small farmstead.
The Scent Work Trial will be on the more picturesque lake-side of the camp, with its dock, benches and picnic tables.
The pretty lake view is only a minute away on foot, but not visible from my RV. The search sites for the trial are down there, so we’re parked in a different area.
The closest “neighbors” to my camping spot are chickens, turkeys, goats, ducks and geese!
Since I was one of the first RVs to arrive, I had several choices of parking spots. I intentionally picked the site at the far end of the RV parking area, mostly because there would be less activity for Baxter to worry about.
The fun fact that my coach door literally opens up to the chicken and turkey pen fence is purely icing on the cake. Baxter has been around livestock much of his life and won’t be concerned. The sound of goats might even be familiar and comforting.
The sounds made by the baby turkeys (poults, I think?) was pleasantly musical, catching the interest of both dogs – and me, too.
Rhonda, on the other hand, has not been around livestock much at all and was excited over all the new smells – and feathers! She can certainly use the practice this will offer us as we come and go for her searches. The opportunity for acclimating her to farm animals and teaching her that they aren’t any big deal was quite serendipitous.
By the time we completed two active days of trialing, plus adding in multiple potty walks, I’m happy to say Ronni was content to watch them with interest as we walked by on a mostly loose leash.
Yay! Mission accomplished!
Oh, and both Ronni and Baxter had fun and good searches at the Scent Work trial, too!
My trip south to the Kenai peninsula had the desired effect. When I awoke the morning after my arrival in Soldotna, the dark clouds were busily scudding off across Cook Inlet – probably intent on plastering Wasilla with yet another inch of rain.
The weather in Soldotna, for the entire three days of our Barn Hunt trial, we’re a mix of sunshine, non-threatening clouds and occasional stiff breezes. Pretty much lovely July weather. Just what I had longed for.
The “view” from my RV wasn’t exactly scenic, but the magnificent blue sky made up for the fact that we were once again asphalt-camping.
Honestly, I treasure this particular overnight site. I’m able to stay the weekend just across the driveway from the trial site, meaning when each trial day is over, I can simply crawl inside, pull an ice-pack out of my freezer, slap it on my knee and take a short nap – without having to drive anywhere. What a blessing.
It was not yet noon on Sunday when Ronni and I loaded up to head back the way we came. My normal routine at the end of a 3-day trial has long been to head straight for the nearest campground to relax and recoup my strength for a night before driving home.
This has pretty much become a habit ever since I bought the motorhome and retired. Part of the joy of travel is not needing to rush home and it is, admittedly, an indulgence I take advantage of every chance I get. I want to enjoy the drive itself.
But this trip, since I hadn’t entered Rhonda in Sunday’s trial, I wasn’t all that tired, and being only about 11:30 am, I decided to drive at least partway home before stopping for the night.
Oh my, was that ever a mistake! Belatedly, I recalled the other reason I usually spent Sunday nights in the first campground I could pull into.
TRAFFIC! Right around 11:00 am on Sunday, every fisherman, tourist and camper in the Kenai peninsula (and double the usual numbers when the salmon are running!), are pulling out of their weekend or week-long campsites and hitting the road. And the overwhelming majority of them are heading towards Anchorage.
On the bright side, slow moving and sometimes completely stopped traffic, combined with lovely weather, gave me ample opportunities to appreciate the scenery that I would normally zip right by, and take some nice photos.
The longest wait was at the junction of the Sterling and Seward highways, where trucks, boats, trailers and motor homes were backed up for more than five miles on the Sterling Hwy, all trying to turn left onto the already busy Seward Hwy.
It was like we were all part of the vehicular version of a salmon run, with the fish [vehicles] from two different streams [highways] merging together, all intent on fighting their way upstream in a mad rush to be first to the spawning grounds.
Being in no particular hurry myself, I relaxed, listened to music and patiently waited my turn. Rhonda was in a sunny spot on the passenger seat, softly snoring.
Driving a motor home along a busy highway where the majority of drivers (rightly or wrongly) want to go faster than I am going, can be stressful if you let it. I was determined not to let it.
So, once I had joined the throng heading north along the Seward Hwy, I went into what I think of as “mirror-mode”. Knowing that, even going the speed limit, I would invariably end up with vehicles behind me who would rather be ahead of me on the winding two-lane highway, I kept both eyes on the road and simultaneously on my side mirrors.
Frustrated Sunday drivers, in a hurry to get somewhere, can be both foolish and dangerous. I try not to give them any added incentive to be either.
There are a number of long passing zones with double lanes along the Seward Hwy, but impatient drivers, often towing boats or trailers, are loath to wait for these safe alternatives.
Fortunately, there are also numerous small and large vehicle pull-out areas, which I make good use of when I can, swinging off the road to allow the two to five vehicles tailgating me like a trailing swarm of bees, to zoom by me to take up position behind the next truck or motor home a couple hundred yards further down the road.
Rather than allow these drivers to stress me and potentially ruin my good mood (I’m usually in a good mood when I’m traveling), I like to make a game out of it.
My favorite is pretending I’m a State Trooper, deciding whether each vehicle rushing past gets a ticket for speeding, tail-gating or maybe unsafe towing … or they could be innocent travelers just caught up in the flow.
If the pull-out has a particularly scenic view, I will often go ahead and stop, allowing Ronni to stretch her legs while I take a few pictures and use my ever-handy bathroom. On this particular trip, the afternoon lighting was great!
Traveling on. When I reach regular passing zones, I always slow to below the speed limit (sometimes well below if there’s a lot of traffic) to make sure anyone who wants to can pass. I’d much rather have them ahead of me than behind me.
In spite of music, photo ops and bathroom breaks, I eventually wearied of the non-stop Sunday traffic. As I rounded the end of Turnagain Arm and reached the jam-packed Girdwood fuel station, a glance at the clock confirmed my fears – I’d be hitting Anchorage at the height of all this going-home chaos.
I mulled possibly alternatives over as I drove onward, loath to take on Anchorage traffic, especially swollen as it would be with hot, tired fishermen, confused tourists and the normal hubbub of the city.
Without much in the way of conscience thought, I soon found myself in the left turn lane, awaiting a break in the south-bound traffic.
Smiling, I turned Roada’s big white nose into the entrance of Bird Creek Campground, about 30 miles shy of Anchorage. Being not quite 4:00 pm on a Sunday afternoon, there should still be a few sites available in this FCFS campground.
A nice long walk in the woods and a good night’s sleep was just what I needed. I’d finish the drive home in peace and quiet the following [Monday] morning, when all the weekend traffic was off the roads. Life was looking good once again.
Famous last words! It was warm, beautiful and breezy when Ronni and I hit the sack that night.
Sometime in the wee hours of the morning, I awoke to the sound of rain, not pattering gently on the roof, but pelting loudly against the sides and top, being thrown against the rig in sheets by what seemed hurricane strength winds.
Those same winds (I heard later they were upwards of 65 mph in my area), buffeted and rocked the RV, even though we were in a relatively protected part of the campground.
With thoughts of tall, nearby trees crashing on the roof, and prayers for any RVs still out on the highway, I snuggled Ronni close and tried to go back to sleep. There was nothing much else to do at 3:00 am.
It just goes to show; if you don’t like the weather where you’re at, you have two choices. Go someplace else, or wait a few hours. It’s sure to change!
In case you are wondering; yes, I did make it home the following morning, although not in the quiet, peaceful manner I’d hoped for. High, gusting winds were making a playground of the entire Anchorage bowl area, and seemed to think playing tag with motorhomes was great fun.
If you don’t like the weather at home, go somewhere else. It doesn’t necessarily mean the weather will be any better there, but the view will change.
So, after several days of almost monsoon-worthy rainstorms, one following on the soggy heels of the last, I was definitely ready for a change.
Besides, Ronni says her feet (freshly manicured) were at risk of developing foot rot from peeing on wet grass. I know, I know … serious over-kill and not a gram of truth to her words, but she sincerely hates wet feet, and feels she deserves sympathy.
After loading Roada up with essentials (rain gear, umbrella, rain boots, etc.), we hit the road heading south.
Since there was a brief lull in the rain, I took advantage of it to hit the local Chevron station to dump tanks. When boondocking, which we will be doing all week, it’s best to start with empty black/gray tanks and a full propane tank.
The drive got pretty sketchy only an hour in. As we passed Potter’s Marsh and made the first big turn towards Turnagain Arm, the rain had stopped but the wind now punched at us like a drunken sailor. See? I told you the weather would change.
Grateful for Roada’s overall stability, I still had to pay attention to keep her on the curvy and narrow as we rounded the cliffs and took the buffeting gusts head on. If this tells you anything about the wind, I was happy to see “Flagman ahead – be prepared to stop” signs. A long line of idling vehicles were now in view, so I took my place and shifted into park with a sigh of relief.
Rain and wind may come and go, but construction season is a constant in Alaska. You can count on it. In this case, the construction zone encompassed about eight miles of some of the most exposed, wind-vulnerable sections of this highway, and I was more than happy to take it at the required 45 mph, once we got moving again.
Although storm clouds threatened, they held off and the rest of the drive around the arm was windy but uneventful. I soon found myself with a steady tail-wind as I traversed the far side and headed up Turnagain Pass.
I made it almost to the Sterling Hwy turn-off before the skies opened up again. I don’t mind driving in the rain, but between the rain and earlier winds, I felt like I’d been put through the ringer twice (hey – fun note; how many of you actually know where the term “put through the ringer” originated?).
I pulled over at my favorite spot along the Kenai River in Cooper’s Landing for a late lunch and a long break from driving. I’ll forgo yet another picture of the Kenai River, but will mention that I’ve never seen it higher on the banks. All that rain must go somewhere.
Although it was already after 6:00 pm, I decided to push on to Soldotna.
It was only sprinkling when I pulled in at Centennial Park Campground, where I was told there were still a few sites available, but I might find it quieter and easier to pull in and set up over at their overflow area at the local Sports Complex parking area. I happily paid my overnight fee and headed over there.
What can I say? It’s a parking lot. But WAY quieter than a packed campground of over 200+ sites filled with wet, excited fishermen. The salmon are running on the Kenai! Oh joy!
I’m beyond ready for another camping trip. Several destinations are calling to me, and many of them have me passing through an area I seldom think of as a destination unto itself. I’m not sure why, except that I’m so often on my way someplace else.
Cooper’s Landing is a small community of close-knit, adventurous fishermen, woodsmen and watermen. And, of course, the businesses that have traditionally supported these mostly seasonal, mostly tourist-driven ventures.
I drive Roada through Cooper’s Landing at least six times every summer and overnight there when time and opportunity allows.
The Kenai River in all its sparkling glory flows right through the middle of town, and the community itself has a relaxed, slow pace. The strictly adhered to 35 mph speed limit throughout the entire winding, narrow, guard-rail lined two-lane roadway helps remind tourists to slow down and safely enjoy the view.
There are plenty of pull-outs on the side of the road created just for that purpose.
The fast-flowing glacial-green water sparkles with jewels of changing milky opal and aqua shades glinting with sparks of diamonds and the surface froths white where it surges over a river bed of rocks and boulders.
There are also a couple of spendy RV Parks, but only one campground, Cooper River North, that actually boasts campsites right along the river.
Only once has a combination of luck and good timing snared me one of those coveted river’s-edge camp spots.
The glistening blue-green river flowed right by our campsite. Fishermen with their gear also walked right through, which they technically shouldn’t have, but the way the campground was set up, the riverfront campsites were really the only easy-access points for those camping on the other side of the camp loop. Besides, allowing them to walk through gained us a pair of nice, very fresh salmon filets! Yum!
Cooper River South is on the other side of the highway from the Kenai River, and is one of my favorite overnight campgrounds. Quiet and well, forested, sites are nicely spaced and the camp host is attentive and helpful. A few of the sites on this campground loop actually back onto the smaller but still lovely Cooper River – something I think most campers there don’t even realize.
Another campground just a couple miles further down the Sterling Hwy, the Russian River Campground, would seem from its name to have riverside (or at least river-view) sites, but I’m thinking you must need some secret code to access them. I sure didn’t have one.
I tried twice. Once, I ended up paying to spend the night at the Russian River Ferry Landing, which was a paved parking lot. Probably a wrong turn on my part. You do have a view of the Russian River and can fish from shore, which is a big draw for fishermen … but camping on asphalt is not my idea of camping. Still, I DID see a bear!
When I finally tried the actual Russian River Campground, the site they assigned me (I wasn’t given a choice) was beautiful and woodsy, but SO high up the mountain, I couldn’t even hear the river, much less see it.
My site was also remarkably isolated, with no other campers in sight, in spite of it being late July and the height of tourist and fishing season. I guess everyone else had found campsites down closer to the river?
I found myself walking Rhonda close to the RV and carrying my Hike & Strike walking stick more to give me courage than because I needed it for walking. There’s bears in them there woods! Who was I going to call for help?
Although perhaps the perfect campsite/campground for tourists looking to find the true “Alaskan Experience”, it gave me the willies.
I quickly decided I was happier being closer to Cooper’s Landing, with the friendly camp host nearby and Two Brothers Roadhouse within walking distance from my camp.