Homer

May 23rd, 2008

Self arrest

Halibut and... Buttwhacking?Skullfish

The Harding Icefield across Kachemak bayThe first thing we checked out in Homer was the “Spit”, the thin strip of land jutting out into Kachemak Bay which hosts the dock and tourist area of Homer. We saw some smaller halibut (”chicken” halibut) some sport fishermen had just brought in and watching a local guy teaching his daughter to fish land a poisonous skullfish and throw it back. Next we visited the highly-recommended Pratt museum which has a lot of very cool exhibits about the local neutral history and homesteading history in the area. The museum visit was highlighted by the excited eight year old daughter of the curator who went on at length about the sea life in their aquarium and how the king crab gets out of his Whale bone outside Pratt Museumtank sometimes. She knew so much, and wanted to share her knowledge so badly, it was hilarious. Then we met up with Drew’s family friend John, who took us out to dinner. Now, I love seafood and was excited to go to the ocean for fresh fish and crab which I presumed since it comes right from the ocean would be cheap by the ocean. Not so. A plate of seafood on the Kenai runs about $30, meaning I had abstained so far. But to a retired Alaskan with money in the bank it was no problem to take a couple of college kids out for a seafood dinner. Awesome. We shared some calamari and raw oysters and each had a plate of fresh halibut. It was unbelievably good. I have never had seafood as delicious as those oysters, which probably came out the bay earlier that day. I ate until I could not possibly eat any more. On the way home we checked out the dry dock - a very necessary thing where the harbor freezes solid every winter. It was cool to see all of the boats, some of which were pretty hilarious, like the “Death Trap”, er… “Death Star”, that is.

Homer dry dockThe Death Trap

John with his ceremonial mukluksAfter dinner we bullshitted with John and checked out his Mukluks, parka and animal skins from his days as a school principle up in the arctic. He lived up there for 15 years or more, mostly in the town of Kotzebue, and had some great stories. The traditional Mukluks were the most amazing. They were made out of beaver, seal skin and caribou Drew getting hott in hereby old Eskimo women the way they had done it for hundreds of years. These boots were pretty much museum artifacts. Most of the Eskimos who know how to make them - a difficult process that involves shaping the seal skin using your teeth - are dead now. The parka, which was trimmed with wolverine fur (it doesn’t collect snow like other furs - good to know for next time I make a parka!), was amazing too. After all this great show and tell we came up with a trail to mountain bike the next day, and then headed down for a drink at the Salty Dawg, a rather famous little pub out on the spit. It was a unique Homer brew in a SoBe bottle at the Salty Dawgjoint, more than a hundred years old and completely covered inside with dollar bills people had written on. We talked a little with a guy from Virginia up here to work on a fishing boat and drank the local Homer brew. The Dawg didn’t have any beers on tap so to serve Homer beer they re-used old Sobe bottles like mini-growlers; quite clever I thought. I was most excited to see a Big Hole Music sticker in the bar, from my hometown of Driggs. :)

Some of the coal that washes up on shoreThe next day we woke up a little late to a big breakfast of eggs and bacon, then left for our bike ride to Caribou Lake, north of Homer. Again we were foiled by the Kenai’s big snow year. Even right by the sea the trail, which was shaded by trees, still had lots of snow and ice on it. It was a miserable bog that was completely un-ridable. So we went backThe ocean is neat! to town and walked around on the beach at low tide instead, investigating the tide pools. I’m not around the ocean much in Montana, so it’s always very fascinating for me. We spent a couple hours meandering on the sand and it was time for lunch and a visit to the Ring of Fire meadery! I’ve had mead once or twice before, but the tasting room had me quickly convinced that this was really good mead. They had different fruit flavored meads, sweet desert meads, dry meads, meads from local honey, meads from orange blossom honey, and carbonated mead “cycers” which were a lot like champagne… all sorts of damn mead. We broke down and bought some to drink that very night with John.

Ring of Fire meadery tasting roomSea anemone!

Grey Goose and Hard Tack - YES!For dinner our second night he spoiled us again with big steaks and we enjoyed another amazing long night of Alaskan stories, this time fueled by the mead and Grey Goose when that ran out. What I had written off when I met his in Great Falls as “the usual crazy Alaska stories” turned out not to be quite usual at all. John has lived quite the adventurous life, even for an Alaskan. His time with the Eskimo’s was pretty unique. For a long time he was the only white man living up in those villages, and did intense things like join them on a whale hunt. He had the first jet boat up on the Kotzebue Sound and went up rivers even the Natives had never been up and few have since. He hunted trophy bears, wolves, wolverines, etc. The view he provided us into arctic Alaskan life, and especially Eskimo life, was incredible. It was a real treat to have met him and my Alaskan trip would not have been the same without it. The seafood was good, but the stories were a real gift. That, and the introduction of Pilot Bread as a beer-munchie.

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