I have a few minutes to write about Andi and I's first day of vacation before we scoot out the door for a day of fishing on the Kenai River. We had a great day yesterday, with more fun in store.
Wednesday evening, Andi and I boarded a plane in Minneapolis and flew direct to Anchorage, AK arriving around 10:00pm local time. There's a three-hour time difference from home meaning Andi and I had been awake for almost 24 hours by the time we arrived to our friends' house in Eagle River, AK. We were both exhausted departing the airplane, but caught a second wind upon greeting Kristina and Alex.
Kristina is an former employee of Andi's who recently moved to Alaska with her husband. It'd been a while since we saw them, so we stayed up until Midnight (3:00am in Minneapolis) catching a tour of their adorable mountain-view log cabin and catching up around a cozy wood-burning fire in their living room. Kristina filled our ears with some great tips on hiking paths and Alaskan sights to see during our time in the Kenai Peninsula.
A warm greeting of Alaskan essentials: fresh towels, bug spray, bear spray and a bear bell.
I think we could've easily relaxed at Kristina and Alex's place all day, but alternatively - we had a new state to explore! We packed the car and headed south for a three hour drive along the Cook Inlet to Soldotna, AK. About half-way into our drive, we ventured off the Seward Highway to Whittier, AK to see the second longest tunnel in the U.S. and to stretch our legs with a short hike on Portage Pass. Kristina told us the view of Prince William Sound and the Portage Glacier were absolutely stunning from this trail, but unfortunately we weren't able to see much with the cloud cover. Nonetheless, it was a great way to break up the drive.
Having worked up an appetite, we continued on into the town of Whittier for lunch. What's essentially a port today was once an active military base during World War II and is now home to about 200 residents and 700,000 visitors annually. It's accessible only by water or through the 2 1/2 mile long tunnel that connects it to the Portage Highway.
With fairly low expectations for food, Andi settled on Wild Catch Cafe for lunch. A sign outside the cafe boosted "indoor dining," but looked like nothing more than a pick-up window with tables on a covered front porch. A few people were in line ahead of us placing their orders, so Andi and I stood around for a few minutes deciding what we'd like to eat. The air was cool and we were wet from our morning hike. In that moment, I desperately wished for a cozy fire to warm my body from the outside in.
Suddenly Andi said, "Hey, dining inside. Let's go look," pointing to a tiny beaten-up sign in a low corner on the wall. I followed him down a long hallway, then open a door to discover a brightly lid dining room with cute knotty pine tables and a television playing the Summer Olympics. We grabbed a table and a waitress promptly brought out a kettle of hot tea for Andi and piping hot coffee for me. Yes! Just what the doctor ordered. I'm not sure what those other people were waiting for out front, but we'd found the perfect spot to have lunch in Whittier.
Andi ordered the wild-caught salmon filet burger and I had a chipolte black bean burger with mixed greens. My burger was tasty, but Andi's was out-of-this-world delicious. He practically had to bat my fork away from his plate!
After lunch, we continued south on the Seward Highway to Soldotna. Andi arranged for us to stay at the Orca Lodge for two nights. Our modest log cabin was cute and comfortable, and the perfect spot for fishing on the Kenai River.
We dropped our bags and headed straight down to the water to try our hand at salmon fishing. Conveniently, Orca Lodge had everything we'd need for fishing set up on the dock -- fishing poles, a fish cleaning station ... and a baseball bat to club the fish on the head? Yikes! We weren't sure, but had the feeling we were able to find out.
Andi had never fished for salmon before (and I take my cues from Andi), so we threw our lines in the water and hoped for the best. Initially, we didn't have much success but could see other fisherman along the shores of the Kenai River catching their fair share.
Eventually, we grew hungry and tired of trying so Andi and I headed back to our cabin for dinner. We'd stopped at a local fish market in town and bought fresh king crab legs and a vegetable for dinner. We listened to music while Andi cooked dinner and I edited photos from our day. Pinch me, it was the perfect ending to the perfect day.
Andi wanted to fish "just one more time" ... so he went back down to the river while I stayed in the cabin. A few minutes later, my phone rang. Andi caught a Pink Salmon and invited me to come and see. I grabbed my camera and hurried down to the water to find Andi reeling in a big one.
All that excitement made us both giddy with anticipation for the next day. Andi arranged for a local fishing guide to take us out on the Kenai River for a full day of salmon fishing. That's where we're headed right now, and I have no idea what awaits. More to come from our fishing adventure...