Alaska

Three Days in Homer, Alaska

I spent three days in Homer and despite somewhat crummy weather, I really liked this part of my two-week trip in Alaska.

Where to Stay

I found the best place to stay with a spectacular view and an extremely short drive to both the Homer Spit and the downtown area.  The White House Inn is so cute!  I went toward the end of the season, so with the quiet time, the owner upgraded me to an ocean view room.  My room was the King Salmon Room and decorated in red, white and blue.

The owner was also very responsive and provided tips like I could take any halibut I caught to Captain Patties, and they would take a few dollars off the halibut entrée listed on the menu and cook it for me.

I really enjoyed the solitude, my view, and service at this location!

Where to Eat

I found a variety of places to eat on the spit, in downtown, and in old town.

Fresh Catch Café

I first tried steamed clams with reindeer sausage and kale at Fresh Catch Café.  This restaurant was packed and my enormous meal was absolutely spectacular!  I highly recommend making a reservation here.

Captain Patties

I went to Captain Patties to try their halibut since I didn’t catch any of my own (more on that later).  Captain Patties was also very busy and the halibut was good, but if I didn’t want to try a bunch of different restaurants, I would have been back at the Fresh Catch Café on the Spit.

Kachemak Bay Oysters

I also stopped in at Kachemak Bay Oysters for a half dozen oysters.  The bar area was cute though empty this late afternoon.  Menu items are limited and expensive (as is all Alaska but this seemed more so).  Regardless, it was a nice, quiet stop that could be an excellent option on a warm sunny day with its large deck.

Duncan House Diner

Duncan House Diner, located in downtown Homer, is one of the few most affordable restaurants in Alaska that I visited.  It seemed pretty popular among the locals.  Probably because a full breakfast was only around $10.  I ordered bacon, eggs and a biscuit.  The bacon was crispy, just as I like it!

Two Sisters Bakery can be found near Old Town.  “Bakery” is a bit of a misnomer as it serves dinner too.  Regardless, I got a savory vegetable quiche while others picked from their selection of pastries for their morning breakfast.

Top Things to Do in Homer

Stroll the Homer Spit

The Homer Spit is a 4.5 mile finger of land which juts out into Kachemak Bay.  It is lined with tour businesses, retail, and restaurants.  Browse the shops, comb the beaches during low tide and check out the boat harbor during high tide.

Walk Bishops Beach

Bishops Beach is a popular place to visit during low tide.  Just be aware of the tide charts.  Tides change more near the poles and there can be a 30 foot differential in Alaska!

Take a Hike

Calvin and Coyle Woodland Park and Nature Trail

I took a few hikes in Homer.  For an easy, enjoyable walk along many boardwalks through the forest to an overlook over Beluga Wetlands visit Calvin and Coyle Woodland Park and Nature Trail.  While I generally don’t enjoy “commercialized” trails with interpretive signs, I’ve found in Alaska I prefer them as to avoid the mud.  This 1.5 mile trail, lined with berries (mostly poisonous) and fern, loops through a lush forest.  The boardwalks can be slick, but overall it is a nice, simple hike.  Note that parking is limited.

Homestead Trail

A second hike I took on Homestead Trail turned out to be far more adventurous than I expected.  The one-way distance on Homestead is 7.2 miles, however, there are tons of connecting trails that create a variety of loops.  I was excited to see a WIDE trail to begin at Rogers Loop.  I thought good, no bushwacking like in my Cooper Landing hike.  In addition, at the first trail junction was a map of the trail system where I decided to follow the Homestead Loop.  This map lulled me into a false sense of security, as it turned out, a map was at about every other junction as several trail markers were damaged.

Fortunately, I had snapped a photo of the map and quickly learned to pay closer attention to where I was on the loop so I knew which way to go at the trail junctions.  The wide trail was basically a road mowed through a field of grass.  I followed it until I reached a long boardwalk which was another exciting sight for me as it seemed well maintained which I deduced would keep me out of the boggy area.  After about the first mile or so, however, all of this wonderful trail maintenance vanished!

As I climbed up the hill for the “excellent views”, I ended up on narrow trail in a grass field.  The trail was so overgrown, I felt for trodden areas with my feet and hoped I wouldn’t get lost or stumble across a bear in the tall grass that reached my shoulders.  All I could think as the grass rubbed all over me is I hope I’m going the right way and please let it be too cold in Alaska for ticks.  At first it was a welcome relief to leave the grass and to reach the wide trail again.  That was until I found myself trudging through the mud to the extent that the shin deep muck almost took off my shoes.  At one point, I was stuck so deep in the mud, after my third attempt to pull myself out, I bruised the TOP of my shin on a tree ROOT.  I was trapped in a foot of mire!

It may have been one of the worst hikes I’ve ever been on as I expected a nice stroll through the meadow and ended up hoping I’d make it back to the trailhead in one piece!  I think there were other shorter options that were likely better maintained as I saw a few people returning from their hikes who weren’t covered in mud like me.

Fish for Halibut

I scheduled a day out on the boat for a Halibut fishing combo with Captain B’s.  Halibut fishing is limited to certain days.  I bought my license and was ready to go, but the unseasonable 50 mph winds prevented us from fishing safely.  As such, Captain B’s honorably refunded my money which I can’t say the same for Alaska River Adventures in Cooper Landing.  This was an unusual situation as he usually only has to cancel one trip a year, but was forced to cancel four this year.  While I wished I could have gone out fishing, I respect being safe on the seas.

Take a Bear Watching Tour

My one-day bear watching experience at Katmai National Park and Preserve, though expensive, was the best part of my two-week Alaska adventure.  I took the Classic Day Trip with Alaska Bear Adventures and wished I could have spent days there as opposed to three hours.  For more details see my blog on the Alaskan Coastal Brown Bear.  It will not disappoint!

Take a Water Taxi Ride to Kachemak Bay State Park

There are a handful of water taxi’s with different sized boats that transport clients across the bay to Kachemak Bay State Park as well as to other non-park destinations.  I took Mako’s Taxi as it had a small office located on the spit.  Given they were poor at answering the phone and returning messages, I finally visited the office in person to schedule a ride.  As a single person, I was at the mercy of space on the boat and other people’s schedule.  At the end of the season, I was able to get a spot on the boat to the park for same day service, but I’m uncertain a reservation the day of would work during high time, especially given the only access to the park is via boat or plane.

While the office staff service wasn’t the best, the captain was quite knowledgeable.  He pointed out sea otters, one eating a crab, and oyster farms as he motored four of us to the park.  I believe the boat holds a maximum of about six to eight people as I was able to get a ride back with a family of five about three hours later.

For $83, it was a rather expensive 30 minute taxi ride to and fro, especially since the windy weather prevented us from being dropped off at the further point, Glacier Spit and required us to be dropped off at the usual pick-up point in the protected Saddle cove.

To be more clear, the most popular trip for tourists is to be dropped off at Glacier Spit for a one-way four-mile hike on Glacier Lake Trail to Grewingk Glacier Lake with a final pick-up at Saddle Trailhead.  Because it was too dangerous to reach Glacier Spit, the altered hiking route was an out and back to the glacier via Saddle Trailhead.  It made for a shorter boat ride and more time at the park, though a shortened hiked.

Since I only had about half a day for the park, this route probably worked out better for me.  It was about a 45-minute hike to the lake and a 30-minute hike back, including stops for pictures.  For a popular tourist destination, I expected more people and less signs of bears.  During my three hours at the park, I saw maybe a total of 20 people and at least 30 piles of bear scat on the first half mile of the trail!

The trail climbs to a saddle (thus the name) as it weaves through a lush forest to the lake.  I was pleased to find it mostly devoid of mud.  It only required a few easy side steps to keep my feet dry.  Closer to the lake, the trail turned to loose scree.  The lake, linded by golden bushes to the West, was filled with grey glacial water with a few floating icebergs that glistened in the intermittent sun that poked through the clouds.  With three hours to spend at the park, I spent an hour strolling the shores of the lake trying to get a closer view of the glacier before returning to the trailhead.

It was a nice way to spend half a day, though I believe there are several trails that run through the park and a much longer trip may be taken here for a whole day or even multiple days so it is best to ask more questions at the taxi service as they essentially sell there transportation service as a popular hiking tour when there is much more available.  ETB

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