I put this in the “only in Alaska category”, although it’s a brilliant idea that I’m sure will catch on in Atherton, CA with a slighly higher entrance fee.
A couple in Anchor Point, Alaska (15 miles from us in Homer, where my wife Amy lived until she was eight) is running an essay contest where the prize is their house. The entry fee is $100 and a 100 word essay that starts “If I could do anything I wanted …” The owners will select the top 100 essays and a panel of independent judges will pick the winner and the runner up. The deadline is August 25, 2004, although the owners reserve the right to extend the contest for up to a year if they don’t get enough entries (they need 1,100 to get to the $110,000 investment they have in the house.) They also reserve the right to cancel the contest and will send back $99 of the $100 if they do this to cover postage and handling.
My friend Paul Berberian – the co-founder of Raindance Communications – flew us from Homer to Anchorage for a sushi dinner tonight.
Paul and his friend Paul Wareham were up at our place in Homer, AK visiting for the weekend. They flew PaulB’s Cirrus SR-22 up from Boulder, CO – it took them 15 flight hours over three days. We had a great weekend hanging out and showing them around Homer. Originally we were going to fly to Valdez for lunch, but the weather was shaky and Valdez is a tough airport to land at.
We decided to head to Anchorage for sushi since we don’t have any sushi in Homer (one of Homer’s few weaknesses as an ideal place on the planet.). We left the house at 5:30pm, drove the five minutes to the airport, and were in the air by 6:15pm. We dinked around some near Homer looking at Grewink glacier across Kachemak Bay and then headed to Anchorage. We landed at Merrill Field 45 minutes later, cutting over three hours off the normal drive time (four to five hours).
We met up with Amy’s friend Jon Zasada who runs the Boys and Girls Club of Southcentral Alaska and went out to Peter’s Sushi Spot. Our sushi starved bodies hadn’t had a feast since mid-June so – at the risk of having a rocky stomach experience on the way back – we pigged out. We finished things off with Alaska’s best local ice cream – Hot Licks. Yum.
We headed back home and touched down in Homer at 10:30pm. While I’m not a great small plane flyer, we had a pretty magical evening. The view from the plane at 3,500 feet was unbelievable – the beauty and scale of Alaska is even more dramatic by air at this altitude. Dinner was awesome, and the whole idea of round tripping to Anchorage to have dinner with friends in five hours is very cool.
Today was a perfect Alaska day. Amy and I have friends up to our place in Homer (Chris, Seth, and Ed) – the five of us went bear watching today.
We chartered a plane from Smokey Bay Air. The five of us crammed into a Cessna 206 for the 30 minute flight over Cook Inlet to Lake Clark National Preserve. As we approached land, the Iliamna Volcano loomed large (10,016 ft). We landed on the beach – which was a first for all of us (but apparently the 9,342nd time for the pilot who appeared to do the landing with his eyes closed.)
We got picked up by our guide Drew in a 12 wheeler (a four wheeler with two “passenger sleds” attached.) Drew took us to our base for the day – the Alaska Homestead Lodge. We met the owners (and our hosts) James and Shelia Isaak who quickly served us an amazing kippered salmon lunch.
After lunch, we piled into the 12 wheeler and headed out to find some bears. It was a magnificent, sunny, pleasant day so we all settled in with high hopes. The first two bears we spotted were far in the distance (a half mile away) out on the tidal shelf. We watched them for a little while, but then went looking for more that we could get closer to.
We hiked along the Johnson River for a while before coming across a 7 ft, male bear (450 lbs, 5 years old.) We tracked alongside it for nearly an hour, coming as close as 50 feet as he ambled down the river. Everyone talks about how amazing bears are, but there’s nothing quite like being right on top of one. He was aware of us, but seemed to be blissfully unconcerned. Eventually he wandered out of range, and we regrouped and went looking for another one.
We saw two more before heading back to the lodge and realized we were being spoiled. Drew told us that there are 50 bears living in a 5 mile radius (approximately 75 square miles) and we’d seen five of them in three hours.
The gang dumped me off at the lodge where I took a nap and then polished off Rain Fall while they went out looking for more bears. They came back a few hours later – unsuccessful – but happy nonetheless as they got to see a bunch of gigantic killer silver salmon jumping around (ok – they weren’t “killer”, unless you are an insect.)
We finished off the day with an awesome dinner at the lodge. Our plane came (landing on the beach again – whew) and we flew home.
We’re all sitting around talking about the day. It was perfect. If you are ever up this way, I highly recommend a day bear watching at the Alaska Homestead Lodge.
I mentioned recently that we have a place in Homer, Alaska. A common refrain that we hear from our friends is “where is Homer?”
Well, believe it or not, the New York Times wrote an article on Homer in today’s NY Times (Friday, 7/23) titled 36 Hours In Homer, Alaska. It’s a cute story that hits some of the highlights of this place that we find amazing, fun, therapeutic, and wacky.
In case you were concerned that there’s no actual “culture” up here, we saw Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale tonight. It was performed at the Pier One Theater by the Fairbanks Shakespeare Theater. Like all Shakespeare, it took me about twenty minutes to get the rhythm (and a clue about what was going on) but once I did, it was hilarious and extremely well done. The theater was packed (which means about 50 people). The play was set in late 19th century Alaska (surprise). The cast was outstanding.
Now, if we only had a symphony up here…
I live in Boulder, Colorado. However, my wife Amy and I spend as much time as we can in Alaska. She was born in Anchorage, lived in Anchor Point (near Homer) until she was eight, and then lived in Fairbanks until she graduated from high school and moved to Boston to go to college. We’ve been coming up to Alaska together for the last decade and it has become a huge passion of mine. While Colorado is amazing, Alaska is Amazing^10.
We’re spending a good chunk of the summer at our place in Homer, Alaska. I’ve been bumping into some Alaska-centric posts in the blogosphere and smiled when I ran a link that sent me to a story titled Great White North by Ron Sanders. If you like travel or adventure stories, ride a motorcycle, know anything about the Alcan highway, or just want to read a fun story by a software nerd about his motorcycle trip to Alaska, check it out.