Animals and Views on the Kenai Penninsula

We’ve been on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula for almost two weeks, so there’s a lot of catching up to do.

We began our exploration of the peninsula in Soldotna. Based at the Klondike RV Park, we could walk to the famed Kenai River.  We had a week in this area, and the guys spent two days fishing with a guide. First they went out on the Kasilof River and then out on the Kenai. Unfortunately, the salmon run is late and light this year, and the guys were shut out (except for a too-small trout and a great moose sighting). We’re hoping the fishing improves as the summer moves along. 

While in Soldotna, we enjoyed the local farmer’s market, hiked to the nearby Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center, and saw several moose. We checked out the town of Kenai and its Russian roots.

On another day we drove up to the Russian River and hiked to the falls to see the salmon. Of course, salmon fishing was not allowed in that area but there were a lot of those suckers trying to get up stream! 

After a week we moved to the eastern side of the peninsula to the town of Seward. Kenai Fjords National Park is based here and is accessible mostly by boat. On our first full day we set out on a six-hour cruise to see what the park was all about. One word: whales!

Within 20 minutes of setting sail, a gigantic Humpback surfaced right in front of the boat. Within 30 minutes we were watching a rare and exciting Humpback whale behavior: bubble-net feeding.  Bubble-net feeding is a cooperative, learned feeding method where the whales circle a school of fish and together disorient and corral the fish into a “net” of bubbles. Once one whale sounds the feeding call, which we could hear with an underwater microphone, the whales swim to the surface at once. It’s quite spectacular, and we watched it happen about a half dozen times. 

After this incredibly lucky start, we rounded out the day with Orcas, Stellar Sea Lions, a few Sea Otters, and the spectacular Aialik Glacier. If you ever find yourself in Seward and can do just one thing, we recommend the Major Marine cruise through Kenai Fjords National Park. 

You know we like to hike, and the Tonsina Point hike to the beach at Resurrection Bay was a good choice. Over about four miles we passed through lush rainforests, all the while watching for bears (we didn’t see any).

The trail ends at a vast black sand/gravel beach on Resurrection Bay, at right about the point where we saw the whales the day before. Ringed by snow-capped mountains, this view is about as good as it gets. Plus, Bob enjoyed the adventure, and it was pretty good exercise!

Kenai Fjords National Park is actually accessible by car in one place. Exit Glacier is rapidly receding, as indicate by the year markers along the road and trail.

We walked to the overlook, which at one time was bordered by ice. Now it’s a bit of a distance to the icefield, but the landscape illustrates the power the ice has in carving canyons and rivers. We had a beautiful day for a photoshoot.

The town of Seward offers a lot of fun and we are checking it all out. One day we hit the Alaska Sealife Center to learn more about ocean creatures and efforts to preserve our environment. The boat harbor in Seward is very scenic and is ringed with shops, hotels, and restaurants, which we enjoyed. We also found a fun, hole-in-the-wall bar, called the Pit Bar, that is open until 5AM. Don’t worry… we were there for just a little bit one afternoon.

As you can see, Sam has easily settled into RV life. Everyone is so happy he’s here!

Today the guys are out on an all-day halibut fishing trip. We’re hoping today will be a big payday.  Tune in next week when we’ll give you the results and a summary of Seward’s Fourth of July festivities. It’s supposed to be big!

RV Travel to Alaska: A Summer of Life List Accomplishments

For many years I’ve kept a “life list.” Some may call it a bucket list but I prefer to think of it as experiences that enrich my life, rather than a list of things to do before death. It’s a long list, and we ticked off quite a few experiences this summer in Alaska. Now that we are headed back to our home base, it’s time to recap this epic summer adventure and offer some tips for anyone heading to Alaska in an RV.

We had expectations for what would be the big highlights this summer; some didn’t disappoint, others surprised us. The lesson: be open to whatever experiences are presented to you along the way. You never know what (or who) is going to really have an impact.

Here are a few of our top experiences:

Driving the Alaska Highway – While the drive itself was not originally on my list, we knew from research that this is an epic drive, from Arizona to Alaska, over 3,200 miles. We took a full month to make the journey, stopping at Banff, Jasper, and all of the main towns along the highway through Alberta, British Columbia, and the Yukon Territory.

Joined by our friends Russ and Susan, we hiked, biked, shopped, and ate our way through some of Canada’s most beautiful areas.  Along the way we spotted 14 bears, 21 caribou, 10 moose, 3 fox, 6 porcupines, and countless bison, bald eagles, and trumpeter swans. 

Rubbing shoulders with bears – Once we got to Alaska we splurged on the flight to Katmai National Park to see the bears at Brooks Falls. The iconic shot of the bear catching salmon on the falls is real and we got it!

Walking through the park and seeing bears just off the trail was a little unnerving at first and then just awe-inspiring. For me, this was one of the biggest highlights of our summer. Steve, however, saw bears numerous times while out running (in Jasper and in the Yukon). One large grizzly even followed him back to the camper, which allowed me to see the big guy from our back window.

Catching trophy fish – Okay, this wasn’t on my list, but Steve set out to make this a summer of fishing and he was very successful. He caught King Salmon on the Klutina River with Mitch, Red Salmon on the Kenai with Dave, and Halibut from Resurrection Bay near Seward with Sam.

In all we shipped about 50 pounds of fish home and cooked the catch at least twice a week most of the summer. Besides catching the trophy fish, Steve spent some quality time with some of our favorite people.

Seeing the northern lights – The Aurora Borealis has been on my list for decades, but we didn’t really think we’d see them with so much daylight in the summer. Sometimes the best things happen when you least expect it. When our ferry to Skagway was cancelled we were re-routed through Whitehorse, Yukon. Steve just happened to look out the window at midnight and BAM! The lights were making their first appearance of the year and we caught it at just the right time. Breathtaking is just one word that comes to mind.

Our list of highlights could go on and on and previous blog posts have captured most of them in great detail. Instead we’d like to offer a few tips for anyone thinking about making the epic journey to Alaska with an RV. 

Tip #1: Take your time. It’s a long drive and there’s so much to see along the way. While there are RV parks along the way, we highly recommend staying at Canada’s Provincial Parks. These beautiful government facilities are in picturesque locations and cost less than $20 a night. British Columbia and the Yukon Territory both knocked our socks off with beauty and warm people.

And, while you’re taking your time, drive slowly, especially where the road is not in ideal condition. In the north you’ll encounter frost heaves, potholes, and road construction. We took our time, rarely driving over 60mph. While others reported broken axles, shredded tires, and chipped windshields, we only experienced one flat tire on the truck all summer.

Tip #2 – Reservations not needed – I’m an over planner and had reservations for most of our summer. We learned quickly that it really wasn’t necessary with the exception of the popular places at popular times (Seward at 4th of July, Denali, Homer). Part of the fun of seeing Alaska with an RV is discovering new places and being surprised by where you’re spending the night. We are glad we booked the two campgrounds in Denali National Park, Savage River and Teklanika. Both gave us more time in the park than we otherwise would have had. It was also good to have a place to land in Seward and Homer. Other than that, you can totally wing it and find inexpensive or free places to camp with no problem.

Tip #3 – Roll with the punches – As much as I like to plan, in Alaska some things can’t be controlled. Our original bear trip to Katmai was cancelled and we had to reschedule to another day, our ferry from Haines to Skagway cancelled at the last minute, and on some days it just rained and rained. The more time you have, the more flexible you can be to adjust to the curveballs that will inevitably be thrown your way.

It really was a summer of a lifetime, one that we won’t soon forget. Our recommendation: do it! And if you need any help with planning, just let us know!!! 

Top Ten Highlights from SXSW

Our first experience with SXSW is in the books. For two weeks we walked, we listened, we laughed, we drank, we ate, and we learned…so much! While attending this massive festival/conference/event is not on a lot of retiree’s bucket list, we are so glad we did it! It’s hard to describe all that we’ve experienced here in Austin, but we’ll give it a try with our top ten highlights. 

Pecan Grove RV Park

We camped at the Pecan Grove RV Park, which is the only full-hook up park near downtown Austin. It’s not new and shiny, but what it lacked in polish, it made-up for in location.

From the park, which is located just south of Lady Bird Lake, we could walk to the Austin Convention Center in about 30 minutes. We were also just a five minute walk to a SXSW shuttle location for those times we didn’t feel like walking to the festivities. From Pecan Grove we could also walk to great restaurants and music venues. Perfect location!!


SXSW is one of Austin’s biggest events and the festival definitely takes over the town. Yet, even without SXSW, it’s a super fun city. We biked on the trails around Lady Bird Lake and Steve did his daily run on the trails as well. We enjoyed watching the rowers on the lake and people playing in the parks. It seemed there was always “something” going on…

In downtown, on Rainey Street, and on South Congress there are fun bars, restaurants, and shops. And the BBQ!! We ate some form of it almost every day!

Austin has so much to offer and even though we were here for over two weeks, we still didn’t tackle everything on the list!

Music, including Nashville Songwriters Live

While there are so many parts of SXSW, it started as music festival. It was reported that over 1400 artists attended this year from all over the world. You could listen to all forms of music including rock, bluegrass, rap, latin, country, and any other genre you can imagine at venues all across the city. Our favorites were located at the Saxon Pub, which was within walking distance of the Pecan Grove RV Park. 

One night we attended an incredible event featuring three of Nashville’s Grammy award winning songwriters. Bruce Robison has written hit songs for George Strait, Liz Rose collaborated with Taylor Swift, and Lee Thomas Miller has penned hits for Tim McGraw, Rascal Flatts, Chris Stapleton and others. Each sang their most famous songs, and we all sung along. It was incredible to be in the presence of such greatness.

Bruce Robison, Liz Rose, and Lee Thomas Miller

Thought-provoking Sessions

Our primary goal for attending SXSW was to learn something new. Each day we attended several sessions at the convention center or at nearby hotels. We explored trends in aging, technology, and culture. Can you tell which session Steve went to and which ones I went to?

Creative Industries Expo

Every good conference has an expo and SXSW’s blow most out of the water. Since the Creative Industries Expo focuses on innovation, we saw lots of new products, prototypes, and concepts that will change our future. Represented in the expo were countries promoting their economic opportunities, startups seeking funding, and organizations representing their cause. Lots of giveaways, lots of fun!


SXSW attracts celebrities of all kinds. I attended several sessions that featured celebrities including Chelsea Handler, Jen Psaki and Mark Cuban. While we didn’t search out other celebrity sightings, we saw news that Eva Longoria, Tilda Swinton, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Keanu Reaves, and William Shatner, among others, made appearances during the festival. Movie premiers bring many of the famous folks to town. 

Full Irish Breakfast

Every day during SXSW, brands host special events to promote their products or services. We attended a number of these with the Full Irish Breakfast being our favorite. Held on St. Patrick’s Day, the Culture Ministry of Ireland sponsored this soire which featured Irish bands, Irish drinks, and Irish food.

The room was at capacity most of the afternoon, but we arrived early and grabbed a seat at the bar and next to the food. This was a perfect set up for an afternoon of debauchery. We met people from all over the world while drinking Irish coffee, Guinness, and other Irish specialties. The whole thing was free!

Cool Tech

Startups, brands, and countries all use SXSW to introduce new products and ideas. Many attend hoping to find investors and collaborators. Some of the technology that caused us to say, “wow!” included flying cars, holographic signs, and lots of virtual reality. Steve got to play with a big-rig truck, and I did a virtual knee replacement surgery using VR. 

Brand Activations

Another way that brands show up at SXSW is at events called “activations.” Basically these temporary event spaces promote the brand while entertaining SXSW attendees. For example, we visited Roku City, which immersed us in settings from Roku shows and ended with drinks and dinner.

Avocados from Mexico took over a local bar and offered guests tacos, live music, Sprinkles cupcakes, and avocado margaritas.

We attended activations from Dolby, Shell, Doritos, eMLS, White Claw, and others. Most offered at least a few free drinks along with fun stuff and information about the brand. 

Rodeo Austin and Concerts

Not part of SXSW but running at the same time as the festival, Rodeo Austin is one of the big stops on the ProRodeo tour. More than just rodeo, it includes a livestock show, carnival, and of course concerts!

We attended two performances while we were in Austin. One night we saw the rodeo, followed by a concert by Shane Smith and the Saints.

The other time we watched the cowboys followed by a show by Ryan Bingham of Yellowstone fame. Both were great opportunities to get out of the downtown area and enjoy an Austin tradition.

Would we do it again? Heck yeah! And doing SXSW with the RV was the perfect way to do it!