One week near Ninilchik…
Why we came…
For the view and to relax!
We liked Scenic View RV Park! It was relaxing and peaceful. The small campground has just 18 sites, 10 have full hook-ups and 8 have electric and water. Sandra, the campground owner, let us choose our site. When we arrived, it was nearly empty so we had good options. We had an incredible view, until someone pulled in next to us. The campground is perched about 200 feet above Cook Inlet. Impressive volcanoes Mount Redoubt and Mount Iliamna, and other glacier-covered mountains dominate the western horizon. On clear days, the view is hard to beat!
The sites are grass and packed gravel, and fairly level. We had full hook-ups, decent wi-fi, and a weak unreliable cell phone signal. The bathrooms and laundry were clean and well maintained.
When I lived here in the past, I drove by many times and never stopped. I always thought it would be a pretty place to camp so we added it to our Alaska itinerary.
Mount Iliamna and Cook Inlet
Mount Redoubt and Cook Inlet
A field of fire flowers, Cook Inlet, and Mount Redoubt / A glorious sunset
Ninilchik, population 883, is about 8 miles to the south. Russians settled the area in 1847 and their roots are still apparent in the little community. And just like the early settlers, people still come to the area to fish Cook Inlet, Deep Creek, and the Ninilchik River. There are very few services, stores, or restaurants. Soldotna has those things, an easy 30 mile drive to the north.
Ninilchik and Deep Creek…
Our good friend, John, likes to visit and photograph old churches. He suggested that we check out the old Russian church in Ninilchik. We set out to visit it and tour the rest of Ninilchik and Deep Creek.
The Holy Transfiguration of Our Lord Chapel is a historic Russian Orthodox Church that was built in 1901. It is a “cruxiform”-shaped building that sits on a hill overlooking the village. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. The grounds are loaded with wild flowers and are pleasant to wander. We pondered the history as we strolled around the old graves.
Next, we drove down to the Ninilchik beach. From there we could see the church on the hill to the north and to the south we spotted stairs leading to the Ninilchik View Campground. Between the two bluffs, sits the old fishing village that the pretty Ninilchik River runs through.
The Deep Creek Recreation Area is roughly a mile and a half south of Ninilchik. We walked past the campground and along the beach to the Deep Creek mouth. We were there for a negative low tide and were able to walk pretty far out.
However, it was windy and the clouds were streaming across the sky ahead of an incoming weather system. Most of the gulls were grounded. As we looked around, we spotted the lighthouse of the Deep Creek Fishing Club Lodge on the north bluff.
Still, what drew our eyes and captured our imaginations the most was Mount Redoubt directly across Cook Inlet.
The Russian Orthodox Church in Ninilchik
Fishermen’s memorial at Ninilchik. See the Russian church on the hill?
Walk route along the beach near Deep Creek at low tide / Deep Creek swings around this bluff and then heads into the ocean
Seagulls, Cook Inlet, and Mount Iliamna
Deep Creek meeting the salt waters of Cook Inlet. Mount Redoubt in the distance.
Back to the Kenai River…
We couldn’t believe that is was the last day of July already! This summer is flying by!
We drove to Soldotna on Tuesday to fish Ann and Mike’s property and to catch a few reds (see Fishing for Reds, Soldotna Blog). Unfortunately, due to poor sockeye returns on the Kanai River, we were going to be limited to only one fish each.
Sadly, only Arleen got one small sockeye. He had a big slash on his side, possibly from an eagle or a fisherman’s hook. We think he just wanted out of the water.
The positive was that she caught it, killed it, and carved it up - her first time! And she did a decent job!
We returned Friday for what we hoped would be a perfect sockeye fishing storm! On Wednesday the Alaska Department of Fish and Game issued an emergency order “closing the Kenai River entirely to sockeye salmon fishing for the rest of the season. The restriction is set to protect returning fish and future fishing opportunities.” So sport fishing on the lower Kenai would close at 00:01am on Saturday.
Dip netting had closed on Monday. Commercial salmon fishing would close on Thursday.
So we hoped that there be a huge swarm of unharassed salmon waiting for us on Friday. And we planned to ambush them at Ann and Mike’s property.
After an hour of hard fishing, neither of us had hooked anything and were disappointed.
Arleen thought she had a snag and tugged hard. Suddenly, the “snag” jumped and zipped down river. She fought and wrestled with it for about fifteen minutes before she landed a nice 12 pound Sockeye salmon.
I fished for another two hours and finally landed a much smaller one. Arleen got the catch of the day AGAIN! It wasn’t the epic fishing we had in mind but we each caught a salmon and filled our little freezer again.
The salmon run is well below average so fishing was closed on 4 Aug. Supposedly 20,000 fish swam up the river the two days we fished. We didn’t see them! / Fishing for red salmon in the Kenai River, Soldotna AK.
Arleen caught the best salmon again!
Mike’s bear warning…
When we checked with Ann and Mike about fishing on their property again, Mike warned us about an experience he had a few days prior.
They had friends visiting, so while company slept in their small cabin, Mike slept in the truck camper.
In the middle of the night, Mike got up to answer nature’s call. It was 01:00am and fairly dark.
“I stepped out to pee and basically urinated on the sow (momma brown bear) while the cub came up behind me. Things got interesting then.”
“The sow was 7 to10 feet in front of me, popping teeth, when the cub woofed about two feet behind me. Fortunately, as I turned, my bright flashlight caught the cub and it bolted away and I bolted back into the camper.”
“It was a really careless mistake on my part. The new bear repellent "Mikesurine" is not effective.”
Alaskans are well aware of critter encounters, and they seem to happen most when you let your guard down. We were on edge when we returned to fish. We kept the bear spray close at hand and announced our presence loudly.
A recent bear warning posted along Mike and Ann’s road
Since the middle of July, we had been enjoying the bright Fire Flower that decorates road sides, trail edges, streams, forest edges, and fills meadows. It is more commonly called Fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium).
However, to us it is too pretty to be called a “weed”, so we affectionately refer to it as “flower”.
“The name fireweed stems from its ability to colonize areas burned by fire rapidly. It was one of the first plants to appear after the eruption of Mt. St. Helens in 1980.”
“A hardy perennial, fireweed stems grow from 4 to 6 feet high but can reach a towering 9 feet. The leaves are unique; leaf veins are circular and do not terminate at the leaf edges. A spike of up to 50 or more pink to rose-purple flowers adorns the top of the stems”.
The flowers start blooming at the base of the spike and then work their way up. As it reaches maturity, the lower flowers turn to a cottony material that allows the wind to carry the seeds far.
At the same time its leaves will slowly turn to a fire-engine-red giving it another reason for its “fire” name.
In Alaska, it is common folklore that when the flowers hit the top, and transform to their final stage, snow could happen any time. We’ve been keeping a close eye on the Fire Flower for the sign that it is time to go!
Fire weed about to bloom means summer is just starting / Fire weed half way bloomed means summer is peaking / Flowers nearly to the top. Summer is winding down.
We are in Cooper Landing. Our next stops are Seward and then Anchorage.
Enjoying some yummy Tai food after a few hours of fishing