Pioneer Potluck: About Alaska summers

  • By ANN ‘GRANNIE ANNIE’ BERG
  • Tuesday, June 6, 2017 4:56pm
  • LifeFood

Fishing, camping, traveling, visitors and mosquitoes: you are truly an Alaskan if you smell like mosquito repellent and fish in the summer. Or campfire smoke and mosquito repellent. A weekend on the river banks of the Kenai or Kasilof river or subsistence fishing on the beaches means daylight most of the time — not knowing what time it is — or for that matter, not caring. Summer has arrived and so has the fishing and traveling, visitors, camping and, oh yes, the mosquitoes. Or for some, it means your relatives and friends come to see you from the “Lower 48.”

Take your visitors to see Homer, a 3 hour drive if you stop at the mouth of the Anchor River for picnic lunch. It takes about 4 hours from Anchorage to Kenai because of the traffic and motor homes on the road. Also be sure and stop at Portage Glacier turn-off, for the most interesting animal reserve, with almost all the animals and their babies of Alaska. A most important and informative stop!

It takes a long time from Kenai to Homer if there is heavy motor home traffic. It also takes 3 to 4 hours to Seward from Kenai, if you dilly-dally along the way … it may even take 5 hours!

Seward has the Kenai Fjords tours out into the Resurrection Bay to see the puffins, seals, otters, whales and eagles and the beautiful mountain peaks. Go for the Seward Salmon Derby or on the Fourth of July and watch all those muscle guys and gals in shorts and shirts, run up and back down Mount Marathon. Chances are the person who won is your neighbor. Be sure and pick a place to watch that serves ice cream cones and cold drinks close by, because it is one of the hottest days in Seward. Top the day off by visiting the Sea Life Center. Give yourself plenty of time because you can spend hours and hours learning about the habitat of the seals, otters, whales, octopus, jelly fish, the diving Muirs and other sea birds as well as all the other creatures of the sea.

Homer has many charters to take you to all the bays across the Inlet and out into Kachamak Bay, to go site seeing or go fishing and catch your limit. The scenery is just stunning. The Homer Spit and the boat harbor are worth walking the marina to see all the beautiful boats. How about walking the Homer Spit to see the Salty Dawg and all the little shops? Look up the shrimp and crab man and pay the price for the wonderful seafood. When you head home we used to stop at the Anchor River Inn for a great seafood dinner.

Try fishing by charter boat out of the Anchor Point boat launch for a big halibut fishing trip. Or by charter, take off from the shores of Cook Inlet in Ninilchik. This means you get up early, early and be at the boat launch at 4:30 in the morning with rain gear, your lunch and drink. You will be out on the water in a well equipped fishing boat, hopefully catching the “big one.” Going back when the boat gets to the beach, there is a tractor waiting to pull the boat up on the trailer so you can get off the boat with your catch of the day. Most fishing guides clean and prepare your fish for freezing and shipping. Then there is the long ride home well after 9 in the evening — but oh well, it is still day light out!

Don’t forget to take your visitors to the old mining towns, Valdez, Hope, Whittier. Fairbanks has lots of mining history. Or experience the ride from Anchorage to Whittier on the Alaskan railroad to meet a cruise ship to take you to Valdiez and places beyond.

How about a train trip to Fairbanks? The highlight is a stop at Denali. Don’t miss the slow ride over the Hurricane Bridge. Get off the Alaska Railroad at Denali and the bus ride to see the “mountain” up close or the long trip on the old bus to Kantishna Lodge. Back on the train headed for Fairbanks to see the great mining areas and the great park at “Alaska Land” with all the museums of the old time mining, general homestead living and the a wonderful museum that houses the pioneers of the beginning of aviation era in Alaska. How about a beautiful boat ride down the Chena River?

Our summer visitors from the Lower 48 states get a peek at our home-style Alaska living. The first thing most of our visitors say is “it’s so quiet here” and “do you live here year round?” Comments range from “it’s so beautiful and how much snow do you get?” We have answers for all the questions, after all we have told “our story” many times to visitors through the years.

We gladly take them to our favorite fishing holes and other favorite places to go, because, you see, summer time in Alaska is our vacation along with our many visitors. When they get ready to leave, give a call to all your Alaskan neighbor friends and they will be right over with their favorite picnic dish and a big smile ready to meet a new friend from down below. Usually deep-fried beer batter salmon and halibut is what we serve around a bon fire at the Ricks Ranch.

We show them our back yard, fishing at Bishop Creek and Swanson River and show them our very favorite place to go almost every week, Captain Cook Park. We look across Cook Inlet to the land of 10,000 Smokes, volcanoes in every stage of eruption. On a very clear day we see Denali in the distance.There are oil rigs standing on legs sticking up out of the swift water of Cook Inlet. Usually we can name each and every one of the 12 to15 rigs.

But the most important of all is to stop and smell the fireweed blossoms and the wild Sitka roses and show them your favorite spot to pick blueberries, raspberries, wild strawberries and currents. You do warn them of the “devil’s club” that attacks you if you wander too far off the beaten path,. Watch out for those devilish sticker bushes and that big ol’ bear that may be watching YOU pick HIS blueberries. We tell them of our “bear encounters” and momma moose and her babies. We end the summer days around Bob’s bon fire telling tall tales of Alaska. Most of them are true! If you are lucky you will hear Bob read his favorite stories from Robert Service.

Our visitors in 2014 were early, along with the mosquitoes. Bob’s son, Mugs, wife Nicole and children, Robert, Brady and Brittney from Wyoming and Bob’s daughter Daphene, husband Jeff and their daughter Astin from Utah. It was a week of fun and laughter. Four grandkids ia a big source of our pleasure and put big smiles on Grandpa Bob’s face. We made a trip to Homer to see all the sites and stayed at Glacier View Cabins for the night. Highlights were the two hour power outage, but like true Alaskans we made the best of it, making a fire in the fireplace — grilling steaks and roasting marshmallows for some-mores. Their visit was one we will never ever forget in the Land of the Midnight Sun.

The Pioneer Potluck series is written by 50-year resident of Alaska, Ann Berg of Nikiski. Ann shares her collections of recipes from family and friends. She has gathered recipes for more that 50 years. Some are her own creation. Her love of recipes and food came from her mother, a self -taught wonderful cook. She hopes you enjoy the recipes and that the stories will bring a smile to your day. Grannie Annie can be reached at anninalaska@gci.net.

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