Monday, October 3, 2016

Crooked Creek, Soldotna and Kenai

The host site at Crooked Creek
Kasilof River, late evening.
After living in 2 locations for 7 weeks, Rollie transferred to Crooked Creek State Recreation Site on July 18 which is closer to Soldotna where I work. His new job included checking in campers along with the duties he had at Lowell Point. This park is situated where Crooked Creek joins the Kasilof River which is the second most popular salmon river on the Kenai Peninsula. The Kenai river, which runs through Soldotna, is the most popular and they were both very busy for the month of July. They say the population triples which of course means a busier emergency room where I work, lots of RVs on the roads and made parking and grocery shopping difficult. Fishing died down August 1 as dip netting season ended but the silver salmon were still running and then the pinks. I guess if you don't fill your freezer by scooping up fish as they move from salt water to fresh you just have to catch them the hard way, one at a time. Rollie was given several salmon by the dip netters who camped at Crooked Creek. Our little freezer was full so I stored some in the break room freezer at work. Also got some ground moose from a co-worker who was cleaning out his freezer in preparation for getting his moose this season.





Crooked Creek is just a small parking area in the woods for day use and dry camping so no one stays very long. There are 2 sets of latrines to clean and stock with toilet paper, and a little trash to pick up. But all in all, it is a quiet place used by fishermen and women. Didn't see much wildlife but there were moose prints and bear poop so we knew they were around. I did find lots of different mushrooms and learned one type, boletes, which are large and edible. It was a good year for mushrooms here! I dried some for soup later.


There are also lots of lingonberries growing wild on this side of the peninsula, but no salmon berries or blueberries like I found in Lowell Point. Lingonberries are small wild cranberries, also called lowbush cranberries, probably because the plants are only 2-3 inches tall. Backbreaking picking! The deep red berries in the photos are the lingonberries. The larger ones are bunchberries which are also edible but flavorless. I have used the lingonberries in baking and will make some cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving.
The end of August I finished my original 3 month contract at Central Peninsula Hospital and moved from my apartment in Soldotna (supplied by the agency I work for) to the RV at Crooked Creed 20 miles away and turned in my rental car (also supplied by the agency) to take the housing and car allowances. I was asked to stay permanently at CPH, which I declined after some research and soul searching. I enjoy travel assignments and the option of taking a month or two off between assignments. I also like new challenges. I do enjoy working here, the people are great and we all agree I fit right in. Coming back every summer is an option. For tax purposes when on a temporary assignment I can only work 11 months at one facility as I receive housing, transportation and per diem compensation tax free. If I work for a year it is considered permanent by the IRS and I would have to pay taxes on that compensation. My contract was extended to March and I will extend to April if they still need me. We are hoping to start another State Park Volunteer position in May, possibly in another part of Alaska. 
Creamer Field, Fairbanks


We took a 3 day trip to Fairbanks (9 hour drive one way) to check out two possible state park sites there. One is a wildlife refuge for migratory birds, Creamer Field, where sandhill cranes and Canada geese were preparing to head south. The other is a small state park right in Fairbanks where they are looking for a campground manager and host. Rollie visited the grocery store where he worked in 2008 when I worked at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital. His old boss was still there and offered him a job anytime he wanted to come back. Nice to know!

Denali from the north

Typical view from Parks Highway
We had beautiful weather for the drive and could see Denali (so glad we now use the correct name for the mountain) for miles and miles both ways. That is rare! The Parks Highway runs from Anchorage to Fairbanks and parallels the Alaska Range most of the way. I love mountains and theses are the best! And of course this one is the highest in North America. 
Typical view from Parks Highway

Fall colors on Parks Highway

Skinny Dick's Halfway Inn near Fairbanks 
Denali, view from the south.


































With mostly spruce, birch and aspen trees there is not the color range we are used to in the Midwest in the fall. As I described it on Facebook, it's Packers' colors.















This always makes me laugh!


























First week of September our state park position ended and they informed us they would be turning off the electricity. We moved the RV to Diamond M Ranch Resort in Kenai, AK, which is very close to Soldotna, where I work.  They have cattle, horses, llamas, pigs, Icelandic sheep and a young goat. There are trails in the woods and lots of room to walk the dogs and explore.







We are up on a bluff overlooking the Kenai River Flats, just above the mouth of the river and Cook Inlet. We can see mountains across Cook Inlet near Anchorage but the driving distance is much farther to get around the Turnagain Arm of Cook Inlet.





This is our site at Diamond M for the month of
September. We are moving to an apartment in Soldotna on 10/10 for the winter months. We will be storing our home-on-wheels here at and moving back into it when the weather warms up in the spring. Since we are both working and sharing one vehicle we found an apartment close enough for me to walk to work (I go to work at 4 pm).



Once I extended my contract, Rollie started looking for a job. Like the other times we have been in Alaska, that proved to be easy, unlike our stints in the lower 48. He will be working as a school bus attendant with First Student, which is a nationwide provider of school bus services. They seemed to like his umpiring experience! The school year ends in May, about the same time State Park campground hosts are needed. At this time we are planning to stay through next summer then head back down through Canada. I hope to take several months off so it would be a great time to come see why we love Alaska! Drive up, fly up to Anchorage, cruise to Seward, Homer or Whittier (all close), or take the ferry (Alaska Marine Highway) to Whittier. I will be your personal guide!