You are truly an Alaskan when you measure the distance from one town to the other by hours not miles. For instance it takes 4 hours for us to travel to Anchorage, and three hours to travel to Homer in the wintertime. Each town is about 200 miles from here, but if you are traveling to Anchorage you have to factor in the congestion of traffic to get to your destination. And if you are traveling to Homer in the summer add another half hour because of the tourists on the way to or from visiting Homer. It takes 3 hours to get over the mountains to Seward. But if you dilly-dally along the way it might take five.
A weekend vacation in the summer means a camping trip to the banks of the Kenai River close by, or the Little Susitna (Little Su), a 6-hour drive. Or lake fishing on Kenai Lake, Tustamena or Skilak Lake. If you get home by midnight, not to worry it is still daylight. Or a trip to the big county fair in Ninilchik in August, to see the giant vegetables that are grown by proud gardeners. The State Fair in Palmer is one everyone should go see and enjoy. It is awesome!
Or just fishing in Anchor River or a big halibut fishing trip by boat taking off from the shores of Cook Inlet in Ninilchik. You have to be at the boat launch at 4:30 in the morning with rain gear, and your lunch and drink. Be out on the water all day, hopefully catching the “big one.” Get back to the beach and have a big tractor pull the boat up on to a trailer and you disembark with your catch of the day. Most fishing guides clean and fix your fish for freezing and shipping. Then the long ride home well after 9 in the evening — but oh well, it’s still light out.
How about a trip to Homer with stops at all the little shops in between. Look up the shrimp and crab man on the Homer Spit. Buy what you want and head home, stopping at the Anchor River Inn for a great seafood dinner.
Or a trip to Seward during Salmon Derby Days or the Fourth of July and watch all those tall muscle guys and gals in shorts and shirts, run up and back down Mount Marathon. Chances are the person who won is your neighbor. Pick a place that serves ice cream cones, because it’s hot in Seward on the fourth of July! The Kenai Fjord boat charter to see all the amphibians of the ocean. The birds and eagles are magnificent. Seward has a wonderful Sea Life Center, that you can spend hours and hours learning the habitat of the seals, otters, whales, octopus, jellyfish, the diving muirs and cormorants and other creatures of the sea.
Don’t forget, the old mining towns of Hope, Valdez, Whittier are fun trips. The ride on the Alaska Railroad from Anchorage to Whittier, a cruise ship meeting you to take you to Valdez. Or a train trip to Fairbanks, the highlight, a view of Mount McKinley (Denali, as the natives had named it) and a slow ride over the Hurricane Bridge.
Destination Fairbanks and the great mining areas, and the great park at “Alaska Land” with all the museums of old time mining, general homestead living, and a wonderful museum that houses the pioneers of the beginning of the aviation era in Alaska.
Some days we just show them our back yard — fishing at Bishop and Swanson River, and a trip through Captain Cook Park, to see the beauty of Cook Inlet and the land of 10,000 Smokes across the bay (Volcanos in every stage of eruption), and the oil rigs standing on legs sticking up out of the swift water of Cook Inlet.
Oh! But most important of all is to stop to smell the fireweed blossoms and wild Sitka roses and show them your favorite spot to pick blueberries, raspberries and wild strawberries. Warn them about the “devil’s club” that attacks you if your wander to far off the beaten path. Watch out for those devilish stickers ... and that big ol’ bear that may be watching you pick HIS blueberries. We tell them our “bear encounter stories” and the momma moose and moose baby stories.
Our summer visitors from the “Lower 48 states” get a peek at our home-style of Alaska living. The first thing most of our visitors say is “it’s so quiet” and “do you live here year round” and “it’s so beautiful and how much snow do you get?”
We have a ready answer for all the questions — after all we have told “our story” many times. We gladly take them to our favorite fishing holes, and other sites to see. Summer time is our vacation along with our many visitors. And when they get ready to leave, give a call to all your local friends and neighbors 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.
We end our summer days around our bonfire telling tall tales of Alaska — most of them true!
The series is written by a 44-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 email@example.com