Towering above the Cook Inlet is the still-active volcano Mt. Redoubt, which last erupted in March 2009. A major eruption occurred in 1989, covering nearby Anchorage with ash and causing all four engines to fail on 747 when it flew into the ash cloud (the jet landed safely). That eruption caused $160 million in damage and cleanup, and was the second costliest eruption in United States history after Mt. St. Helens. The 10,197-foot volcano is the highest peak in Lake Clark National Park, which is on the west side of the Cook Inlet.
The Cook Inlet is a large body of water that stretches 180 miles from the Gulf of Alaska to Anchorage and averages about 40 miles wide. It separates Lake Clark National Park on the west from the Kenai Peninsula on the east. Approximately 400,000 people (more than half of the Alaskan population) live in the Cook Inlet watershed.
We hiked (fell) down a very steep bluff in the Stariski State Recreation Area to the rocky beach along the Cook Inlet.
This was only the second time that the dogs have been on a saltwater beach (the first was on the Gulf of Mexico in Louisiana). They always look a little surprised when they take their first drink and discover how salty the water is. Shadow also had fun chasing the waves as they would crash upon the shore loaded with seaweed.
The bald eagles here were almost like crows, with one or two eagles in every large tree along the beach. They are a magnificent bird—large, graceful, and powerful—and they are an apt symbol for our great nation.
The bald eagle is not really bald. Its plumage turns bright white when it reaches maturity around 5 years of age, hence giving it a bald appearance from a distance. The term actually derives from an older meaning of word bald as “white headed.” Younger eagles have brown heads speckled with white. We saw this eagle on the beach at Anchor Point with literally dozens of other eagles feasting on sea creatures washed ashore in the low tide. You could walk right up within 10 feet of these birds (as many tourists did), and the eagles didn’t seem to mind at all, as long as you didn’t disturb their meal.
Since our RV was parked on a bluff above the beach, we were right in the eagles’ flight path, and one would fly over us every few minutes. One downside was lots of smelly, small dead animals discarded in the bushes that our dogs would bring back to camp.
Here’s a view of the lush, vegetated bluff with a bald eagle flying above the trees.
The beach along Anchor Point was quite busy with fishermen coming and going. When the tide is low like shown in the photo, tractors with large tires would haul the boats out to sea.
We stopped at Anchor Point, the most westerly point in North America on the contiguous road system.
We were amused by this giant wood sculpture of a bear chasing a man chasing a bear cub up a tree. This was in front of the Wishful Thinking Enterprise, “a very strange store run by an ornery Swede and a stubborn Polack.” We met the Swede, and she wasn’t ornery at all, but rather a nice woman and an artist. Theresa bought one of her hand-made coffee mugs. We spoke with her for a while about the hard life in Alaska. She and her husband are getting up in years and are selling their amazing 10-acres of oceanfront property in an auction in August.
Our campsite was flanked by long hedges of cow parsnip, a large, beautiful and somewhat ubiquitous wildflower in Alaska. These flowers are often called the “curse of the trail” and some people consider it to be worse than poison ivy. The chemical furanocoumarin is found in the sap and tiny hairs of the plant. Rubbing up against it can cause instant pain, followed by a rash when exposed to sunlight.
For two days, cloud obscured the volcanoes in Lake Clark National Park across Cook Inlet.
Then on morning of the third day just before we were about to leave, the clouds parted, and the magnificent volcanoes appeared. This is Mt. Iliamna, a 10,016-foot stratovolcano that hasn’t erupted in hundreds of years. However, fumaroles near the peak produce nearly constant small plumes of water vapor and sulfurous gases. Click on the photo for a larger version and see if you can spot the plume. What’s neat about this photo is a layer of fog obscured the lower half of the volcano to give it the appearance of floating in mid-air.