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  • Writer's pictureInger and Jeff Latreille

Empty Skilak

~Saturday, August 6, 2022~

Day 783

Day 47 of Alaska Trip

It was so nice getting back into my stitching project last night though it seems to keep me up late with how addicting it is (2:30 a.m.). It’s also relaxing and therapeutic and so satisfying to see that I’m now into the homestretch of completing it. I can’t wait to show you guys the end result once we get to California.

Thanks to a nearby Fred Meyer grocery store, I finally found my Oatley Full-Fat Oat Milk and my Silly Cow chocolate powder (the purest chocolate powder I’ve found anywhere) ensuring I’d once again experience THE perfect cup of coffee. What a great way to start off my morning! It’s more along the lines of a mocha and way better than any $5.00 Starbucks drink. It’s hard to believe, and I am ashamed to say, I used to make a ritual out of going to Starbucks nearly everyday when we lived in Napa. Why would anyone spend $2,000 a year on coffee when you can make it better yourself? At least you’d get rid of the guilty conscience and spend it more wisely on things that matter….like gifts for your friends or family, maybe even a vacation. This is just one of a few examples of bad habits that needed breaking. Too bad it took a 2-year RV trip to do it.

Just a 5-minute drive from our campground is the east entrance to Skilak Lake Loop Road, one of the premier roads to view wildlife in the Kenai; animals such as lynx, moose, brown bears and black bears. Evidently, black bears are really easy to spot, particularly in May when new vegetation emerges after the Spring’s snowmelt. In the summer, brown bears become a little easier to spot when the salmon population increases. And thanks to Hank’s filthy windows, we had to drive with the windows rolled down to make the most of our viewing opportunity. However, it didn’t take long for us to realize the positive things we had read about this wildlife drive was not going to be our experience today since most of the forest is now badly scarred from the Swan Fire. Maybe that’s why wildlife viewing was virtually non-existent?

What we DID enjoy on the 18-mile stretch was the seemingly Fall-like weather with the crisp, cool air mixed in with a hint of campfire smoke (since Fall is our favorite time of year, we felt like we were getting a bonus). We didn’t have trouble spotting Skilak Lake and Skilak Glacier thanks to the Hidden Creek Overlook.

This is where the Hidden Creek and the Kenai River enter Skilak Lake. At this particular confluence, the water slows down, depositing sediments at the lake’s inlet. As the sediment builds up, a delta is created, shifting it gradually. Mid-summer, Hidden Creek and the Kenai River offer excellent spawning grounds for red and silver salmon to where hungry brown bears and avid fishermen flock.

Continuing our “scenic” drive, we spotted 2 familiar sounding campgrounds…..the Upper and Lower Skilak. These were in our back pocket had Hidden Lake not worked out for us. After seeing these two, we’re so happy we settled on Hidden Lake. What I will say about Upper Skilak Lake Campground, is if you’re a tent camper who loves the sound of waves lapping up on shore, go for it.

The campground is in a forest setting but because it’s not sheltered by anything else, you run the risk of being windswept. The views however…….fantastic!

By the end of our loop, we had spotted not one i-oda of wildlife. Most of the vegetation was either burned or too dense. We weren’t even lucky enough to spot one alongside the road. Like most wildlife viewing, sunrise and sunset are best, but in this case it wouldn’t have mattered, not to mention it would take a miracle to get us up at sunrise. And in Alaska with those 18 hours of daylight, you’d almost have to set an alarm for sunset viewing. At least we were able to check out a few campgrounds and witness SOME gorgeous scenery.

Since the town of Sterling (with reception) was only a 10-minute drive from the end of our “scenic” drive, we came prepared with our propane tanks. We also decided to fill up our 5-gallon collapsible bottles as well once we found out the drugstore in Hope (our next stay), might be our only chance of finding a decent water source (I’m talking 11 oz. bottles). That’s NOT happening. Since the drive to Hope is only an hour, it won’t kill us to travel with a full freshwater tank for that short of a distance. When Jeff went into the Valero gas station to inquire about the propane, he met the owner……a scruffy, old guy named Hank (hey, the same name as our truck!). And man was he full of stories. A local, formerly from Texas, who had run from the police for 10 of his 30 years in Sterling (we were afraid to ask more questions), Hank knows everyone and everything about Sterling, even all of Alaska for that matter. In our 20 minutes of getting his help, he managed to tell us the best spots to view bears, to river raft and where to buy pot. Thanks, but the only recreation we’ll be partaking in is bear viewing and rafting. Regarding “weed”, there definitely isn’t a shortage here since they seem to be all over Alaska with their signs of the leaf or green cross (like the red cross, but green). Evidently the state made it legal about 3 years ago, so everyone’s trying to cash in. The bear viewing spot he suggested was Russian River Falls but with it already close to 6:00 p.m., we’d have to do this 2-½ hour hike another time.

Tonight was my night to cook…..falafels and veggies on garlic Naan. I must say, I did a pretty good job considering how out of practice I am with cooking dinner lately. And what a gorgeous final night at our primo campsite.

The lake, with its lilac sunset hue and the calls of nearby Loons seemed like something out of a movie. Wow!

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