Wednesday, 12 September 2012

SCHOLARSHIP DAY 13: The Homer Spit and my closest encounter with a Bald Eagle!

You know that feeling when you just don't want to get up because the bed is so comfy! My night's sleep at the Homer Heritage Hotel was not interrupted at all, and the experience was made better by the fact it was a proper double bed with proper pillows and proper quilts! You can tell I'm from Norfolk! Compared to the other three hostels I have used up to now, I had the best night's sleep by far, which put me in a good mood for the day ahead, exploring this fishing town.

Even the dark grey and usually depressing nimbus clouds lingering over Homer when I left the hotel wasn't enough to wipe the smile off my face, and I proceeded firstly to get some breakfast. It's hard to say where 'downtown' is in Homer, but Pioneer Avenue where the hotel is based, could be classed as part of it. Along both sides of the street are numerous shops, but most of them are actually photo studios/art galleries/craft shops. It seems art and craft is very important to Homer; the streetlamps are even decorated and I think the town holds some local artists. The monotomy of art was broken by 'Cosmic Kitchen', the first cafe serving breakfast I had set eyes upon, so I thought it was best to check out the menu. 3 buttermilk pancakes and syrup- that would do for me nicely! On the table was 'American's Most Favourite Syrup- 'Aunt Jemima', although it tasted just as nice as the others I have tried!

Fuelled once again by a very unhealthy breakfast- it'll all end when I return to the UK- I proceeded out the 'Cosmic Kitchen'. As this would be my only day in Homer, my mission was to walk the spit, which according the Stageline driver yesterday was 6 miles in length, so I put my best foot forward and followed my instinct on what road would lead me to it! From walking around, you could clearly see Homer was considerably more flat than towns like Girdwood and Seward. In the distance, a chain of mountains, yes, but the town itself at the end of this peninsula was particularly flat and therefore easy to walk through. I passed 30 USA Flags on a patch of grass on the way; there was no explanation as to why 30, or indeed, why they were there at all, but the 9/11 anniversary had passed my mind.

Homer's spit, from my research, was built out of glacial material, but the 'spit-forming process' in terms of hydrology was the same as any other spits. Characteristically, the sheltered part included a salt marsh, home to a range of birds, and vegetation. I could identify Fireweed too.

I met a lady with two big buckets of sea-weed and a shovel down on the spit's marsh, and I politely asked to be enlightened. Apparently, she collects 'Eels Grass' from the salt marsh and 'Seaweed' from the other side of the spit, and uses them in her garden. I always knew Seaweed was good for water retention and for the micro-nutrients it adds to the soil, but I never knew Eels Grass was just as good. The amount she had collected prompted me to ask whether she was planning to sell any, but apparently she doesn't, despite the fact she is the only lady in Homer every morning to collect it!

My walk along the spit continued, and as it was curving round, I noticed the spit's slopes were being managed, firstly by boulders, and later by gabions. I understand the spit is prone to storm surge, activated sometimes by the surrounding volcanoes.

I devoted all my efforts to reach the end. About 1/2 a mile before the end was the start of the boat mooring facilities, fishing filleting tents, gift-shops and restaurants. There was even a theatre! Unlike Blakeney Spit, in Norfolk, Homer spit has a fully functioning road network- in fact, it's the longest road into ocean waters in the entire world! Being near the end of the fishing season, it was certainly very busy traffic-wise. I eventually reached the end and was possibly disappointed by a lack of a sign saying 'This is the end'; after all, it is an internationally listed spit! There was a hotel called 'Land's End' and I'm hard pressed to compare the surrounding beauty of the coastline with 'Land's End' down in England!

I returned back to a Fish and Chip restaurant, overlooking the sea-views, and appropiately had 'Cod and Chips', before making my way back to Homer town. On the way, around where the fishing carcass station was, I had my closest encounter with the 'Bald Eagle' yet! It allowed me to get within just a couple of meters away, and didn't seem intimidated by my Lumix Camera. As you can imagine, I was taking photo after photo!

It was during this very exciting moment, that another amateur photographer, Lee, came out his campervan and started snapping away. We eventually got talking and eventually both went to his rather cosy campervan where he introduced me to his wife, Susan. Quite a long conversation was had; mostly regarding the fight against winter snowfall in Alaska. They showed me photos of their Alaskan house- the snow was easily reaching their top floor windows! I did bring up permafrost, and their underground pipes have to be at least 8 or 9 feet below the ground! It seems they are well travelled people, and enterprising ones, building and selling their own houses, and they suggested many locations for me to visit along the west coast!

With a 2 hour walk ahead of me, back to the hotel, I had to close up the conversation but unfortunately hit the rain, almost immediately after departing their campervan. It was a very wet journey all the way back, and it seemed that the rain was getting harder, the further I travelled. I returned to the hotel literally dripping- the big smile I had from the morning had most certainly gone! I think I need the luxury of the Heritage Hotel even more than last night!

Tomorrow, my cultural tour ends as I get a flight to Fairbanks, where the 'Permafrost Phase' begins.

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