Day 2: Homer Alaska Saturday, June 17, 2006

I woke up early after a good night's sleep and even though not completely rested, I was ready to get some things done. Lucas rose early to go to the airport to see if his belongings had arrived on the first flight. We were all excited to hear that everything had made it here safely. Breakfast at the Smiley Face Caf é provided us with good food and an opportunity to enjoy the view of the Homer Spit while we talked about our goals for this trip to Alaska.

Full from our meal and before stopping to pick up supplies and sundries for our trip to McNeil, Kevin, Lucas and I drove out on the spit for some eagle spotting. Although there were a few eagles flying around, none were close enough to photograph. However, there were plenty of opportunities to grab a few snapshots of some local sights, including the abundance of boats returning to port, laden from a full morning of fishing and fishermen along the spit. As an Alaskan hot spot for fishing, Homer is unique, to say the least. After taking a few photos, we were back on to the task of fulfilling our shopping list.

Shopping

At the store, we discovered the groceries in Alaska to be very expensive compared to that which we were accustomed at home. Still, the prices are probably normal for the area and appropriately proportioned to the income of most Alaskans. Following our list, including all the typical stuff for camping, we filled our cart with enough food for the three of us for about a week at McNeil. Lucas estimated one hundred eighty dollars for our purchases and proved to be a good guesser as the register rang up one hundred seventy-five dollars and some cents. I was thinking the total would be about one hundred sixty dollars or so, but was not surprised at the price.

Back at the hotel, we sorted through everything and realized we had neglected to obtain a duffle bag for food storage. So, back to town we went to buy duffle bags to store our food and other things. At the local hardware store, we browsed the knives, hunting and camping items as well as normal household things. There, we were able to locate and purchase just what we needed.

Returning to the hotel, we again sorted through the food, removing any extra packaging materials in order to save space. Amazingly, we actually got everything in the bag! Now, looking at all the stuff we brought, I am sure we will have to pay a fee for extra weight. We are allowed seventy five pounds of luggage per person, with a fee of one dollar per pound exceeding the limit. I am prepared to fork out some dough for the excess, however, because Lucas and I are the only ones on the flight, there will be extra space so we will be able to bring a little more.

Beluga Air

By five p.m. we had arrived at the Beluga Air terminal to check in and verify the status of our flight. Lucas and I would be flying out tonight and Kevin would join us the following day. With a promise to check the weather forecast at six p.m., Jill, the owner of the airline, was optimistic about our flight outlook. She suggested we check back in about an hour, after which she would have a firm flight plan. While we waited, we burned the extra time in town over cups of hot chocolate and coffee.

After returning to the terminal, the flight was a go. We weighed everything and had to pay $25 each for the extra weight. The smooth flight into McNeil landed us at high tide around 8:00 p.m... As we arrived, the rangers were waiting for us and helped bring the plane close to the spit, allowing us to deplane without needing our hip waders.

Chain Gang

Forming a line, everyone helped carry the bags from the plane to the spit and then on to the cook shack. It took several trips to get all the gear, but after 10 minutes or so we were ready to meet with the rangers for our orientation regarding the rules here at McNeil. A vital part of the McNeil experience, the rules are to protect not only us, but the bears as well. After the meeting, we got down to the task of setting up the tent so we could settle in for the night.

With the tent set up, we divide our belongings for proper storage. Extra clothes and miscellany can be kept in our tents, whereas, camera gear, laptops, personal hygiene items, and food are stockpiled in the safety of the cook shack. A place to get out of the wind and rain, prepare food, and just hang out, the weather at McNeil provides plenty of opportunities to loaf around the cook shack!