Saturday, August 27, 2011

Final Day in Swan Lake Cabin on Alaska's Kenai Peninsula

You may live in a place for months, even years, and it does not touch you, but a weekend or a night in another, and you feel as if your whole being has been sprayed with an equivalent of a cosmic wind. 
                                            Doris Lessing —  Under My Skin (1994)
Tim rises at 6:00 a.m. to start a fire in the wood stove and the cabin is warm and toasty by seven.  We feast on a delicious breakfast of Jalapeno-Cheese flat bread, pan-fried bacon and an omelet with potato, cheese and onion.
After breakfast we wander to the lakeshore and meet the woman from the campsite next door.  She and her brother had set up camp near our cabin last night; they are on a five-day backpacking trip along Resurrection Pass Trail.  Our Swan Lake “neighbor” lives in Anchorage but her family (and visiting brother) are from Washington, D.C.  The woman and her husband own a floatplane and fly the Alaskan wilderness.  She loves flying and she loves living in Alaska.
A moment of panic engulfed the woman and her brother this morning when they felt the ground shaking beneath their tent.  They yelled to each other: “It’s an earthquake!”  No, it was only a moose thundering by within a few feet of the tent’s door.

Regal Air floatplane taxis to our beach.

         By mid-morning Tim is carrying our gear to the rowboat to prepare for the floatplane’s arrival.  When you’re deep in the Alaskan wilderness there is no sound more reassuring than the distant drone of a plane on its way to collect you on the prearranged pick-up date.  We first hear, and then see, the dark blue Regal Air floatplane circling Swan Lake; the plane lands, skimming and bumping over the lake’s surface until it arrives near our beach. 

Ferrying our gear to the plane in the cabin's trusty rowboat.

          Soon we’re taxiing from the east end of the lake and lifting off into a crystal clear morning sky.  The 25 minute flight back to Anchorage is effortless and trouble-free.  We enjoy a smooth landing on Hood Lake Seaplane Base near Anchorage International Airport. Regal Air calls us a cab and we’re on our way. We chow down on pizza at the wonderful Moose’s Tooth Restaurant and Pub in downtown Anchorage.
After lunch we check in at the Courtyard Marriott, take much needed showers and luxuriate in the comfort of our hotel.  And the Courtyard Marriott is a wonderful hotel.  It’s plush.  It’s well-appointed.  But still... a stay here does not compare with the cosmic grandeur of three days spent in Swan Lake cabin.  
For information on Alaska’s Forest Service cabins re-visit my August 11, 2011 blog post: "Day One at Swan Lake Cabin on Alaska's Kenai Peninsula"

Regal Air can be contacted at this site:

Planning your own trip to the Kenai Peninsula?   Visit this website:

Goodbye and Farewell, Swan Lake Cabin.

Ready to load our gear into the "Titanic".

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Another Day at Swan Lake Cabin

         It’s a chilly morning at Swan Lake Cabin and a fire crackles in the wood stove.  
An eagle soars overhead while a mother moose and her calf bound across the yard and disappear into the trees.  Now this is the way to begin a day.
After breakfast we load our day packs with lunch, cameras, and fishing gear for a hike on Resurrection Pass Trail.  Warming temperatures and sunny skies provide excellent hiking weather.  We fight our way through alder and heavy brush on the first mile of the trail but after climbing 1000 feet the trail breaks into the open, revealing expansive views of Swan Lake and Juneau Lake.

View of Swan Lake from Resurrection Pass Trail.
          We hike another two miles and cross Swan Creek where Tim tackles the stream-side vegetation to try a few casts.  He catches several small Dolly Varden trout and then we continue along the trail until we are above tree line.  We enjoy lunch here in our own private alpine cafe.
Lunch in the Alpine Cafe.

            From our perch high on the hillside we can see beaver ponds along the stream and after lunch Tim checks the ponds for fish.  He doesn’t spot any fish but does see plenty of baby shorebirds; an angry mother gull swoops in on Tim, warning him away from her babies.

Tim fishes the beaver ponds by Swan Creek.
Yes, he's really there—can you see the tiny tan dot to the left of the lower pond?

          We return to the cabin in late afternoon and Tim decides to fish Swan Lake.  He reappears an hour later with tonight's dinner—a fresh caught rainbow trout.  We cook the trout over charcoal in our fire ring—it’s moist and delicious. During dinner a backpacking couple walks by and sets up camp along the lake's northern shore, about 50 yards from our cabin.
After dinner we launch the rowboat on still water, the mountains and spruce trees reflecting in the lake’s glassy surface.  At  11:00 p.m. a pair of loons fly in and land on the lake, electrifying the night air with their haunting calls.  
         Back in the cabin we crawl into our sleeping bags, the babbling brook outside our window lulling us into a peaceful sleep.  Now this is the way to end a day.
If you have never heard the call of a loon in the wild, you’re missing out on one of the great things about being alive.
To hear the mystical call of the loon, go to this Youtube video:

To read about our first day at Swan Lake go to:

To read about of final day at Swan Lake go to: 

Evening fishing on Swan Lake.

11:00 p.m. campfire in our front yard.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Day One at Swan Lake Cabin in Alaska's Kenai Peninsula

One ax and one broom; one centrally located wood stove; one newly constructed outhouse; four wooden slabs for beds; hundreds of dead flies littering the kitchen counter.  Swan Lake Cabin is a gem—and it’s our home, hearth and haven for the next three days.

Swan Lake Cabin
          Minutes ago we watched our Regal Air float plane depart from Swan Lake.  It turned and disappeared over the mountains while we towed our gear to shore in the cabin’s rowboat.
We settle in at the rustic cabin.  I dispose of the flies and clean the kitchen counter while Tim unpacks our three duffel bags full of clothes, sleeping bags, pads, food, coleman stove, fuel, and fishing equipment.   
After dinner, images from Willa Cather’s “O Pioneers”  float through my mind as Tim chops wood while I wash dishes in a tub on the front porch steps.
Evening chores completed, it’s time to grab the oars and take the rowboat out for a spin.  We’re in the middle of a giant snow globe—the lake sparkles like a bejeweled necklace in evening’s low light; fluffy white cottonwood seeds fill the air.  We watch beavers swim around the lake, branches from newly fallen trees clutched in their jaws.  One large male swimming in front of us suddenly smacks his tail—hard—on the water, advising us to back off; we're getting too close to his lodge.  
        We see families of ducks journeying across the lake and notice terns fishing for their evening meals.  A female moose enters the water from the northern shore, swims to the middle of the lake, then browses and bathes for 40 minutes, oblivious to her human audience.  As we watch the moose Tim catches a nice rainbow trout.
At 10:30 p.m. we row back to shore, then start a fire in the cabin’s outdoor fire pit.  As we sit by the campfire the sky turn shades of orange and pink.  Another moose enters the water and strides across the lake, her tiny calf swimming alongside her.
Blue/black twilight envelopes us.  It’s almost midnight here on the 4th of July.  We may not have witnessed a fireworks display tonight, but we've had front row seats to a spectacle far greater—the splendid scenery and abundant wildlife of our 49th state. 

Read about our next two days at Swan Lake Cabin:

Swan Lake Cabin, nestled at the East end of Swan Lake among 2000-3000 ft. mountains, is located in the Chugach National Forest on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula.
        State and federal agencies in Alaska offer 200 backcountry cabins for rent.  You can read all about it at:
         Regal Air provides charter flights, flightseeing trips, and day trips and tours to Alaska's backcountry.  Find out more by visiting this website:

The cabin's ax comes in handy.

Front yard and view of Swan Lake from the cabin.

Cooking dinner in the cozy cabin.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Summer Fun in Ocean City, New Jersey

Giant Ferris Wheel on Wonderland Pier at Sunset.  The Boardwalk Journal, a travel magazine for the Jersey Shore, found this photo on this blog post and made it their cover photo for July, 2012.

The shore is about memory.  The shore is about family tradition.  
It is a submerged longing for innocence and simplicity,
for how we once were.  And so we go again and again 
            to places like Ocean City, Asbury Park and Cape May.                                                      Places where we don’t have to grow up.  
Places where we can grow down.
---- National Geographic, August 2004 
I live in the west and when on vacation I crave wilderness and solitude.  So why do I travel over 2000 miles to Ocean City, New Jersey every summer to experience the beach and boardwalk with 150,000 other sun seekers?   For one thing, I can spend time with my parents, two sisters and a brother-in-law.  But especially, over the years, I’ve returned to Ocean City to be with nephews Mark, Bob and Paul—reliving, through their eyes, my own childhood memories of fun and frolic at the Jersey Shore.
The Atlantic ocean provides the backdrop; its steady rhythmic surf muffles screams from roller coaster riders on Wonderland Pier, and absorbs the din of swashbuckler and reggae music blasting from mini-golf courses.
August in Ocean City is a feast for the senses:  the buttery-caramel-vanilla scent wafting from Johnson’s popcorn and Shriver’s salt water taffy; the smooth “ping” of discs gliding over the shuffleboard court; the kaleidoscope view of beach umbrellas;  the clanging bells of bicycles and surreys; the pulsating lights on the giant ferris wheel at night.
Ocean City, NJ has been called America’s greatest family resort.  It’s a place where generations come together to celebrate summer, to experience life.

Interested in creating your own family memories in Ocean City?  Check it out here:

To discover the Jersey Shore’s other beach towns visit this website:

Umbrellas color the beach on a blue-sky day.

Bicycling the boardwalk.

Bob is buried at the beach!

Three generations enjoy bicycle and surrey riding 
at the shore.

Early evening on Ocean City's boardwalk.

The shuffleboard tournament has begun!
(Photo by Paul Lowrie)

Paul, Bob and Mark—ready to cruise the boardwalk.
Mark and friends enjoy the Atlantic surf.
Beach Volleyball near Wonderland Pier.
The sun sets on another day of fun in Ocean City.
Jumping for Joy!