Here on the south shore of Beluga Lake, our mornings get filled with the roar of float planes taking off. From little Cessnas to big Otters, private pilots and tour groups take off almost every minute as they head out to see the wonders of Kachemak Bay and lower Cook Inlet. Bears might be involved — big, hungry brown bears grazing on the flats or snagging for salmon at Brooks River and other streams.
Every day caravans of motorhomes, packs of motorcycles and random travelers with Lower 48 — or even international — license plates roll through town. This week the Betster saw a nice couple from Argentina (see above) who have been on a 5-year mission to seek out new worlds and new civilizations. That would be us. We promise not to harm people in red shirts.
The campgrounds, motels and vacation rentals have been filled with tourists. Sometimes the Betster will strike up a conversation with a traveler to find out their story. They all have stories, and for some, landing at the End of the Road in Alaska is the trip of a lifetime.
We may be complacent in our lives here, settled in so long that the fabulous seems normal. Oh, it’s still fabulous, or why live here, but we sometimes take living in the most amazing place on the planet for granted. Now and then the Betster has to stop and remember that for people spending a wee bit of coin and making a great effort to visit, oh my goodness, are they ever stoked.
You can see that in their smiles. You can see it in the way they gaze at mountains and glaciers, so in awe they’ve even put down their smart phones. In Alaska, reality beats anything you can see on social media. Visitors will be transformed by this state. As the former Homer News managing editor C.B. Bernard wrote in his book, “Chasing Alaska,” “Alaska makes everything ordinary impossible to bear.”
So if you see a visitor with that 1,000-yard stare, give them some space, let them wonder, and when they come up for air and ask you what else they can do here, tell them about fun things to do like these Best Bets:
BEST PEONY POWER BET: The Homer Peony Festival continues. Celebrate all things peony with art workshops at the Homer Council on the Arts. From 5:30-7:30 p.m. Friday, Sharlene Cline conducts a Crepe Paper Peony Workshop where you can make your own paper peonies and keep the summer magic alive all year long. All supplies are provided. Space is limited, so register now at www.homerart.org. The fee is $30 for members, $40 general admission.
On Wednesday, Cline also teaches Chinese Brush Painting (Peonies) from 5:30-8:30 p.m. Learn traditional Chinese brush techniques to paint peonies. The fee is $50 for members, $60 general.
BEST DANCE DANCE BET: Homer’s newest dreamy rock duo, the Wet Spots, presents their “sultry, eclectic mix of eerie, otherworldly dance tunes,” as they describe it, at 9 p.m. Friday at Alice’s Champagne Palace. No cover.
BEST GET OUTSIDE BET: Well, yes, it is summer, the finest time of the year to get outdoors. It’s also Gardeners Weekend. Get started on Saturday with Garden and Forest Tours at the Pratt from 11 a.m. to noon and 4-5 p.m. Come out and join the Pratt Museum and Park Garden Crew for guided tours of the Botanical Gardens, Homestead Garden and Forest Trails. They offer an interpretive introduction to the broader ecology of the Kachemak Bay region and describe the ways that we incorporate the plant communities of the region into the Botanical Garden at the Pratt Museum. Botany experts and novices alike can find delightful insights as they explore the interactions and dynamics of our Local ecosystem.
BEST LIKE A LUMBERJACK BET: As the silly song goes, press some wildflowers. Learn how with Plant Pressing and Herbariums from 1-3 p.m. Saturday at the Pratt Museum. Join the Pratt Curator of Botanical Exhibits, Yarrow Hinnant, and Head Gardener, Shawn Jackinsky, as they explore methods of plant pressing and the role of herbariums in botanical collections. Materials provided. The fee is $20.
BEST BIG TOUR BET: Gardeners have been working all summer to create amazing works of beauty for the annual Homer Garden Tour. After a pandemic hiatus, it’s back with six beautiful Homer area gardens. The gardens will be open from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. Sunday. The cost is $15 for viewing the gardens. Tickets can be purchased at the Homer Bookstore. No credit cards will be accepted — just cash or checks please. There is a great deal of diversity in the gardens this year. One is a large innovative commercial garden, another garden is full of native plants and some pay remembrance to a family member. Another garden at higher elevation combines art and gardening. Each garden reflects the personality of the owners and will give the visitor many ideas for their gardens. Creekside visits are common on this tour and flowers abound. Four of the featured gardens will be on a walking tour about 1.3 miles one way in the downtown area. A map with parking spots delineated is included with the ticket purchase. If you do not wish to walk, parking is available at all of these locations.
BEST FOR THE BIRDS BET: If you haven’t noticed, birds have begun to appear out of nests. It’s that time of the year when the little kids get rowdy and squawk all day long for food. Learn about local birds with free Guided Birding Walks from 8-9:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Carl E. Wynn Nature Center on East Skyline Drive. Come learn tips and tricks for identifying birds by call and by sight and engage with the Wynn naturalist in learning about the wonder of birds. Binoculars will be provided if you don’t have any.