July 1 – Soldotna

We were up early and on the road by 6am Alaska time – but not before John came running over with our fish that they had frozen for us in their chest freezer! Priorities, people!

We thought we were leaving the smoke behind, but we were about to drive into the thick of it as we headed west to Soldotna. We ended up driving past the actual fires, but the firefighters had worked hard and were able to keep it away from the road.

An important thing to keep in mind is that the goal of the firefighters is not to put the fire out, but to keep it from spreading too close to civilization. In Alaska, they let the fires burn since it is part of the natural cycle of the forest. The forests burn, which clears out the heavy underbrush and weaker plants and trees. This allows sunlight to reach the forest floor to encourage new growth, stronger plants and homes for the animals.

We finally made it out of the thick smoke and road construction into clean air with blue skies thanks to the wind. We got to Soldotna and found a great laundry facility. This was important because the underwear supply was getting low and the Febreze was becoming less and less effective.

As in most new destinations, the visitor center! They have a lovely boardwalk that goes along the river and on into the woods, but we did not have time to travel too far this time. There were also signs that a mother moose and her calves had been seen on the boardwalk in the mornings and evenings so we did not want to run into them with Iggy.

The nuber one question to ask at a visitor center: “Where is the best ice cream?”. Not a lot of choices in Soldotna, but there was a Dairy Queen, so we walked up the road to check it out. While we were waiting, Jim was looking at the pictures on the wall, and behold – his hometown is famous in Alaska!!

We met up with John and Connie at the Walmart for drinks and some chit-chat. Before heading to bed, we said our “see you soon”s because the next day we would split company for a few days. We still did not have any reservations for the 4th of July. The plan was to make it to Homer so we could find a spot and settle in for a few days.

Another noisy night, as this was a busy location, but we made it through… just a little more tired.

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