Thursday, September 1, 2011

Homer Spit: Birds and Boats and Coal and Things (AK2011 Day 8)

The Homer Spit, with Coal Point at the end of the spit and Coal Bay near the beginning. From MSRMaps
After leaving the little lunch spot, we passed this (faux) lighthouse indicating that we were progressing on to Homer Spit, where Alaska Route 1, the Sterling Highway, comes to an end.
View of the Kenai Mountains across Kachemak Bay.

It was still rainy as we entered the spit, and powerfully windy. Here and there, we could see signs of campers on the west beach, their tents and gear tied down and heavily weighted against the wind.
Homer Spit is a bustling tourist stop, with places to eat, places sign up for and go out on halibut charters, places to buy touristy things, along with motels, hotels, condos, and B&Bs, not to mention at least a couple scattered bars and saloons. Over the many years of visits to Homer Spit, I've stopped here or there a couple times, mostly for suitable Alaskan lunches of halibut or such, but I haven't usually spent much time on the oft crowded boardwalks.
What I like to do is go directly to the end of the road and park overlooking the beach that wraps around the tip of the spit. (Google Street View of wet, potholed parking area.)

My mom and I were the only ones venturesome enough this time to walk down to the wet and windy beach.
After a storm, or almost anytime the wind isn't blowing as hard as it was, the beach is a great place to find shells and other things. Here I've found lots of rocks, mostly graywacke, and not so many shells. There is one black lump of a rock just above my foot, which might be coal. I'll get to that after a bit.
The beach is a good place to watch the waves, and to look at boats and birds.
...and boats...
...and lots of birds, mostly gulls.
Down near the piers, you can sometimes find starfish frolicking in the waves or hanging out on the piers themselves. I've never seen this, but have found tiny living ones washed up onshore.
After not finding any starfish, I notice the coal once again.
Coal washes up on Homer Spit from a variety of sources, including some nearby seams of sub-bituminous coal to lignite found in bluffs cut into Tertiary sediments along the north side of Kachemak Bay. In fact, the Homer area was known for its coal resources long before the town was named in 1896 for con man Homer Pennock, who unsuccessfully promoted gold mining in the area for about a year before hightailing it off to the Klondike. Homer residents still come to the beaches after storms to collect coal to burn.

I leave the coal on the beach, and my mom and I retreat hastily to a drier environment: the car. We head back up the spit.
Here's a famous saloon I've never managed to stop in!
And we say goodbye to Homer Spit, Coal Bay, and Kachemak Bay. I wonder if the low, dark bluffs on the left expose low-grade coal beds.


Gaelyn said...

Even with the wet and windy this is breathtaking.

I can't believe you haven't stopped at the Salty Dawg. ;)

Silver Fox said...

The views from the Spit, in all directions, are stunning unless there is zero visibility. I don't think I've been down there when there was snow on the ground, which would be an interesting time to visit.

I should add the Salty Dawg to my list!