When traveling, I like to find out what the locals are proudest of. Its usually a good guide to where the heart of the place lies; and what you, the outsider, should be paying attention to. In Homer, beyond its fab live music scene, abundance of mystics and massage therapists, and great bakery (Two Sisters), everyone is kvelling over their new playground.
That might sound like a side issue, but it tells a bit about the place. You see, they tried to fund the playground through conventional means, approaching state and local officials. Upon being told there was no funding for the project, a group of local moms banded together. They not only raised all the money, they built it in just a week and a half. It’s a fanciful place, and its location is spectacular, set right on the edge of Karen Hornaday Park.
We got to know the park quite well, as that’s we camped in the park. Though this city park’s campgrounds are not as popular as those on the Homer spit, they’re much more civilized, to my mind, each a private little nook surrounded by trees and shrubbery. Camp on the Homer Spit and you’ll be within, well, spitting distance of your neighbors and exposed to the ferocious winds that blow over the bay. Locals told us that it wasn’t unusual to see tents floating in the bay, having been wrenched up out of the sands of the Spit campgrounds.
“Mad dogs and Englishmen go our in the midday sun”--but citified children from Greenwich Village decide to swim in the Bering Sea!
Behind the nature center in Homer are paths through the crane-laden marshlands to Bishop’s Beach. The latter is a wonderful place for tide-pooling, but that gentle activity wasn’t enough excitement for my crazy kid. She managed to persuade two local girls she’d just met to run into the 35-degree water with her!
Luckily, the grandparents of the girls had a washer and dryer at their trailer home. We went back there so the now miserably cold kids could thaw out with hot showers, and we could dry all their clothes.
Former residents of the Aleutian Islands, they told me stories about extreme fishing (the grandfather was an engineer for the "Deadliest Catch" fleets of that area) as we waited. We also discussed an episode in American history that I was totally unaware of: the internment of the native Alaskans of the Aleution Islands during World War II. The government, at the time, had made the excuse that it was for their own safety, but the Aleutians are still angry about what happened to them some 60 years on. It was also fascinating to see the inside of an Alaskan home (it was filled with Native Alaskan art).
Homer is the "Halibut Capitol of the World". Or so everyone here claims. On the Homer Spit, a number of local businesses thrive taking tourists out to make their catches. Other companies specialize in fileting the fish, and still others FedEx it to all parts of the globe. Yup, there's gold in them gills. Here’s a day’s catch at one of the fishing companies.
And here’s a staffer at one of Homer’s fishing companies breaking down into filets a massive halibut caught by a tourist from Washington, DC. The recreational fisherman was particularly interested in this young man excavating the fish’s inner ear bone. Like a tree trunk, it has striations that allow one to tell how old the fish is.