I’m on a work trip in Alaska at a camp for military kids that starts in a few days, but I came north a little early just for fun. Right now I’m in the riverside community of Cooper Landing, on the Kenai Peninsula, one of Alaska’s more popular outdoor playgrounds.
Fireweed in an old burn. I wonder how they named that stuff?
Cooper Landing is not far from the world famous (ok, regionally famous) Russian River, well known for its “combat fishing” during salmon runs. We’re right in the middle of a salmon run now, so it was interesting to see anglers shoulder to shoulder. Sure, go fishing to get away from it all…but do it within elbow reach of your neighbor. Clearly these folks were about filling freezers and not about solitude.
Souzz will join me later in the week and we’ll work our way down to Katchemak Bay. In the meantime, I’m at a lovely camp right next to the Kenai River and enjoying a simple dinner of pasta with tomatoes, mushrooms, basil, Romano cheese, and chopped steak.
That’s the Kenai River in the background
Another way to play frisbee
I didn’t catch any fish, but I did catch this steak
Almost ready to eat
I guess other things like to eat, too
If something goes down, I can probably climb in that locker
The steak wasn’t really in the dinner plans, as I thought I could pick up some salmon here in “town”–until I realized that there isn’t really a town here.
Cooper Landing, not a huge place
Moose can pass, but not cars?
Another shot of Cooper Landing
So, with only a mini-mart for food supplies, I’m in the fishing capital of the world and I’m eating frozen steak…probably from a far away place like Virginia. At least the view is good.
With a kayaking trip planned to the mountains this weekend, we decided we’d stop through Petersburg, West Virginia, to catch their 4th of July parade on the ride back home. Petersburg is a town of about 2500 in the Potomac Highlands and we figured it was the kind of place that knows how to put on a good parade. Last year on the 4th of July, we had a lot of fun at aparade in Wessington Springs, South Dakota, so we thought we’d go for two years in a row.
But first, we were off to paddle. So on Saturday morning we met up with our good friends Scott and Denise, who were on a road trip through West Virginia. The four of us paddled one of my favorite runs, the Cheat Narrows, in the north central part of the state. Souzz and I were in our Alpacka packrafts–in part because these boats are lot of fun, and in part to get ready for an upcoming trip out west. Ultralight packrafts are capable of running very technical whitewater despite weighing just six pounds each (although my packraft likely weighs more when I am in it).
The Cheat Narrows is pretty easy, probably low class III, but it is splashy and fun and it runs through a beautiful valley below Cheat Mountain.
Backender coming out of Calamity Rock
The group at the put-in
Entering Calamity Rock
Where are the Cheat Narrows?
My Alpacka packraft and a breakdown paddle
From there, Scott and Denise headed north while Souzz and I drove over the Allegheny Front to a cabin that we had rented for the weekend.Spruce Mountain Cabinsare right on the road to Spruce Knob (the highest point in West Virginia), and these cabins are a great little place to stop over. Our cabin (#3) was simple, just a main room/kitchenette and a bedroom, but with a covered porch, a comfortable bed, and power and water.
Spruce Mountain Cabin #3
Enjoying the porch
Clean, simple, comfortable
Once at the cabin, we had planned on cooking some fancy meals and making an apple pie(hey, what’s 4th of July without apple pie?). But it turned out that the cabin had no oven, so the pie will have to wait (and it turns out that a 4th without pie is still just fine). We did manage to make a few fun meals, though, including slow-cooked ribs on Sunday. And we’d highly recommend these cabins!
Ribs and sauce in the crock-pot
Ribs and beans
Steak, potato, caprese
Enjoying the fire
In between meals, we mixed in a hike on Spruce Knob as well as some mountain biking, so it was a good full weekend of adventure.
Looking out to the east
Looking out to the west
A bumblebee does its thing
Spruce Knob Observation Tower
Map of area trails
On Monday the 4th, we woke up to steady rain, so we figured that the parade would be washed out–but we decided to pass through Petersburg anyway. Stopping for gas on the edge of town, we overheard someone say to the cashier “hey, a little rain can’t keep me from a parade for the good ole U.S. of A.”
Sure enough, we entered town and found the streets lined with people holding umbrellas and wearing red, white, and blue. A bunch of folks were on covered porches at houses that faced the parade route, while others chose to sit on their back bumpers under their car’s back hatch (very clever). We drove over to the east side of town, where the crowds weren’t quite as thick–but were still plenty enthusiastic.
A few spectators, dressed for the occasion
Another way of staying dry
Making their own sunshine
I guess Souzz didn’t get the memo on red, white, and blue
The Grant County Courthouse has a memorial for Petersburg natives lost in battle
Moments later, the color guard rounded the corner and led the Petersburg High School Band as it played The Stars and Stripes Forever. Following was a long procession of fire trucks, old cars, new cars, bands, golf carts, floats, motorcycles, and a few horses. Many in the parade carried signs thanking veterans, and there were several veterans riding along. A number of floats and cars were throwing out candy, most of which seemed to land in deep puddles of rainwater (which didn’t discourage the kids, of course!).
Color Guard leads the way
Lots of respect for the flags
No idea who these folks were, but we were no doubt the only folks in town that didn’t know
Lots of signs thanking vets
Passing out candy
The Petersburg High Marching Band
The Forest Service float
More candy, and a great 4th of July beret!
Irony: Smokey Bear has spent a career trying to put out fires, but has to stay dry himself
More irony: Noah’s Ark
There was a lot for an outsider to take in, and it is easy for me to forget that scenes like this are repeated across the country every year (and I’m guessing the parade in Wessington Springs, South Dakota, looked much like the photo below from last year).
As for Petersburg, it was great to see so many people come out–especially in the rain. It was also nice to see the strong theme around supporting veterans. Petersburg has lost a number of its citizens dating back to at least World War I, and there are several native sons and daughters serving now. I happened to stand next to the parent of one of them on the parade route, which offered great perspective about what (and why) we were celebrating.
Closing out the parade were the Shriners, who came down the route wearing red fezzes anddriving miniature carsin tight figure eights at what seemed like 40 miles per hour. Based on the looks on the drivers’ faces as they cranked along, nobody was having more fun. I learned later that most Shriners have a “Parade Unit” that does some variation of this display in parades across the country.
I have no idea how tiny replica cars powered by lawn mower engines have anything to do with veterans, the American Revolution, or our country’s independence. But then I imagine how disappointed those Shriners would be if the US had never separated from Britain, and I wonder when the next parade is going to start.