Look at a dog face-to-face and what stands out? Its nose. Put a dog in a new environment and what does it do? Starts sniffing. Put two dogs together and what kicks in? Their sense of smell.
If humans’ best friends are dogs, dogs’ best friends are their noses. That, in a nutshell, is what canine nose work is all about. Inspired by the training of and work with detection dogs, nose work is the search and scent activity for all dogs and their human companions.
Last Saturday for Tamamta Katurlluta, the gathering of Alaska Native traditions, a small fleet of skin-on-frame kayaks and one big umiak landed at the Pier One Theatre beach on the Homer Spit (see photo, page 1). Traditional Native boats return again this weekend for the 21st annual Kachemak Bay Wooden Boat Festival as it celebrates “The Year of the Kayak.”
That’s not coincidental. With Tamamta Katurlluta held this year, Wooden Boat Festival organizers decided it was time to focus on kayaks.
From Nanwalek elder Nick Tanape’s desire to let people know “who we are that existed in Cook Inlet, Kachemak Bay and Prince William Sound, who were the first people here,” comes “Tamamta Katurlluta: A Gathering of Native Traditions.”
The celebration began in 1997 and has occurred almost every two years since then, organized by the Pratt Museum.
Tanape’s vision was for villagers to bring projects they had been working on to Homer, arrive by traditional qayak and be welcomed by dancers from this and other areas of the state.
If you built a raft with a big sea anchor and pushed off from Point Pogibshi, you’d drift east along Kachemak Bay on the south shore, turn left at the Homer Spit and eventually circle around the north shore and go west toward Bluff Point, spinning back around in a big gyre.
Or, maybe not. You could wind up at the head of the bay. You could be pushed out into Cook Inlet. In a big storm and tide you could get washed up on the beach.
Call them what you will — privies, johns, earth closets, the shack out back or nooshniks if you live in Ninilchik — outhouses are an Alaska tradition.
Equipped with a candle to brighten winter’s darkness, a Styrofoam seat positioned for maximum warmth, a little reading material, an open door that captures views of sparkling water, hanging glaciers or the dancing aurora and you have all the makings for the perfect place to enjoy a bit of privacy while you do what you have to do.
By land and sea, world explorers often visit Homer on their way north for further adventures or an end-of-the-road finish from points further south.
Last Thursday, a 50-foot silver sailboat slipped into the Homer Harbor on an expedition that outshines anything else by comparison.
Think “garden,” think flowers or vegetables or grasses or trees. Think sweeping landscaped areas or a single pot of flowers. Think acres or a tiny balcony.
Gardens are all that and more. The Homer Garden Club’s seventh annual Gardeners’ Weekend is a good way to see multiple meanings for that single word, “garden.”
On the Homer side of Kachemak Bay, finding a good, short hike can be a challenge. Across the bay, Kachemak Bay State Park has some marvelous hikes — if you have a boat and can afford a water taxi. If you’re a visitor or local, the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies has a little gem of a hike off East Skyline Drive, the Billie Fischer Cottonwood Trail.
“You can’t see the forest for the trees” is a great description for what happens when you live in a place for long. The day-to-day stuff gets so distracting you don’t see the eagle nest on the Spit, the sea otter bobbing on the bay or the eagle outside your car window as it glides beside the highway.
One quick cure: the free birding-wildlife hot spots van tour offered by Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center on Friday afternoons during July, and led by volunteers John and Sue Ewan, retired middle school science teachers from Missouri.
OK, first let’s get the obvious question out of the way. What do men — and women — wear under their kilts at the Kachemak Bay Scottish Highland Games? If you were one of about 450 people who watched the 30 athletes compete at Karen Hornaday Park last Saturday, the way those kilts swirled about as athletes threw big stones and tossed huge logs, you know the answer.
With so much boat traffic in and out of the Homer Harbor, it’s easy to think the harbor is all about fishing.
The Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies’ twice-daily Creatures of the Dock tour offers an hour with a naturalist to learn about the intertidal life existing in the harbor. The Pratt Museum’s 1.5-hour historic harbor walking tour offers a glimpse at how the Homer area, including the harbor, came to be.
Moose have trampled on its art. Vandals have stolen and trashed works. Some sculptures have been left in place, slowly returning back to the earth. Since 1994, Facing the Elements has merged art and nature on the Pratt Museum’s Forest Trail, testing creative ingenuity and inspiring imaginations.
The 19th annual show opened June 14, but when the museum begins construction of its new building in late 2014 or early 2015, this will be the last summer of Facing the Elements until completion of the new museum in 2016 or 2017. In the meantime, the show will take a hiatus.
Several years ago, realizing that the fairgrounds was much more than “the Ninilchik Fair” and wanting to play a much more supportive role on the Kenai Peninsula as whole, the fair board rewrote its mission statement to be sure it included the entire Kenai Peninsula.
George Overpeck and Trace Carlos live for extreme sports in Alaska, but it’s not snow they crave — but wind and water.
This year they are organizing and instructing kiteboarding at Homer KiteFest 2013. It’s been six years since Homer’s first kite festival, and each year more and more kite enthusiasts show up.
“We started the event, to promote our hobby and get all the kiteboarders in the state together,” said Carlos.
While gathering coal on Mariner’s beach with her husband and friends one day in 1976, Judy Winn of Homer found a curious piece of — something.
“I sort of wandered and was beachcombing and found it in the rocks,” said Winn of spotting the object that was about 20 inches long, seven inches in diameter. “I took it home thinking it was a piece of petrified wood. Then, I was looking at it, the shape, how it was curved, and I kind of got the idea it might be ivory.”
“Ah, mom and dad, there’s nothing to do.”
If visitors to the 21st annual Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival thought they might have been skunked last Thursday with relatively few western sandpipers showing up, all they had to do was wait a day.
When angler James “Jimmie” Peeples of Chico, Calif., hooked into a 323.2-pound halibut last August, he and his fishing buddies “were amazed, flipping out,” he told the Homer News at the time. “I couldn’t believe it.”
That day of fishing netted more than food for the freezer.
It put Peeples in the winning seat for the 2012 Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby’s $10,000 grand prize.
Some nations celebrate the start of May with Beltane, the Celtic festival marking the halfway point between the spring equinox and the summer solstices. Other countries consider May Day as labor day, the day to honor workers. In Homer, we get down and dirty the first Saturday of May with our annual Cleanup Day as local volunteers pick up trash and recyclables all over town and wherever it emerges from breakup.