As one leaves Homer and heads down East End Road, the world changes from that of cityscape to that of glorious panarama. Even after a year and a half of driving the 20 miles to town, I still notice and feel the transition to another world as the road climbs higher, narrows and winds around canyons.
If you go far enough, the narrow, frost-heaved road turns to gravel and you enter the Russian village of Voznesenka. And if you are daring and continue on, the road narrows even more down what the locals call "the switchbacks" which lead to the "Head of the Bay"--the mud flats at the head of Kachemak Bay. If you were to make your way past a no tresspassing sign up that way, you might feel transported to another country as you enter Kachemak Selo, one of the trio of Russian villages at the Head of the Bay. The dirt lanes and fences separate homes, children play in the dirt and 4-wheelers roar by.
Most days we drive the relatively tame but still beautiful East End Road out of Homer. The sense of neighborliness and courtesy on the road is not dead. When I get behind a slower-moving car, I sigh and sink into my seat and remind myself to enjoy the scenery (if it's light out!). Yet just a day ago two cars pulled off and let me pass--just me, and no other cars behind me. This is not an uncommon courtesy; it seems to happen at least once a week . It still startles me. Yet when I am the one going slower, I will pull off as well--following the example of my courteous neighbors on East End Road.
My favorite pasttime while driving East End Road is to pull out my camera and take pictures of the awesome beauty! Needless to say, this is a dangerous enterprise since I'm usually driving, or I stop in the middle of the road. When the section of road you see here is covered with snow or ice, it quickly becomes treacherous. But I am irresistibly drawn to take pictures so I can share the changing moods of Kachemak Bay, the Kenai Mountain Range, the glaciers. Just over these mountains is the Harding Icefield, the largest icefield entirely in the U.S. I dream of flying over it, of hiking it, of exploring it as I drive this road.
If you Google "East End Road Homer Alaska", you will learn of homes for sale and of local murders. But there is much more to this road than can be summed up in a map. Locals like to tell stories of only 10 years ago when the paved road ended at McNeil Canyon School at Mile 12, and one had to take a 4-wheeler or snowmobile to the villages. Now the pavement extends all the way to Mile 20 or so. The road was inaccessible--or nearly so--in the spring with the frost heaves. The grandfather of our landlord helped build this road. The father of our landlord drove down the mud flats to Homer once a year to get supplies--the only time they would get to town.
I find a mystique in driving East End Road. We have been contemplating "moving to town," but the thought hurts each of us in a different way. I would miss a 30+ minute commute over--I will say it--one of the most beautiful places on earth. I don't say that lightly. There are many glorious places on this earth, but something about the Homer area has lodged itself inside us like a shard of glass--or a magnet. Even if we leave, it will always be there, drawing us back.