I finally got to fish in the Kenai Peninsula. It has been on my bucket list for a while. Plenty of guys would come into Orvis in Bellevue talking about their trip to Alaska and how awesome it was to fish here. Now it is in my backyard. The salmon are everywhere. Dying, spawning, or somewhere in between. The trout were big, but not plentiful. They were hard enough to catch to make you work for them, but they were hanging out right where you would expect them. We didn’t see any bears and I’m not sure if I am disappointed or relieved. Alaska is amazing more and more each day. Fall has come quickly and I feel like there is a bit of a rush to get more fishing in before the weather gets worse.
Amanda’s parents were visiting and we filled our time doing great activities. Visiting Seward was one of the first things to do. We lucked out and left Anchorage on a beautiful sunny day. With minimal clouds and wind, we hoped that the weather would stay this way all day. Headed south, the views of Turnagain Arm were fantastic.
We arrived in Seward and puttered around town waiting for our ship to sail. When we left the dock we flipped through our brochure hoping to see some animals from the boat. Before we left the harbor, we were excited to see a few sea otters.
We saw bald eagles, coastal mountain goats, and lots of glaciers. We spent most of the trip pressed against the railings on the side of the boat. The weather was great the whole time.There were glaciers and icebergs that were tough to imagine the size. They seemed small, but as we got closer and closer, they got more and more enormous.After the boat trip, we needed just a little more adventure. We headed to Exit Glacier to look for Obama’s footprints. We didn’t see any, but the glacier was beautiful. Until next time. Thanks for reading.
I am sure that there are more hidden, or untouched, or beautiful hikes in Alaska. This hike happens to be about 10 minutes from our house. We are checking these off as often as we can. Once again, we got out of the house late so we were looking for a short hike. This one is only about 3 miles each way. Seemed like no problem.Right at the trailhead, there is a beautiful waterfall. We followed the creek uphill. And farther uphill. Up, up, up. After about 3/4 of a mile, I was doubting this decision.
As we looked back we could see Turnagain Arm (Wiki: Upon reaching the head of Cook Inlet, Bligh was of the opinion that both Knik Arm and Turnagain Arm were the mouths of rivers and not the opening to the Northwest Passage. Under Cook’s orders Bligh organized a party to travel up Knik Arm, which quickly returned to report Knik Arm indeed led only to a river.
Afterwards a second party was dispatched up Turnagain Arm and it too returned to report only a river lay ahead. As a result of this frustration the second body of water was given the disingenuous name “Turn Again”. Early maps label Turnagain Arm as the “Turnagain River”.) Turnagain Arm eventually disappeared behind us.
As we gained elevation, the temperatures dropped. It became very obvious that even on this nice day, it wasn’t getting too warm. Luckily we were hot from walking uphill constantly.We saw snow ahead, but didn’t know how much. We knew we were headed towards a lake.Turns out that it was quite a bit of snow for 3100 feet in elevation.The lake, however, was not what we expected!
We have been so busy that I am having trouble keeping track of everything we have been doing. Today was pretty incredible though. It was a lazy day and we started late. Eventually we got out rock climbing. As we head south from out house we probably have one hundred climbs within 10 miles. We are out of shape, but it is sunny and we like being outside.
On the way home, we stopped to get some water. Obviously, we are smart enough to not buy bottled water, so we brought our bottle to the source. the locals are always here so we figured there was a reason. Turns out, it is pretty good.
On the drive home, we saw people pulled over and look into Turnagain Arm. A pod of beluga whales were feeding on salmon with their friends the seals. We sat on the side of the road and watched this sunset and admired the whitest whales we have ever seen.
We headed into Alaska. They did not build a wall here, but they did cut down all of the trees.
We uneventfully crossed the border and stopped at the Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center. That is when we realized how much empty space exists in Alaska.
We stayed in Glenallen at the Ranch House Lodge. By now, we were completely spoiled with real beds. We also needed wifi to starting looking for places to live in Anchorage. We enjoyed homemade brownies and Craigslist.
We began our day with butterflies in our bellies believing that we would be rolling into Anchorage today. The house search began in earnest. We had three places that we were interested in. One place on the east side, one place one the west side, and a cabin really far south. The cabin was just out of town. It was the first place that we looked at. It felt a bit like a scam as the owners live in another town. The only redeeming factor was that there were keys so we could go inside and check it out. Most scams don’t allow you to do that. (We have never lost money, but a little time to a scammer.) It was a cute cabin, but small.
The next place we looked at was a two bedroom typical house. It was on a road next to a house that looks like the next house which looks like the next house. The last house we looked at was pretty much the same. A couple rectangular bedrooms with a bathroom. The houses could be in Michigan, Washington, or Florida. They were nice, but no charm. No Alaska feel. We went back to the cabin and looked again. We thought we could make it happen. Sure it was small, but it was a mile away from Chugach State Park. A park that is a half a million acres in size. We are across the street from a wildlife preserve. We have moose in our yard. We made the cabin work.
We have made it to Alaska and we are settling in well. Thanks for the encouragement from everyone.
Continuing north, we drove slowly looking for wildlife. We didn’t get up early or stay on the road late. This reduced our chance for seeing the big game. We also heard that spring and fall are great times to see lots of animals. Lake Meziadin was a recommended stop and turned out to be gorgeous, but also very crowded.
We did take a turn and head west towards Hyder Alaska. The attractions are glaciers and bears. The glaciers were impressive and very close to the road.
Waterfalls were everywhere and the creek rapidly turned into a rain river as you drove downhill beside it. We saw many black bears on the side of the road. It made us have one person keep an eye out while the other made sandwiches out of the cooler in the back of the car.
One of the big attractions while taking this road is that past Hyder is the Fish Creek bear viewing area. We heard a few negative things about this place. The first is that you have to pay to see the (hopefully grizzly) bears. Now that just kind of feels like a zoo. Paying to see animals, even wild animals, is not something we like to do unless there is no other option or it isn’t safe otherwise. We turned around before the border and were happy to see the black bears on our own.
Back on the Cassiar Highway, we watched out for wildlife, but didn’t see any large land mammals. None. There were signs every mile telling us to look out for elk, moose, caribou, speed bumps, potholes, and other cars. The road deterioration was the only thing that we saw. And maybe a couple of other cars. Now as we got further north, it was interesting to see the towns that were just getting electricity wired to them. There were towns that were running in diesel generators to power everyone and everything still. But then again, aren’t most of being powered by big generators? Is it better to be wired into the grid? Pondering these questions, we stopped and let the dogs run through the beautiful flowers.
We passed by the fancy Bell 2 Lodge where you can stay in a brand new cabin that was made to look old for a couple hundred bucks a night. I heard that their coffee and pastries are really good. I bet anything not instant is delicious on this road. The idea of not having to cook dinner was creeping into our heads. And then it started raining. And thunderstorming. Our tent in the back of the car was still wet from last nights thunderstorm. We started to feel sorry for ourselves and booked a motel. We tried to get a cabin, but the smell of a packrat home inside meant that we knew we would have mice running across our face in the night. We had a television, wifi, and a restaurant. Dinner was delicious that night. We stayed at the Tatogga Lake resort and highly recommend it. Here is the view if you walk down to the water from the lodge.
Breakfast at the restaurant was delicious. The decor was amazing. It was a great place to stay.
The place was run by a guy and his three boys. One boy got a fishing hook in his thumb and had to go to the medical center to have it removed. Another boy had to drive him. The other was probably still sleeping. That left just dad to make breakfast, take orders, check guests in and out of the resort, and collect money. It was amusing to watch. The hook came out of the sons’ thumb and the resort continues to survive. Across from the resort we walked to a trail that went straight uphill.
There was a possibility of seeing sheep, but after 2000 feet in elevation in just a few miles, we were sweaty, out of breath, and disappointed that the sheep were not around. We kept thinking that we would see lots of large land mammals, but it just wasn’t happening.
The view from the top was well worth it. the hike felt straight up and straight down. The dogs did not seem to mind.
We hurried down the hill (if you stop the mosquitoes carry you away) and back to the car. We drove over many creeks and passed many lakes. If this were a fishing trip, it would take months to get through British Columbia. We crossed another famous fishing river, the Stikine. Rivers like the Stikine, Babine, Kispiox, and Skeena, are famous for fisherman. It was nice to see them all, even if I was too early for steelhead fishing.
At the recommendation of the kid at the fly shop in Smithers, we stopped at Cottonwood Creek to fish. He had no idea where Cottonwood Creek was, but he said when we crossed it, there would be a sign, and we should fish there. He was correct on all accounts. We knew that we were far north as we caught our first grayling here. We had never caught grayling before so it was fun to check that species off the list.
We arrived to our destination of Boya Lake tonight. We made a short video of us setting up camp here.
Boya Lake is a nice blue color. With all the expectations, I thought it would be more blue. Maybe because the weather wasn’t perfect, the water wasn’t quite as blue. We walked around the lake and thought it was beautiful, but we were starting to get excited to be in Anchorage.
Happy Birthday Dad. We packed it up from Babine Lake and thought that we would really get started on our adventure. Our first stop was a place we saw First Nations using a dipnet to catch fish.
It was time to get onto the Cassiar highway. This is where we turned north from Kitwanga and headed in towards the Yukon Territory. There are very few towns, no cell phone service, no wifi, and gas stations are only open during the day.
This is one of the places where we saw black bears close to the road.
There were lots of time where we didn’t see another person, but lots of beautiful scenery.
Don’t worry, we were totally safe. Notice the bear spray on the belt loop at all times. We also found tall Fireweed. I don’t remember ever seeing Fireweed, but it is everywhere as you go north.
There are different accommodation options all along the way. We found “resorts” for $150 a night, but opted for the free Bonus Lake Forest Recreation Site.
I can’t get over how great these recreation sites can be. We are steps from Bonus Lake (which has many trout eager to take a fly).
There is a composting toilet, picnic tables, and fire rings. There are only 3 campsites. When we arrived we were alone. It was starting to rain, so we set up our tent quickly. I met a nice dutch guy who stopped with his truck, camper, and three kids just to make coffee. He says that he stays in recreation sites 6 days a week while on vacation. He left after chatting for a while. He was headed to Smithers to stock up on Dutch things. He said that 1/3 of the town is of Dutch heritage so there are shops that sell Dutch candies and things imported from the Netherlands that remind him of his childhood.
The weather got worse and a nice Canadian couple showed up and sat in the pouring rain with us. They had a camper, but had a couple of beers at our table and discussed life. It was interesting to meet all kinds of people on this trip. The man was a hunter. Well he shot things. He told us stories of shooting animals that he never intended to eat that he would get a permit for after killing it and report it even after that. Seemed a bit like a “if it has eyes it dies” kind of hunter. He lived in his camper as he worked construction for things like oil and gas pipelines. He would be away from home for months at a time chasing work. Rough life up here.
We woke up in Telkwa and packed up the tent. We weren’t sure where we would end up, but thought we would ask around in Smithers. When we got to Smithers, we were in heaven. It is like a small german town with delicious pastries at the bottom of a ski hill. We got some advice at a fly shop on a great place to catch trout. The only problem is that it was 2 hours back the way we just came from. Still, this trip was an adventure, so we decided to do it. We drove back past Telkwa, past the largest fly rod in the world in Houston, and turned left at Topley. We saw our first bear on the way to Topley Landing. There is an enormous hatchery in Topley Landing and spawning beds that are over 4 kilometers long. The spawning beds are perfectly constructed for salmon. They are the right depth, the right water speed, the right water temperature, and they are enormous. The entire thing is a place for salmon to spawn. The rocks are all the perfect size and the fish lay millions of eggs. Needless to say, the bears also love it there. Unfortunately, we were a couple months too early to see all of it occur.
We found the perfect fishing spot that we were told about in Smithers. It was under construction. There was a big backhoe beside the river. The road was closed to vehicles. We weren’t allowed to be there. In order to get all of the water for the salmon spawning channels, the hatchery does stream maintenance on the creek to ensure that they have water when spawning season begins. The one day we couldn’t fish was the day we were there. Not to be deterred, we headed to the town of Granisle to see what we could see. The short answer, nothing. When asked about hiking, we were met with blank stares. Granisle is a retirement community. It used to be a mining town. When the mines shut down, people stopped working. Most people left, but some stuck around doing whatever odd jobs they could find. Our campsite was near Babine Lake so we took the canoe out and fished for sockeye. Everyone else was using motorboats, down riggers, and giant flashers, we just had a good time.