A couple of our best friends, Amanda, and I flew out to King Salmon and then waited for the weather to clear. That is pretty typical in this part of Alaska. When it finally cleared, we hopped on a float plane and were dropped off at Brooks Lodge. We opted to camp for $12 per night per person instead of renting a cabin for $615 per night per person!We immediately got into some fish. They were big and plentiful. They took beads, streamers, nymphs, and pretty much anything that you could drift in front of them. The river was busy with other anglers, guides, and the four of us. You could sight fish to twenty inch rainbows all day. The falls were behind me. It made me slightly nervous to look away from where a majority of the bears were feeding. Luckily, we had a crew of four, so someone was always watching out for bears.We weren’t the only ones fishing on the river. The bears were never threatening. A few sub adults would cruise by curiously and be kind of annoying. When the big bears came through, we all gave them a lot of space. The most nervous was when a mom and cubs were on our trail. We took the long way home that night.While out there, we had to check out the Valley of 10,000 Smokes. It was much more interesting than I thought that it would be. I was really glad that we did the tour. The weather was great for our whole trip. Good weather, good friends, and good fishing. It doesn’t get better than that. If you are ever in Alaska, it is worth it to go visit Brooks Falls, even if it is just a day trip.
Did you hear about the guy that wanted to take a selfie with the bears at Katmai National Park? Yeah, I saw that also. Not on the Bear Cam like most others. Unbelievably, I was on the platform at the same time.
The women that they were with were the smartest in the bunch. They called him “stupid” and left immediately. These guys told the women that they have “done this a thousand times” and that while “hiking up the fish ladder, kicked a sleeping bear”. They walked out of the emergency exit of the falls viewing platform, walked downstream, and retreated up the emergency exit of the riffles viewing platform.
One of my favorite things about travelling is meeting new people. On our drive from Seattle to Anchorage we met quite a few people. Most are adventurous types. We tried to stay off the most popular roads and the like minded people were camped nearby. They were always friendly, but liked to give us the solitude that they assumed we were looking for.
Somewhere along the way, we saw a car pulled over. Usually, this means that there is wildlife nearby. This time did not disappoint. Our first grizzly bear. Close to the road and did not seem to care at all about what the cars were doing.
The car in front of us had a couple of guys taking pictures. These two guys were very excited to see a bear. It was their first bear they had seen on their trip. They were visiting from Italy and were driving through Canada to Alaska. I just got an email from them with some of their bear pictures.
I hope that they had a good trip and saw many more bears (from a safe distance).
We headed into Denali National Park with Amanda’s parents while they were visiting. On our way, we stopped in the
town village of Talkeetna. It is a fantastic place to stop. They have every adventure necessary. Want to go fishing, someone there can arrange that. Too easy? Take a helicopter tour of Denali, they do that here as well. We just stopped at a cool little coffee shop.We were at the tail end of the season, so some things were closed, and the traffic was pretty minimal. The weather was not too bad, but with lots of clouds, actually seeing the mountain did not seem like a realistic thing that was going to occur. While that is always a goal of people that are visiting the area, we have been lucky to see it on clear days while fishing nearby. There is still so much to see and do that the actual mountain might be better off imagined. We boarded our bus early the next day and settled in for what would be an 11 hour bus tour. If you travel into the park in your own car, you can only drive in the first 15 miles. The buses were great. We didn’t have to drive, we could eat, and the bus driver was knowledgeable and entertaining. This is a great way to see the park and the inhabitants.The weather that we had experienced in Talkeetna was worse/better/bigger/different the next day. Everything is larger and more extreme in Alaska. The weather is no exception. Where there was rain the day before it was heavily snowing on us in the park. It was very beautiful to see a lot of the area covered in snow. The biggest concern was that the roads would be impossible to use in some spots. We were going on the last day of the season.
We got to Savage River and were told that it might be the end of the line for us. We were 15 miles into an 85 mile trip. We waited here, saw a few bears, made a snowman, and were told to get back on the bus, we were continuing forward.The wildlife is used to the buses. They know that the buses are not a threat. We were able to see animals acting very naturally.
It was the people that were funny to watch. As soon as someone spotted an animal, the bus would stop and try to get us into a good viewing position. Everyone ran to the side where the animal would be. The sound of fake shutters clicking was entertaining and the animals didn’t seem to mind. Mostly everyone was respectful and kept their arms and hands inside. Every stop was amazing. The roads were cleared and we were told that we would make it all the way to the Wonder Lake Campground. Every time we got out of the bus, we were blown away. Mostly with the views, but sometimes by the wind.That was our visit to Denali National Park. It was outstanding and everyone visiting Alaska should try to get out there to experience it. Thanks for reading.
I flew out of Anchorage to Yakutat.
On the way to Yakutat, we stopped in Cordova. It was beautiful. It made me wonder if I could live off the grid out here.
I arrived in the evening and the crew of my boat picked me up. We dropped off my belongings in my new stateroom and went out for dinner. There is no cell phone coverage in this town, but the bars/restaurants have slow wifi occasionally. Everyone is on their phone. We aren’t allowed to use Skype. In fact, the password was “nofnskyping”.
The next day we were under way. The harbor was beautiful.
As soon as we left the harbor, the weather got (to use a nautical term) shitty. I wanted to die. If I sat up, I would start sweating and was sure that I would vomit all over my new boat. I didn’t eat for 24 hours. I didn’t really move. The captain asked me if I was sick as I was running to the head. He said that I looked pretty green. I felt a little better to hear that one of the crew was throwing up and another also couldn’t get out of bed.
The next day was slightly better. I eventually got to work. I busted my butt for a week. There was no normal schedule as the crew was on their last trip of the season and needed to catch all of their fish while I was on board. They utilized “sleep turns”. They would sleep for 6 hours and work for 12. All day every day. It was brutal. These guys work damn hard. I couldn’t keep up.
Eventually, they caught all the fish they could. It was a record trip for them. We were at the plant offloading and they plant processor had never seen such a big haul. Obviously, I took most of the credit for their good luck.
After a week, I am being assigned to another boat. I am flying out of Yakutat today and should be in Anchorage tonight. Tomorrow, I am off to Dutch Harbor. I have no idea what boat I will be on or what kind of fish we will be going after. I have a few ideas though. My life is a series of “hurry up and wait”.
The village of Yakutat has no cell phone reception, but it does have the Situk River. It is one of the best rivers to fish for Steelhead and Salmon. There are all kinds of people at the airport, but most of them have rods. I am a bit jealous.
I was warned not to walk along the road because Brown bears have been spotted beside the roads. I didn’t see any.
So I passed my test and I am officially a National Marine Fisheries Groundfish Observer. Tomorrow, I get on a plane with 100 pounds of research tools in the infamous (amongst NMFS staff) blue baskets. I am excited to start working. And nervous. I am hoping to see some bears and get in a bit of fishing if there is any spare time on shore. Maybe even both at the same time. Good thing I have a bear bell and a beautiful singing voice.
We all got our foul weather gear (foulies) and tried them on in the living room.
Every day we are amazed that we are in Alaska. We take pictures just walking down the street because we like the backdrop.
Oh yeah and the town where I am headed tomorrow has surfing. I hope that they rent thick wetsuits.