Thursday, July 26, 2007

It has been hard to come up with more Alaska stories since the big ones have already been written. Perhaps this will drift into more tidbits than wide, expansive storytelling, but that will have to do.

The 10 days in Alaska coupled with some random rain on weeknights when I returned has blunted my riding schedule a bit but it has been dry and hot these past 2 weeks so my mileage should be back up where it belongs. Not so good for sweet corn, but the lack of rain is great for cycling. This weekend looks rain free and my schedule is wide open for riding. With any luck my legs will be torn up by Sunday night.

My canoe trip was a mixed bag. I saw very few people and plenty of wildlife, easily caught several very large rainbow trout, had almost glass like lakes to paddle across in the strangely windless mid days -- yet I never felt the country was substantially different from the Boundary Waters in northern Minnesota. I would rather have looked all around me and seen mountains landscaping the background. Not having officially marked campsites was also a mixed bag. You were allowed to camp anywhere and the maps had noted known campsites, but it would have been a bit nicer to simply declare some of them as official, improve them, and then make all others off limits as the forest reclaimed them. It works in Boundary Waters. Small complaints I guess. I did find out that America has 2 designated wilderness canoe areas, Boundary Waters in Minnesota and the Kenai Wildlife Refuge in the great Alaska. I’m now 2 for 2.

Paddling steadily around the numerous 90 degree turns on the Moose River, I encountered 2 moose (on separate occasions). It is something to come around a corner and find a huge moose standing in the middle of the narrow river just 30 yards away from you. Not enough time to grab my camera, but just enough time to make a little bit of noise and get the thing to move out of the way for me. I am endlessly amazed at just how big those animals are. Like a cow on stilts.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Another Tale From the Great White North…

I had always heard the phrase combat fishing here and there but never really thought about it. It always floated out of my mind just as quickly as it lit in. There is really no combat fishing to speak of in the Midwest. Smelting on the Chicago lakefront doesn’t really qualify. I’m told that during the Walleye run on the Wisconsin River it can get a little congested, but it’s really nothing to get that impressed by. Combat fishing in Alaska is a unique animal and something I never would have believed had I not seen it with my own eyes. The above picture is from Willow, right off the Deshka River (the King Salmon were running through). It was much, much worse on the Russian River (Red Salmon running through). While driving through the Kenai Peninsula we saw it in full force. Apparently the bears even come out in close proximity to the hundreds of fisherman – everyone present just wants fish.

In Wisconsin the fishing is rarely as good as it is in Alaska, but it’s almost always guaranteed that you can find a part of the lake or shoreline to nestle into to quietly fish, chit-chat, and simply enjoy the lake and outdoors. Now, Alaska is a very big place and there are uncountable places where you can fish alone, but when the salmon are running and you are within driving distance of Anchorage (half of the state’s population) you can bet you’ll be combat fishing.

I was a little put off by it myself, but if we had actually caught some King Salmon I’d probably not care at all. People are constantly getting their lines tangled with each other. Most of the time one person will reel all the way in and unhook the other line. I did this for a few people myself, but the glasshead that reeled in my line found it easier to simply cut my line with his knife and then smile. We were on a boat and he was on shore so there was enough distance to prohibit a shouting match, etc. I was pretty angry at first and then realized after taking a breath that tomorrow I’ll be waking up with a good job and education while he’ll still be a burned out meth head. Fine, you showed me up, dude. Have your laugh with your buddies. I’m assuming some strange class envy magically developed because we were in a boat and they stood on shore. I guess they were keeping it real and we were the Magnificent Ambersons or something of the like. Silly.