Newsletter Volume 7

 July 1996

In 1995, Jeff and Cyndie set aside their careers to pursue personal interests: travel, flyfishing and adventure. They lived in a 5th wheel trailer that had been converted into a fishing cabin on wheels. Their Ford F350 pickup and custom designed inflatable boat took them to places where dreams are made. Rowdy, their Golden Retriever, came along for the adventure.

This newsletter was produced 6 times a year to chronicle and share the adventures. It was distributed to family, friends, business associates and folks they met along the way.

Adventure in Alaska We're back to report on our first month of adventures in Alaska. It has been a busy month, jam packed with adventure, sightseeing, fishing and exploring. We've covered lots of territory, learned lots of new stuff and had experiences that will be with us for a lifetime. This was an easy newsletter to write. We hope you have fun reading it.

Anchorage Away We spent our first week in Alaska in a city. Anchorage was our landing point after the long drive and served as our supply depot and research headquarters.

Anchorage is a nice city. It is modern, full of culture and has a wide range of big city stores such as Wal-Mart, REI and CompUSA. Although it is the major population center in the state, it has a small town feel. There is a little traffic, but it is tolerable and people are friendly. Other than groceries, which are a bit on the high side, the large number of stores and the competition that brings keeps prices reasonable. However, local residents do tell you it costs a lot to live here.

While in Anchorage we stocked our cabinets and refrigerator, gathered maps and information on planned travel destinations and picked up some last minute camping supplies. We also had the opportunity to make a new friend. Tony Route, a writer well known for his books and articles on flyfishing in Alaska, lives near the campground we stayed at in downtown Anchorage. Our good friends Terry and Wendy Gunn had introduced us to Tony. We called Tony and it turned out that he had time to join us for dinner. The next day Tony shared with us some maps and notes on several float fishing trips he recommended we try. We hope to meet up with Tony later in the season for some fishing on the Kenai. Making new friends continues to be the highlight of our experiences on the road.

After a week in the city, we were getting itchy to see the Alaska we had dreamed of and worked so hard to reach. With supplies in order and plans formulated, we hit the road. Anchorage will be in our path again as we work our way around the state. We'll look forward to stopping in a couple of more times before we leave.

Will Work for Food When we set out on this adventure, the plan was to take a two and one half year break from our careers, then return to work. we're finding that we really like this lifestyle and the thought of returning to full time careers in just over a year is not a pleasant one. So, we're going to try and modify the plan to get another year on the road.

Last winter, while we were in Central Texas, Cyndie and I took on a couple of consulting projects for the State of Texas, which added a few funds to our break budget. The upcoming Texas Legislative Session offers a five month window of opportunity for Cyndie to apply her vast experience in Texas government to a short term employment experience. So, we're thinking we'll work for a few months this spring and then plan on taking the next two summers to continue our adventures.

Cyndie already has her eyes on a couple of opportunities to work during the session, but has not settled on anything yet. Those of you who are associates of Cyndie's may know of some good opportunities for her to make a contribution to the process of governing Texas. If you do, please let them know that Cyndie has over 13 years of experience in Texas government and is at her best during the session. Be sure and let us know of anything you know of.

Since Cyndie will be working the session, Jeff is also looking for a short term employment opportunity for the January-May 1997, time frame. Many of you who get this newsletter are former business associates of Jeff's and know what he was able to accomplish during his 15 year career at Acoustic Systems. He is looking for a challenging opportunity that will take advantage of his technical, sales and business management skills.

Please keep your eyes and ears open. Let us know if you can help us keep our dream alive.

Denali, The High One Our first stop after Anchorage was Denali National Park, home of Mount McKinley, North Americas highest peak.

Denali National Park has a very unique setup. To preserve the pristine habitat and limit disturbance to the abundant wildlife in the park, no private vehicles are allowed in the heart of the park. To reach most of the park, visitors must ride a shuttle bus system. Bus trips of 8 to 12 hours round trip are required to see the park.

Because of this limited access, wildlife is abundant along the roads. This provides visitors a good chance to see bear, moose, caribou and dall sheep on a bus tour of the park.

The scenery in Denali is spectacular. This is a vast preserve area, with towering mountains and wide river valleys. And it is from the park that you may see Mt. McKinley. I say "may see" because only about a quarter of the people who come here actually see the 20,000 foot peak. The mountain is so dominant in this geographical region that it generates its own weather systems that often obscure it from view. But, speaking as part of the three quarters of the visitors who didn't see Mt. McKinley, we can tell you that it is not necessary to see it to be awestruck by the scenery.

Our Denali National Park visit included a couple of special experiences. We were able to get a permit that allowed us to tow our trailer to a campground called Teklinika, which is 20 miles past the "No Vehicles" checkpoint. This allows you to camp in the heart of the park where wildlife sighting are most prevalent. Camping at Teklinika Campground requires a 3 day minimum stay and you can't drive your vehicle once you get there. This minimizes traffic on the road while still letting some RV's camp inside the park.

On our first day touring Denali, we took a 6 hour bus tour of the park. It was an enjoyable way to get introduced to the park and we did saw quite a bit of wildlife. But on our second day in Denali we wanted a more intimate experience. We took the shuttle bus in about one hour and had them let us off of the bus. We then hiked along the road and into the Denali backcountry. It was on this day that we had many of the special wildlife sightings that Cyndie recounts in her column.

Denali National Park offers visitors a way to see Alaska backcountry without having to expose themselves to the elements in the wilderness. The limitation of public access makes for fantastic wildlife viewing and a minimum of human impact on this ecosystem. But, it also concentrates lots of people onto the busses and around the visitor centers. Crowded conditions and competition for a limited number of campsites and bus passes can be frustrating. Denali is a can't miss stop on any Alaska trip but don't make that your only stop.

Trailer Mechanics 101 We've been pulling a 12,000 pound trailer for over a year now and have learned a lot about how to maintain it in the process. Although we bought a used trailer, we have done quite well in avoiding a lot of the major repairs that plague many owners of used equipment. But, there is one area that has caused us some problems during our travels. This is the suspension. Our trailer is built of very heavy duty framing, which makes it sturdy, but heavy. Couple that with the fact that we load a lot of equipment and gear in the trailer and you have a challenge for the tires, springs and axles that take the brunt of the abuse on rough roads. And Alaska has plenty of those rough roads to challenge your rig.

Last summer, while coming out of Yellowstone National Park the back way, we broke a spring on one side of our trailer. Several days later in Albuquerque, the strain broke another spring. We had a professional repair shop replace the springs in both of these incidents. But, we watched carefully as they did this work.

This spring, during our trip to Arkansas, we discovered that trailer wheels can also absorb a lot of abuse on rough roads. A chug-hole in the road in Fort Worth cracked one of our wheels, which took out a tire. Again, we had the tire changed by a professional but watched closely. When a second wheel cracked in West Texas, we noted it before our tires were damaged. Since we were a long way from professional help, we had our first experience with changing trailer tires on our own.

Before we left Austin this year, we knew that the springs on our trailer were our weak link. So, we bought a couple of extras and put them on board, just in case we had problems in places where parts would be hard to find. We also got a couple of small hydraulic jacks capable of lifting our trailer. Our pre-planning paid off when we got to Alaska and we learned a lot in the process.

We were in Teklinika, the backcountry campground we told you about in Denali National Park. Our three days were up and we were about to pull out when Cyndie noticed that we had a tire rubbing on a wheel well. A quick investigation revealed that we had broken another spring. Thousands of miles of rough road on the Alaska Highway had taken their toll and the spring gave way on the bumps on the way up to Denali.

At Teklinika we were 40 miles of rough from the nearest services. A professional repair service would charge $200 just to drive up to where we were, and then they wanted $60 per hour to fix it. It was time to see what we had learned from watching others fix our problems. We figured that we did not have a lot to lose. We'd jack the trailer up ourselves and see if we could figure out how to rebuild the suspension. After all, the worst that could happen would be that we would have to call the repair service to bail us out.

It took us just a bit over two hours but we managed to replace the spring under our trailer all by ourselves. Once the job was completed, we towed the trailer over the 40 miles of rough road that had gotten us to Teklinika. The spring and our work held.

Since this experience we have visited a trailer shop in Anchorage. They are very familiar with the problems that heavy trailers experience on the rough roads here in Alaska. They told us about special heavy duty springs that they use to replace the standard springs used under most trailers. We purchased a full set of these heavy duty springs and have now rebuilt the entire suspension ourselves. We've never been too good at auto mechanics but it is amazing what you can learn to do from adversity along the road. Now, we can add trailer mechanic to our resume the next time we need a job.

Gulkana River: A Wilderness Initiation Our new friend, Tony Route, suggested that we try the Gulkana (Gull-can-ah) River, in Central Alaska, for our first self-outfitted Alaska wilderness experience. The Gulakana, designated as a National Wild and Scenic River, is one of the few rivers that is accessible by the limited road system in Alaska. Since it joins the Copper River, which drains into Prince William Sound, the Gulakana has good runs of king and red salmon.

The Gulakana River offers the adventurous an opportunity to float 50 miles of backcountry wilderness. The river is accessible from the road only at an upper access point on Paxson Lake and the take out at Sourdough Campground. We pulled into the campground at Paxson and took a couple of days to rig our trip. On Sunday, June 15, Fathers Day, and one year to the day from when we left Austin to start our mid-life adventure, we put our boat in at the ramp on Paxson Lake. From here, it is a three hour row to the mouth of the Gulkana River.

As soon as we floated into the mouth of the Gulkana River we began to see sockeye (red) salmon everywhere. The Gulkana is shallow and clear so it was easy to spot fishing running and thrashing about in the current. It was only a couple of hours into our float that we hooked up and landed our first salmon, a bright ten pound fish that fought hard. The fish was hooked on a fly that Cyndie tied. It would be the first of many hookups and fish landed on this trip.

The Gulkana is also full of Arctic Grayling, a very pretty fish that is brightly colored and easily taken on a flyrod. We were able to catch 14" to 18" arctic grayling, pretty much at will, throughout our four day float. Red salmon required a bit more work to hook up and were a challenge to land, but could be taken any time we spent time working on them.

Like most any adventure, this trip consisted of moments of incredible exhilaration and hours of pure hell. Highlights of the float included two moose sightings. Once, as we rounded a bend in the river, we came upon a baby moose wading in the only river channel that was deep enough for us to float through. The baby's mother was standing on the high bank above this channel. If we had floated through, it could have been a dangerous situation. We were able to pull the boat off to the side and photograph the scene in front of us. Another time, we floated the boat by a bull moose that was wading in an eddy about 30 feet away from us. We have some great photos of this. Throughout the float, we were accompanied by bald and golden eagles, trumpeter swans and loons.

While we were blessed with good weather for the trip, there was one factor that, at times, made life miserable. The mosquitos were as thick as we have ever seen them, including those we experienced in the mangrove jungles of Central America. At each of our campsites, the mosquitos were so thick that we had to wear a net over our heads and cover our entire bodies with loose clothing. Clouds of mosquitoes hovered around us at all times. It was impossible to cook food without having it fill up with mosquitos. Once we had our food cooked, we had to eat through a headnet, lifting it only slightly to get a fork in and then pulling it right back down. Since we were in bear country, eating prepared foods in our tent was not a good option. As a result, we ate almost none of the fresh food we brought, opting instead to eat the survival bars we had brought in the mosquito free comfort of our tent.

The other challenge of the trip was a rapid section called Canyon Falls. The BLM has signed this section as a portage area, meaning that they recommend that you carry your raft around, instead of float through, this area . We had hoped we could carry our gear the quarter mile around the canyon and that Jeff could run the boat through the canyon. But, when we scouted the rapid and realized we were all alone out here, we changed our mind. A mistake with the boat in the canyon would have resulted in a rescue situation that would have been difficult for us to manage alone. So, we opted to take the advice of the wilderness managers and portage our boat. This was quite a physical experience, requiring 25 one half mile round trips over this 150 foot canyon. It took us all day to take apart our boat, carry our gear and put it back together.

It took us 25 hours over four days to float this 50 miles. We would have stayed on the river for five or six days, but the mosquitos at the campsites made it so unpleasant to cook and camp that we didn't really want to stay out any longer. We had caught lots of grayling and enough red salmon to convince us that would could do it. Besides, we were releasing all of the fish anyway.

In this four day period we saw nobody else on the river, even though several thousand people make this trip each year. Other than a couple of outhouses that have been placed along the river, we saw no signs of people. It was a great initiation to the Alaska wilderness and it taught us some valuable lessons that we will draw upon during future adventures. We have since returned to Anchorage and purchased full bug suits for both of us and a small mesh tent for cooking and relaxing around camp. Now were ready to go back out into the bush.

Roughing it on the Kenai The Kenai Peninsula area of Alaska is by far the most popular fishing area in the state. This is due to its' proximity to Anchorage, the ease of access to most of it via the road system and the fact that it is an incredibly productive fishery. The Kenai River and its tributaries get large runs of all of the Pacific Salmon species. It also is known as a world class rainbow trout fishery.

We plan to spend quite a bit of time on the Kenai in August, when silver salmon and rainbow trout fishing are reported to be at their peak. But, we wanted to get a bit of a sneak preview of this area early in our trip so we set aside the last week of June to explore the Kenai.

We pulled our rig down onto the peninsula at the peak of one of the largest runs of red salmon in recent history. Fishing regulations had been modified to allow people to keep more red salmon so folks from Anchorage were flocking to the river to stock up their freezers. This made campsites in the area very hard to come by. Somehow we lucked out.

In our search for a campsite we pulled into the Kenai Princess Lodge and RV Park. The Kenai Princess is owned by Princess Cruise lines and is primarily a fancy lodge for Alaska cruise guests. It is a beautiful wood lodge building with a fine restaurant, a pool, workout facility, hot tubs and private river access to the Kenai. Lodge guests pay over $200 per night. The lodge also operates a small RV park right next door and RV park guests get to share the facilities. We pulled in to a No Vacancy sign, thinking we would just ask the people at the desk if they had any idea where else we might find a campsite. Just as we walked in, they received a cancellation and we were given the site. We liked this campground and the Kenai area so much that one week quickly turned into two.

While we were on the Kenai, we had our first guests of the summer. A former business associate of Jeff's, Doug Pollock and his wife Vie joined us for a day float on the Kenai River. Doug, International Sales Manager for Grason Stadler, had worked with Jeff establishing a market for Acoustic Systems products in Europe and the Middle East. A special congratulations is due Vie, who completed her first marathon while in Anchorage. The Midnight Sun Marathon benefits the Leukemia society, a cause close to Vie's heart. She works in oncology in New Hampshire. The weather cooperated with us for the float but the fishing didn't. Still, the wildlife, the scenery and the companionship made up for the slow fishing and we enjoyed a special day together on the Kenai..
Following Doug and Vie's departure, Cyndie and I set our efforts towards figuring out the fishing on the Kenai. The Kenai offers a perfect setup for one day floats in our raft and we took advantage of the opportunity on five occasions. There are public boat launch facilities at several locations along the road that parallels the river. We launched our raft in the morning and took it out late in the day at a ramp downstream. We then returned to our trailer in the evening for drinks, dinner, a soak in the hot tub and a nice warm bed. It's a rough life here at the Kenai Princess.

The section of the Kenai we most often floated runs right past the world famous Russian River, the most productive red salmon sport fishery in the world. Of course, great salmon fisheries that are located near the road draw huge crowds of people. By huge crowds I mean that there is a one mile section of the Kenai near the Russian River that had one person every ten feet of river bank 24 hours a day. We avoiding fishing in this area as it did not offer us the fishing experience we were looking for. Instead, we discovered we could use our raft to find areas of the river where nobody else was fishing.

Learning to fish the Kenai presented us with new challenges. The Kenai River has its origins in glacial valleys and, as a result, is a beautiful, milky, aqua blue green color. While this makes the Kenai a beautiful river to float, it does make it impossible to see fish in the water. In addition, the Kenai is a big river, with so much water it is hard to know where to concentrate your fishing efforts. Most of our coldwater fishing experience comes from fishing trout streams, where fish activity is driven by the lifecycle of the bugs that make up their primary food source. However the Kenai is a salmon fishery and the secret to catching fish, whether it be trout or salmon, in these waters is to understand the activity of the salmon. Once we had a few days experience on the water and some helpful hints from some of the locals we met, we began to catch both red salmon and rainbow trout on a more regular basis. While we would still rate our early July fishing experience on the Kenai as tough, the overall experience of floating, fishing and seeing the Kenai was quite good.

In addition to the fishing on the Kenai River itself, the Kenai Peninsula offered us a couple of other good fishing opportunities. The Kasilof River was about 50 miles west of our camp at Kenai Princess, making it an easy day trip. The Kasilof has good runs of king salmon which can be very exciting to fish for. While the Kasilof can also be a bit crowded, particularly on weekends during the height of the run, we managed to find ways around the crowds and enjoyed our experience. We drove over to the Kasilof on three occasions, floating it once and fishing along the banks on a couple of other occasions.

The Russian River, upstream of where the commando fishing takes place, was also a nice place to spend the day. Our day hike up this beautiful little stream yielded several small rainbow trout, some great wildlife sightings and some wonderful scenery photographs.

We've really come to love the Kenai. We've found better fishing elsewhere in Alaska. But, for comfort, beauty, fishing and a good overall experience, we like Kenai. We'll be back for two weeks in August, when everybody tells us the fishing will be hot. If so, it'll take Old Man Winter to run us off.

Kenai Fiords In spite of what you may think, our life is not just one day after another of fishing. Sometimes we take the day off and go do what all of the other tourists do. While we were on the Kenai we decided to take a day cruise into Kenai Fiords National Park.

Our cruise started in Seward, about a two hour drive from our camp at the Kenai Princess. Here we boarded a large cruise ship, along with about a hundred other folks. This cruise took us out into Resurrection Bay and up to the Holgate Glacier. Along the way we saw a wide variety of marine birds and mammals as well as some spectacular scenery.

The highlight of the trip was watching the Holgate Glacier "calve", which is when large chunks of ice fall off the face of the glacier and crash into the water. The immensity of these huge blocks of ice becomes apparent when you see a huge cruise ship pull up next to the glacier and become dwarfed in a sea of floating ice chunks.

Tours like this one are how most people see Alaska. We enjoyed our day on the cruise ship and saw things we've never seen before. But, we're glad we're experiencing Alaska in a bit more adventuresome way, too.

Fishing Recap We came to Alaska with "Fishin' As The Mission". But, as you can tell from these pages, it has become about much more than just fishing.

We've been here a month now and have now learned a basic fact of life about fishing in Alaska. There are really two Alaska. One exists along a limited road system that provides too little access to a whole lot of people who want to go fishing. And, believe us, there are a lot of people who want to go fishing in Alaska. We've seen crowds and fishing ethics that are unrivaled by anything we have ever experienced in the lower 48.

The other Alaska is what you envision when you dream of coming to Alaska. Thousands of miles of uninhabited backcountry, with virgin waters crammed with huge fish, just waiting for you, and only you, to cast your line into them. That Alaska does exist. The problem is, you can't get there from here, at least not on a road.

The fact is that, other than the times we use our raft and make the effort to get into the backcountry, it is not easy to find the kinds of fishing experiences we are looking for. Couple this with the need to understand the schedule for the runs of salmon that come into each watershed, fish behavior patterns that are completely new to us and fishing regulations that are almost too complicated to comprehend, we find it difficult to be in the right place at the right time with the right strategy to have even a chance of catching a fish.

Fortunately, our trip to Alaska has become so much more than a fishing experience. The road system provides only limited access to the remote fishing experiences we are looking for. However, the roads have provided us access to explore new territory and observe wildlife in very isolated settings. Sometimes we find we have a great day hiking down some river trail, rod and camera in hand, never really finding any place suitable to fish.

Never-the-less, this column was advertised to be a fishing report and we have in fact done some very good fishing. So here's the score to date:

On the Gulkana River float trip Red Salmon (also known as sockeye salmon) were plentiful. They were easily spotted in the clear shallow waters. Sometimes we had to really work to get them to take our flies and other times they would jump right on it. We could almost always hook up if we stopped to work a group of fish. Landing these 8-10 pound fish in swift water was challenging. In the four days we were on the Gulkana, we each landed, photographed and released several red salmon.

Also on the Gulkana, we both caught our first arctic grayling. These native fishes have a large sail like top fin and are brilliantly accented with color. The first one was really neat. Ten seconds later we had both caught our second grayling, which was also kind of fun. Then we discovered you could catch all of the 12"-16" grayling you wanted to, as fast as you could throw any fly at them. At that point, they weren't as much fun any more and we went on to other things.

The most exciting fish of the trip so far has been King Salmon (also known as Chinook). These fish get really big. Fish well over 50 pounds are common. And when they slam a fly that is drifting right in front of you and come exploding out of the water at your feet, you've got excitement.

We got into some Kings on the Kasilof River that weren't quite that big. In three days of floating and fishing, we had the opportunity to hook up and fight about 20 fish in the 20 to 35 pound range. We landed three of them. Jeff landed a 20 and 25 pound fish on his flyrod. Cyndie, in a freak fishing experience, hand lined in a 35 pound king after snagging a piece of monofilament that the fish had broken off of another fisherman. All fish were photographed and released. We'll have slides to show this fall of kings on a fly, the ultimate Alaska fishing experience.

On the Kenai River, we caught our first dolly varden. These are a trout-like fish with silver bodies and beautiful pink spotting. Most of the ones we caught on the Kenai were fairly small, but we got a couple around 16".

Also on the Kenai, we got into our first Alaska Rainbow Trout. The biggest ones we caught were in the 18" to 20" size range, which is a nice fish most places. But in the Kenai they have a regulation that says you can't even keep a rainbow unless it's over 30" long, which is bigger than any rainbow we've ever seen. Ours were pretty small for the potential of this river. They say the big ones are around in August and we're coming back to check this out.

Cyndie landed a nice red salmon, on the Kenai River just below the Russian River confluence. It was a 7 pound fish taken on her 7 weight flyrod.

So far the fishing here in Alaska has rated from fair along the roadway to excellent in the backcountry locations. We hear that the month of June and the early red salmon runs are tough for flyfishers and that the fishing picks up in August. We've got high expectations for our mid-July fly-out trip and plan to return to the Kenai in August to check out silver salmon and rainbow trout. We'll keep you posted on the results.

Cyndie's Wildlife Sighting Report OK, here it is. What you've all been waiting for. The first of several reports on the encounters we've had with wildlife during our Alaska experience.

You have to pinch yourself from time to time and remind yourself to fully appreciate what is going on around you here. You get to where you see moose and eagles around all of the time and don't always take proper notice of the event. We can't possibly relate to you the number of encounters we've had with each of these animals, or the details of many of these sightings. But here is an overview of what we've seen and some of the highlighted circumstances :

While in Denali Nat'l Park, I watched through my binoculars as a Dall Sheep separated from her herd, went into a small depression in some rocks and gave birth to a lamb. The lamb stumbled around under its mother as she licked it clean. I watched for about an hour in amazement. Wow!

A Grizzly Bear wandered down the far bank of the Russian River as we hiked down the trail. We crouched in the bushes about 50 feet away as he took several salmon from the stream and ate them. He retreated back behind a tree and we watched him through our binoculars. We could see that he was watching us, just like we were watching him.

In Denali, we saw two groups of grizzly bear with cubs. One sighting was from around 100 feet and was a mother with three cubs.

While on the Gulakana River float, we rounded a bend in the river to find a baby moose standing in the only water deep enough for us to float thru. The mother was poised on the top of the high bank we needed to float under. Slam on the brakes and grab the camera, we've got a sighting now. We observed from just upstream while the mother led her baby away from our pending intrusion.

Moose sightings are fairly common. We've had numerous along the road and a couple of special ones on our floats.

We saw lots of puffins, both tufted and horned, when we toured Kenai Fiords Nat'l Park on a day cruise. These are colorful little sea birds that have an almost cartoon character look to them.

Also on the Kenai Fiords tour, we saw stellar sea lions and harbour seals sitting on the rocks around the islands.

We saw a small group of killer whales or orcas in Resurrection Bay near Seward.

We saw the back and rear fin of a humpback whale for about five seconds at about a quarter mile while cruising Kenai Fiords. You gotta know this was a thrill.

Mountain Goats and Sheep trekked across the cliffs and hills in Resurrection Bay.

While in the backcountry on the Gulkana, we shared the river with red-throated, arctic and common loons. The red-throated loon was a particularly rare and beautiful sighting.

Trumpeter swans were also our company on this float. Just wait until you see the photo we have of trumpeters flying over the river.

I was delighted to learn that the big bunnies that were harassing Rowdy at the campgrounds were really Snowshoe Hares, that give up their snow white winter coats in the summer in favor of regular old rabbit colors.

We watched an Arctic Fox run quickly across the valley below a grizzly and her two cubs that were feeding on the mountain side.

You can't just talk about salmon as a sport fishing topic. The salmon are true wildlife experience. On the Gulkana the sockeye salmon were thick in the clear waters of the stream. Groups of 20 to 50, eight to ten pound fish would trash the shallow waters around us. Sometimes we fished and other times we just watched in awe. We've seen king salmon, up to about 60 pounds, while we have been down on the Kenai.

Campground Recap We spent our first week in Alaska at Ships Creek Landing RV Park in downtown Anchorage. Since then we've been around the state a bit and here is where we've spent the night.

Teklinika Campground, Denali National Park A really special experience in our most remote RV campsite ever. It was a little tough to get our big rig backed into these small sites, but we did it.

Paxson Lake BLM Campground This beautiful site, overlooking and alpine lake and flanked by snow covered mountains and glaciers, served as base camp for our float trip on the Gulkana. Our trailer was here for eight nights, three of which we were out on the river.

Backcountry site at the confluence of Middle Fork and Main Branch of the Gulkana River There was a fire ring and an outhouse here and red salmon were thrashing in the waters all around here. We decided to call it camp for our first night of the float trip. This place provided us with a rude introduction to Alaska mosquitoes.

Portage site at Canyon Rapids on Gulkana River A very pretty site in the trees at the top of the canyon over the Gulkana Falls. The mosquitos here were even thicker than at our first site.

Backcountry site on Gulkana River, exact location unknown We did find a previous fire ring at this site and when we landed the boat the mosquitos were not too bad, so we decided to make it our camp. We were so tired this evening we hardly enjoyed the beauty of this spot.

Ships Creek Landing, Anchorage Back to Anchorage for resupply and to pick up our mail. We spent two nights in this downtown campground.

Kenai Princess RV Park, Cooper Landing on the Kenai Peninsula One of our favorite RV parks of all time. Not exactly the backcountry site we've come to Alaska to visit, but we're not adverse to being spoiled once in while. We came to stay a week and ended up there for two. Something about floating the Kenai by day and talking about it in the hot tubs at night set well with us.

Morgans Landing State Park, Sterling, Alaska A nice campground on the Kenai River downstream of where we've been staying. We spent 3 nights here. But, when the fishing cooled off we left.

Ship Creek Landing, Anchorage  Back to our home park in Anchorage to rig for the fly-in trip. We've discovered a site at the back of the park where nobody stays. We have a view of downtown Anchorage, Cook Inlet and the mountains when the weather is clear.

In Our Next Issue By the time you get this issue we will have returned from our feature experience of the trip. A one week, fly-in, float-out, self-outfitted trip into the Togiak Wilderness. Less than 20 people per year go where we'll be going. At the end of our trip we'll be in the Bering Sea in a village that is inhabited by about 300 Eskimos. We'll give you the full story on that adventure, plus a few other things we have planned for the rest of the summer.

When we return from Togiak, we plan to drive to Fairbanks, leave the trailer, and then make the 400 mile drive up "The Haul Road". This drive will take us to the Arctic Ocean.

Around the first of August, our good friend Bill Choate is coming to visit. We're going to put Bill on a small plane with us and get dropped off out in the middle of nowhere. Then we plan to float down the river for several days until we re-discover civilization.

The middle of August we plan to spend back on the Kenai. The silver salmon will be in and the huge rainbows the Kenai is famous for should be more readily available.

The last of August we plan to take the ferry to Kodiak Island, where there is one grizzly bear for every two square miles of territory. We'll leave the trailer in Homer and tent camp our way around this island. Fishing is reported to be world class at this time of the year.

August is berry picking time in Alaska. We're looking forward to getting our share and to having some good homemade cobbler. Of course, you have to beat the bears to the berries. Why do you think they call them berries anyway?

In September, we'll have to make the long drive out of Alaska. The plan is to drive the Cassier Highway into British Columbia, Washington and Oregon, fishing for the fall runs of salmon and steelhead along the way.

We're looking forward to telling you these stories. So, stay tuned.

Contents :

Opportunity Wanted

The High One

Trailer Mechanics

Wilderness Initiation


Fishing Report

Wildlife Sightings

Campground Recap










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