Sunlit Things, Salmon Kings, and Highland Flings
Trip Start Oct 31, 2008
44Trip End Ongoing
Fishing was never one of my strengths, but when you're in Rome... I had the chance to float down the Kasilof river in a boat with a guide and elderly gentleman who had many years of fishing experience. Putting my line in the river to fish for those legendary king salmon with my elderly companion sitting next to me triggered a flood of personal experiences of fishing with my dad. Although we didn't do much boat fishing when I was growing up, we spent many hours sitting together on a rock fishing with worms and salmon eggs for those elusive rainbow trout. Dad always ruined my explanation of "the fish weren't biting today" because he would have a stringer full of fish all coming from his adept fishing talents and his years of experience and patience. Dad always ended up with a huge haul of fish while I pitched shutouts. He went to great lengths trying to explain how I had really helped him reel one in and thus it was my catch. Looking back I realize now that I was the big winner when we went fishing as I always brought in the big haul in terms of a stringer full of time, memories, teachings, and love that I know will be stored in my memories and brought forward as they're needed. My goal was to catch one of those monster 60 lb. king salmon, but I was grateful to catch a couple of 15 pounders. They were still the biggest fish I had ever caught and I had a great time talking with men of experience. On this trip, it was the conversation that floated my boat.
Alaska is an emotional experience - bipolar in many ways. Not only have I experienced some long, dark nights, more recently, I've been experiencing some long bright days. Thank goodness for blackout curtains. Summer solstice was June 21. Try to imagine families playing in the park and people picnicking during the wee hours of morning. The bottom line is that basically, it is light all night long. Energy levels seem to be high everywhere. It is growing season and with a midnight sun going on, the plants and vegetables are just lovin' it. As weighing as it is emotionally during a long cold winter, it is equally as exhilarating and light during the summer. One downfall is that it makes for a less than stunning Independence Day fireworks display. The irony is that in order to enjoy a colorful and sparkling fireworks display, one would probably have to wait until later in the morning on July 5th. I treasure the Fourth of July holiday. It just seems to be a holiday for one big American family with threads of generational family experience that somehow weave us all into a fabric of freedom... A uniquely American experience. As I sit here writing this entry and eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I can't help but recall eating my first PB and J sandwich, at least the first one I remember. I was in the parking lot at Memorial field waiting for the fireworks display. A family friend named Craig gave me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It was a wonderful gustatory experience. How could I have lived so long and not known about this. Craig's dad was a good fishing, hunting and family friend of my father, they fished together often. Our American experience is definitely tightly woven.
Summer in Alaska can be described as varying degrees of sunshine, rainfall, and greenness. It was on a slightly overcast and drizzly Saturday with periods of sunshine, that I visited the 30th Annual Alaska Scottish Highland Games. For a moment it almost felt like I was in Scotland. It was a wonderful combination of music, food, and athletic events designed around flinging things such as hammers, cabers, lead weights, and stones. I watched a slender woman balance and toss a caber as far as most if not all of the men. The crowd went wild. I'm thinking there's no greater reward than to be acknowledged for the long hours and commitment people put into their pursuits. While walking around I came across the Birdcreek Barbarians rugby team going through skill drills. My thoughts went to my son, Brad, who played rugby for a semi-pro team in Hartford, Connecticut. As big as those men were, I couldn't help but go into father role and hope that Brad has gotten his fill of rugby.
Alaskans do not take their summer for granted. They take full advantage of their summer to enjoy fairs, festivals, hikes, "fishes", etc. One Saturday, a few colleagues and I ventured to Girdwood to experience the Forest Festival. It was a plethora of festival food, arts, crafts, and music. I was so excited to see a booth selling green chili and pork burritos as green chili and pork smothered over burritos is a classic meal back where I come from in Colorado. I have a flood of memories of which green chili plays a role, sometimes supporting, sometimes leading. Although the festival chili was tasty, it was clear the green chili did not have the robust sensory taste of the chili grown in the legendary "lanes" of Pueblo County, Colorado. More than likely, the vendor used the lessor Hatch chili of New Mexico fame. Of course, the master of green chili is my friend Orlando Montoya. I always look forward to visiting Lando and his lovely wife Luanne so that we can get caught up on what's been going on and of course to sample some of his renown "green."
While at the festival, we had the pleasure of listening to a group called, Sweet Ginger Heat. It so happens that Kevin, (son of one of my close friends Brad from Fort Worth), had accompanied the group down from Denali. I had the opportunity to meet them the day before in Anchorage. I felt so honored when they dedicated a song to me during their performance. I probably shouldn't have gone on the stage and danced while they were playing. Just kidding - didn't do that.
Another bucket list item was scratched off the Alaskan list as my colleague Steve and I visited Homer, AK and set to sea with the goal of catching one of those enormous halibuts. Boarding ship with a strong level of confidence gained from my previous experience with the "miracle patch," we set out to sea only to learn that it was going to be one of those angry turbulent seas. Indeed, the miracle patch was put to the challenge. I must admit that the patch went into overdrive. I could almost feel my neck sucking out every speck of medicine in the timed release patch. The good news is that I did not chum the sea. The bad news is that I could have at any time. My confidence in the miracle patch has been shaken. I had immediate recollections of my bad trip off the shores of Galveston. My mind had me distracted by singing in my head, Galveston by Glenn Campbell. I knew better than to sing that out loud. I'm sure my fellow fishers would have thrown me overboard just for the halibut. I'm sorry. I felt I had an obligatory responsibility to write that. As you know, that joke goes way back.
This will probably be my last entry from Alaska. I really want to thank you all for reading my travel blog. I hope you had a chuckle, a tear and/or a thoughtful moment or two along the way. I'm not sure what will be next after my Alaska trip, but I hope to send another entry or two once I know. Afterall, I only know what I know. J
My Review Of The Place I Stayed