August 5, 2011
Kyle and Brendan dropped Steve and I off at the Bald Mountain Tours air strip to go on a bear viewing trip.
Here, we put on waders and boots and got on another 10 passenger plane similar to the one in Denali, but taking off from the water this time.
Similar rides, but the scenery wasn’t as cool and the pilot wasn’t as hot.
When we landed we had to put on our puffy rain gear. It was cooold and rainy.
Steve with short legs and oversized hips:
We had to hike about a mile to get to a ledge to watch the Grizzly Bears. Steve was a trooper and kept up with everyone just fine.
We sat on this ledge in the freezing wind for about 3 hours and watched bear after bear show up and feed on big red salmon that were spawning. Completely amazing.
We are about to work you over with pictures but… What choice do we have?
We then went down right next to the water and watched them hunt for fish even closer. The bears would literally walk right past us. The guide didn’t seem nervous so we remained calm.
This was definitely one of the coolest things we’ve ever encountered.
This mangey one literally walked right by us…
…450 lbs of mangey
This was our favorite bear. It was an old male. He had scars on his head and one of his ears was hanging off but he was an excellent fisherbear. The younger bears were jumping and pouncing around the river but rarely snagged fish. This bear was moving slowly and methodically along the shore and nearly every time he jumped in the river he emerged with a salmon.
He posed for a picture with us.
A cool sequence of his attack…
notice the salmon…
On the way back to the plane, we had to hike back up the muddy hills and traverse across streams and Steve got it done, whether he was sliding on this butt or on all fours, pulling himself up by bushes, or getting help from others in the group.
He has to struggle with physical things that he used to do with complete ease, and he does it so gracefully. He’s the bravest, most amazing person I know. This was an awesome experience to share with him.
We flew back and the boys picked us up and we went back to Homer to eat fish and chips for the 3rd day in a row to a place called “Homer Boardwalk”.
We then left Homer Spit…
… and drove to Cooper Landing to camp close to our fishing spot tomorrow. Lots of traffic on the road tonight.
Great day. Cold, but great.
August 4, 2011
After a BIG day of fishing yesterday, the boys needed a day of rest. I didn’t do squat yesterday, but I, along with my oversized stomach, was completely in for a day of rest too.
We woke up listening to the ocean and seals in the Land’s End Hotel and made another reservation for tonight. Then we went to a recommended breakfast restauarant, “SweetBerries” and ate pancakes and omelets and pulled pork sandwiches.
Then went to the Homer Meadery. Mead is sweet white wine. I never really knew what it was, but I feel like I’m at a king’s table lit by candles with a big silver goblet when I drink it.
Kyle is pictured here, but didn’t really partake because of his lost license..
We bought a hawaiin honey, buttery flavored mead to bring back to the hotel.
There, we checked back in, laid down on the 2 double beds, the boys got loaded on mead and such, we turned on HBO, and watched:
True Blood, 2 Entourages, Bill Maher, an episode of Real Sex from 1981 (at this point the boys were less interested in the cheese tortillas I was microwaving them and more into the tv) and then a movie with Adam Sandler where he gets diagnosed with a terminal illness.
After a while of that movie, we all got a little antsy and felt like we were getting bed sores… So, the boys went to the sauna and cold tub and I walked for 9 minutes on the treadmill, at a fast pace.
That made us all feel much better from our slothliness.
Went to bed feeling pretty well rested and ready for the action packed next couple of days.
August 3, 2011
One of the main things I want to do here in Alaska is fish. I want to catch a salmon and I want to catch a halibut.
When Kyle saw the Dolly Varden I caught a few weeks back, he couldn’t resist joining us for the fishing portion of the trip.
Luckily he did. I like to fish. Kyle is a fishface. He LOVES to fish. He loves talking about fish, chasing fish, tricking fish with imitation flies, cleaning fish, and eating fish.
He talked to his fish people and lined up a halibut trip for today and a drift boat trip on the Kenai River in a couple days.
We woke up early…
…to be at the marina by 6:30 AM.
The boat was called the Optimist, which I thought was appropriate.
We went 22 miles from the marina. The weather turned on us and we ended up changing course to eventually troll for salmon near a place called Dangerous cape.
The seas were a bit rough but no one got seasick. Since slack tide wasn’t until 11:30 we chose to troll for salmon during the morning hours.
Trolling for salmon is a team effort. We were with a family of three and someone had to drive while another person eyed the four fishing poles and the others pounced on a pole if a fish struck. Meanwhile Daniel, our guide, was keeping lines full and navigating.
Not a lot of action but Brendan brought in a nice pink salmon.
After a morning chasing salmon we moved to halibut country further off shore and 300 feet of depth. What is that in fathoms? We switched gear and dropped lines.
Much more exciting. We had halibut coming in on every line.
My arms aren’t strong enough to reel in a 30 lb fish from 300 feet of depth. I was able to patch together a technique together to get the line to depth and jig the bait. My version of harelip prayers – (See “The Brothers K” by David James Duncan.)
The technique worked. I was hooking fish! Then Brendan and I developed a strategy where I would hook fish and he would reel em in. By the time he had a fish in the boat I had the line re-baited, dropped and another fish hooked. Fun for me. Brendan did the hard work. Reeling flat fish from 300 feet of depth can wear you out.
Plenty of help from Daniel…
We had the fish processed, frozen and shipped right at the marina. We kept the salmon and one small halibut filet and took it to Captain Pattie’s for the to cook. Best fish & chips I’ve ever had.
Hands down, me too — MV
August 2, 2011
On our way to Homer, Alaska today. It’s at the bottom of the Peninsula.
We stopped at a Russian Church on the way, because I’m interested in the Russians.
We drove down to Homer Spit, a 5 mile stretch of peninsula with bars, restaurants, fishing charters, boat launches, tackle shops and other shops, etc. Pretty neat.
We stopped at another fly shop for Kyle and a couple of other shops.
Ate dinner at Captain Patties. As of last week, best fish and chips were in Denali. As of today, hands down, best fish and chips are in Homer.
Camped on the beach, after four wheeling to a perfect spot.
August 1, 2011
Kyle’s here! Picked him up from the airport:
and went to the “Best Pizza Restaurant” in Anchorage called “The Moose’s Tooth”. We went at 2pm on a Monday and it was still a 1/2 hour wait.
That’s pretty impressive even for Nola standards.
Brother-in-Law Kyle realized he lost his license when he got to the Cali airport but somehow finagled his way to Alaska. But. That hasn’t helped him get beer in Alaska.. His first rejection was here.
So I ordered a beer and the bartender asked me, “Are you sure this beer is for you? And not that guy without a license?” So I zipped up my hoodie to hide my belly and said, “yes.”
Anything for an inlaw.
We ordered three large pizzas. Delicious, well worth the wait. And perfect for leftovers.
Kyle’s friend Scottie and his baby ate with us.
We left Anchorage clean and full and started our drive down to the Kenai Peninsula once again.
We pit stopped at Glacier Creek for a quick fish. Kyle has a lot of gear.
We then stopped in one of our favorite small towns yet, called “Cooper Landing”. We went to a fly shop for Kyle to pick up some gear.
We ended the day at the Quartz Creek Campground.
There were Humungous spawning Bright Red King Salmon. Amazing. So I’ve learned – these salmon get big and red when they’re at the end of their swim, laying eggs, and about to die. They’re not good for eating, but there are fish that follow them and eat the eggs that are good for eating. Like the dolly varden steve caught in BC.
Anyway. Kyle caught and released some fish then the boys came back to camp. Kyle was trying to teach Steve how to fly fish right handed and Steve wasn’t able to make his hand do it. This led to some serious frustration and a well needed breakdown. We sobbed about the harsh reality of what is happening. And I guess in a way it feels better, even though it doesn’t change anything. Hmm.
July 31, 2011
Pretty non-exciting day but we’ll wrap it up in a hurry, just for journal purposes.
We got up early and got on the ferry.
We had to dodge lots of icebergs so there was a little more turbulence than last time.
We stopped at Valdez. This is the best picture I could get of the one thing we could see.. The oil rigs in the distance.
It looks at lot better off, and prettier, than our gulf coast.
Steve and Brendan were really excited about it.
Drove thru the crazy Whittier tunnel again – more traffic this time and equally as gnarly, and made it to Anchorage.
It was cold, raining, we were hungry. We tried google for about an hour to find a Chinese restaurant. By the time we found one Nerb was so annoyed that he stayed in the van and had a cheese tortilla, and Steve was about ready to give up on life.
BUT. It ended up being really good, we had leftovers for Brendan, and then we went to see a completely terrible movie, “Cowboys and Aliens.”
End of the night was the best — stayed in a Hampton Suites Hotel and scrubbed clean and Steve got to relax in a hot bath, and I washed his hair.
Best, most comfortable bed and toilet we’ve had in a while.