AK – The daily commute from the New Orleans suburbs to my Metairie
office was no different than any other. Crossing the Mississippi River Bridge
was madness – sheer chaos, confusion and disorder, where motorists somehow
manage to raise the bar for the worst drivers on the planet. The toxic stench
of exhausts filled the air, as well as a cacophony of horns, as the masses
rushed to make it to work on time.
Our View Traveling Down HWY 1
have essentially taken this same route to work for more than a decade. But in that time I have failed to notice how quickly it has grown. The commercialism is staggering. Many areas that were vacant fields less than 20 years ago are now parking lots, gas stations, convenience stores, shopping centers and fast food restaurants. Our world has become a crowded place, more complicated and stressful than ever before. As I made my regular turn onto Veterans Boulevard, a woman in a stylish convertible cut me off without a moment’s hesitation. I found this to be quite an accomplishment considering that a cell phone was attached to her ear, and an
Egg McMuffin to her mouth.
early 1980s Eagles hit “Life in the Fast Lane” was playing on the radio, and it somehow seemed appropriate. The combination of the intense July heat,
the humidity and stupidity we have all experienced on these morning commutes can be a hellish experience.
Thankfully most humans are equipped with mental and physiological abilities so that we can acclimate ourselves stressful situations such as these. Of course some of us deal with life’s problems better than others. But I believe that those of us who live in urban areas have developed more sophisticated defense mechanisms to handle stress because we experience so much more of it. These abilities enable us to adapt, persevere, and make it through another day of life in the city.
It was an unusually good morning. It was even better knowing that my stop to the RodnReel.com office would be brief. I was here to pick up a few company shirts, outdoor wear, some camera equipment and battery chargers and assorted media gear for a flight. I was finally getting the chance to actually visit a place I had only seen in photos and read about in magazines such as National Geographic. I was leaving for Alaska. And while this vast rugged territory is
within the territory of the United States, I felt as if I was headed to
Alaska - The Land of the Giants
- Population 643,786
- 586,400 Square Miles
- 2 times the size of Texas
- Averages only 1.1 residents per sq mile
- 29 volcanoes
- 33,000 miles of coastline!
- 1,400 miles North to South
- 2,700 miles East to West
- Over 1/2 the world's Glaciers
- 24 hours of daylight
- 24 hours of night
- 3 million lakes
- Tides up to 37 feet
- 55 miles east of Russia
- The only state to have coastlines on three different seas.
Arctic Ocean, Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea.
of Alaska Best Homepage
would be no more sweltering July temperatures or traffic jams. The air would
be thin, crisp and clean. Monstrous glaciers volcanoes, mountain peaks and
fjords would replace the familiar New Orleans skyline. There would be no
industries or interstates – only the natural, rugged terrain of the great outdoors. And while it would be unlikely to watch someone engulf a breakfast sandwich in traffic, I may see a wild bear catch their breakfast of salmon as the fish leap from a scenic river.
my partner Helmut Ermlich and local outdoors television and radio personality
Don Dubuc, and 11 other
excited adventures we
boarded a commercial flight to Houston. After a brief layover we boarded a
seven-hour flight to Anchorage, Alaska. As I stepped off the plane, the oxygen
rich air gave some of us a light-headed feeling. But it quickly subsided as
our adrenaline began pumping. We were primed for our mission of “field
research” that would include fishing the great rivers and open sea, and
exploring the undeveloped territory that was so different from our suburban
neighborhoods in southeast Louisiana.
Mountains on side of Hwy 1
destination was a three-hour
drive to the city of Soldotna on the Kenai
Peninsula. Here we had booked a trip with the Gone
Fishin' Lodge to experience the fishing that we had heard about for years.
Fish such as 60-pound King Salmon, or halibut well over 100 pounds.
are considered by most natives to be the ultimate catch in Alaska. They range
from 20 to 90 pounds. The veteran fishing guides, many who make $80,000 during
the fishing season, say the fighting power of this fish is unlike any other
species they have ever encountered. King salmon is a force to be reckoned with. And the fight only intensifies within the swift currents of the Kenai River. We were excited to hear that the world record,
king salmon was caught in the Kenai River in 1985
visit to the south-central region of Alaska could not have been better timed.
Mild temperatures usually prevail from May through September. And the big king
salmon make their annual run up Kenai River from May through July. And the
operators of the Gone Fishin’
Lodge in Soldotna said they would literally pass in front of lodge on the
only knowledge of Alaska has been from outdoors and nature magazines and
photography, depicting the isolated rugged beauty and wildlife. I was
surprised to learn of the diversity of this massive state. The city of
Anchorage has a population of 260,283. There are cities and towns of all
sizes, rural hamlets, and fishing villages scattered across the state. Our
destination, the Kenai Peninsula Borough has a population totaling 51,200 people.
is larger, much larger than one can imagine, with 584,400
square miles of land and more than 86,000 square miles of water. It’s
shoreline runs for 6,640 miles - larger than the entire Gulf of Mexico.
drive from Anchorage to Soldotna was an experience in itself. I thought for a
brief moment of the heat and humidity back home and smiled. The temperatures
were a comfortable 66 degrees. From the window of our rented
saw moose, goats and bear. I
could only imagine what the rest of the week had in store.
Train from Soldotna to Anchorage
had also hoped to target silver salmon, which are considered by many resident
anglers to be even better than king salmon. Silver kings are somewhat smaller,
ranging between seven and 15 pounds, but are extremely aggressive. The
much-anticipated run of silver kings is usually from mid-July through late
September or early October. Alaskan veterans say the silver salmon run peaks
city of Soldotna is an ideal location for the fishing and other activities we
had planned. While it is on the Kenai River, it is also near the Cook Inlet. In these deep offshore waters, volcanoes and rock monoliths the size of the
Louisiana Superdome rise from the sea like alien structures. Some have
entrances and exits large enough for vessels to pass through. The Cook Inlet
is where we hoped to target monster Alaskan flounder known as halibut.
of the towns we later visited was Homer, home of Alaska’s largest charter
fishing fleet. The commercial and charter fishing boats bring in some of the
largest halibut ever seen. Halibut, they say, is among the best tasting fish
in the world. Most halibut caught in this region are in the 20- to 50-pound
range, with many weighing more than 100 pounds.
world record halibut of 459 pounds was caught in Dutch Harbor, Alaska in 1996.
Halibut fishing here peaks between May and September.
Beautiful Old Buildings Along the Way
we anxiously discussed the much-anticipated week ahead, I began to realize the
rugged beauty and allure that is Alaska. There would be incredible
opportunities for photos like the ones I had seen earlier in National
Geographic. Huge grizzly bears with cubs in tow. I hope
fly over glaciers, see the fjords and calm, mist-covered waters explode with
the crashes of giant pods of humpback whales in the coming days.
a lengthy ride across some of the most diverse territory I have ever seen, we
arrived in Soldotna. And the Gone Fishin’ Lodge was everything I expected.
We unloaded our gear and prepared for the adventure of a lifetime. But then
again, this was Alaska.
was beyond my wildest dreams – but surprisingly within my reach.
will be publishing a series of stories on the Alaskan
adventures of myself
and Helmut Ermlich on the website. This is just the beginning. Keep reading to
learn about the exciting state, the fishing, and the sights …..