As the daytime temperature remains above 100 degrees, I walk the city streets thinking of lakes and woodlands. Especially lately, I’ve been remembering Alaska.
The wildness of Alaska always captured my imagination. As a lad of eleven, I hoped that someday I could spend a winter staying in cabin up in the Yukon. Not quite grasping the wildlife then, I imagined myself being confronted by polar bears. That didn’t quite happen, but a year after I married, I took a cruise off the Alaskan coast with my wife.
Roughly three years ago, I went salmon fishing on a charter boat motoring the waters of Lake Ontario. That cruise was quite successful. A number of salmon were caught by me that day. But the captain shook his head when my friend Jimmy told him that I had caught no salmon in Alaska.
“How’d you go all the way up to Alaska, and catch no salmon?” the captain asked me.
But stranger things have happened. I’ve seen enough film clips of grizzlies swatting up salmon for their next meal. That, unfortunately, was not my experience of Alaska.
As a group of tourists, we chartered boats one afternoon off of Juneau. The boat’s mates gave us smoked salmon to eat as we went out on the water, and told us the salmon we’d be looking for. “We catch some king salmon,” he said.
This caught the attention of one man from Tennessee. “King fish!” he said. “They’ve got king fish here?!”
“No, that’s king salmon,” the boat mate told him.
There was only one salmon caught out of our boat that afternoon. I think that one other salmon was caught in a fleet of four. I got one nibble. A salmon was on my line, but quickly ran under the boat away from me.
Still, I don’t consider the journey a total loss. The bald eagle has made an impressive comeback, and a number of bald eagles were with us that afternoon. These large birds are impressive fishers, and a large flock of them swooped up the pig fat slices that the mates through from our boat. My wife was able to get a number of photos of them.
The best nature experiences are the ones unexpected. Perhaps the biggest thrill of that day involved seeing the spouting of a humpback whale off in the distance. Because of climate changes already occurring, this whale was arriving in the area slightly before its usual season.
Alaska remains a unique experience. I may someday go back, probably to explore its majesty through the inland railroad. And if I decide to fish in the 50th state again, the grizzlies there won’t consider me much of a competition.