Alaska is the land that separates the men from the boys, and really quickly at that. The most common reasons for men moving to Alaska is for either the fishing industry or for a woman. A select few move to Alaska to open the business of their dreams; a fly-in fishing villa, a campground by an iceberg or the Pacific Ocean, hunting, whale watching, grizzly bear and bald eagle tour groups, and eco-sports are the booming resources now in Alaska, and the reason I went there was for the fishing and the camping.
In the Katmai Natonal Park, Grizzly Bear sightings are relatively normal, and survival depends upon two things; working together with whomever you are with to stay calm and show the bear that you have no ill-intentions, or outrun your friend. If you happen to have some freshly caught fish, Salmon preferrably, then toss the bears some of your larger Salmon (they wouldn’t have tasted as good as the smaller fish anyways), then slowly, and without stopping to stare at them, walk away to where you are out of sight, then start moving quicker.
We were checking out the string of volcanic islands that, at low tide, you can walk from island to island (hip waders come in real handy here, the water is at freezing temperature). Our goal; to catch Northern Grayling in their most active and vigorous elements. When a sport fish swims from the ocean into the rivers and streems, they have built up energy, and are still looking for more, for the long swim against strong, surging currents, rapids and waterfalls.
The walking is treacherous, as it is all volcanic rock and wet vegetation, mold and fungi. Tenting, on the other hand, is down-tight suicidal, with nowhere to hammer in some tent pegs into the ground; the best you can do is to tie off the tent’s corners (or pole ends) to some larger, established trees. Smaller trees will have a smaller root hold on the land, and will give way in strong winds with the tent(s) pulling on them with vigor.
We were in Alaska from the middle of July to the middle of August, as we wanted to experience days with almost no sunlight at all. Every day, it seemed that the sun was setting 20 to 30 minutes earlier, as opposed to the normal approximation of a minute per day of less Sunlight per day rule in the Ottawa time zone. With each passing day we were more and more happy that we decided to bring the tent heater, and a horde of warm sweaters and blankets. The other bonus of being at that latitude at that time of year is that it is ice-out time, the point where normally frozen rivers and creeks upen up their fish-filled waters for a few weeks to a couple of months.
Alaska is an amazingly beautiful area once you get near the Ocean, or to the melting glacier. The fish are amazingly abundant and very strong, with 20 to 40 minute fights, using 4-pound test line on an ultralight rod and reel set. We saw a lot of bears, bald eagles and hawks, and the people were as friendly as Newfoundlanders, without the accents!
If you can handle the cold, camping in Alaska is an amazing adventure. When you wake up, though, you have to put the tent heater on for at least 20 minutes to warm up and get rid of the chills, if it went out during the night. Access to areas is easy, the State Park officials are extremely friendly and hospitable. It will be a trip that you remember for the rest of your life with fondness and awe.
Travel safe. Travel informed.