Wednesday, July 7, 2010

hali-BUTT and mountains

WOW, this has been a CRAZY month and this will certainly be a stream of consciousness post. 3 weeks ago I had the opportunity to go halibut fishing in Resurrection Bay with a guest and one other staff member. This guest pays for staff to go every year and I was lucky enough to have the right time off. Rough seas and a blustery day took me right back to the Dutch Harbor fishing boat days! Able to keep my lunch down, I commiserated with the other folks on board who weren't faring as well. Sea-sickness is the worst feeling ever and you just can't get away from it, as one "scream puke-er" on board could attest to. A favorite image from that day would be partner in crime, Emerald, who pulled up her very own 40-pounder while burping ginger ale all the way. In true Texan style, a "So sorry y'all" made her the cutest sick person I've ever seen. At the end of this wicked day, my line snagged and a 45-minute fight later I had a ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY-FIVE POUND halibut on deck. It took two gaff hooks and a shot gun to do her in but wow, my family has halibut for quite some time. Anybody seen the market price for the tasty white fish lately? Something to take into consideration when halibut hunting is the age of the fish. Anything over approximately 100-pounds is probably a female as they cross-over with age. This fish may have been over 75-years old and a breeder. I dutifully thanked it with much respect for giving its life, and don't feel the need to harvest any more this year. Posed here with Captain Nik from the Cracker Jack, the man who made it happen.
Every week, Alaska Wildland Adventures gives their employees two days off to enjoy our great backyard. The week after my epic hali-butt adventure, Rocky, myself, and two friends, Jaime and Brent hiked the 8-mile round-trip trail up to the Harding ice field. Here's Brent looking out into the vastness. This place is the size of Rhode Island and a natural reality my mind just can not grasp. A small set of footprints trailed across it, alluding to a group of hikers who had set out across it. We came to find out it was an Outward-bound group, KIDS, who were braving the pristine wilds. The upper half of the trail was snow and after the extremely hard slog up, we were able to put on our rainpants and slide the majority of the way down! It was a lovely few days in Seward and I hold fast to my previous statement that I would move there in a heartbeat should employment present itself.

After coming off a great weekend, I prepared to leave for a few days and set off for Fairbanks to lead a Columbia Alumni trip for 8-days. In short, we went from Fairbanks to Denali to Anchorage, to the Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge.

It was an amazing, very dynamic group and the weather agreed with us the entire time. Here are a couple canoe-ers basking in the magnitude of Denali. Animals were out, the mountain showed herself, and the bears were very active at the glacier lodge; we even had the chance to see some humpback whale action on the boat ride out. I don't quite posses the words to describe how I feel when I hear them breath or see them fluke. It's almost ghostly knowing their huge bodies are moving so gracefully in that underwater world we only get a glimpse of. Our luck throughout the trip was a colossal gift from Alaska and I think everyone really appreciated it. Out at the Fjords lodge, one guest glassed the far shore from her cabin porch across the lagoon for bear and upon lowering her binoculars realized a black bear was looking right up at her from about 3-feet away. It was a great reminder that even with all the amenities our lodge provides, we were still very much in the wild.

I returned from that trip on Sunday and on Monday got up to start my first solo overnight backpack. More to come on that but it was an amazing experience and a perfect finale to
a very intense few weeks of work. Nothing like communing with marmots and following lynx tracks to reset my balance.