Monday, 5 December 2011

Alaska Part 1 - The land of hunting and fishing... and Zorro???

The "Top of the World" Highway was great fun, absolutely gorgeous and remote.  It's only 127 km (79 miles) long.. and is closed to vehicles from October to April (I am here in mid-September). Not much time to spare..

Along the route comes a most famous little town with a whopping population of 7, Chicken Alaska.  This is a first for me.. I've lost my photos of this place!  I've misplaced (misfiled) photos before, but have been able to find them again.. Somehow I've completely lost Chicken.

I'm not horribly upset though. As popular of an attraction it is to many travelers, it didn't do much for me.  Far far far too gimicky and touristy, not my thing.  It does have an interesting gold mining history and plenty of character.

I'll see if I can find a stock photo to fill in for shucks.. (I borrowed this photo from tripadvisor)..  Mainly the town consists of heaps and heaps of chicken inspired "stuff".. and a very expensive cafe if you need to eat.  I didn't, it was starting to rain at this point and I was more interested to ride on.  Sorry to disappoint the Alaska fans.. I didn't "get laid" in Chicken!!  Move on.. ;-)


I made it to my goal destination of Tok, Alaska for the night.  There is a little motorcycle camp where I stayed and even though I desperately wanted to be warm this night, I still chose to camp as the cheapest hotel was $75 USD.  Again, several of them were closed already and I couldn't bring myself to pay that much.. so camping it is.

Sunset as I drive up to the camp..


My next goal destination is Anchorage Alaska.  It's all paved roads now, beautiful like nowhere else!! Like seriously, the beauty never stops, hardly a chance to stop saying "wow" out loud! Sometimes it's like there's only so many scenic photos of beauty one can take!  So I will try to keep the scenic photos to a minimum.  Here's an event...Moose!  


Luckily I saw his huge a_ _ horns moving amongst the roadside bush, and I slowed down enough until I was sure that he wasn't going to look both ways before crossing the road.  

You know what's unique about seeing a big moose around here?  I am so surprised there are any left alive.

For hundreds of kilometers/miles, the loneliest roads in the middle of nowhere are packed FULL with hunters.  I don't know much about why there are so many here.  Really and truly there are hunters by the masses in every spot you see. Hunting seems to be more of an Alaska thing, as I didn't see so many hunters on the Canada side.

 



 I have always lived around hunters, mostly for deer.  The big game in Alaska from what I can tell is a multi-million dollar industry.  The amount the hunters invest in their trucks, nearly every one I saw has a 4 wheeler on a trailer as well, all the special equipment for carrying the kill, how to live like a wild man in the bush with the comforts of home, etc..  The camps I would pass were like little hunter camping Hiltons!!

I couldn't help to stop and ask these guys about it as I am now to see a moose or caribou in another form.


A proud first kill for this young guy... turns out to be caribou.


Not sure how long their season is, but it's all very organized.. on the road are little signs making clear what district you are in to report your kill. Even more important if you are hunting on Native owners land.

Ok, back to the traveling.. the road into Anchorage got prettier and prettier.





Gee whiz, I don't really have any words to describe.. just post the pictures..


I was wondering about this steam.. I asked the locals about and they didn't know why either, and had never seen before.  My best guess is it's the changing of the seasons, with air and water temp differences.




I finally make it into the BIG city.. well, maybe not so big, but for around here, I'll call it big.

 Anchorage Alaska

Anchorage had been bugging me for a while because from every traveler I've talked to.  They've told me that even bad hotels here are beyond expensive.  Way back when I was staying with a most wonderful host Shelley in Whitehorse, Yukon, she had been working and working on finding me a host for Anchorage.  I still can't get over her efforts but here she has me meeting new host in Anchorage, Bob!

 Bob in Anchorage

So I ask Bob and his wife Jeanine how they know Shelley, and they tell me they don't know anyone named Shelley.. I'm like, "What?".. should I be concerned?  How did I get to stay at your house?   We all had a big chin wag about it, and somehow info got passed on and on from so many kind people who I've never met, connections from a rotary club member Shelley must know in Whitehorse maybe? and came up with these two are in the rotary club here.. ha!  Can you believe?

So Bob and Jeanine have me in their gorgeous home in Anchorage, fed and watered me, gave me my own lovely large room, bathroom with long hot shower, and Bob goes so far as to get my tent and sleeping bag to hang and air out in the garage.  (I do have several things that are wet, mainly from packing up my camping gear each morning with frost and dew still on)..


The big air-out

I stayed here two nights, so I could have a day at the Anchorage KTM dealer to get a desperately needed new sprocket (remember the one I'm riding on is actually missing some teeth!)
This has been my goal destination ever since I left my family in Indiana.  I needed to get Yukon and Alaska done and be out of here by September 15.. My self inflicted use-by date, which had more meaning than I expected.. I was personally worried about getting stuck by the oncoming snow season. However, most everything up here closes on the 15th, and I didn't even know that at the time!

Anyway, being here now means I can now breathe and relax a bit.. take a little pressure off and see what Alaska is really like.

Again with the accommodation price situation, in order for me to stay I go looking for a couch surfing option.  I found one up the river in Talkeetna Alaska.  Arrangments are to bring some food to share, park the bike and ride on a boat to a camp upstream.  



And here is the camp.. I'm really not sure what to expect with a "couch surfing" place in wild remote camp.. but I like to be adventurous.. obviously! ;-)


There is good and bad news about this "couch surfing".. The good news, is that it's such a great place to experience!  Away from everything, in the wild good and proper.. no phones, no cars, no way out except by the little boat.

The bad news is, the German couch surfing guy wants his guests here so they will work for him for free.  When I arrived camp I see an entire large table absolutely piled high full of dirty dishes, plenty of scrap food on and around.  I had a quick worry, this is GRIZZLY country.  If there is anything I've learned is that you just don't do that!  And I have to sleep here tonight worrying about the bears this man has attracted?? I'm always willing to help out when I stay with hosts, but not to clean up after a guy who has saved an entire week full of dishes.. very not cool.

Not long after I arrived a couple more guests walk in from the bush.  Turns out to be James from Melbourne and "Zorro" from Switzerland.

These boys have read this book called "Into the Wild" and they had just been hiking alone with no map or supplies in the bush for 4 days to test their survival skills and found their way back to camp.. very hungry and pretty amazing!

James turned out to be a great buddy and he showed me so much about living out here.  First job.. catch a fish for dinner!


James prepares a pole for me and shows me what to do..








There is a huge school of salmon.. just here.  So close, so visible, we both throw our lines right into the group and they ignore the lure!!  We tried for over an hour!  Not a single bite.. I thought that was super weird, but I don't know anything about salmon... or fishing for that matter.  But it looked to me like they have had a meeting and said that whatever looks like shiney food, don't fall for it!


We give up, go back to camp, and I make us all a big stir fry with all the veggies I could find.. the way it should be really.

Zorro decides to cross the river and get us a heap of firewood for the night..


Firewood for "mon Cherrie"  as Zorro would call me

I woke up the next morning and could not stop thinking about how all those fish wouldn't bite.  I grabbed the same rod, told the guys I'm going to see if the fishes 'attitude' has improved this morning and try again.

One thing I know about myself is that if I actually catch a fish, I'm in trouble.  I don't want to touch it. So I told they guys if they hear me screaming, it's either a bear or I've caught a fish and need somebody to come help me either way.  They all agreed.

I went back, saw the same group of dag gone fish just hanging about in the current.  I toss my line in and whack - I caught one straight away.. But the hook went into the fishes side and I was dragging it toward me that way.. I felt so bad, and luckily it got free.

I threw the line in again and whack!  This time I caught one by the mouth!  I caught one, I caught one!  Second throw!!  I was screaming for the guys, nobody was coming!  I am truly well out of hearing distance down stream, big dummy.

Now what do I do.. I've even got one of the favored salmon on the line, a bright pink one. (The gray ones are called Chum and not desired eating).

You see him in the water?  Pink with the yellow lure out the mouth?


I hate to admit what I've done, but what I've DONE.. is taken this photo because I tied the pole to a tree.. I gave the fish enough line to swim around as normal as possible and even a couple of his friends came by to keep him/her company.  I told it I would be back with some help and I PROMISED I would set it free.. (Yes, I talked out loud to the fish, I can hear what you guys are saying.. ;-)

I ran as fast as I could back to camp and got James.. He was thrilled even though it was a bit early for him..

  James the cool kid from Melbourne helps save my salmon friend

Using my leatherman plyers to get the hook out


I still wouldn't hold it as much as James tried to get me to take the "proud" photo of my catch.. I gave James the honors ;-)

And there you go, we set it free.. hallelujah!!  What an ordeal for the poor thing.  James went on to tell me I can keep my promise, but now I need to catch another pink one as that's what they want to eat.. oh dear...

Later in the day, James and I decide to cross the river in the canoe and fish from that side.. the other fish wouldn't be on to us over there.. ha!



I managed to catch a rock!  How the heck the hook got into that smooth rock???


Next up, both James and I caught several salmon, one after the other.  They were all gray chum, not the pink ones they wanted.. I got James to come over and set every single one of mine free..

After some seriously coaxing, James gets me to hold one I caught.. I don't need to pee here, I don't like touching it and I want him to take the photo QUICK!!  That sucker was slimey and strong!


James pulling in his catch
















We both make a decision not to put many more fish through this hook and line ordeal, so James decides to kill his next 2 catches, chum or not.  Which he does, with a rock to the head.. ugh!  ;-(

Back to camp James insists I continue my survival training and clean one of the fish.. I'm like yeah, right.  But technically, I eat fish in the real world which has always been nicely prepared for me, I should actually do this.
James shows me by cleaning the first one.. full of salmon eggs, the desired bear food! (we toss into the river.. )



My turn..

I did a dreadful job, I think we all might go hungry if I continue this..

Job complete, we take our fish to the kitchen, where I take completely over and cook the fish and veggies for everyone.

All the boys are happy, but I must say I wasn't thrilled with the chum salmon. It didn't taste bad, it just barely had that salmon taste.. oh well.  At least we had a meal.

One of the happiest now that he is fed is Zorro!



Okay, my time is done here.. what an amazing Alaskan experience!  (Except for the couch surfing guy.. who was asking us for references because he needs more new surfers to help him take down his camp for the winter... )  hmmm..

Back onto the boat to take us back to Talkeetna (the closest town)


And on to the local shop for some early morning breakfast treats.. cute town!

2 comments:

  1. Hi!!! I know this is a old post... and you don't know me, but I just found your blog and I must admit I love how you describe everything... I laughed like crazy and love the photos. I'm travelling with my boyfriend, 2up. And we're on our way to Alaska... we'll be making it up there arround the same date you were there, so it's interresting to read this!!! I'll continue following you. Thanks!

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    Replies
    1. Enjoy the ride.. you will love it!! Safe travels, SJ

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