Now I don't know if these online petitions work worth a damn, but it certainly can't hurt. So if you're interested in protecting Bristol Bay, the most productive salmon ecosystem in North America from the dangers associated with open-pit mining, check out the link below (copied verbatim) from the BHA's email:
For decades, the Pebble Mine has loomed over Alaska’s Bristol Bay, threatening fish, wildlife and the people who call this watershed home.
You occasionally see it on fly fishing websites and may not even realize it.
I first put two and two together when I visited Ketchikan, Alaska a few years ago as a stop on a summer vacation. There's an eclectic little street (Creek Street) with several touristy traps, one of which is an art gallery/gift shop featuring the works of Ray Troll. I spent more than my fair share of time in "Soho Coho" looking at vibrant images of salmon, bears, and other forms of life... from bugs to bison to dinosaurs. It's a very distinct style, one I've come to really appreciate.
Well, fast forward to a month or so ago (this post is a little overdue), and I received an email from Eva's Wild, a wild salmon brand. As in you can buy fish from them. I'm not even sure how I ended up on the mailing list, I think because I supported the "The Wild" movie launch last year. In any event, the Eva's Wild brand touts sustainability and responsibility, and has a lot of multimedia (including a podcast) to support their message.
So I guess that's really the point of this post. First, to introduce you to the art Ray Troll (if you are not already familiar)... and should you find yourself appreciating his art as I do, to perhaps also show a way to support the salmon that inspire both fishermen and artists the world over.
Thought I'd bring back Wednesday Nibbles. This is the space I use to jot down some random notes. These are more for documenting fun, yet generally dissociated things that may not merit a blog post of their own. So here we go...
I'd like to try and get to three distant spots for fishing this year (if things fall into place). Wisconsin, Colorado, and Pennsylvania. I've also technically got Oni School coming in Utah, but I guess that is more dependent on Oni than me.
In the short term, I'm looking to outfit my CR-V for a bit of car camping. Just want to get a little mattress of some sort to toss down in the back to sleep on. Gonna make a run up to North Georgia or western North Carolina either in the end of February or early March. Maybe upgrade the sleeping bag as well.
Flyside Chats with Anthony Naples
Looks like Anthony has been making use of his time and has cranked out a few 15 minute-ish videos with some of this fly fishing friends. The first four episodes of Flyside Chats featured Rob Worthing, Matt Sment, Jason Klass, and Tom Davis.
I'm excited to see how this series develops, and I'd really love to see some chats with folks from more of the rod and reel side of the spectrum. I know Anthony dabbles in many styles of fishing, so perhaps he's already got some things in the works. Either way, I'll be watching!
Moss Piglets & Water Bears
I love these goofy videos. Not a vulgarly funny as the O.G. crazy nastyass honey badger video, but still very entertaining. I'm sure you'll find this one amusing as well.
Over the last month or two I've become more and more addicted to the Buying Alaska series on Destination America, which resides within the Discovery's network of channels. There's about 60 episodes of re-runs that ran from like 2012-2015, and it's just intoxicating.
You're probably familiar with the premise, although it's usually done in more urban or tropical locations. Here, people want to move to Alaska, get presented with 3 homes, have a budget of like $200K, and are shocked when they don't have running water and have to make use of an outhouse. I love it, and basically binge it on Saturdays or Sundays when episodes seemingly run back to back to back. And when not in Alaska, there are carbon copies of the same show highlight homes in the Yukon or purchasing RVs. All wonderful.
It was a long read, but the gist of it was that tenkara's seen a lot of ups and downs over the past 10+ years. However, thanks to people seeking everything "outdoors" during the pandemic, it would be a great time in this mini upswing for those with the wherewithal to become the sport's latest stewards.
So check it out, and also check out Daniel Galhardo's response over at Tenkara USA. It's nice to see that Tenkara USA is firmly focused on the future of tenkara outside of Japan as well!
In an attempt to get outside, I've been taking a lot of long walks, either early evening or on the weekends, during this period of social distancing. It's been a great opportunity to get a little bit of exercise, fresh air, and catch up on the podcasts I typically listen to on my commute to and from work.
One I streamed yesterday was from The Itinerant Angler. Host Zach Matthews' podcasts are always informative and enjoyable, plus they're on the relatively short side (about a half hour) and make for an easy listen. This particular episode was an interview with Adam Weymouth, who had written a book called Kings of the Yukon, in which he canoed the length of the Yukon River, from the headwaters to the sea, tracing the migratory path of Pacific salmon, and learning more about the fish and the sub-populations of people in the region that historically relied on them.
It was a great look back, and also reminded me of one of the little tricks one of our tour guides gave us to remember the five types of Pacific salmon, by referencing the fingers on your hand.
Thumb = Chum salmon (rhymes with thumb).
Pointer Finger = Sockeye (what finger would you use to poke somebody in the eye?... ok, this one is admittedly a stretch).
Middle Finger = King (the largest/longest finger)
Ring Finger = Silver (rings are made of metal, silver)
Pinky Finger = Pink (self-explanatory).
I guess the only way this could get confusing is if you're more familiar with these fish by their alternate names, as each has one. For example, the Chum is also known as the Dog salmon, Sockeye/Kokanee, King/Chinook, Silver/Coho, and the Pink/Humpback.
Anyway, just a little salmonid knowledge for today. If you get a chance, listen to that podcast, maybe pick up a copy of the book, and let's all dream of days we can once again travel without concern to places such as Alaska to see them in their natural environment.
The Griswolds move on... one last Alaskan stop in...
After the prior day in Juneau, our boat pulled into Skagway sometime in the early morning. We were all asleep and didn't see us come in, but once awake we hustled down to the gangway for our bus & train tour...
Skagway, similar to the other towns we visited in Alaska has a small main street. It was only a few blocks of stores that looked like something out of the wild west. If you blinked, you'd miss it, and I did with my camera. Instead, we headed up the mountains on the bus and had some wonderful views of the valleys off in the distance.
Skagway is pretty close to the Canadian border, so in about 20 minutes, we found ourselves crossing into British Columbia. As we gained elevation, it was really interesting to watch the surroundings change. The trees got much shorter as we ventured from the foothills, all the way up to the sub-alpine and alpine zones.
The tour bus stopped at several places, allowed us to hop out, stretch our legs, and take photos. We even saw a bear on the side of the road. Not going to lie, Lilly sort of boycotted this part of the trip. I think she was still a little tired from the prior days' activities, so she didn't get out of the bus at each stop. She missed out...
Following several photo stops at many of the lakes, we actually ended up passing through this tiny sliver of British Columbia, and into the Yukon Territory. I expected to immediately see dogsleds and stuff, but that was not quite the case. Instead there was a lady sitting roadside selling snacks, candy, and souvenirs out of her truck. She clearly knows where the buses stop.
Our primary stop in the Yukon was this interesting suspension bridge & outdoor museum that was a good couple hundred feet above the rushing Tutshi river below. The geography was weird, as we passed back into British Columbia again to go there... so the Yukon suspension bridge is actually in B.C...
It was about lunchtime, and there was a gorgeous visitor's center & restaurant with three walls of glass windows. They served us a lunch of bison chili that was really good & filling. The ladies in my family don't really care for chili, but they were troopers. Why bison? Evidently, the family that owns this attraction also owns a buffalo ranch "over the hill."
After lunch, our group had about an hour to explore the bridge and the various outdoor exhibits. The views were absolutely stunning, no matter what direction you chose to look.
Most of the rivers and streams in the area were milky in color (this was actually the case going back to Mount Rainier). This is from "glacial flour" or fine silt particles of bedrock that was ground up as the glaciers moved over the land. As they recede and melt in the current day, they release this "flour" into the streams of the area. It's pretty wild when you think about it.
Once our time at the bridge concluded, our tour bus took us back down the road we originally came up. It didn't take us all the way back to Skagway though, we stopped in Fraser, BC, as we were going to take the rest of the tour by rail.
The White Pass & Yukon Route was a really wonderful way to experience the sights back to town. The narrow gauge railway actually was built on the original footpaths that early prospectors used during the Klondike Gold Rush of the late 1800s. Skagway was the primary port to reach the gold fields, and there were two trails to get there. This line traced the path through the White Pass, the less treacherous (although longer) of the two.
Note for those interested... should you ever take this train from Fraser down to Skagway... sit on the right side of the coach. Basically, everything is out the right side window, a lot of the journey is just the side of the mountain if you sit on the left. Unfortunately, we got in the car last and had to sit on the left. It didn't ruin the trip, but your views were partially obstructed by those sitting to the right of you, or those shuffling up and down the aisles also trying to grab a better look. As such, not great photos of this part of the tour.
Once back in town at the train depot, we had to hustle back to the boat to make sure we got there for its departure. No extra time in Skagway. I can't think we missed too much though, as other than the touristy "State Street" there really wasn't really anything to see.
Our bus driver told us that during the off-season for tourists, Skagway only has about 900 residents, and doesn't even have a full-time doctor or dentist. Another interesting tidbit, all three of our bus drivers on all of our tours in Alaska (Ketchikan, Juneau, & Skagway) were college students from different schools in Utah. Appears these Alaskan tour companies do some pretty heavy recruiting over there for seasonal employment. Seems like a pretty rad summer job, given you can handle the wheel of a tour bus and have the gift for gab.
And that was it for Skagway. Before you knew it, the boat was leaving. Not long after we left, we saw a small octagonal lighthouse (Eldred Rock Light) looking out our room's balcony, as we headed for another day at sea. Next destination: Victoria, British Columbia.
Time to post some photos from the next stop on the Griswold Alaskan Vacation, this time in...
The second port we were hitting on our swing up the coast was Juneau, the capital of Alaska. Interestingly, we were told that there are no roads out of Juneau that connect to another inland highway or lead to another major city... so the only way you can get in and out of Juneau is by boat or by air. I didn't fact check that, but that's what our tour guide told us, so I'm going with it.
But before we actually docked at Juneau, our ship actually took a little early morning side trip through some fjords to check out Dawes Glacier. I have to admit, it was a little strange waking up, looking out the window and seeing big chunks of ice floating by...
As we approached the glacier, a few other, smaller tour boats came up alongside us, it was a pretty crazy sight from the balcony of the ship. Just rugged mountain cliffs, icy water, and little boats zooming around...
Then our boat turned around... and BAM... giant glacier right in your face. This photo really doesn't do the wall of ice any favors, either in beauty, or to give an idea of the immense scale.
This photo is a little more close up and you can sort of see where a huge chunk broke off the side and fell into the water. That's called "calving" for those of you not in the know... (Ok, I had never heard that term either.)
That glacier was pretty beautiful to look at. I only wish we were able to get a little bit closer, we had to be at least a good 5 or 6 football fields away.
Following the glacier viewing, our boat left and headed over to Juneau for the shore excursions. Juneau is a pretty big city (especially in comparison to Ketchikan) and seemed rather normal. While it has a similar touristy "main street," there's plenty of houses and other normal type stuff (like McDonald's) beyond that one strip of road. Strangely, it was also like 85 degrees and totally sunny, not exactly what we were thinking when we booked our Alaskan vacation to escape the Florida heat. At least there was comparatively little humidity.
Our tour for the afternoon involved heading over to the Mendenhall glacier, which has gained its popularity not necessarily for its beauty or size, but because it's one of the only large glaciers people can actually drive a car or easily hike-in to see. I guess all the others are a bit more remote (like Dawes) or at extreme altitudes.
So hiking we went... from the parking lot, it was only about a half hour to the prime viewing spot over an easily traversed gravel trail.
There were a few places to view the glacier, including a photo overlook which was about a 15-minute hike. We chose the longer hike because it not only placed you much closer to the glacier but right beneath a huge waterfall, Nugget Falls. Like literally right beneath, where the mist and spray will get you wet if you stand in one spot for too long.
Wide shot of Nugget Falls (foreground) and Mendenhall Glacier (background)
Closer shot of Mendenhall Glacier
If there's one thing I regret about the whole trip, it was that we didn't get to spend more time in the park surrounding the glacier. Our tour allowed us a little over an hour to wander around the premises, but with a half hour hike to and a half hour hike back from Nugget Falls, that took up almost 100% of our time before we had to hop back on the bus. There were several more scenic hiking trails to explore, including an elevated walkway over a creek with spawning salmon. People in our group who went to the creek rather than out to Nugget Falls mentioned they saw a Momma bear and her cub chasing salmon in the stream that afternoon.
Back on the bus, we took a short 10 or 15-minute drive over to a small dock where we were going to go on a whale watching tour for a few hours. It was operated by Allen Marine Tours, and it was pretty awesome, even though my photos and videos didn't come out great. Really needed a "real" camera with a legit zoom lens, rather than my cell phone. Regardless, the sights (& memories) are all quite vivid.
The first whale we saw was a humpback whale. It showed itself quite a few times and even waved its tail before taking a deep dive. The markings on a humpback's tail are like "fingerprints," so our guides identified this whale as "Sasha." We ended up seeing 3 or 4 humpback whales on this tour.
Then we saw a ton of killer whales, or for those inclined, orcas.
And some seals just straight out being lazy
And even more orca. The guide on the tour boat said they only see orca like 1 out of 10 tours, so this was evidently rare. I think he was just telling us that to get a larger tip for him and his crew. Either way, this last group was pretty awesome. It was two adults and two babies... or calves...(wait, I though calves were associated with glaciers... eh, whatever). You can see most of them in the second photo below... and yes I was too lazy to crop out the top of the dude's head...
After that, our time in Juneau was unfortunately pretty much over. We hopped back on the bus, headed to the ship, and left Juneau headed to Skagway & the Yukon... No parting shots this time, we were all too tired from a long day out and about.