The cold water has kept the fishing slow this season but the big push of fish is coming soon. It always does. While the fishing is easy we have been doing chores and occasionally getting away for some fun. We recently took our bikes out on the tundra exploring and found some amazing country––ancient glacial ridges with a solid snow-capped mountain backdrop, endless clear lakes, tundra flowers and bear and wolf tracks on every bit of mud or sand. Some friends came with us and we shared knowledge about the local medicinal plants. I showed them wild arnica and they told me about wooly louswart and its ability to relax muscles when steeped in hot water and consumed like tea.
We also did some kiteboarding on a lake behind our cabin. I have kiteboarded throughout Alaska and this is one of the better places I have found to do it––flat, shallow water and good wind that blows virtually all the time. The only problem is that the same muscles we use to fish (forearms and fingers) are the exact same muscles used to kiteboard.
We have also been catching some king salmon. Yesterday we caught the biggest one of the summer, almost 35 pounds. We have caught about 15 so far. It’s always startling to see one come over the side. We get used to seeing sockeye come over the rail, which are all about the same size, that when a huge king rolls over the side and plops in the boat it always gives us a start. We have been filleting them and noticing how different the color of the flesh can be from one king to another. While most sockeye are the same amazing brilliant red, kings can be anywhere from white (ivory) to a bright orange/red. I have even heard of marbled kings (marbled white and red) although I have not seen one myself.
The bears have started to come in as the salmon run has picked up. Instead of just tracks on the beach in the morning, we are now seeing bears almost every evening. Going to the outhouse in the middle of the night is no longer something we can do with half-shut eyes. They walk the beach in front of the cabins and often wander up into our yards to sniff about. Gordon found himself peeing about 10 feet from one the other night. He said it wouldn’t have been so nerve-wracking if the bear hadn’t just looked at him lazily when he shone his headlight on it. Usually bears will bolt as soon as they see you but this may have been a little jaded to the presence of fishermen. Two days ago Gordon and I went for a walk on the bluff and watched a bear dragging fish off the beach to eat in the tundra. After a good lunch, the bear strolled through the grass right in front of us (although we were at a safe distance on the hill) and wandered down the trail away from us. It’s pretty amazing to see wild creatures that are so big and powerful just going about their business uncaged and unmolested.
On another outing we came across a dead bald eagle. It looks to have died of totally natural causes, just one of the fallen creatures on the species’ way to ultimate survival. This was an immature eagle (not yet an adult with a white head) and was mottled brown and white but still massive. It was amazing to get to touch one and see it up close––their black tallons and yellow leathery feet.
Bald eagle feet.
Another incredible king salmon.
A fleet of perfect Ugashik sockeye.
Rock jasmin and ?