by Cole Phillips
After finishing up the quick summer semester, our program had a 2-3 week break in August to relax after cramming in a whole semester’s worth of knowledge in just two months. Luckily, this was the perfect time for me to make it to my family’s annual trip to Alaska, which started about 22 years ago. We usually head up to visit my brother, who lived there for the past 8 years. However, he decided to move to Oregon after last summer, so we went to our usual fishing spots without him.
I landed in Anchorage eager to get to the river as I had heard the second run of salmon was strong in the Kenai River this year. My dad, sister, two nephews, and best friend had arrived the day before and got everything situated so we all could head straight to the river. They picked me up and we drove through the night, well sort of; the sun doesn’t set until around 10pm in the summer, and the sky stays lit until about 11pm. The next morning, we all hopped out of bed at 8am for a big breakfast, we got our rods and tackle ready before suiting up for the trek down to the river from our campsite. After about a mile walk, we hit our favorite spot, which as usual for this time of year, was stocked full of salmon. (A quick tidbit about Salmon: the bright red ones you see in the movies or tv shows are actually old and dying, so the meat can get mushy. The chrome colored ones have firmer and better meat. So if you ever find yourself salmon fishing, keep the chrome ones instead!)
After a week of fishing, we hauled in about 75 pounds of filets to take home with us, but there was still more to come! Or so we thought. My mom and brother-in-law met up with us after the first week, but our first day on the water with all of us finally together, thick smoke rolled over the area we were fishing, almost apocalyptic. We knew of the horrible record-setting wildfires going on in the area, but the last we heard, they weren’t expected to reach us. After trying to weather it out for an hour, ash started to fall from the sky. We packed up and got out of there. We headed down to a little place called Homer Spit. It’s a tiny little strip of land that juts out into Kachemak Bay. We camped out there for another week waiting for the fires to die down and the road to open back up again. One road, Alaska Route 1, is the only way out of there aside from taking a boat or plane. Eventually, the road opened back up and we headed out of Homer Spit back up to Anchorage safely just in time for our departing flights.
Regardless of the unfortunate fires, I enjoyed the time with my family and friends up there. We all are already looking forward to next year’s trip!