Tuesday, February 16, 2010

February? Why Not...

Getting off to an early start....

I just know it will be a great season this year, really looking forward to killing and canning some Reds.

OK OK, I'm just attempting to create some inspiration for you regulars as well as myself so when we all show up in Bristol Bay we'll be ready to rock and roll..

Speaking of inspiration, I'm going to take advantage of this slow month of February here on our blog and introduce you to a kid that I had the privilege of watching grow up......for a few years anyway while living in the remote village of Bristol Bay called Aleknagik.

Aleknagik is located north of Dillingham at the end of the Lake Road.
There are just a couple hundred residents there and as some of you are aware, life in these villages can be considerably different than most places, if not not down right challenging at times.... especially if you were a little girl, life's options and opportunities may seem a bit further to reach for.

I'm not saying it's a bad place to grow-up or to raise a family.
Myself, I'd almost lean in favor of such a location for raising kids. Like anywhere else, it's all in what you are able to make of it for you and yours.

Some of you may have read of this young girl in recent headlines, myself, I follow her career sorta as one of my internet hobbies. Her name is Callan Chythlook-Sifsof, and she has managed to make a career out of her favorite pastime of snowboarding. Enough of a career that it has landed her in he Winter Olympic Games this year. An incredible achievement for anyone, I think she is the first Native Alaskan to make the Olympics. She also turned 21 on Valentines Day this year. happy 21st Callan!!

Well enough of my babble, below is a video of Callan so you can hear it in her own words.

Callan fell today in the final qualifying run which took her out of contention for a finals spot in the 2010 Olympic Games. But after the race, she kept the Olympics and the things that happened on the course in perspective.

“Every step of the way since I made the Olympic team has been stages of the whole thing sinking in, slowly each one building up,” she said after failing to qualify for the finals. “It brings it to today. I had a lot of fun today. I think I have a lot of Olympics ahead, so I’m not done.”

“I was pretty happy with how the event went despite the two falls,” Chythlook-Sifsof said. “For sure it’s disappointing, but I’ve had such a good time here. It’s an amazing experience to be here. I feel like I had good starts, and I feel like if I would have stayed on my feet I could have made it.”

Here is a list of races and places her career has taken her.

16-02-2010 Cypress CAN Olympic Winter Games

21-01-2010 Stoneham CAN World Cup

15-01-2010 Veysonnaz SUI World Cup

10-01-2010 Bad Gastein AUT World Cup

19-12-2009 Telluride USA World Cup

12-09-2009 Chapelco ARG World Cup

13-09-2008 Chapelco ARG World Cup

05-09-2008 Chapelco ARG South American Cup

04-09-2008 Chapelco ARG South American Cup

21-03-2008 Valmalenco ITA FIS Junior World Championships

18-03-2008 Valmalenco ITA FIS Junior World Championships

17-03-2008 Valmalenco ITA FIS Junior World Championships

07-03-2008 Stoneham CAN World Cup

01-03-2008 Lake Placid, NY USA World Cup

22-02-2008 Gujo-Gifu JPN World Cup

15-02-2008 Sungwoo KOR World Cup

10-02-2008 Tamarack, ID USA Nor-Am Cup

13-01-2008 Bad Gastein AUT World Cup

16-11-2007 Copper, CO USA Nor-Am Cup

15-11-2007 Copper, CO USA Nor-Am Cup

29-09-2007 Valle Nevado CHI World Cup

26-09-2007 Valle Nevado CHI World Cup

11-04-2007 Bad Gastein AUT FIS Junior World Championships

17-03-2007 Stoneham CAN World Cup

11-03-2007 Lake Placid, NY USA World Cup

08-03-2007 Lake Placid, NY USA World Cup

25-02-2007 Tamarack, ID USA Nor-Am Cup

17-02-2007 Furano JPN World Cup

01-02-2007 Copper, CO USA Nor-Am Cup

31-01-2007 Copper, CO USA Nor-Am Cup

14-01-2007 Arosa SUI World Snowboard Championships

17-12-2006 Mont Blanc, QC CAN Nor-Am Cup

16-12-2006 Mont Blanc, QC CAN Nor-Am Cup

21-11-2006 Copper, CO USA Nor-Am Cup

20-11-2006 Copper, CO USA Nor-Am Cup

26-03-2006 Crystal Mtn USA Nor-Am Cup

25-03-2006 Crystal Mtn USA Nor-Am Cup

06-02-2006 Vivaldi Park KOR FIS Junior World Championships

03-02-2006 Vivaldi Park KOR FIS Junior World Championships

16-12-2005 Mt. Hood Meadows USA Nor-Am Cup

22-11-2005 Copper Mountain USA Nor-Am Cup

21-11-2005 Copper Mountain USA Nor-Am Cup

02-09-2005 Las Lenas ARG South American Cup

31-08-2005 Las Lenas ARG South American Cup

22-04-2005 Zermatt SUI FIS Junior World Championships

21-04-2005 Zermatt SUI FIS Junior World Championships

17-04-2005 Zermatt SUI National Championships

15-04-2005 Zermatt SUI National Championships

27-03-2005 Sun Peaks, Kamloops CAN Nor-Am Cup

26-03-2005 Sun Peaks, Kamloops CAN Nor-Am Cup

13-03-2005 Jackson USA FIS Race

16-11-2004 Copper Mountain, Colorado USA Nor-Am Cup

15-11-2004 Copper Mountain, Colorado USA Nor-Am Cup

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Back To Naknek 2009

Well here we are- back in Naknek Alaska, for another Bristol Bay salmon season! I know- seems a little early doesn't it? Actually, I don't think half the salmon we are going to process this season have been born yet- but none the less we're here. You might notice some changes this year to the format and content of this blog. Hopefully- these changes will be a good thing. The most important change will be under YOUR control. We want to see more comments from you- the viewer! Tell us what we are doing wrong, Tell us what you want to see, Tell us who you want to see. We know you are out there- now we want to know what you're thinking. Keep in mind this is a family friendly site, dedicated to the people we've left at home. Keep comments in the PG classification- because we can, and will, edit them. Our goal is, and always has been, to open up our little world to you, and allow families to keep in touch with their loved ones. With that- lets begin the 2009 sockeye season...

March 21st- final approach to King Salmon from Anchorage, aboard PenAir flight 3201

Unloading on a cold runway. We were met with clear but cold skies and windchill temperatures somewhere in the -15f range.

Cramped yet comfortable cab ride to Naknek.

We needed our own transportation- but first we had to dig out the doorway. Ice build up around the plant was a little greater than years past. Brian, Dave, and Luke do their part to free the slider.

Monday the 23rd of March- we had a little snow fall from the night before. Temperatures climbed up to the freezing level. Darius is seen here plowing some fresh snow with the backhoe.

Here's a somewhat elevated view of downtown Naknek nestled under a blanket of snow.

For a quiet, sleepy little fish town- Naknek draws it's share of worldly travelers. Here we see Elizabeth and Antonio enjoying a nice walk uptown for a leisurely brunch at the Red Dog Inn.

A view of the frozen Naknek river looking south.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Beyond the Savonoski River...

...lay our next adventure! This trip was spawned by Jeff and his need for exploration. Perhaps it was boredom? Maybe just a need for adventure? Whatever the reason, Jeff came to me last week with a question: "Hey Luke, have you ever thought about running up the Savonoski river?" Actually, I had never given it much thought. All that I knew about the river was that it was really far away, and it was a part of the Savonoski Loop kayak route. I was going to be shipping the boat home in a few days and really wanted a good trip to end the "summer" for us. I knew quite a few people locally who had floated down the river in route to completing the expected eight to ten day float trip, but I had never heard of anyone running up it in a jet. This plan was starting to intrigue me. We immediately hit the internet to drum up some kind of information on this river. It was actually surprisingly hard to come up with anything tangible! A few accounts of canoe trips and some out dated National Park literature, and that was it. We pulled out the GPS' and the TOPO software and started to make a plan. This was going to be a one night trip, and we would need a lot of fuel. One thing was sure- Jeff, Dan, and myself were going to have fun! We hope you enjoy the ensuing photos and thanks for reading.
All good trips must start somewhere. For us- it was in camp. Luke and Dan go through the final checks of the boat and gear. Our trip would go as follows: Launch at Lake Camp and head for Brooks Lodge. Once we neared Brooks we would aim straight for the cut in the lake and break out in the Iliuk Arm of Naknek Lake. This was new territory- none of us had ever been to this arm before. We would then run the entire length of this lake to the mouth of the Savonoski river. We would run up the Savonoski until it's confluence with the Grosvenor river, then take this shorter river into Grosvenor lake. Once in Grosvenor we would do a little fishing and spend the night. The next day would be the return trip home with plenty of time for exploration messing around.
We start this photo log inside the Iliuk Arm. The mountain views were spectacular! This is a southerly view of Mount Kato and I believe Mount Katolinat. These two mountains stand over four thousand feet and are inactive- though many inside Katmai National Park are actually active volcanoes.
Another view of Mount Kato that I liked...

The weather was chilly- but clear as we raced across Iliuk. We could deal with the chill- it was wind we feared. A flat bottom skiff with a jet pump is not the best transportation when the winds pick up on a mountain lake. Here, Luke and Dan enjoy the views with Mount La Gorce in the backdrop...

...in fact it was so pretty I almost quit drinking beer. Almost.Here is a satellite image of the mouth of the Savonoski river and it's confluence with the Eluk river.This is an aerial photo of the same confluence. The Savonoski river is glacial fed and runs heavy with silt. This makes for an interesting run up it. The river has split into many braids and at the top of each braid lies many log jams! This was going to be fun. Due to the silt build up at the mouth and the cloudy condition of the water, we could only guess as to what would be a deep enough channel to allow us entry. As it turned out- this would prove difficult!...

...first try- stuck in the mud! Yeah, I know- I am a hack. But look at that flat and tell me that you could have picked a channel out of it!It worked out alright though- I brought along Dasher and Dancer to pull this sleigh! Just kidding. Jeff and Dan did their part to walk the boat out to deeper water, and that included going over their boots! Sorry, guys!

With the worst of it behind us we were staring at the rest of our challenge...

...but first we needed to fuel up! As mentioned earlier we were going to need a lot of fuel for this adventure. The plan was to remain as light as we could in the boat, and that meant "cache-ing" our fuel along the way...

Dan and Jeff are doing just that right here. We weren't so concerned with hiding the fuel from people as we were with keeping it from the bears. Bears are curious and would
think nothing of tearing open a fuel can just to see what was inside of it.And from the look of this mudflat we stopped at there was plenty of bear traffic along this river! Moose and wolf prints were in abundance too.

Looks quite a bit bigger than the average hand print......and such sharp toes they have!

This is the confluence of the Grosvenor river and the Savonoski. The Grosvenor is a short, gently flowing, deep glacial blue stream that contrasts considerably with the silty Savonoski.

We are now in the Grosvenor river and heading towards Grosvenor Lake. Once again we were taken away by the raw beauty of this remote wilderness.
Swans were numerous on the quiet eddies and bays.
Finally- we are at the headwaters and Grosvenor Lake sits beyond.
A more picture perfect view would be hard to find...
Everywhere we roamed on this lake we were met with gorgeous mountain views...We eventually found a likely looking creek to try and catch some fish at...
The sockeye were definitely there! It is amazing to think of the journey these fish embark on in their life cycle. From birth till death they are little more than a part of the food chain- travelling untold thousands of mile out to sea and back to spawn in the same rivers they were born in.

Evidence of the food chain raises it's head. Dan holds up a pretty Arctic Char that he caught while fishing beneath the hordes of sockeye heading into the mouth of this creek. The Char and Trout like to hang out with the sockeye and eat both the eggs that they are laying and the decaying flesh of the spawned out salmon...
The trout that we were catching here were just amazing. Not the biggest trout around- but the fight and color of these fish was incredible.
We also found evidence of some other fishermen around. In Alaska- if you find salmon, there is bound to be bears close by...
and sure enough, we weren't in this spot long before this guy came ambling down the beach.
He made it to just about fifty yards from us before he noticed we were there- he seemed to stop a moment, assess the situation, and then he veered off into the brushy shoreline...
He reappeared a few yards deeper inside the creek and by all accounts forgot we were even around......that worked well for all of us. We got to keep fishing for fun- and he got to keep fishing for dinner. It was getting late in the evening and we still needed to find a suitable campsite- so off we headed to cruise the shoreline to see what we could find...
what we found was a LOT of bear sign everywhere we went! Tracks and poop- everywhere. We decided that an island might be the way to go. At the very least it would supply us with a false sense of security. This little shale rock beach looked to be just the ticket. Quiet, and protected from the wind that had just started to kick up on the main lake.
After an uneventful night, morning found the weather to be rather overcast and chilly. We had to stoke up the fire to warm us up for our big adventure home.
Running a river you have never been on can be an exciting time. Coming up it, against the current, can be a little easier- and it can be difficult. At best- the current against you allows for a little margin of error in decision making. When coming down a new river- you don't have that luxury. You need to be on the throttle to keep the boat up and planing in the very shallow water- and with the flow of the current adding to your speeds, decisions need to be made fast...
...when rounding a tight corner you have no idea what may lay ahead...
...where do you go? Which is the right channel? The Savonoski splits into so many braids, and takes so many turns, it was sometimes hard to make the right call on which ones were deep enough......and which ones weren't. Fortunately- this crash wasn't photographed or filmed. I chose poorly on this turn and ended up sliding out on a gravel bar and then into that clump of lumber behind us. But that is the great thing about sleds and pumps- you just drift out and continue on your way.Back on track and heading down the river... after one night and some two hundred miles of travelling we were tired and ready for our beds. A great trip and lots of memories. The best part is that we left the back half of the lake and it's connection to Lake Colville unexplored... I think we have another trip in our future!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Johnnys Lake 2008

With the weather having taken a fortunate turn the last few days of July and the first week of August- Jeff, Dan, and myself decided to quit wasting time and get out on our annual camping trip to the lake before it soured. Good thing we acted when we did- we caught the last three good days!

This year we decided that bringing kayaks would be the ticket. They would open up a whole new avenue for exploration and photography. Unfortunately- they also added a bunch of weight! This was to be the first run of any significance for the redesigned jet sled and I guess we needed to put it through it's paces. In fairness, the kayaks did little weight wise- it was all of the other stuff we packed along, as well as the additions to the boat (built in fuel tank, floor boards, duel batteries, etc...) So we learned very quickly that travelling at our expected speeds was not going to happen. That was o.k. though- we got to enjoy the ride a little and drink more of the obscene amounts of beer we brought. The weather was nice but as you can see there was a front moving in.

First stop- Johnny's Lake, a segment of the far larger Naknek Lake. We had never really explored this portion and decided it was going to be our first destination. We found numerous creeks loaded with spawning sockeye. Experience tells us that where there are sockeye, trout are usually hanging around. We picked a likely looking stream that would provide a chance not only of catching the trout that would be feeding on the sockeye and their eggs, but may also gives us a photo of a bear or two.

We dumped one of the kayaks in and Jeff went on ahead up the stream. The ripple and waves you see are sockeye scattering from the kayak. This particular stream was loaded with the colorful fish.

Try as I might- I could not produce a rainbow out of this hole. We caught plenty of sockeye and even a few humpies, but the trout were tight lipped.

Aside from the beauty of this stream, there was plenty of sign from feeding bears- and most of the carcasses along the shoreline were pretty fresh. As you can see- the grass along the shore was pretty tall- between four and five feet to be exact- and thick. We knew the sounds of us approaching had most likely chased the bears away. We also knew they would be back! Not long after taking this image the golden brown ears and head of one rose from the grass right across this stream from us! Sorry no photo- we took off!

This must have been the view from the kayaks (which Dan and Jeff were in) as they paddled to deeper water.

Next we went searching for a place to camp. Again Jeff paddled ahead and Dan and I lounged back. Most of the shore of the lake was thick with brush and offered little in the way of a decent campsite. Jeff did find a wide enough stretch of gravel for us to put the tent and make a fire. Right behind camp was a large hill that Jeff ventured up and snapped this photo of Dan arriving at camp.

Though humble, it was home for the night. We were a little leary of the brush being so tight, and not leaving a margin for error, in the event a large, furry, uninvited guest wanted to join us for the evening. But nothing came by save for the wolves howling from the ridge top behind us all night.

The next morning again found Dan catching salmon along the lakes many streams. As fun as it was- we were on the hunt for predator type fish, and a new camp. We found both. Pike was what we were looking for and we happened upon a little island that was higher than most of the surrounding marsh. It would make for a much roomier campsite and also some shelter from the winds that were picking up across the lake.

With the tent pitched and enough firewood collected we began plotting the rest of the days fishing adventure. Jeff wanted to tie up the fly rods and go after the pike with some top water poppers. That sounded like a great idea to me.

In the midst of our preparations these two loons swung by to say hi and welcome us to the neighborhood. There are few things more beautiful than the call of a loon across a northern lake.

Pike is what we were after- and pike is what we caught! We could see them basking in the shallows and sight fishing is a great way to pursue these voracious feeders. I couldn't say how many we caught, but they hit on anything we could throw at them.

We eventually switched to tossing the hardware at them- pike can't resist a flashy spoon or spinner.

Dan was having the time of his life catching and releasing these aggresive fighters.
When Jeff wasn't catching them out of the kayak......he was boating them out of the sled.

We continued on throughout the day and only had one little mishap- when some hack ran over a gravel bar and loaded the pump full of rocks. Not too big a deal, just a couple of bolts and the shoe is off and we dug out the rocks. We made it back to the launch just as the rains came. Great couple of days.