Thursday, July 23, 2009

This will be a short one I'm afraid.
The busy season is upon us here, camp is full, there's fish in the river and the sea, and I'm working my tail off. Between Sunday night and Tuesday evening I processed an easy 1,000 pounds of fish. My body is well aware of this right now.
I did get a chance to go fishing Sunday out of Homer. No photos, we got our butts kicked hard by high seas and I alternated between dry heaving and reeling up some pretty nice halibut. Good story, no photos, hopefully something to talk about next week.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Week off

As the title would suggest, this post is stuff from my week off. Last week we were pretty much empty, and not wanting to have to polish rocks in the driveway, I took a cut and went fishing and riding everyday. Tough life eh?

Warm dry weather has helped fuel a 13,000 + acre wildfire about 20 miles south of Sterling (map). Officials are letting the area burn to reduce fuel accumulation.
Smoke has been drifting north when the wind sends it this way and last week the mountains were hazy and smoky, so this week's photos look more like they were taken in the vicinity of LA.
On Wednesday night, sitting around with Adam's dad Tom, who'd just finshed his motorcycle trip from Iowa to Sterling, an ugly yellow cloud blew in and even though it'd been in the high 70's all day, dirty snow started falling. The snow was of course ash, which coated everything and made the place smell like a campground.

On Thursday Mike from the Clarion, his two pups Natty and Chloe, and I went for a hike up Summit Creek.

Stream flowing from the main bowl's tarn.

Chloe tears into the main tarn.

A pair of buffalo head ducks lives in the main tarn.

Once Chloe realized how cold the water was she decided to stay on the tundra. There was also the duck,which, after being chased, became surprisingly bold.

The highest of the series of tarns still has a snowy beach.

The main tarn from a ridge above the highest.
Looking back down the valley toward Summit Pass.
Across Summit Pass.

Odd growth pattern on the south side of Summit Creek Valley, the Alaska version of crop circles, or an old mining trail?

On Friday Angelo, Adam, Al and I went on Adam's guide boat out in Kachemak Bay for halibut. These three pictures were shot as we went around the Homer Spit, still in the lee of the much angrier ocean. We didn't stay out too long as three to four foot waves grew to six to seven feet, with a few eight or nine footers in just for good measure.
In Adam's 20 foot Willie Predator, we were getting tossed around pretty good. The day's catch by the way: I somehow found one little munchkin of a chicken, that was promptly gaffed and bonked. The trip ranked high in adventure points anyway.

Saturday I was content to play in mountains made of stone, not water, and headed for one of my all time favorite trails, Lost Lake, outside Seward. The ride started with low cloud cover, but mid-ride things blew off opening up the spectacular scenery that surrounds that area.

Just try and hang onto my handebars for a minute: You're flowing through open tundra on a bright white single track trail. Powering over a steep short climb, you drop back in the saddle, feel the suspension adjust under you, look up and breath in to see the next mile of trail unfolding before you, while 100 miles of glaciers and rock tower in the distance. That's Lost Lake.
The Trance was practically built for epic Kenai backcountry single track.

One of my all time favorite Lost Lake views. The peak to the right almost always seems to be partially veiled.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Devils and Resurection Pass

On Sunday Ethan and I tried to go boarding and mountain biking in the same day, but found the lowest patches of snow way farther up and out than either of us were interested in bushwhacking to.
Being on the snow in this weather (it's scorching up here, like 80's and dry) would have been sweet, but so is epic AK single track.
As the guy who sold me my bike said, "We ride powder in the winter, and single track in the summer."
It really is pretty much the same damn thing.
Last year summer skiing was much easier thanks to heavy snowfall in late winter and a cool summer. This year we have the exact opposite. Not the year to try and board in all 12 months.
Fortunately, we still had our two wheeled rigs, so we went to the Devils Creek Trail Head.
Devils Creek trail starts on the Seward Highway north of the Sterling Highway junction. The trail heads westerly 10 miles through Devils Pass (2,400') joining with the upper Resurrection Trail. After stopping at the cabin for a break, we rode through Resurrection Pass (2,600') to a knoll that overlooks the descent to Hope.

(click to enlarge)

Not all went smoothly unfortunately. As I stood in the lot with my pack on I looked over at Ethan and noticed he didn't have a pack or even a water bottle. I didn't want to say anything, but doing a ride without water at 50 and rainy is a bad idea, let alone 80.
To my disbelief, he shut his trunk and looked at me like he was ready to go.
Then he looked back at the trunk, said something I won't write here, and gave a tug to the now locked trunk.
Yep, his pack, and keys were locked inside. After wandering the lot looking for something that could be used to jimmy the door, we decided to drive to Cooper Landing.
This being Fourth of July Weekend, we ended up taking two hours to get someone to make the normally 20 minute drive from Cooper to the trail head.
We got underway in the heat of the day.
It ended up being a great, though smoking hot 4.5 hour ride. Down low, in the pockets of undergrowth with no breeze, I bet the air temperature was close to 100.

Tarn near the top of the pass

Looking southward through Resurrection Pass

And north

Looking west from the top of Devils Pass

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Riding the Russian and 90 pound halibut

Ok no reason to beat around the bush on this one, there's big fish, like 90 plus pounds big, in this post so lets get it going.
Wednesday the Kenai opened for bait after a protracted and slow start to the season. After spending the morning in a few holes looking for elusive kings near camp, I jumped in Adam's boat with a client and headed up river for trout.
While typically on these trips the goal is to get the client on some fish, which we did without fail, inevitably you catch a few yourself, in this case a five-ish pound rainbow for myself. That's a lifetime fish for most trout fishermen, and it still swims freely in the Kenai.

Monday's fish was far more impressive though. On Monday Angelo and I got a free trip on Cook Inlet with Capt. Collin on the Gamefisher. We went 26 miles out and got swarmed by a bunch of canabalistic gray cod that were eating piecesof their bretheren off the hooks. I pulled at least a half dozen to the boat but we couldn't seem to find any halibut. Then literally minutes before lines up my drag started screaming and the pool stick rod doubled over the freeboard.
Fifteen minutes later Collin pulled out a .410 and shot the fish in the head so we could get it in the boat!
Even after the long fight I was so full of adrenaline I didn't want to put this thing down.

More on Halibut later in the post though.

Sunday was a beaut so I split camp for a few hours and did a 40 mile, four and a half hour ride on the Russian Lakes Trail.
I started at the Russian Campground overflow lot and heded up the highway to Snug Harbor Rd. 15 miles of dirt road later I was at the top of 25 mile single track back country descent. Enjoy.
Kenai Lake from Snug Harbor Rd.

Said Road.

Cow parsnip. Poisonous like poison ivy and obnoxious this time of year as it covers the trails, but I don't blister up, just get a little irritation.

Columbines are and always have been my favorite wildflower. I'm a sucker for the color red.

Lower Russian Lake

Skilak Glacier

Here's stuff from fishing out of Anchor Point on Monday.

The morning charter's catch. Probably not a single fish is under 40 pounds, that's a kick ass day.

Here's a gray cod, in the bait bucket, where it belongs. These fish are generally lousy eating, especially compared to halibut.

The launch

You couldn't pay me to do this!

Mt. Augustine, another active Cook Inlet Volcano that blew in '06.

Angelo's first halibut.

Collin takes aim at my fish.

BOOM! A new definition for whacking fish!

Hauling the beast aboard.


An Irish Lord.

What a great day.