Now That’s What I Remember


Before I moved to Alaska, my only previous adventure up here was a vacation I took over 7 days in 2006.  I flew into Anchorage, rented an RV, then proceeded to drive in the great loop of the Alaskan Road System.  I spent two nights in Denali National Park.  Had a single day stupid run of 600 miles from Denali, to a brief stay in Fairbanks, then down the Richardson Highway to Valdez.  Two nights in Valdez then the return trip to Anchorage.  All in All, I drove 1300 miles in a gas guzzling pick-up with a camper thrown on the back and the worst shocks ever for Alaskan roads.

Since that time, I have driven many of the same roads – heading up to Denali, heading to Valdez, etc.  I’ve seen many of the same glaciers, mountains, lakes, forests.  It’s many times over the beauty of Alaskan countryside I grew to love since I moved up here.

But while I have seen glimpses of it, only in the last few days has there been something that was truly reminiscent of that week in 2006.

The Toad Choking Downpour of Cold Wet Rain!

I showed up in 2006 with sweatshirts and warm clothing; but not at all anything rain resistant.  By mid week I was paying way too much money for a raincoat capable of keeping high sea fishermen dry, and even that was in a fight for it’s life.  Anchorage averages about an inch of rain during the month of August, and when I arrived on August 7th they had a half of inch already, by the time I left, they were nearing two inches – and major roads were closing down due to flooding.

The weather here has been kind some days recently, but down right a pain other days.  Currently, our July Rainfall has nearly doubled what the average should be for the month.  For this time of the month, we should be around 1.68 inches — last Friday & Saturday alone we had 1.3 inches.  Yesterday it only rained for about two hours, and most of it was a light shower — except for about 20 minutes of a downpour.  That would be a half inch of rain downpour.

Truth is a comment I made about all that rain in 2006 sticks in my head when I want to complain about all this rain.  Sure it really put a damper on the vacation, but I came back with the message: “The rain was just God telling me I needed to come back.”  That, simply enough, is why I am here.


The Dips


Let’s just get this out of the way … I got zero fish.  The Nelson Fisherman’s Luck Continues.  That wasn’t even the worst part about the weekend.

This weekend, I attempted to go dip netting for the first time.  Dip netting, if you remember from a couple weeks ago, is the salmon fishing that involves quite literally dipping a net into the river, and bringing up the fish.  For my first time dip netting, I hooked up with a co-worker and lifelong Alaskan who does the thing more for feeding his family then the sport.  Me?  I just wanted to do it and bring home a big cache of fish.

The plan we had was simple.  The main dip net site was where the Kenai River met the Cook Inlet/Pacific Ocean, a three hour drive from Anchorage.  My fellow newb, Laura Sherman, and I were going to head down Thursday night, crash in our cars, then hit the beach with before the incoming tide on Friday Afternoon with the help of a bunch of my co-workers.  Things started to fall apart when she got held up working on her car, and we were caught with the tough decision of leaving without her or staying in Anchorage and drinking — I made the run south, she got drunk.  I ended up sleeping in the car – the pup was with me, but he felt more into climbing all over me, whining about being in a weird place, and getting alerted by every drop of rain outside.  Which brings us to the real problem with Friday, the rain, the steady sprinkling of rain that went on the whole day.

Still without word from the Sherminator, I hooked up with the co-workers, we set up a rain tent, and got our gear set up.  Setting up is not to be underrated – the gear itself was not at all small.  Five foot diameter net, poles at least ten feet long attached to the net, then coolers for the fish, chest waders, rain flys, chairs coolers of stuff to get you through the day, and whatelse you would want with you.  There is a single road heading to where the fishing is at, and with the crowd trying to get out there, it meant that there were a mass of people dumping gear, picking up gear, or anywhere in between.  It was that, or hauling it the half mile from the parking lot.  Then once you were unloaded, you still had to drag that stuff the last stretch onto the beach, get your stuff all together and hit the water.  You then sit in water as deep as you want to go, let your net just hang in the river, and wait until a fish literally swims into the net.

Now’s a good time to say, it rained all day on Friday.  Constant wet rain.

Here’s the thing, though, I loved my time in the water.  When I got out there, the river was heading out at a pretty slow pace.  There were some fish, but not many.  Enough that we all had hope.  Where we sat, the ocean was literally a couple hundred yards away, and we were chest deep in it.  We knew that the fish really start coming in when the tide comes in, and we knew it was going to come about an hour and a half after we started, but weren’t sure how we would know it was time.  Turns out, we really knew.  During one of the coolest points during the netting, we watched as our nets just first seemed to shift directions … just a little … just enough that a couple of us were saying we thought we snagged the nets on something because they flowed the wrong way.  Then they really filled up.  In 10 minutes, we were moving closer to shore due to the tide, and our bodies were leaving a wake.  Fish were coming in better then, and we tried our best to position ourselves right enough to get it.

In the true hit or miss nature of dip netting, people around me were doing great and I wasn’t.  One co-worker pulled up 5, another person nearby had 8, and I got zero!  I literally saw two fish swim into my net, and somehow I missed them.  By the time we called it quits for the tide, I was soaking wet from the rain, on the third set of shirts for the day (of which I only brought  three), and hadn’t heard from the Sherman Tank yet.  The pup spent the morning in the car and was now cranky from staying perfectly dry inside the nice warm car away from the rain and ocean .. which gives him reason enough to whine and whine and whine.  And THAT’S when I found out my iPhone was ruined by water.  Knowing I had to take care of the phone, the pup, and the day – I made a run for it back to Anchorage.

But I tell you what, the worse part of the dip netting took place over the next 48 hours.  It took me all day Saturday to take care of my phone, and by Sunday I had too much to do to make a run back.  My friend, Laura, arrived at the beach after a day of further car trouble just as I was arriving back in Anchorage – by that time the sun was out, and was setting beautifully.  She had an awesome weekend, and may limit out with 25 tonight.  She talked about all these cool people she met, the experience of being out there, it sounded like it was wicked awesome.  And I was stuck in the house watching my phone load up all its crap.

So that was my weekend … the glimpse of greatness that was dip netting replaced with all the annoyingness that went along with it.


How Could You Pass A Law Against This Face?



Today, I am going off Alaskan topics for what is basically a political rant.  Some of you may be on the other side of this argument, and I am sure you have your reasons … but I have mine.  Specifically, this guy:


This is my pup, Auggie … also known as “Auggie the Doggie”, “AugDog”, “Auggers”, “Fullthrottle’s Gold Rush King”, “Pooper”, “Pooper Dooper”, “Mosieur Stinkybutt”, and on a very very rare occasion  “good boy”.  He is a pure blood Staffordshire Bull Terrier.  The breed is considered to be a “bully breed” put together with the American Staffordshire (AmStaff), American Pit Bull, and sometimes the Boxer.  Bully breeds are typically all thrown together with ‘pit bulls’ in general because, well, they are from the same historical tradition of breeding from bull baiting and fighting in the 1800s.  Because poorly trained and poorly managed dogs existed,  bully breeds gained the reputation for being aggressive towards humans, some would argue that was a fair reputation, some wouldn’t.


There was a rush in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s to impose what is now known as “Breed Specific Laws”.  These laws were in intended to punish the whole breed based on situations and incidents.  Towns & cities enacted laws that either required sterilization & micro-chipping, muzzling, or an outright ban on the breeds.  The argument against such laws is that dogs and humans are much alike that we react to our environment and upbringing.  Breeds known for their aggression can easily be managed by basic training and mindful ownership — and while its arguable that bully breeds need a different kind of attention, it ain’t rocket science.  Auggie’s daddy is an idiot.  No seriously, I knew nothing about owning a dog when I bought him, and the learning process was a strange experience to me, and while I still have to work to adjust some of his behaviors .. if I can do it, I am sure anyone can tame a bully.   I mean, does this look like a bully to you?


Since the issue is legislative, it’s also political, which means that there is extremists — like “Pit Bull Holistic” (no I did NOT make up that name), or groups who make the owning of a doggie like Auggie the equivalent of owning an assault weapon requiring background checks and special owner licensing.    Less aggressive campaigns like simply support legislation like a lobbyist but suggest education and research are as good of a route to improving breed ownership (of course, the means they use to gain support is a daily blog of dog bites).  The state that these breeds need to be legislated because they are dangerous to mankind; however, they are as statistically backed up by a legislation to prevent people from swimming on beaches out of protecting us from sharks.


The good news is for us on the opposite side, we have groups carrying bigger sticks.  The American Kennel Club (AKC) led the fight to ban Breed Specific Laws (BSL).  They state: “Like racial profiling for dogs, BSL summarily penalizes responsible dog owners without holding owners of truly dangerous dog accountable.”  Caesar Milano (The Dog Whisperer) is pretty anti-BSL as well, saying “Other breeds are more aggressive than bully breeds in wrong ownership, but just because a Chihuahua isn’t as big and strong as a Rottweiler their behavior is ignored.”  While it is the local governments that are imposing BSLs, it is the states that are calling a halt to it.  For instance, there is an law in Boston that no ‘new’ bully breed dogs are allowed to move into the city, and all existing bully breeds must be muzzled in public.  This was put in place in 2005.  But since then, Massachusetts passed a law stating that any BSLs were not allowed, meaning the Boston law was nullified.  For what it’s worth, Alaska has no BSLs and have no intention to put them in place … this is just a rant, and you never know where we will end up at.

Ready to Go Daddy

I am sure that there is a good chance that some of you out there are on the other side of this issue.  You probably have your reasons to think so.  I’ll admit I am really biased on the issue.  But can you blame me?  I mean … I have a hard enough time saying “no” to this guy when he chews on the fence, or crawls on my lap in the car, or sits on my head & farts, or when he wants to slobber all over my face at 4am.  Can you really pass a law against this face?


The Start of Dip Netting


I’m going to put myself on the spot to make sure I post more just by simply setting myself with the way too ambitious statement of:
This is Part 1 of a Two Part Post.

How’s that for getting me in trouble?

See, next weekend I am going to do something for the first time that is a big activity for Alaskan residents, that I only became eligible for this summer — That is “Dip Netting”.

Specifically, this is salmon fishing using a dip net technique.  The concept is not rocket science, mind you, it is exactly like the name suggests.  When the salmon are making a run up a river for spawning, you take a net and you dip it into the river and whatever swims into the net you keep. Where it gets interesting is when you start to hear about the scope of what you will do.

First of all, we aren’t talking about the little meshy things you use to play with gold fish, or those scoops they use in bass fishing that still look pretty big.  No … that’s child’s play.  Dip nets are either 48″ or 60″ round hoops … that’s up to 5 feet in diameter, or just a little bit smaller than I am tall.  They are attached to poles that can reach 10 feet in length.  In theory, you would take this net, wade out up to your hips into a river at the mouth of the ocean, slide the net out as far as you can, and when you feel something inside you pull it in.  The next step then is of course to “humanely euthanize the fish” with a foot long wooden bat against it’s head a couple times (I call my fish club ‘Billy’), then clean and cut it right there on the beach.

The period to dip net is pretty short lived and somewhat of a gambling junket.  For one thing, it has to happen during a salmon run – and that is not at all consistent when it happens.  They only come in with the high tide (though a return tide could bring some too), so you may have only a few hours in a day to actually get a shot at fishing.  The run usually goes on for a couple weeks in July when it’s unclear when it starts and stops – the fish just stop heading in at any point.  During busy days, like weekends, there could be literally hundreds of fishermen taking up a small area where the run is concentrated with all of their dip nets, making this more of combat dip netting than just plopping a net in and having a good day.  During certain periods of time, commercial fishermen just off the mouth of the rivers are allowed to load up their boats too, so the run could be thinned out just in the middle of a good day.

Dip netting is insanely popular for Alaskans, and heavily controlled by Fish & Wildlife management.  It’s popularity is the return on investment.  After buying a license, gear, freezing your catch, and even a campsite if you want to take it easy, you may have spent $200 for a day of dip netting — but the limit in a season for dip netting is HUGE.  You can take hope 25 Sockeye Red Salmon per person in your household, plus if there is more than one in your household you can take home an additional 10 reds.  To play this game conservatively – Sockeyes will yield more than 3lbs per fish, and can cost us in stores more than $12/lb.  So a family of two who brings in their limit of 60 fish would have in their freezer the equivalent of over $2000 worth of salmon.  And this is fresh Alaskan Sockeye, not the crap y’all get down in the Lower 48.  It’s salmon so good it converts salmon haters like I used to be.

Granted, most don’t catch their limit.  It takes some work to pull in 25 fish for yourself, and way more than that for your family.  But you can guess that this is a lot of fish that is harvested.  Last year in the Kenai river alone, it was estimated that a record of over a half of a million Sockeye Red Salmon were harvested by dip netting alone. So far, many have reported a slow start to the dip netting season, even though sonar suggests that over 300,000 salmon have made it past the dip netters & commercial fishermen in the last week and a half.  There is an expected peak either starting late this weekend or middle of next week, which is good for our plan date of July 25th.  In the end, this fishery is heavily managed and at least a million fish a year make it to the spawning grounds in the Kenai River during this three week run; so there is a lot of fish out there.

For you outdoorsmen, though, this probably sounds kinda fishy– pun intended.  There really any sport to this.  You put the net in the water, you pull up a fish, right?  Well, it’s not intended to be a “sport”.  One of the big gaps between many activities like this in Alaska compared to the rest of USA is that there is a high amount of ‘sustenance’ activities.  Sure, I live in as first world of a life as one can get, between my satellite TV, high speed internet, and wide range of coffee shops to visit (a wink goes out to those who know my favorite little coffee booth) – but sometimes feeding your family up here is very hard, especially for those who have always lived a ‘sustenance’ lifestyle.  As much as 25 fish seems a lot in a given day, spread out over an entire winter, that runs out quick — and since you only have this short window to catch them, the pressure is on to bring them in.  After dip netting, your left with the old limits of lake or river fishing of 3 a day, and that could take hours spent picking berries, growing grains, or building items to prepare for the winter.  Of course, I don’t need the salmon for sustenance – and yes I will make it fun – but chances are if Sockeyes were so tasty, I wouldn’t be this excited.

So, that’s the start.  I’ll let you know how it goes in a couple weeks.

I Haven’t Forgotten Y’all, Promise


Sitting there yesterday playing with the pup, and I looked up to see it’s been seventeen days since my last post on this blog … SEVENTEEN.  And that was just a bunny count.

It’s not that I haven’t had anything to blog about.  More the opposite.   I’m not saying it will get better either, just that it’s been a busy busy time.

So there was the solstice weekend — hours and hours of music, drink, and dancing.

Then the weekend after, dinner in Girdwood and a sleepover on a glacial lake on the Kenai.

In there was World Cup World Cup World Cup — which by the way, sitting in a room full of people living and dying world cup soccer is something every sports fan should experience.

Independence Day weekend was filled with a trip to McCarthy again – complete with a parade.  The marching band consisted of a trap snare, a banjo, a flute, and two recorders … yep, they were hippies.

Finally, I left Alaska for only the second time in 2014 to spend a weekend of jackassary in Temecula Valley wine country with some old friends from Kansas.

Fill in long days of work and what could be some stressful life decisions in my future, and finding time to blog has come slowly.

So sorry, didn’t mean to make you feel left out, but promise to get back on the Bear Feed horse soon.

Bunny Count: June 2014


Looking back, I was pretty weak with my Bear Feed posts this month.  Part of that is how busy I was and part of that was how much fun I was having — but most of it was just plain laziness.  Without further ado:

The Epic Part:

Bunnies: 0 (no seriously, wait for it, it will get epic)
Black Bear: 1 (raising my Alaskan grand total to 7)
Angry Beaver: 1
Moose:  12 (including two sets of Momma & Bibis, and Morty was hanging out at my neighbor’s yesterday)
Coastal Mountain Goat: 1
Dall Sheep: 17
Dall’s Porpoise (No Relation): 14
Bald Eagles: 13
Sea Weasels (otters): 3
Harbor Seals: 4
Stellar Sea Lions: 47

Then the whale fest…
Humpback Whales: 4
Fin Whales: 2
Beluga Whales: 1
Orca (Killer Whales): 16
Trout Caught on Fly Line: 0

Volcano’s Going Off: 2
Major Alaskan Earthquakes: 1
Magnitude: 7.1
Distance from Anchorage: 1350 miles – equivalent to distance between Kansas City & Boston

Hours of Daylight on Summer Solstice: 19 hours 21 minutes 31 seconds
Last Day of Official “Civil Twilight”  (When it was actually Dark at some point at night): June 2nd
Daylight Lost Since Solstice: 8 minutes 13 seconds
Time I Got Home On Summer Solstice After Drinking All Night:  4:00am

Days with Rain: 21
Total Rainfall: 3.33″
Departure from Normal: +2.36″ (yeah, we more than tripled our average)
How far from a June Record:  -0.07″ in 1962
How Often We Said the Weather Was Great: Nearly Every Day

Times Killed by Earthquakes, Solstices, Bears, Whales, Dall Sheep &/or Porpoises, or Rain:  0 so far