A Travellerspoint blog

August 2012

Slow and Steady

semi-overcast 50 °F

Again I find myself in the Starbucks at Fred Meyer, seeking usable internet and a portal to information and the outside world. This time, rather than smartly dressed men, I observe elegant Russian women in ankle length dresses and head scarves chat in the setting sun. One wears blocky Keen hiking shoes with her maroon dress. The shoes remind me of Seattle, the contrast the the aesthetic and the practical is uniquely Alaskan though. It is somewhat surprising how cosmopolitan the Kenai Peninsula feels. There is a large population of Old Believers, orthodox Russians that have lived here for a long time. The men have bushy beards and the women only wear dresses, even when fishing. I can't imagine a dress is comfortable underneath slicker pants. One of the women I watch has a knee length skirt. She must the rebellious one in the family.

Besides the Old Believers, I met dozens of Kazakstani and Chinese immigrant workers at the Ocean Beauty Seafoods processing plant in Kenai. It seems like each year attracts a different group. I remember a few years the Kasilof dock had a handful of Turkish workers. One of them helped me pitch fish into braylers, probing me on why I had not accepted God into my life. Also, compared to many areas in the States, Alaska has a large Native population. One of my Native friends passed on to me horror stories from his grandfather, who had his testicles dipped in bleach by his school teachers to try to keep him from having children.

Over the last week, I went with my aunt and uncle to two towns on Prince William Sound, Whittier and Seward. The eastern side of the Kenai Peninsula is mountainous and lush, like Washington State. Both towns are small ports, sitting at the base of forested mountains as the land to water exchange between the Kenai, Anchorage, and Southeast Alaska. We took a boat trip out of Whittier to shrimp and watch the glaciers. Prince William Sound is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. If you have never seen a glacier, it is truly something to behold. They have a color quality that is unlike anything else, a blue within blue within white. They look as old and powerful as they are. Thousands of gallons of water melts from them in 100 foot tall water falls. Flocks of birds and sea mammals gather much like we did to harvest the bounty of the sea that these areas create. The shrimp we caught were massive and delicious.

These next few weeks mark my last of the summer in Alaska, and the beginning of the next leg of my journey. I do not know where I will end up or how I will get there, but I am excited at the unlimited potential in this step. Luckily for me, there are Starbucks' to sit in all over the world.





Posted by cazvan 19:21 Archived in USA Comments (0)

History of Chinitna Bay

overcast 56 °F


Different cultural groups have hunted, fished, and gathered in Chinitna Bay for at least 3000 years. Interior groups from Iliamna and Lake Clark have come to the bay from the west, as well as groups from the Kenai Peninsula across Cook Inlet to the east (where I live) and maritime societies from the Kodiak islands to the south. The area acted as sort of cultural buffer zone, and there is no evidence that any group built more than seasonal camps in the area. The latest native presence was about 300 years ago.

During his time fishing in the bay, my grandfather discovered cave paintings on the north side of the bay. People have since used camp fires in the cave so much that the paintings are barely visible under black soot. I took the photograph below a few years ago when the images were in better condition. You can make out a boat with four people sitting above four paddles, and floating spirit with outstretched arms above the stern.


A few days ago my father and uncle returned to Chinitna Bay to fish the run of chum salmon. I got a call from the sat phone later in they day. My dad told me that one the two outboards died. The weather in the inlet was good, but the length of the return trip would be doubled and he did not want to travel at night.

He came home safely the next evening after a long day of traveling. My family uses the bay to hunt and fish, maybe like the creators of the paintings. We both must be aware of the tides, weather patterns, the weight of fish and game carried. I can imagine the painter in the cave drawing a protector spirit over the stern of his boat to ward against bad weather and ensure a safe trip home. My family is very lucky to have sat phones and 90 horsepower Honda outboards to help us out.

Below are pictures of the camp on the south side of the bay, my great uncle clam digging, and my dad fishing in Clearwater Creek.




Posted by cazvan 15:53 Archived in USA Tagged fishing paintings alaska sunsets cave bay clam digging chinitna Comments (0)

Sleepless Night Part 2

Also, we saw six bears on the beach.





Posted by cazvan 15:31 Archived in USA Comments (0)

A Sleepless Night

Two days ago I woke up to my dad yelling from the front yard, "Caz, want to go to the Bay?"

I sat up, rubbed my eyes, and called back, "When do we leave?"

I did not know at the time that this would not be my first abrupt awakening that day.

My family has fished in Chinitna Bay, across Cook Inlet from Homer and Kasilof, for three generations. We have a rustic camp on the south side of the Bay that my family uses as a base for herring fishing and hunting for moose and bear, but it has been years since we used setnets for salmon on that side of the Inlet. This was the purpose of our trip. We were to bring over a load of lumber and fuel, and three fifty fathom (300 feet) setnets to see if we could find some fish. Chinitna Bay is famous for its runs of large chum salmon, called "gators" for their massive alligator like jaws and hooked teeth.

The two and a half hour trip over was beautiful. The sun was shining and the fog minimal. We took a 28 foot open topped aluminum skiff, which we call "the dory," an old term for coastal fishing boats that is no longer used.. The crew consisted of my father, his younger brother, holder of the setnet permit, a family friend from Vermont, Steve, and myself.

We unloaded the boat on the beach, using a four-wheeler to haul the gear to the cabin and a John Deer 450 backhoe to transport two 60 gallon drums of fuel. Dinner was brats on the campfire. The guys picked bunks in the cabin and trailer, and I took the single person red cabin to sleep in.

Upon lifting the sleeping bags on the bed, I found a family of seven sleeping baby mice, the each like a little fuzzy digit.

I put them into a high walled cooking pan under some socks, placed the pan near the fireplace, and decided to go to sleep and do something with them in the morning, resigning myself to the knowledge that I would be sharing my bed with their parents. The parents were not good bed mates.

The scratching started immediately. I could hear the parents running across the floor and through the walls as their tiny claws scraped sheet metal and wood. I drifted in and out of a dreamlike state, constantly interrupted by the the noise. Eventually, I heard and felt the mice running across the bed near me. They were fearless. When a mouse crossed over the back of my neck, I grabbed it and tossed it towards the floor. When the mouse came back and crossed my pillow, I did the same thing.

It was a surreal experience. Helpful was that I resigned my emotions to be accepting of the mice. The unfortunate aspect was not the lack of sleep. The next day we woke up early and setnet on the north side of the Bay. We heard a bad weather warning for the evening on the radio, and pulled the nets and set out for home. Eight foot seas and a SW 20 knot wind made for a slow and bumpy ride home. With years of practice under my belt, I was still able to curl up on the cold aluminum, mostly out of the wind and spray, and make up for sleep lost the night before.







Posted by cazvan 15:11 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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